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Sams. A LITTLE onward lead 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 enjoin'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 work: 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
Or hornets arm'd, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging and present
Samson Agonistes, that is, Samson an actor, Samson represented a playa
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?
Put to the labour of a beast, debas'd
Lower than bond-slave! 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,
But to subserve where wisdom bears command!
God, when he gave me strengtb, 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 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,
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,
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 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 caves
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 th' eye confin'd,
So obvious and so easy to be quench'd?
And not as feeling through all parts diffus'd,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exil'd from light,
As in the land of darkness, yet in light;
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but, O 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 life,
Life in captivity
Among inhuman foes.
But who are these? for with join'd pace I hear
The tread of many feet steering this way.
Perhaps my enemies who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps t'insult,
Their daily practise, to afflict me more.
Chor. This, this is he
softly awhile Let us not break in upon him:
O change beyond report, thought, or belief!
See how he lies at random, carelessly diffus'd,
With languish'd head unpropp'd,
As one past hope abandon'd,
And by himself given over;
In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds
O'er-worn and soil'd;
Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,
That heroic, that renown'd,
Irresistible Samson? whom unarm'd [withstand:
No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast could
Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid,
Ran on imbattled armies clad in iron;
And, weaponless himself,
Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery
Of brazen shield and spear, the hammer'd cuirass,
Chalybean temper'd steel, and frock of mail
But safest he who stood aloof,
When insupportably his foot advanc'd,
In scorn of their proud arms and warlike tools,
Spurn'd them to death by troops.
Fled from his lion ramp, old warriors turn'd
Their plated backs under his heel,
Or grov'ling soil'd their crested helmets in the dust.
Then with what trivial weapon came to hand,
The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone;
A thousand foreskins fell, the flower of Palestine, In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day.
Then by main force pull'd up, and on his shoulders
The gates of Azza, post, and massy bar,
Up to the hill by Hebron, seat of giants old,
No journey of a sabbath-day, and loaded so;
Like whom the Gentiles feign to bear up heaven. Which shall I first bewail,
Thy bondage or lost sight,
Prison within prison
Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)
The dungeon of thyself; thy soul
(Which men enjoying sight oft without cause com
Imprison'd now indeed,
In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light
T'incorporate with gloomy night;
For inward light, alas!
Puts forth novisual beam.
O mirror of our fickle state,
Since man on earth unparallel'd!"
The rarer thy example stands,
By how much from the top of wondrous glory,
Strongest of mortal men,
To lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen.
For him I reckon not in high estate
Whom long descent of birth
Or the sphere of fortune raises;
But thee whose strength, while virtue was her mate,
Might have subdued the earth,
Universally crown'd with highest praises.
Sams. I heard the sound of words, their sense the
Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.
Chor. He speaks, let us draw nigh. Matchless in
The glory late of Israel, now the grief;
We come thy friends and neighbours not unknown From Eshtaol and Zora's fruitful vale
To visit or bewail thee, or, if better,