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The building was a spacious theatre
1605 Half-round on two main pillars vaulted high, With seats where all the lords, and each degree Of sort, might sit in order to behold; The other side was open, where the throng On banks and scaffolds, under sky might stand ; 1610 I among these aloot' obscurely stood. The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice (wine, Had fill'd their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and When to their sports they turn’d. Immediately Was Samson as a public servant brought, 1615 In their state livery clad; before him pipes And timbrels, on each side went armed guards, Both horse and foot, before him and behind Archers, and slingers, cataphracts and spears. At sight of him the people with a shout
1620 Rifted the air, clamouring their god with praise, Who' had made their dreadful enemy their thrall. He patient but undaunted where they led him, Came to the place, and what was set before him, Which without help of eye might be assay'd 1625 To heave, pull, draw, or break, he still perform'd All with incredible, stupendous force, None daring to appear antagonist. At length for intermission sake they led him Between the pillars; he his guide requested 1630 (For so from such as nearer stood we heard) As over-tired to let him lean a while With both his arms on those two massy pillars, That to the arched roof gave main support. He unsuspicious led him; which when Samson 1635 Felt in his arms, with head a while inclined, And eyes fast fix'd, be stood, as one who pray'd, Or some great matter in his mind revolved: At last with head erect thus cry'd aloud, • Hitherto, Lords, what your commands imposed 1640 I have perform'd, as reason was, obeying, Not without wonder or delight bebeld:
1605. Buildings are mentioned by Pliny the naturalist which were supported only by one pillar, and' Dr. Shaw says in his Travels, that the eastern theatres are built in the form of an ad vanced cloister or penthouse, supported by one or two pillars in the frolit or centre. Supposing, therefore, that the house of Dagon was built, as is most probable, in this manner, the destruction which followed the exertion of Samson's strength was inevitable.
1619. Cataphracts, mer: or horses completely armed.
Now of my own accord such other trial
1655 Met from all parts to solemnize this feast. Samson with these immix'd, inevitably Pull'd down the same destruction on himself; The vulgar only 'scaped who stood without.
Chor. O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious! 1660 Living or dying thou hast fulfill’a The work for which thou wast foretold To Israel, and now ly'st victorious Among thy slain self-kill'd, Not willingly, but tangled in the fold
1665 Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoin'd Thee with thy slaughter'd foes, in number more Than all thy life hath slain before. (sublime,
1 Semichor. While their hearts were jocund and Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine,
1670 And fat regorged of bulls and goats, Chaunting their idol, and preferring Before our living Dread who dwells In Silo, his bright sanctuary ; Among them he a spirit of frenzy sent,
1675 Who hurt their minds, And urged them on with mad desire To call in haste for their destroyer; They only set on sport and play Unweetingly importuned
1680 Their own destruction to come speedy upon them. So fond are mortal men Fallen into wrath divine, As their own ruin on themselves to invite,
1667. Judg. xvi. 30. 1874. Silo, the tabernacle and ark were there at this time
Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,
1685 And with blindness internal struck.
2 Semichor. But he, though blind of sight,
1600 From under ashes into sudden flame, And as an evening dragon came, Assailant on the perched roosts, And uests in order ranged of tame villatic fowl; but as an eagle
1695 His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads. So virtue given for lost, Depress'd, and overthrown, as seem'd, Like that self-begotten bird In the Arabian woods imbost,
1700 That no second knows nor third, And lay ere wbile a holocaust, From out her ashy womb now teem'd, Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most When most unactive deem'd,
1705 And though her body die, her fame survives A secular bird ages of lives.
Man. Come, come, no time for lamentation now, Nor much more cause ; Samson hath quit himself Like Samson, and heroicly hath finish'd 1710 A life heroic, on his enemies Fully revenged, hath left them years of mourning, And lamentation to the sons of Caphtor Through all Philistian bounds, to Israel Honour hath left, and freedom, let but them 1715 Find courage to lay hold on this occasion ; To himself and father's house eternal fame, And, which is best and happiest yet, all this With God not parted from him, as was fear'a, But favouring and assisting to the end.
1720 Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt, Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair
1695. Villatre, domestic, from the Latin Villa. 1700. Imbost, embowered or concealed, from the Italian word imboscure, I conjecture.-Spenser uses it. Faery Queen, B. 1. Cap. 3. St. 24.
1713. Sons of Caphtor, Philistines from the island of Capbtor, who settled in Palestine.
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
1745 What th' unsearchable dispose Of highest Wisdom brings about, And ever best found in the close. Oft he seems to hide his face, But unexpectedly returns,
1750 And to his faithful champion hath in place Bore witness gloriously ; whence Gaza mourns And all that band them to resist His uncontrollable intent; His servants he with new acquist
1755 Of true experience, from this great event, With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind, all passions spent.
1730. This circumstance is founded on Jug. xvi. 31. To the lovers of the classical drama, Samson Agonistes is full of beauty ; its regularity, the clearuess and solemnity of its diction, the pathos of Manoah's character, and the well-sustained Feverity of Samsou's, are all calculated to secure their admiration. But it is not the generality of readers who can see beauty in propriety, or feel synipathiy with a passion which is more strong than vehenient; and to these this poem will always fail of interest.
A MASK :
Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634, hefore the Earl
of Bridgewuter, then President of Wales.
afterwards in the habit First Brother.
The chief persons who presented were,
The Lord Brackley.
The first Scene discovers a wild wood.
The attendant Spirit descends or enters.
BEFORE the starry threshold of Jove's court
10 Amongst the enthroned Gods on sainted seats. Yet some there be that by due steps aspire
1. This exquisite little drama is, next to Paradise Lost, tle mos splendid offspring of Milton's genins. Never were the reliest graces of natural description more felicitously employed, or the uninn of what is beautiful in the moral and inaginative of poetry Lone complete.