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Mercy of Heaven! what hideous noise was that?
Horribly loud, unlike the former shout.

Chor. Noise call you it, or universal groan,
As if the whole inhabitation perished?
Blood, death, and deathful deeds, are in that noise,
Ruin, destruction at the utmost point.

Man. Of ruin indeed methought I heard the noise. Oh! it continues; they have slain my son.

Chor. Thy son is rather slaying them: that outcry From slaughter of one foe could not ascend.

Man. Some dismal accident it needs must be. What shall we do—stay here, or run and see?

1520 Chor. Best keep together here, lest, running thither, We unawares run into danger's mouth. This evil on the Philistines is fallen: From whom could else a general cry be heard? The sufferers, then, will scarce molest us here; From other hands we need not much to fear. What if, his eye-sight (for to Israel's God Nothing is hard) by miracle restored, He now be dealing dole among his foes, And over heaps of slaughtered walk his way? That were a joy presumptuous to be thought.

Man.

Chor. Yet God hath wrought things as incredible For his people of old; what hinders now?

Man. He can, I know, but doubt to think he will; Yet hope would fain subscribe, and tempts belief. A little stay will bring some notice hither.

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

1540

Messenger. O, whither shall I run, or which way fly The sight of this so horrid spectacle,

Which erst my eyes beheld, and yet behold?

1510

1530

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For dire imagination still pursues me.
But providence or instinct of nature seems,
Or reason, though disturbed and scarce consulted,
To have guided me aright, I know not how,
To thee first, reverend Manoa, and to these
My countrymen, whom here I knew remaining,
As at some distance from the place of horror,
So in the sad event too much concerned.

1550

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 overwhelmed and fallen.

Man.

Sad but thou know'st to Israelites not saddest

1560

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.

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That still lessens

The sorrow, and converts it nigh to joy.
Mess. Ah! Manoa, 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.

Mess.

Suspense in news is torture; speak them out.
Then take the worst in brief: Samson is
dead.
1570

Man. The worst indeed! O, all my hope's 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 conceived,
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? 1580 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?

Mess.
Inevitable cause-
At once both to destroy and be destroyed.
The edifice, where all were met to see him,
Upon their heads and on his own he pulled.

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.

1590

Mess. Occasions drew me early to this city; And, as the gates I entered with sun-rise, The morning trumpets festival proclaimed Through each high street. Little I had dispatched, When all abroad was rumoured that this day Samson should be brought forth, to show the people Proof of his mighty strength in feats and games. I sorrowed at his captive state, but minded Not to be absent at that spectacle.

1600

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: 1610 I among these aloof obscurely stood.

The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice

Had filled their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and wine,
When to their sports they turned. 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 assayed,
To heave, pull, draw, or break, he still performed
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-tired, 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 inclined,
And eyes fast fixed, he stood, as one who prayed,
Or some great matter in his mind revolved:
At last, with head erect, thus cried aloud :-

1620

I mean to show you of my strength yet greater

As with amaze shall strike all who behold."

1630

Hitherto, Lords, what your commands imposed 1640 I have performed, as reason was, obeying, Not without wonder or delight beheld; Now, of my own accord, such other trial

This uttered, straining all his nerves, he bowed;
As with the force of winds and waters pent
When mountains tremble, those two massy pillars
With horrible convulsion to and fro

He tugged, 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 flower, not only
Of this, but each Philistian city round,
Met from all parts to solemnize this feast.
Samson, with these immixed, inevitably
Pulled down the same destruction on himself;
The vulgar only scaped, who stood without.

Chor. O dearly bought revenge, yet glorious! 1660 Living or dying thou hast fulfilled

The work for which thou wast foretold

To Israel, and now liest victorious

Among thy slain self-killed;

Not willingly, but tangled in the fold

Of dire Necessity, whose law in death conjoined
Thee with thy slaughtered foes, in number more
Than all thy life had slain before.

Semichor. While their hearts were jocund and sublime,

1670

Drunk with idolatry, drunk with wine
And fat regorged of bulls and goats,
Chaunting their idol, and preferring
Before our living Dread, who dwells
In Silo, his bright sanctuary,
Among them he a spirit of phrenzy sent,
Who hurt their minds,

And urged them on with mad desire
To call in haste for their destroyer.
They, only set on sport and play,
Unweetingly importuned

1680

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