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Mortals that would follow me,
Love virtue, she alone is free,
She can teach you how to climb
Higher than the sphery chime;
Or if virtue feeble were,
Ieaven itself would stoop to her.
Manoah, the Father of Samson.
Dalila, his Wife.
HARAPHA of Gath.
Chorus of Danites.
Samson made captive, blind, and now in the prison at Gaza, there
to labour as in a common work-house, on a festival day, in the general cessation from labour, comes forth into the open air, to a place nigh, some-what 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 comfort him what they can; then by his old father Manoah, who endeavors the like, and withal tells him his purpose to procure his liberty by ransom; lastly, that this feast was proclaimed by the Philistines as a day of thanksgiving for their deliverance from the hands of Sarnson, which yet more troubles him. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistian lords for Samson'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 and show his strength in their presence; he at first refuses, dismissing the public officer with absolute denial to come; at length, persuaded inwardly that this was from God, he yields to go along with him, who came now the second time with great threatenings to fetch him; the Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoah returns full of joyful hope, to procure erelong his son's deliverance: in the midst of which discourse a Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first, and afterwards more distinctly relating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.
The Scene before the Prison in Gaza.
A LITTLE onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little farther on;
For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade,
There I am wont to sit, when any chance
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
Daily in the common prison else injoin'd me,
Where I a prisoner chain’d, scarce freely draw
The air imprison'd also, close and damp,
Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends,
The breath of heaven fresh blowing, pure and sweet,
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire. .
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
Retiring from the popular noise, I seek
This unfrequented place to find some ease,
Ease to the body some, none to the mind
* Samson Agonistes, that is, Samson an Actor, Samson represented in a play.
From restless thoughts that like a deadly swarm
Of hornets arm’d, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now
O wherefore was my birth from heaven foretold
Twice by an angel, who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an offering burn'd,
As in a fiery column charioting
His godlike presence, and from some great act
Or benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race ?
Why was my breeding order'd and prescrib'd
As of a person separate to God,
Design'd for great exploits; if I must die
Betray’d, captiv'd, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze;
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this heaven-gifted strength ? O glorious
Put to the labour of a beast, debas'd
Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver :
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
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
Whom have I to complain of but myself?
Who this high gift of strength committed to me,
In what part lodg‘d, how easily bereft me,
Under the seal of silence could not keep,
But weakly to a woman must reveal it,
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
By weakest subtleties, not made to rule,