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SAMSON made captive, blind, and now in the prison at Gaza,
there to labour as in a common workhouse, on a festivalday, in the general cessation from labour, comes forth into the open air, to a place nigh, somewhat retired, there to sit a while and bemoan his condition. Where he happens at length to be visited by certain friends and equals of his tribe, which make the chorus, who seek to comfort him what they can; then by his old father Manoah, who endeavours the like, and withal tells him his purpose to procure his liberty by ransom; and, lastly, that this feast was proclaimed by the Philistines as a day of thanksgiving for their deliverance from the hands of Samson, which yet more troubles him. Manoah then departs to prosecute his endeavour with the Philistian lords for Samson's redemption ; who in the mean while is visited by other persons; and lastly by a public officer to require his coming to the feast before the lords and people, to play or show his strength in their presence. He at first refuses, dismissing the public officer with absolute denial to come; at length persuaded inwardly that this was from God, he yields to go along with him, who came now the second time with great threatenings to fetch him. The chorus yet remaining on the place, Manoah returns full of joyful hope, to procure ere long his son's deliverance : in the midst of which discourse an Hebrew comes in haste, confusedly at first, and after. ward more distinctly, relating the catastrophe, what Sam. son had done to the Philistines, and by acrident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.
SAMSON. MANOAH, the Father of Samson. Dalila, his Wife, HARAPHA OF GATH. Public Officer. Messenger, Chorus of Danites.
The Scene before the Prison in Gaza.
Sams. A little onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little further on;
For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade:
There I am wont to sit, when any
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 heav'n 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 works, unwillingly this rest
Their superstition yields me; hence with leave 15
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
? dark steps] Euripidis Phønissæ, 841.
*Ηγού πάροιθε, θύγατερ, ώς τυφλώ πόδι.
Of hornets arm’d, no sooner found alone,
But rush upon me thronging, and present
Times past, what once I was, and what am now.
Oh! wherefore was my birth from heav'n foretold
Twice by an angel, who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an off'ring burn'd,
As in a fiery column charioting
His god-like presence, and from some great act
Or benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race?
Why was my breeding order'd and prescrib'd 50
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 heav'n-gifted strength? O glorious
Put to the labour of a beast, debas'd [strength
Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him to
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,
33 captiv'd] 'And captàv'd kings.' Ross's Mel Heliconium, p. 55. • Israel captiv’d.' Cowley's Davideis, lib. ii. p. 84.
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, burthensome,
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 strength, to show withal
How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.
But peace, I must not quarrel with the will 60
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 most complain!
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!
Light the prime work of God to me's extinct, 70
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 exposed 75
53 strength] Ovidii Met. xiii. 363.
• Tu vires sine mente geris. Jortin.