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this poem, with good reason, the ancients and Italians are rather followed, as of much more authority and fame, The measure of verse used in the chorus is of all sorts, called hy the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epode, which were a kind of stanzas framed only for the music then used with the chorus that sung; not essential to the poem, and therefore not material; or heing divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be called Alloeostropha. Division into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage (to which this work never was intended), is here omitted.
It suffices if the whole drama be found not produced beyond the fifth act. Of the style and uniformity, and that commonly called the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing, indeed, but such oeconomy or disposition of the fable as may stand best with verisimilitude and de corum; they only will best judge who are not unacquainted with jEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three tragic poets unequalled yet by any, and the best rule to all who endeavour to write tragedy. The circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and ends, is, according to ancient rule and best example, within the space of twentyfour hours.
Manoah, the Father of Samson
Dalila, his Wife.
Harapha of Oath.
Cliorus of Danites.
The Scene before the Prison in Gaza.
Samson made captive, blind, and now in the prison at Gaza, there trt labour as in a common workhouse, on a festival day, in the genera* 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 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 hirn. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistian lords for Samson's redemption; who in the mean while 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 threatenings to fetch him. The Chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoah returns, 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.
A Little onward lend £hy guiding hand1
To these dark steps, a little further on;
For yonder hank 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 enjoined me,
Where I a prisoner chained, scarce freely draw
The air imprisoned 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,2 and forbid ,
1 The opening scene of this tragedy Is highly suggestive of the commencement of the GSdipus at Colonus of Sophocles, where the blind (Edipus is introduced, guided by his daughter Antigone.
2 See note on Paradise Lost, i. 402.
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 armed, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.
Oh, 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 burned,
As in a fiery column charioting
His god-like presence, and from some great act
Or benefit revealed to Abraham's race?
Why was my breeding ordered and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,
Designed for great exploits; if I must die
Betrayed, captived, 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 strength
Put to the labour of a beast, debased
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 fulfilled 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 lodged, 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,
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
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 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,
And all her various objects of delight
Annulled, 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
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.
Oh, dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
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?
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,
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 the eye confined,
So obvious and so easy to be quenched?
1 Perhaps, as Thyer observes, alluding to the notion which our poet has adopted from Hesiod, in Paradise Lost, vi. 4:—
"There is a cave
And not as feeling through all parts diffused,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not heen thus exiled from light,
As in the land of darkness, yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; hut, oh, yet more miserable!
Myself, my sepulchre, a moving grave,
Buried, yet not exempt
By privilege of death and burial
From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs,
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of lite,
Life in captivity
Among inhuman foes.
But who are these? for with joint pace I hear
This, this is he; softly awhile,
Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,
That heroic, that renowned,
Irresistible Samson? whom unarmed
No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast could withstand;
Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid;
Ran on embattled armies clad in iron,
And weaponless himself;
Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery
Of brazen shield and spear, the hammered cuirass,
Chalybean2 tempered steel, and frock of mail,
But safest he who stood aloof,
1 Poured, stretched out.
s So called from the Chalybes, who were famous for their skill in tempering steel