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Yet hope would fain subscribe, and tempts belief.
Cho. Of good or bad so great, of bad the sooner;
Mess. 0 whither shall I run, or which way fly
Man. The accident was loud, and here before thee
Mess. It would burst forth, but I recover breath
Man. Tell us the sum, the circumstance defer.
Mess. Gaza yet stands, but all her sons are fallen, All in a moment overwhelm'd and fallen.
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
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 conceiv'd 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
Mess. Inevitable cause
At once both to destroy and be destroy'd;
Man. O lastly over-strong against thyself!
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 had I 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 theater
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 state livery clad; before him pipes
And timbrels, on each side went armed guards,
Both horse and foot, before him and behind
Archers, and slingers, cataphracts,1 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, stupendious force:
None daring to appear antagonist.
At length for intermission' sake they led him
1 'Cataphracts:' i. e., men and horses in armour.
Between the pillars; he his guide requested
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard)
As over-tir'd 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 inclin'd,
And eyes fast fix'd, he stood, as one who pray'd,
Or some great matter in his mind revolv'd;
At last with head erect thus cried aloud;
"Hitherto, Lords, what your commands impos'd
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 solemnise this feast.
Samson, with these immix'd, inevitably
Pull'd down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only 'scaped who stood without.
Cho. O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious!
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 hath slain before.
1st Semichor. While their hearts were jocund and sublime,
Their own destruction to come speedy upon them.
2d Semichor. But he, though blind of sight,
1 'Silo:' Shiloh, where the ark and tabernacle then were.