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reason, the ancients and Italians are rather followed, as of much more authority and fame. The measure of verse used in the chorus is of all sorts, called by the Greeks Monostrophic, or rather Apolelymenon, without regard had to Strophe, Antistrophe, or Epode, which were a kind of stanzas framed only for the music, then used with the chorus that sung; not essential to the poem, and therefore not material; or being divided into stanzas or pauses, they may be called Alloostropha. Division into act and scene referring chiefly to the stage, to which this work never was intended, is here omitted.
It suffices if the whole drama be found not produced beyond the fifth act; of the style and uniformity, and that commonly called the plot, whether intricate or explicit, which is nothing indeed but such economy, or disposition of the fable as may stand best with verisimilitude and decorum, they only will best judge who are not unacquainted with Eschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the three tragic poets, unequalled yet by any, and the best rule to all who endeavour to write tragedy. The circumscription of time, wherein the whole drama begins and ends is, according to ancient rule and best example, within the space of twenty-four hours.
Samson made captive, blind, and now in the prison at Gaza, there to labour as is a common workhouse, on a festival-day, 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 Philistine lords for Samson's redemption; who in the meanwhile 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 afterward more distinctly, relating the catastrophe, what Samson had done to the Philistines, and by accident to himself; wherewith the tragedy ends.
Samson. A LITTLE onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little farther on;
For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade:
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends,
To Dagon, their sea-idol, and forbid
His godlike presence, and from some great act
Design'd for great exploits, if I must die
Betray'd, captived, and both my eyes put out,
To grind in brazen fetters under task
With this heaven-gifted strength? O glorious strength,
Put to the labour of a beast, debased
Lower than bondslave! Promise was, that I
By weakest subtleties, not made to rule,
But to subserve where wisdom bears command.
Light, the prime work of God, to me's extinct,
Annull'd, which might in part my grief have eased,
Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.
Without all hope of day!
O first created beam, and thou great Word,
And silent as the moon,
When she deserts the night,
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
She all in every part; why was the sight
By privilege of death and burial,
From worst of other evils, pains, and wrongs;
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life,
Life in captivity
Among inhuman foes.
But who are these? for with joint pace I hear
O change beyond report, thought, or belief!
As one past hope, abandon'd,
As by himself given over;
In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds,
Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,
Irresistible Samson? whom unarm'd
No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast, could with
Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid,
Ran on embattled armies clad in iron,
And, weaponless himself,
Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery
Of brazen shield and spear, the hammer'd cuirass
But safest he who stood aloof,
When insupportably his foot advanced,
In scorn of their proud arms and warlike tools,
Spurn'd them to death by troops. The bold Ascalonite Fled from his lion ramp, old warriors turn'd
Their plated backs under his heel;
Or grovelling soil'd their crested helmets in the dust.
Then with what trivial weapon came to hand,
The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone,
A thousand foreskins fell, the flower of Palestine,
In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day.
Then by main force pull'd up, and on his shoulders bore
The gates of Azza, post, and massy bar,
Up to the hill by Hebron, seat of giants old,
No journey of a Sabbath-day, and loaded so;
Like whom the Gentiles feign to bear up heaven.
Thy bondage or lost sight,
Prison within prison
Thou art become, O worst imprisonment !
The dungeon of thyself; thy soul,
Which men enjoying sight oft without cause complain
Imprison'd now indeed,
In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light,
To incorporate with gloomy night;
Puts forth no visual beam.
O mirror of our fickle state !
The rarer thy example stands,
By how much from the top of wondrous glory,
To lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen.
Whom long descent of birth
Or the sphere of fortune raises;
But thee, whose strength, while virtue was her mate,
Universally crown'd with highest praises.
Sams. hear the sound of words, their sense the air Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.
Chor. He speaks, let us draw nigh. Matchless in might, The glory late of Israel, now the grief, We come, thy friends and neighbours 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 'suage The tumours of a troubled mind,
And are as balm to fester'd wounds.
Sams. Your 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,
Yet that which was the worst now least afflicts me,