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Agonistes." By JOHN MILTON.
ESSENGER. Occasions drew me early to this
And as the gates I enter'd with sun-rise,
The morning trumpets festival proclaim'd
Through each high street: little I had dispatch't,
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 theatre
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 op'n, 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 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
Between the pillars; he his guide requested,
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard)
As over-tir'd, to let him lean a while
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 a while inclin'd,
And eyes fast fixt he stood, as one who pray'd,
Or some great matter in his mind revolv'd.
At last with head erect thus cri'd 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 solemnize this feast.
Samson with these immixt, inevitably
Pull'd down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only scap'd who stood without.
lady lay bed Her couch so warm
But her sleep was restless and broken still;
For, turning often and oft
From side to side, she muttered and moaned,
And tossed her arms aloft.
At last she startled up,
And gazed on the vacant air,
With a look of awe, as if she saw
Some dreadful phantom there-
And then in the pillow she buried her face
From visions ill to bear.
The very curtain shook,
Her terror was so extreme;
And the light that fell on the broidered quilt
Kept a tremulous gleam;
And her voice was hollow, and shook as she cried:
"O, me! that awful dream!
“That weary, weary walk,
In the church-yard's dismal ground!
And those horrible things, with shady wings,
That came and flitted round,-
Death, death, and nothing but death,
In every sight and sound! “And, O! those maidens young,
Who wrought in that dreary room, With figures drooping and spectres thin,
And cheeks without a bloom ;And the voice that cried, 'For the pomp of pride, We haste to an early tomb!
"'For the pomp and pleasure of pride,
We toil like Afric slaves,
And only to earn a home at last,
Where yonder cypress waves;'
And then they pointed-I never saw
A ground so full of graves!
“And still the coffins came,
With their sorrowful trains and slow;
Coffin after coffin still,
A sad and sickening show;
From grief exempt, I never had dreamt
Of such a world of woe!
“Of the hearts that daily break,
Of the tears that hourly fall,
Of the many, many troubles of life,
That grieve this earthly ball-
Disease, and Hunger, and Pain, and Want,
But now I dreamt of them all!
“For the blind and the cripple were there,
And the babe that pined for bread,
And the houseless man, and the widow poor
Who begged-to bury the dead;
The naked, alas! that I might have clad,
The famished I might have fed!
"The sorrow I might have soothed,
And the unregarded tears;
For many a thronging shape was there,
From long-forgotten years, -
Ay, even the poor rejected Moor,
Who raised my childish fears!
"Each pleading look, that long ago
I scanned with a heedless eye,
Each face was gazing as plainly there
As when I passed it by:
Woe, woe for me if the past should be
Thus present when I die!
“No need of sulphureous lake,
No need of fiery coal,
But only that crowd of human kind
Who wanted pity and dole-
In everlasting retrospect
Will wring my sinful soul!
"Alas! I have walked through life
Too heedless where I trod;
Nay, helping to trample my fellow-worm,
And fill the burial sod-
Forgetting that even the sparrow falls
Not unmarked of God!
“I drank the richest draughts;
And ate whatever is good-
Fish, and flesh, and fowl, and fruit,
Supplied my hungry mood;
But I never remembered the wretched ones
That starve for want of food!
“I dressed as the noble dress,
In cloth of silver and gold,
With silk and satin, and costly furs,
In many an ample fold;
But I never remembered the naked limbs
That froze with winter's cold.