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SAMSON AGONISTES,

A
DRAMATIC POEM-

Samson,

Manoah, the Father of Samson.,

DaLiLA, his wife.

HarApha of Gath,

Public Officer,

Messenger.

Chorus of Danites.

The Scene before the Prison in Gazt,.

SAMSON AGONISTES.

<£f;e 3trflument.

Samson made captive, blind, and now in the prison of Gaza) there to labor as in a common workhouse, on a festival day, in the general cessation from labor, comes forth into the open air, to a place nigti,somewhat retired, there to sit awhile and bemoan hiscondition. 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 endeavours 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 Samson, which yet more troubles him. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistine lords for Samson's redemption; who in the mean white 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 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 thieatenings to fetch him: the Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoah retums) full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his son's deliverance, in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first, and afterward more distinctly relating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.

Samson.

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
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,

Daily in the common prison else injoin'd me,

Where la piisoner chain'd, scarce freely draw

The air imprison'd also, close and damp,

Unwholesome draught: but here I feel 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

Retiring from the popular noise, I seek

This unfrequented place to find some ease,

Ease to the body some, none to the mind

From restless thoughts, that like a deadly swarm

Of hornets arm'd, no sooner found alone, SJO

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

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'tl 30

As of a person separate to God,

Designed 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 Heav'n-gifted strength? O glorious

Put to the labour of a beast, debas'd [strength

Lower than bond-slave! promise was that I

Should Israel from Philistine 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,

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 reveafit, SO

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,

But to subserve where wisdom bears command!

God, when he gave me strength, to show withal

How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.

But peace, I must not quarrel with the will 60

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

Would ask a life to wail, but chief of all,

O loss of sight, of thee I must 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 eas'd

Inferior to the vilest now become

Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me,

They creep, yet see, I dark in light expos'd

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 1

O first created beam, and thou great word,

Let there be light, and light was overall;

Why am I thus bereav'd thy prime decree?

The sun to me is dark

And silent as the moon,

When she deserts the night

Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.

Since light so necessary is to life, 98

And almost life itself, if it be true

That light is in the soul,

She all in ev'ry part; why was the sight

To such a tender ball as the eye confin'd,

So obvious and so easy to be quench7d?

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