« AnteriorContinuar »
Mess. Take then the worst in brief, Samson is
Man. The worst indeed, O all my hope's defeated
To free him hence! but death who séts all free
Hath paid his ransom now and full discharge.
What windy joy this day had I conceiv'd
Hopeful of his delivery, which now proves
Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring
Nipp'd with the lagging rear of winter's frost !
Yet ere I give the reins to grief, say first,
How died he; death to life is crown or shame.
All by him fell thou say’st, by whom fell he,
What glorious hand gave Samson his death wound ?
Mess. Unwounded of his enemies he fell.
Man. Wearied with slaughter then or how ? ex-
Mess. By his own hands.
Man. Self-violence! what cause
Brought him so soon at variance with himself
Among his foes?
Mess. Inevitable cause
At once both to destroy and be destroy'd;
The edifice, where all were met to see him,
Upon their heads and on his own he pull’d.
Man. O lastly over-strong against thyself!
A dreadul way thou took'st to thy revenge.
More than enough we know ; but while things yet
Are in confusion, give us if thou canst,
Eye-witness of what first or last was done,
Relation more particular and distinct.
Mess. Occsaions drew me early to this city, And as the gates I enter'd with sun-rise, The morning trumpets' festival proclaim'd Through each high street : little I had despatch'd, When all abroad was rumour'd that this day Samson should be brought forth, to show the people Proof of his mighty strength in feats and games; I sorrow'd at his captive state, but minded Not to be absent at that spectacle.
The building was a spacious theatre
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;
I among these aloof obscurely stood.
The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice
Had fill'd their hearts with mirth, high cheer,
When to their sports they turn'd. Immediately
Was Samson as a public servant brought,
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
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
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 repuested
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard)
As over-tir'd 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
Felt in his arms, with head a while inclin'd,
And eyes fast fix'd he stood, as one who pray'd,
Or some great matter in his mind revoly'd ;
At last with head erect thus cried aloud,
Hitherto, lords, what your commands impos'd
I have perform’d, as reason was, obeying,
Not without wonder or delight beheld :
Now of my own accord such other trial
I mean to show you of my strength, yet greater ;
As with amaze shall strike all who behold.
This utter'd, straining all his nerves he bow'd,
As with the force of winds and waters pent,
When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars
With horrible convulsion to and fro,
He tugg'd, he shook, till down they came and drew
The whole roof after them, with burst of thunder
Upon the heads of all who sat beneath,
Lords, ladies, captains, counsellors, or priests,
Their choice nobility and flower, not only
Of this but each Philistian city round,
Met from all parts to solemnize this feast.
Samson with these inmix'd, inevitably
Pullid down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only scap'd who stood without.
Chor. O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious !
Living or dying thou hast fulfilled
The work for which thou wast foretold
To Israel, and now liest victorious
Among thy slain self-kill'd,
Not willingly, but tangled in the fold
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoin'd
Thee with thy slaughter'd foes in number more
Than all thy life had slain before.
Semichor. While their hearts were jocund and
Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine,
And fat regorg'd 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 phrensy sent
Who hurt their minds
And urg'd them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer ;
They only set on sport and play
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,
Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,
And with blindness internal struck.
Semichor. But he though blind of sight,
Despis'd and thought extinguish'd quite,
With inward eyes illuminated,
His fiery virtue rous'd
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an evening dragon came
Assailant on the perched roosts,
And nests in order rang'd
Of tame villatic fowl ; but as an eagle
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 imboss'd,
That no second knows nor third,
And lay erewhile a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teem'd,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deem'd.
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
A life heroic, on his enemies
Fully reveng’d, hath left them years of mourning,
And lamentations to the sons of Caphtor
Through all Philistian bounds; to Israel
Honour hath left, and freedom, let but them
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'd,
But favouring and assisting to the end.
Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast, no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise or blame, nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
Let us go find the body where it lies
Soak’d in his enemies' blood, and from the stream
With lavers pure and cleansing herbs wash off
The clotted gore. I with what speed the while
(Gaza is not in plight to say us nay)
Will send for all my kindred, all my friends,
To fetch him hence, and solemnly attend
With silent obsequy and funeral train
Home to his father's house : there will I build him
A monument, and plant it round with shade
Of laurel ever green, and branching palm,
With all his trophies hung, and acts enroll’d
In copious legend, or sweet lyric song.
Thither shall all the valiant youth resort,
And from his memory inflame their breasts
To matchless valour, and adventures high :
The virgins also shall on feastful days
Visit his tomb with flowers, only bewailing
His lot unfortunate in nuptial choice,
From whence captivity and loss of eyes.
Chor. All is best, though we oft doubt
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,
And to his faithful champion hath in place
Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns
And all that band them to resist
His uncontrolable intent;
His servants he with new acquisť
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismissed,
And calm of mind all passion spent.
END OF SAMSON AGONISTES.