Imatges de pÓgina
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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.

THE ARGUMENT.

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.

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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:
There I am wont to sit, when any chance

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 heaven 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
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
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 heaven foretold
Twice by an angel, who at last, in sight
Of both my parents, all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an offering burn'd,
As in a fiery column charioting

His godlike presence, and from some great act
Or benefit reveal'd to Abraham's race?
Why was my breeding order'd and prescribed
As of a person separate to God,

Design'd for great exploits, if I must die

Betray'd, captived, and both my eyes put out,
Made of my enemies the scorn and gaze,

To grind in brazen fetters under task

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With this heaven-gifted strength? O glorious strength,

Put to the labour of a beast, debased

Lower than bondslave! Promise was, that I
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him
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,
In what part lodged, 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
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,
And all her various objects of delight

Annull'd, which might in part my grief have eased,
Inferior to the vilest now become

Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me;
They creep, yet see, I, dark in light, exposed
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong.
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
In power of others, never in my own ;

Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.
O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse

Without all hope of day!

O first created beam, and thou great Word,
Let there be light, and light was over all;
Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark

And silent as the moon,

When she deserts the night,

Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the soul,

She all in every part; why was the sight
To such a tender ball as the eye confined,
So obvious and so easy to be quenched?
And not, as feeling, through all parts diffused,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exiled from light,
As in the land of darkness, yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but oh, yet more miserable!
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave,
Buried, yet not exempt,

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
The tread of many feet steering this way;
Perhaps my enemies, who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps to insult,
Their daily practice to afflict me more.
Chor. This, this is he; softly a while,
Let us not break in upon him;

O change beyond report, thought, or belief!
See how he lies at random, carelessly diffused,
With languish'd head unpropp'd,

As one past hope, abandon'd,

As by himself given over;

In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds,
O'er-worn and soil'd;

Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,
That heroic, that renown'd,

Irresistible Samson? whom unarm'd

No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast, could with

stand;

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
Chalybean-temper'd steel, and frock of mail
Adamantean proof;

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.
Which shall I first bewail,

Thy bondage or lost sight,

Prison within prison

Inseparably dark?

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;
For inward light, alas!

Puts forth no visual beam.

O mirror of our fickle state !
Since man on earth unparallel'd,

The rarer thy example stands,

By how much from the top of wondrous glory,
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.

Sams. hear the sound of words, their sense the air Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.

not unknown,

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,
Not to be found, though sought. Ye see, O friends,
How many evils have enclosed me round;

Yet that which was the worst now least afflicts me,
Blindness, for had I sight, confused with shame,
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,
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?
Immeasurable strength they might behold
In me, of wisdom nothing more than mean;
This with the other should, at least, have pair'd,
These two, proportion'd ill, drove me transverse.
Chor. Tax not divine disposal: wisest men
Have err'd, and by bad women been deceived;

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