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SAMSON AGONISTES:

A DRAMATIC POEM.

THE ARGUMENT. Sanison made captive, blind, and now in the prison of Gara, unere to labour as in a coninion work house, on a festival day, in the general cessation from labour, comes forth into the open air, to a place nigh, somewhat retired, there to sit awhile and bemoan his condition. Where he happens at length to be visited by certain friends and equals of his tribe, which make the Chorus, who seek to confort hin what they can; then by his old father, Manoal, who endeavours the like, and withal tells him his purpose to procure bis liberty by ransom; lastly, that this feast was proclaimed by the Philisiines as a day of thanksgiving for their deliverance from the hands of Sanison, which yet more troubles him. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistine lords for Sainson's redemption; who in the meanwhile is visited by other persons: and lastly by a public officer to require his coming to the feast before the lords and people, to play or shew liis strength in their presence; he at first refuses, disniissing the public officer with absolute denial to come; at length, persuaded inwardly that this was from God. he yields to go along witn him, who came now the second time with great threatenings to fetch lim : tır Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoub returns full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his son'u deliverance, in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew coiles in laste, confusedly at first, and afterwards more distinctly relating the catastrophe, what Sanison had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.

THE PERSONS.
Samson.

Harapha of Gath.
Manoah, the father of Public Officer.
Samson.

Messenger.
Dalila, his wife.

Chorus of Daniter.
The Scene, before the Prison in Gaza.

Samson. Attendant leading him.
A LITTLE onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little further on;
For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade :
There I am wont to sit, when any chance
P.elieves me from my task of servile toil,

5

Samson Agonistes ; Agonistes is a Greek word signifying Actor. The introduction is in imitation of the (Ejipus Coloneus of Sophocles. For the subject of the poem, and most of the scriptural allusions it contains, reference may be made in general to the Book of Judges.

Daily in the common prison else enjoin'd me,
Where I, a prisoner chain'd, scarce freely draw
The air imprison'd also, close and damp,
Unwholesome draught! but here I fcel amends,
The breath of Heav'n fresh blowing, pure and sweet,
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire. 11
This day a solemn feast the people hold
To Dagon their sea-idol, and forbid
Laborious works; unwillingly this rest
Their superstition yields me; hence with leave 15
Retiring from the popular noise, I seek
This unfrequented place to find some ease,
Ease to the body somne, none to the mind
From restless thoughts, that like a deadly swarm
Of hornets arm’d, no sooner found alone,

20
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.
O wherefore was my birth from Heav'n foretold
Twice by an angel, who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended

25 From off the altar, where an offering burn'd, As in a fiery column charioting His god-like presence, and from some great act Or benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race? Why was my breeding order'd and prescribed 30 As of a person separate to God, Design'd for great exploits : if I must die Betray'd, captived, and both my eyes put out, Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze ; To grind in brazen fetters under task

35 With this Heav'n-gifted strength ? O glorious strength Put to the labour of a beast, debased Lower than bond-slave! Promise was that I Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver; Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him 40 Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves, Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke : Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt Divine prediction ; what if all foretold Had been fulfill’d but through mine own default, 45 Whom have I to complain of but myself? Who this high gift of strength committed to me, In what part lodged, how easily bereft me,

Under the seal of silence could not keep
But weakly to a woman must reveal it,

50
O’ercome with importunity and tears.
O impotence of mind, in body strong!
But what is strength without a double share
Of wisdom, vast, unwieldy, burdensome,
Proudly secure, yet liable to fall

55 By weakest subtleties, not made to rule, But to subserve where wisdom bears command ? God, when he gave me strength, to shew withal How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair. But peace, I must not quarrel with the will Of highest dispensation, which herein Haply had ends above my reach to know : Suffices that to me strength is my bane, And proves the source of all my miseries ; So many, and so huge, that each apart

65 Would ask a life to wail, but chief of all, O loss of sight, of thee I most complain! Blind among enemies, O worse than chains, Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age! Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct, 70 And all her various objects of delight Annull’d, which might in part my grief have eased Inferior to the vilest now become Of man or worm ; the vilest here excel me, They creep, yet see, I dark in light exposed 75 To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong; Within doors, or without, still as a fool, In power of others, never in my own; Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half. O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, 80 Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse Without all hope of day! O first-created beam, and thou great Word, Let there be light, and light was over all ; Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree ? 85 T'he sun to me is dark And silent as the moon, When she deserts the night

87. Shakspeare, second part of Henry VI. Act 1. Sc. 8.-The silent of the night, which is a classical expression, means, according to Warburton, an interlunar nighi.

Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the soul,
She all in every part; why was the sight
To such a tender ball as th' eye contined,
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd ?

93
And not, as feeling, through all parts diffused,
That she might look at will through every pore !
Then had I not been thus exiled from light,
As in the land of darkness yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,

100 And bury'd: but O yet more miserable! Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave, Bury'd, yet not exempt By privilege of death and burial From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs, 105 But made hereby obnoxious more To all the miseries of life, Life in captivity Among inhuman foes. But who are these ? for with joint pace I hear 110 The tread of many feet steering this way; Perhaps my enemies, who come to stare At my afðiction, and perhaps t'insult, Their daily practice, tu afflict me more. Chor. This, this is he ; softly a while,

115 Let us not break in upon him; O change beyond report, thought, or belief! See how he lies at random, carelessly diffused, With languish'd head unpropt, As one past hope abandon'd,

120 And by himself given over ; In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds O'er-worn and soil'd; Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he, That heroic, that renown'd,

125 Irresistible Samson ? whom unarm'd [stand ; No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast, could with. Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid, Ran on embattled armies clad in iron, 118. Diffused, a classical expression very frequently uned lu

describe the languid posture of a weary persoli.

And, weaponless himself,

130 Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery Of brazen shield and spear, the hammer'd cuirass, Chalybean temper'd steel, and frock of mail Adamantean proof; But safest he who stood aloof,

135 When insupportably his foot advanced, In scorn of their proud arms and warlike tools, Spurn'd them to death by troops. The bold Ascalonite, Fled from his lion ranıp, old warriors turn'd Their plated backs under his heel;

140 Or groveling soil'd their crested helmets in the dust Then with what trivial weapon came to hand, The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone, A thousand fore-skins fell, the fiower of Palestine, In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day.

145 Then by main force pull'd up, and on his shoulders The gates of Azza, post, and massy bar, [bore Up to the hill by Hebron, seat of giants old, No journey of a sabbath-day; and loaded so, Like whom the Gentiles feign to bear up Heaven. Which shall I first bewail,

151 Thy bondage or lost sight, Prison within prison Inseparably dark ? Thou art become (0 worst imprisonment!) 155 The dungeon of thyself ; thy soul

(plain) (Which men enjoying sight oft without cause comImprison'd now indeed, In real darkness of the body dwells, Shut up from outward light

160 To incorporate with gloomy night; For inward light, alas ! Puts forth no visual beam. O mirror of our fickle state, Since man on earth unparallel'd !

183 The rarer thy example stands, By how much from the top of wondrous glory,

133. The Chalybes were celebrated for their skill in

tempriug steel.
136. Speuser's Fuery'Queene, B. I. Can. 7. St. 11.

138, i San. vi. 17. 147 Azzu for Gaza, to avoid the alliteration of gates and Gaza.

148. Josh. xv. 13, 14. Nun.. xili. 33.

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