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But thee whose strength, while virtue was her mate,
Might have subdu'd the Earth,
Universally crown'd with highest praises.
175 Samson. I hear the sound of words, their sense the air Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.
Chorus. He speaks, let us draw nigh. Matchless in might, The glory late of Israel, now the grief; We come thy friends and neighbours not unknown, 180 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 swage The tumours of a troubl'd mind,
185 And are as balm to fester'd wounds.
Samson. 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
190 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 enclos'd me round; Yet that which was the worst now least afflicts me, 195 Blindness; for had I sight, confus'd with shame, How could I once look up, or heave the head ? Who like a foolish pilot have shipwreck't My vessel trusted to me from above, Gloriously rigg'd; and for a word, a tear, Fool! have divulg'd 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?
205 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.
Chorus. Tax not divine disposal ; wisest men
Have err'd, and by bad women been deceiv'd;
And shall again, pretend they ne'er so wise.
Deject not then so overmuch thyself,
Who hast of sorrow thy full load besides :
Yet truth to say, I oft have heard men wonder
Why thou should'st wed Philistian women rather
Than of thine own tribe fairer, or as fair,
At least of thy own nation, and as noble.
Samson. The first I saw at Timna, and she pleas'd
Me, not my parents that I sought to wed
The daughter of an infidel: they knew not
That what I motion'd was of God; I knew
From intimate impulse, and therefore urg'd
The marriage on: that by occasion hence
I might begin Israel's deliverance,
The work to which I was divinely call’d.
She proving false, the next I took to wife,
(O that I never had! fond wish too late.)
Was in the vale of Sorec, Dalila,
That specious monster, my accomplisht snare.
I thought it lawful from my former act,
And the same end; still watching to oppress
Israel's oppressors: of what now I suffer
She was not the prime cause, but I myself;
Who vanquisht with a peal of words (O weakness!)
Gave up my fort of silence to a woman.
Chorus. In seeking just occasion to provoke
The Philistine, thy country's enemy,
Thou never wast remiss, I bear thee witness :
Yet Israel still serves with all his sons.
Samson. That fault I take not on me, but transfer
On Israel's governors, and heads of tribes,
Who seeing those great acts which God had done
Singly by me against their conquerors,
Acknowledg'd not, or not at all consider'd
Deliverance offer'd: I on th' other side
Cs'd no ambition to commend my deeds;
The deeds themselves, though mute, spoke loud the doer;
But they persisted deaf, and would not seem
To count them things worth notice, till at length 250
Their lords the Philistines with gather'd powers
Enter'd Judea seeking me, who then
Safe to the rock of Etham was retir'd;
Not flying, but fore-casting in what place
To set upon them, what advantag'd best;
Meanwhile the men of Judah, to prevent
The harass of their land, beset me round;
I willingly on some conditions came
Into their hands, and they as gladly yield me
To the uncircumcis'd a welcome prey,
Bound with two cords; but cords to me were threads
Toucht with the flame: on their whole host I flew
Unarm’d, and with a trivial weapon fellid
Their choicest youth; they only liy'd who fled.
Had Judah that day join'd, or one whole tribe, 265
They had by this possess'd the towers of Gath,
And lorded over them whom they now serve:
But what more oft in nations grown corrupt,
And by their vices brought to servitude,
Than to love bondage more than liberty,
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty;
And to despise, or envy, or suspect
Whom God hath of his special favour rais'd
As their deliverer; if he aught begin,
How frequent to desert him, and at last
To heap ingratitude on worthiest deeds ?
Chorus. Thy words to my remembrance bring
How Succoth and the fort of Penuel
Their great deliverer contemn’d,
The matchless Gideon in pursuit
Of Madian and her vanquisht kings :
And how ingrateful Ephraim
Had dealt with Jephtha, who by argument,
Not worse than by his shield and spear,
Defended Israel from the Ammonite,
Had not his prowess quell'd their pride
In that sore battle when so many di’d,
Without reprieve adjudg'd to death,
For want of well pronouncing Shibboleth. .
Samson. Of such examples add me to the roll;
Me easily indeed mine may neglect,
But God's propos'd deliverance not so.
Chorus. Just are the ways of God,
And justifiable to men;
Unless there be who think not God at all :
If any be, they walk obscure;
For of such doctrine never was there school,
But the heart of the fool,
And no man therein doctor but himself. /
Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just,
As to his own edicts, found contradicting,
Then give the reins to wandring thought,
Regardless of his glory's diminution;
Till, by their own perplexities involv'd,
They ravel more, still less resolv'd,
But never find self-satisfying solution.
As if they would confine th’ Interminable,
And tie him to his own prescript,
Who made our laws to bind us, not himself;
And hath full right to exempt
Whom so it pleases him by choice
From national obstriction, without taint
Of sin, or legal debt;
For with his own laws he can best dispense.
He would not else who never wanted means,
Nor in respect of the enemy just cause,
To set his people free,
Have prompted this heroic Nazatite,
Against his vow of strictest purity,
To seek in marriage that fallacious bride,
Down Reason then, at least vain reasonings down;
Though Reason here aver
That moral verdict quits her of unclean :
Unchaste was subsequent, her stain not his.
But see, here comes thy reverend sire
With careful step, locks white as down,
Old Manoa: advise
Forthwith how thou ought'st to receive him.
Samson. Ay me, another inward grief awak't,
With mention of that name renews th' assault.
MANOA. Manoa. Brethren and men of Dan, for such ye seem, Though in this uncouth place; if old respect, As I suppose, towards your once gloried friend, My son now captive, hither hath inform’d
335 Your younger feet, while mine cast back with age Came lagging after; say if he be here.
Chorus. As signal now in low dejected state, As erst in highest, behold him where he lies. Manoa. O miserable change! is this the man,
340 That invincible Samson, far renown'd, The dread of Israel's foes, who with a strength Equivalent to angels walk'd their streets, None offering fight; who single combatant Duell'd their armies rankt in proud array,
345 Himself an army, now unequal match To save himself against a coward arm'd At one spear's length. O ever-failing trust In mortal strength! and oh what not in man Deceivable and vain! nay what thing good
350 Pray'd for, but often proves our woe, our bane? I pray'd for children, and thought barrenness In wedlock a reproach; I gain'd a son, And such a son as all mert hail'd me happy; Who would be now a father in my stead?
355 O wherefore did God grant me my request, And as a blessing with such pomp adorn'd?