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With youthful steps? much livelier than ere while
He seems; supposing here to find his son,
Or of him bringing to us some glad news?
Man. Peace with you, brethren ; my inducement
Was not at present here to find my son, [hither
By order of the lords now parted hence,
To come and play before them at their feast.
I heard all as I came; the city rings,
And numbers thither flock : I had no will,
Lest I should see him forced to things unseemly,
But that which moved my coming now, was chiefly
To give ye part with me what hope I have,
With good success, to work his liberty.
Chor. That hope would much rejoice us to partake
With thee; say, reverend sire, we thirst to hear.
Man. I have attempted one by one the lords,
Either at home, or through the high street passing,
With supplication prone, and father's tears,
To accept of ransom for my son, their prisoner.
Some much averse I found, and wondrous harsh,
Contemptuous, proud, set on revenge and spite ;
That part most reverenced Dagon and his priests :
Others more moderate seeming, but their aim
Private reward, for which both God & state
They easily would set to sale: a third,
More generous far and civil, who confess'd
They had enough revenged, having reduced
Their foe to misery, beneath their fears ;
The rest was magnanimity to remit,
If some convenient ransom were proposed.
What noise or shout was that? it tore the sky.
Chor. Doubtless the people shouting, to behold
Their once great dread, captive, & blind before them
Or at some proof of strength, before them shown.
Man. His ransom, if my whole inheritance
May compass it, shall willingly be paid,
And number'd down : much rather I shall choose
To live the poorest in my tribe, than richest,
And he in that calamitous prison left.
No; I am fix'd not to part hence without him.
For his redemption, all my patrimony,
If need be, I am ready to forego
And quit : not wanting him, I shall want nothing.
Chor. Fathers are wont to lay up for their sons ;'
Thou for thy son are bent to lay out all;
Sons wont to nurse their parents in old age;
Thou in old age, carest how to nurse thy son,
Made older than thy age through eye-sight lost.
Man. It shall be my delight to tend his eyes, 1490
And view him, sitting in the house, ennobled,
With all those high exploits, by him achieved,
And, on his shoulders, waving down those locks,
That of a nation arm'd, the strength contain'd :
And I persuade me, God had not permitted 1495
His strength again to grow up with his hair,
Garrison'd, round about him, like a camp
Of faithful soldiery, were not his purpose
To use him further yet, in some great service;
Not to sit idle with so great a gift,
1500 Useless, and thence ridiculous, about him. And, since his strength with eye-sight was not lost, God will restore him eye-sight to his strength.
Chor. Thy hopes are not ill-founded, nor seem vain Of his delivery, and thy joy thereon
1505 Conceived, agreeable to a father's love, In both which we, as next, participate.
Man. I know your friendly minds &– what noise! Mercy of Heaven, what hideous noise was that! Horribly loud, unlike the former shout.
1510 Chor. Noise call you it, or universal groan, As if the whole inhabitation perish'd ! Blood, death, & deathful deeds, are in that noise ; Ruin, destruction, at the utmost point.
Man. Of ruin indeed, methought, I heard the noise : 1515 Oh it continues; they have slain my son.
Chor. Thy son is rather slaying them; that outcry, From slaughter of one foe, could not ascend.
Man. Some dismal accident it needs must be ; What shall we do; stay here, or run and see?
1520 Chor. Best keep together here, lest, running thither, We unawares run into danger's mouth. This evil on the Philistines is fall’n; From whom could else a general cry be heard ? The sufferers then will scarce molest us here;
1525 From other hands we need not much to fear. What if his eye-sight, for to Israel's God Nothing is hard, by miracle restored, He now be dealing dole among his foes, And over heaps of slaughter'd walk his way?
1530 Man. That were a joy presumptuous to be thought.
Chor. Yet God had wrought things as incredible, For his people of old ; what hinders now?
Man. He can, I know, but doubt to think he will;
Yet hope would fain subscribe, & lempts belief,
A little stay will bring some notice hither.
Chor. Of good or bad so great, of bad the sooner;
For evil news rides post, while good news baits.
And, to our wish, I sce one hither speeding,
An Hebrew, as I guess, and of our tribe.
Mess. O whither shall I run, or which way fly
The sight of this so horrid spectacle,
Which erst my eyes beheld, and yet behold?
For dire imagination still pursues me.
But providence, or instinct of nature, seems,
Or reason though disturb’d, & scarce consulted,
To have guided me aright, I know not how,
To thee first, reverend Manoah, and to these
My countrymen, whom here I knew remaining,
As at some distance from the place of horror,
So, in the sad event, too much concern'd.
Man. The accident was loud, & here, before thee,
With rueful cry; yet what it was we hear not;
No preface needs, thou seest we long to know.
Mess. It would burst forth, but I recover breath.
And sense distract, to know well what I utter.
Man. Tell us the sum, the circumstance defer. Mess. Gaza yet stands, but all her sons are fall’n ; All in a moment overwhelm'd and fall'n.
Man. Sad, but thou know'st to Israelites not saddest, 1560 The desolation of a hostile city.
Mess. Feed on that first; there may in grief be surteit.
Man. Relate by whom.
Mess. By Samson,
Man. That still lessens
The sorrow, and converts it nigh to joy.
Mess. Ah Manoah, I refrain too suddenly
To utter, what will come at last too soon,
Lest evil tidings, with too rude irruption,
Hitting thy aged ear, should pierce too deep.
Man. Suspense in news is torture; speak them out.
Mess. Take then the worst in brief, Samson is dead.
Mun. The worst indeed; O all my hopes defeated
To free him hence! but death who sets all free,
Hath paid his ransom now,
and full discharge. What windy joy this day had I conceived, 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 of 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's wound?
Mess. Unwounded of his enemies he fell.
Man. Wearied with slaughter then, or how ? explain.
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 dreadful way thou took'st to thy revenge.
1595 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. Occasions drew me early to this city : 1600 And as the gates I enter'd, with sun-rise, The morning trumpets festival proclaim'd, Through each high-street : little I had dispatch’d, When all abroad was rumour'd, that this day Samson should be brought forth, to show the people 1605 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, 1610 With seats where all the lords, & 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.
1615 The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice Had fill'd their hearts with mirth, high cheer, & wine, When to their sports they turn'd. Immediately Was Samson, as a public servant, brought, In their state livery clad ; before him pipes
1620 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 requested,
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 inclined,
And eyes fast fix'd, he stood, as one who pray'd,
Or some great matter in his mind revolved :
At last, with head erect, thus cried aloud.
Hitherto, lords, what your commands imposed
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, & 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 immix'd, inevitably
Pull'd down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only 'scaped who stood without.
Chor. O dearly bought revenge, yet glorious
Living or dying thou hast fulfill'd
The work, for which thou wast foretold
To Israel; and now lyest victorious,
Among thy slain, self-killid,
Not willingly, but tangled in the fold
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoin'd
Thee with thy slaughter'd in number more
Than all thy life hath slain before.