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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. 175
Sam. I hear the sounds 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; (might,
We come thy friends and neighbours not unknown
From Eshtaol and Zora's fruitful vale,
To visit or bewail thee; or, if better,
Counsel or consolation we may bring,
Salve to thy sores ; apt words have power to sware
The tumours of a troubled mind,
185 And are as balm to fester'd wounds.
Sam. Yrur coming, friends, revives me, for I learn
Now of my own experience, not by talk,
How counterfeit a coin they are who friends
Bear in their superscription (of the most
I would be understood), in prosperous days
They swarm, but in adverse withdraw their head,
Not to be found, though sought. Ye sce, O friends,
How many evils have inclosed me round ;
Yet that which was the worst now least afflicts re,
Blindness, for had I sight, confused with shamc, 196
How could I once look up, or heave the head,
Who like a foolish pilot have shipwreck'd
My vessel trusted to me from above,
Gloriously rigg'd; and for a word, a tear, 200
Fool! have divulged the secret gift of God
To a deceitful woman? Tell me, friends,
Am I not sung and proverb'd for a fool
In every street ? do they not say, How well
Are come upon him his deserts ? yet why? 203
Immeasurable strength they might behold
In me, of wisdom nothing more than mean ;
This with the other should at least have pair'd,
181. Eshlaol and Zora, two towns belonging to the tribe of ! ans,
Josh. xix. 41. Judg. xiii. 2. 25. Josh. xv. 32
These two proportion'd ill drove me transverse.
Chor. Tax not divine disposal; wisest men
Have err'd, and by bad women been deceived;
And shall again, preteud they ne'er so wise.
Deject not then so overmuch thyself,
Who hast of sorrow thy full load besides;
Yet truth to say, I oft have heard men wonder 215
Why thou shouldst wed Philistian women rather
Than of thiue own tribe fairer, or as fair,
At least of thy own nation, and as noble.
Sam. The first I saw at Timna, and she pleased
Me, not my parents, that I sought to wed 220
The daughter of an infidel: they knew not
That what I motion'd was of God; I knew
From intimate impulse, and therefore urged
The marriage on ; that by occasion hence
I might begin Israel's deliverance,
The work to which I was divinely call’d.
She proving false, the next I took to wife
(O that I never had 1 fond wish too late(
Was in the vale of Sorec, Dalila,
That specious monster, my aecomplish’d snare. 230
I thought it lawful from my former act,
And the same end ; still watching to oppress
Israel's oppressors; of what now I suffer
She was not the prime cause, but I myself,
Who vanquish’d with a peal of words (O weakness I)
Gave up my fort of silence to a woman. 230
Chor. In seeking just occasion to provoke
The Philistine, thy country's enemy,
Thou never wast remiss, I bear thee witness:
Yet Israel still serves with all his sons.
Sam. That fault I take not on me, but transfer
On Israel's governors, and heads of tribes,
Who seeing those great acts, which God had done
Singly by me against their conquerors,
Acknowledged not, or not at all consider'd 245
Deliverance offer'd : I on the other side
Used no ambition to commend my deeds,
The deeds themselves, though mute, spoke loud the
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
Eater'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 harass 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 fell’d
Their choicest youth ; they only lived who fled.
Had Judah that day join'd, or one whole tribe, 265
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;
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
275 To heap ingratitude on worthiest deeds ?
Chor. Thy words to my remembrance bring
How Succoth and he fort of Penuel
Their great deliverer contemn'd,
The matchless Gideon in pursuit
Of Madian 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.
Sam. Of such examples add me to the roll, 290
Me easily indeed mine may neglect,
Eut God's proposed deliverance not so.
Chor. Just are the ways of God,
And justifiable to men;
Unless there be who think not God at all; 295
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,
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,
305 But never find self-satisfying solution.
As if they would confine th' Interminable,
And tie him to his own prescript,
Who made our laws to bind us, not himself,
And hath full right to exempt
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, 315 Nor in respect of th' 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 verdiet quits her of unclean:
Unchaste was subsequent; her stain, not his. 325
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.
Sam. Ay me, another inward grief awaked 330 With mention of that name renews th' assault.
Man. Brethren and men of Dan, for such ye seern, Though in this uncouth place ; if old respect,
298. Ps. xiv. 1. 319. Samson's vow as a Nazarite, obliged him to the most perfect observance of the whole
Mosaical law, which he broke by lois marriage with a Gentile woman.
As I suppose, towards your once glory'd friend,
My son now captive, hither hath informid 335
Your younger feet, while mine cast back with age
Came lagring after; say if he be here?
Chor. As signal now in low dejected state,
As erst in ni hest, behold him where he lies.
Man. 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 walk'd 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,
Immortal 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? 355
() 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 ? 300
For this did th' angel twice descend ? for this
Ordain'd thy nurture holy as of a plant
Select, and sacred, glorious for a while,
The miracle of men ; then in an hour
Insnared, assaulted, overcome, led bound, 305
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 eri,
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.