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SAMSON AGONISTES.

Of that sort of Dramatick Poem which is

called Tragedy.

TRAGEDY, as it was anciently composed, hath been ever held the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems : therefore said by Aristotle to be of power by raising pity and fear, or terrour, to purge the mind of those and such like passions, that is, to temper and reduce them to just measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated. Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion: for so, in physick, things of melancholick hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour, against sour, salt to remove salt humours. Hence philosophers and other gravest writers, as Cicero, Plutarch,

On man, beast, plant, wasteful and turbulent,
Like turbulencies in the affairs of men,
Over whose heads they roar, and seem to point,
They oft fore-signify and threaten ill :
This tempest at this desart most was bent;
Of men at thee, for only thou here dwell'st.
Did I not tell thee, if thou didst reject
The perfect season offer'd with my aid
To win thy destin'd seat, but wilt prolong
All to the push of fate, pursue thy way
Of gaining David's throne, no man knows when,
For both the when and how is no where told?
Thou shalt be what thou art ordain'd, no doubt ;
For angels have proclaim'd it, concealing
The time and means. Each act is rightliest done,
Not when it must, but when it may be best:
If thou observe not this, be sure to find,
What I foretold thee, many a hard assay
Of dangers, and adversities, and pains,
Ere thou of Israel's scepter get fast hold;
Whereof this ominous night, that clos’d thee round,
So many terrours, voices, prodigies,
May warn thee, as a sure fore-going sign.

So talk'd he, while the Son of God went on
And staid not, but in brief him answer'd thus.

Me worse than wet thou find'st not; other harm Those terrours, which thou speak’st of did me none; I never fear'd they could, though noising loud

And threatening high : what they can do, as signs
Betokening, or ill boding, I contemn
As false portents, not sent from God, but thee ;
Who, knowing, I shall reign past thy preventing,
Obtrud’st thy offer'd aid, that I, accepting,
At least might seem to hold all power of thee,
Ambitious Spirit! and wouldst be thought my God;
And storm'st refus'd, thinking to terrify
Me to thy will ! desist, (thou art discern'd,
And toil'st in vain,) nor me in vain molest.
To whom the Fiend, now swoln with rage, re-

plied.
Then hear, O Son of David, Virgin-born,
For Son of God to me is yet in doubt;
Of the Messiah I had heard foretold
By all the Prophets; of thy birth at length,
Announc'd by Gabriel, with the first I knew,
And of the angelic song in Bethlehem field,
On thy birth-night that sung thee Saviour born,
From that time seldom have I ceas'd to eye
Thy infancy, thy childhood, and thy youth,
Thy manhood last though yet in private bred;
Till at the ford of Jordan, whither all
Flock to the Baptist, I among the rest,
(Though not to be baptiz’d,) by voice from Heaven
Heard thee pronounc'd the Son of God belov’d.
Thenceforth I thought thee worth my nearer view
And narrower scrutiny, that I might learn

In what degree or meaning thou art callid
The Son of God; which bears no single sense.
The Son of God I also am, or was ;
And if I was, I am ; relation stands;
All men are Sons of God; yet thee I thought
In some respect far higher so declar'd:
Therefore I watch'd thy footsteps from that hour,
And follow'd thee still on to this waste wild;
Where, by all best conjectures, I collect
Thou art to be my fatal enemy :
Good reason then, it I before hand seek
To understand my adversary, who
And what he is; his wisdom, power, intent;
By parl or composition, truce or league,
To win him, or win from him what I can:
And opportunity I here have had
To try thee, sift thee, and confess have found thee
Proof against all temptation, as a rock
Of adamant, and, as a center, firm;
To the utmost of mere Man both wise and good,
Not more; for honours, riches, kingdoms, glory,
Have been before contemn’d, and may again.
Therefore, to know what more thou art than Man,
Worth naming Son of God by voice from Heaven,
Another method I must now begin.

So saying he caught him up, and, without wing
Of hippogrif, bore through the air sublime,
Over the wilderness and o'er the plain,

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