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Singly by me against their conquerors,
Acknowledged not, or not at all consider'd,
Deliverance offer'd: I, on the other side,
Used no ambition to commend my deeds;
The deeds themselves, though mute, spoke loud the doer;
But they persisted, deaf, and would not seem
To count them things worth notice, till, at length, 250
Their lords, the Philistines, with gather'd powers,
Enter'd Judea, seeking me, who then
Safe to the rock of Etham was retired ;
Not flying, but forecasting in what place
To set upon them, what advantaged best.
Meanwhile, the men of Judah, to prevent
The barass of their land, beset me round;
I willingly on some conditions came
Into their hands, and they as gladly yield me,
To the uncircumcised a welcome prey,
Bound with two cords ; but cords to me were threads
Touch'd with the flame: on their whole host I flew
Unarm’d, and with a trivial weapon felld
Their choicest youth: they only lived who fled.
Had Judah that day join'd, or one whole tribe,
They had by this possess'd the towers of Gath,
And lorded over them whom they now serve.
But what more oft, in nations grown corrupt,
And by their vices brought to servitude,
Than to love bondage more than liberty,
270 Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty; And to despise, or envy, or suspect, Whom God hath of his special favour raised As their deliverer? If he aught begin, How frequent to desert him, and at last To heap ingratitude on worthiest deeds?
Cho. Thy words to my remembrance bring
How Succoth and the fort of Penuel
Their great deliverer contemn'd,
The matchless Gideon, in pursuit
Of Midian, and her vanquish'd kings :
And how ingrateful Ephraim
Had dealt with Jephtha, who, by argument,
Not worse than by his shield and spear,
Defended Israel from the Ammonite,
Had not his prowess quell’d their pride
In that sore battle, when so many
died Without reprieve, adjudged to death, For want of well pronouncing Shibboleth.
Sams. Of such examples add me to the roll; 290
Me easily, indeed, mine may neglect,
But God's proposed deliverance not so.
Cho. Just are the ways of God,
And justifiable to men;
Unless there be, who think not God at all:
If any be, they walk obscure;
For of such doctrine never was there school,
But the heart of the fool,
And no man therein doctor but himself.
Yet more there be, who doubt his ways not just, 300
As to his own edicts found contradicting,
Then give the reins to wandering thought,
Regardless of his glory's diminution;
Till, by their own perplexities involved,
They ravel more, still less resolved,
But never find self-satisfying solution.
As if they would confine the Interminable,
And tie him to his own prescript,
Who made our laws to bind us, not himself,
And hath full right to exempt
310 Whom so it pleases him by choice
From national obstriction without taint
Of sin, or legal debt;
For with his own laws he can best dispense.
He would not else, who never wanted means,
Nor in respect of the enemy just cause,
To set his people free,
Have prompted this heroic Nazarite,
Against his vow of strictest purity,
To seek in marriage that fallacious bride,
320 Unclean, unchaste.
Down, reason, then ; at least, vain reasonings down;
Though reason here aver,
That moral verdict quits her of unclean :
Unchaste was subsequent; her stain, not his.
But see, here comes thy reverend sire
With careful step, locks white as down,
Old Manoah : advise
Forthwith how thou ought'st to receive him.
Sams. Ay me! another inward grief, awaked 330
With mention of that name, renews the assault.
Man. Brethren, and men of Dan, for such ye seem,
Though in this uncouth place; if old respect,
As I suppose, towards your once gloried friend,
My son, now captive, hither hath inform'd
Your younger feet, while mine cast back with age
Came lagging after; say if he be here?
Cho. As signal now in low dejected state,
As erst in highest, behold him where he lies.
Man. O miserable change! is this the man, 340
That invincible Samson, far renown'd,
The dread of Israel's foes, who, with a strength
Equivalent to angels', walked their streets,
None offering fight: who, single combatant,
Duell’d their armies rank'd in proud array,
Himself an army, now unequal match
To save himself against a coward arm’d
At one spear's length ? O ever-failing trust
In mortal strength! and, oh, what not in man
Deceivable and vain ? Nay, what thing good
Pray'd for, but often proves our woe, our bane
I pray'd for children, and thought barrenness
In wedlock a reproach; I gain'd a son,
And such a son as all men hail'd me happy;
Who would be now a father in my stead ?
0, wherefore did God grant me my request,
And as a blessing with such pomp adorn'd?
Why are his gifts desirable, to tempt
Our earnest prayers, then, given with solemn hand
As graces, draw a scorpion's tail behind ?
For this did the angel twice descend ? for this
Ordain'd thy nurture holy, as of a plant
Select and sacred, glorious for awhile,
The miracle of men; then in an hour
Ensnared, assaulted, overcome, led bound,
Thy foes' derision, captive, poor and blind,
Into a dungeon thrust, to work with slaves ?
Alas! methinks whom God hath chosen once
To worthiest deeds, if he through frailty err,
He should not so o’erwhelm, and as a thrall 370
Subject him to so foul indignities,
Be it but for honour's sake of former deeds.
Sams. Appoint not heavenly disposition, father;
Nothing of all these evils hath befallen me
But justly; I myself have brought them on,
Sole author I, sole cause; if aught seem vile,
As vile hath been my folly, who have profaned
The mystery of God given me under pledge
Of vow, and have betray'd it to a woman,
A Canaanite, my faithless enemy.
This well I knew, nor was at all surprised,
But warn'd by oft experience: did not she
Of Timna first betray me, and reveal
The secret wrested from me in her height
Of nuptial love profess’d, carrying it straight