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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 !
CHOR. Best keep together here, lest running thither We unawares run into danger's mouth. This evil on the Philistines is fallin; From whom could else a general cry be heard ? The sufferers then will scarce molest us here, From other hands we need not much to fear. What if his eyesight, 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?
Man. That were a joy presumptuous to be thought.
Chor. Yet God hath 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, and tempts 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 see 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, and scarce con
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, and 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 The desolation of a hostile city.
Mess. Feed on that first, there may in grief be surfeit.
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 agèd ear should pierce too deep.
Man. Suspense in news is torture, speak them out.
Mess. Take then the worst in brief, Samson is dead.
Man. 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
Nipt with the lagging rear of winter's frost !
Yet ere I give the reins to 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.
MẠN. O lastly over-strong against thyself!
A dreadful way thou took'st to thy revenge.
More than enough we know; but, while things yet
Are in confusion, give us, if thou can’st,
Eye-witness of what first or last was done,
Relation more particular and distinct.
Mess. Occasions drew me early to this city,
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
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,
With seats, where all the lords and 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.
The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice
Had fill’d their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and wine,
When to their sports they turn’d. Immediately
Was Samson as a public servant brought,
In their stata livery clad; before him pipes
And timbrels, on each side went armèd 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-tired to let him lean awhile
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 awhile inclined,
And eyes fast fixt 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 and 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 immixt, 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 liest victorious
Among thy slain, self-kill'd
Not willingly, but tangled in the fold
Of dire necessity, whose law in death conjoin'd
Thee with thy slaughter'd foes in number more
Than all thy life had slain before.
1. SEMICHOR. While their hearts were jocund and sublime, Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine,
And fat regorged of bulls and goats,
Chanting their idol, and preferring
Before our living Dread who dwells
In Silo' His bright sanctuary :
Among them He a spirit of frenzy sent,
Who hurt their minds,
And urged them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer;
They, only set on sport and play,
Their own destruction to come speedy upon them.
So fond are mortal men
Fall'n into wrath divine,
As their own ruin on themselves to invite,
Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,
And with blindness internal struck.
2. SEMICHOR. But he, though blind of sight,
Despised and thought extinguish'd quite,
With inward eyes illuminated,
His fiery virtue roused
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an ev’ning dragon came,
Assailant on the perchèd roosts
And nests in order ranged
Of tame villatic fowl;? but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
So virtue given for lost,
Depress'd, and overthrown, as seem'd,
Like that self-begotten. bird
In the Arabian woods imbost,
That no second knows nor third,
And lay ere while a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teem'd,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deem'd,
And though her body die, her fame survives