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Yet hope would fain subscribe, and tempts belief.
A little stay will bring some notice hither.

Cho. Of good or bad so great, of bad the sooner;
For evil news rides post, while good news bates.
And to our wish 1 see one hither speeding,
An Hebrew, as I guess, and of our tribe.

Enter Messenger.

Mess. 0 whither shall I run, or which way fly
The sight of this so horrid spectacle,
Which erst my eyes beheld, and yet behold 1
For dire imagination still pursues me.
But providence or instinct of nature seems,
Or reason though disturb'd, and scarce consulted,
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 horrour,
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 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
To utter what will come at last too soon;
Lest evil tidings with too rude irruption
Hitting thy aged 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 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
Among his foes 1

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.

Man. 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 canst,
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 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!
Living or dying thou hast fulfill'd
The work for which thou wast foretold
To Israel, and now ly'st 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 hath slain before.

1st Semichor. While their hearts were jocund and sublime,
Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine,
And fat regorg'd of bulls and goats,
Chaunting their idol, and preferring
Before our living Dread who dwells In Silo,1 his bright sanctuary:
Among them he a Spirit of phrenzy sent,
Who hurt their minds,
And urg'd them on with mad desire,
To call in haste for their destroyer;
They, only set on sport and play,
Unweetingly importuned

Their own destruction to come speedy upon them.
So fond are mortal men,
Fallen into wrath divine,
As their own ruin on themselves to invite,
Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,
And with blindness internal struck.

2d Semichor. But he, though blind of sight,
Despis'd and thought extinguish'd quite,
With inward eyes illuminated,
His fiery virtue rous'd
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an evening dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts
And nests in order rang'd
Of tame villatick fowl; but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.

1 'Silo:' Shiloh, where the ark and tabernacle then were.

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