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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.
MANOAH.

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.
MESSENGER.

1596. Occasions drew me early &c.] As I observed before, that Milton had with great art excited the reader's attention to this grand event, so here he is no

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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 I had 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

reful to gratify it by the relation. It is circumstantial, as the importance of it required, but not so as to be tedious or too long to delay our expectation. It would be found difficult, I believe, to retrench one article without making it defective, or to add one which should not appear redundant. The picture of Samson in particular with head inclined and eyes fixed, as if he was addressing himself to that

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God who had given him such a measure of strength, and was summing up all his force and resolution, has a very fine effect upon the imagination. Milton is no less happy in the sublimity of his description of this grand exploit, than judicious in the choice of the circumstances preceding it. The poetry rises as the subject becomes more interesting, and one may without rant or extravagance say, that the poet seems to exert no less force of genius in describing than Samson does strength of body in executing. Thyer.

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 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

1604. absent at that spectacle] The language would be more correct, if it was absent from that spectacle.

1605. The building was a spacious theatre

Half-round on two main pillars vaulted high, &c.] Milton has finely accounted for this dreadful catastrophe, and has with great judgment obviated the common objection. It is commonly asked, how so great a building, containing so many thousands of people, could rest upon two pillars so near placed together: and to this it is answered, that instances are not wanting of far more large and capacious buildings than this, that have been supported only by one pillar. Particularly, Pliny in the fifteenth chapter of the thirty-sixth book of his natural

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history, mentions two theatres built by one C. Curio, who lived in Julius Cæsar's time; each of which was supported only by one pillar, or pin, or hinge, though very many thousands of people did sit in it together. See Poole's Annotations. Mr. Thyer further adds, that Dr. Shaw in his travels observing upon the eastern method of building says, that the place where they exhibit their diversions at this day is an advanced cloister, made in the fashion of a large penthouse, supported only by one or two contiguous pillars in the front, or else at the centre, and that upon a supposition therefore that in the house of Dagon, there was a cloistered structure of this kind, the pulling down the front or centre pillars only which supported it, would be attended with

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, stupendous 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 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 perforin'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,

the like catastrophe that happened to the Philistines. See Shaw's travels, p. 283.

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1619. cataphracts] Men or horses completely armed, from καταφρασσω armis munio.

i

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 1650
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 flow'r, not only
Of this but each Philistian city round
Met from all parts to solemnize this feast.
Samson with these immix'd, inevitably
Pull'd down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only scap'd who stood without.
CHORUS.

O dearly-bought revenge, yet glorious!
Living or dying thou hast fulfill'd

The work for which thou wast foretold
To Israel, and now li'est 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 had slain before.

1649. With horrible convulsion] In several editions it is printed confusion, but Mr. Thyer, Mr. Sympson, and every body saw that it should be convulsion, and so it is in Milton's own edition. And in the next line it should not be He tugged, he took, as it is absurdly in some editions, but He tugged, he shook, as in the first edition: and there are seveVOL. III.

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ral passages which we have corrected by the help of the first edition, without taking notice of them.

1667. -in number more Than all thy life had slain before.]

Judges xvi. 30. So the dead which he slew at his death, were more than they which he slew in his life.

SEMICHORUS.

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 his bright sanctuary:

Among them he a spi'rit of frenzy 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 importun'd

Their own destruction to come speedy upon them.

So fond are mortal men

Fall'n into wrath divine,

As their own ruin on themselves t' invite,

Insensate left, or to sense reprobate,

And with blindness internal struck.
SEMICHORUS.

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,

1674. In Silo] Where the tabernacle and ark were at that time.

1682. So fond are mortal men, &c.] Agreeable to the common maxim, Quos Deus vult perdere dementat prius. Thyer.

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1692. And as an evening dragon came &c.] Mr. Calton says that Milton certainly dictated

And not as an evening dragon came. Samson did not set upon them like an evening dragon; but

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