Verse > Harvard Classics > John Milton > Complete Poems
John Milton. (1608–1674).  Complete Poems.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Samson Agonistes: Lines 1000-1249
To such a viper his most sacred trust        1000
Of secrecy, my safety, and my life.
  Chor. Yet beauty, though injurious, hath strange power,
After offence returning, to regain
Love once possessed, nor can be easily
Repulsed, without much inward passion felt,        1005
And secret sting of amorous remorse.
  Sams. Love-quarrels oft in pleasing concord end;
Not wedlock-treachery endangering life.
  Chor. It is not virtue, wisdom, valour, wit,
Strength, comeliness of shape, or amplest merit,        1010
That woman’s love can win, or long inherit;
But what it is, hard is to say,
Harder to hit,
Which way soever men refer it,
(Much like thy riddle, Samson) in one day        1015
Or seven though one should musing sit.
  If any of these, or all, the Timnian bride
Had not so soon preferred
Thy Paranymph, worthless to thee compared,
Successor in thy bed,        1020
Nor both so loosely disallied
Their nuptials, nor this last so treacherously
Had shorn the fatal harvest of thy head.
Is it for that such outward ornament
Was lavished on their sex, that inward gifts        1025
Were left for haste unfinished, judgment scant,
Capacity not raised to apprehend
Or value what is best,
In choice, but oftest to affect the wrong?
Or was too much of self-love mixed,        1030
Of constancy no root infixed,
That either they love nothing, or not long?
  Whate’er it be, to wisest men and best,
Seeming at first all heavenly under virgin veil,
Soft, modest, meek, demure,        1035
Once joined, the contrary she proves—a thorn
Intestine, far within defensive arms
A cleaving mischief, in his way to virtue
Adverse and turbulent; or by her charms
Draws him awry, enslaved        1040
With dotage, and his sense depraved
To folly and shameful deeds, which ruin ends.
What pilot so expert but needs must wreck,
Embarked with such a steers-mate at the helm?
  Favoured of Heaven who finds        1045
One virtuous, rarely found,
That in domestic good combines!
Happy that house! his way to peace is smooth:
But virtue which breaks through all opposition,
And all temptation can remove,        1050
Most shines and most is acceptable above.
  Therefore God’s universal law
Gave to the man despotic power
Over his female in due awe,
Nor from that right to part an hour,        1055
Smile she or lour:
So shall he least confusion draw
On his whole life, not swayed
By female usurpation, nor dismayed.
  But had we best retire? I see a storm.        1060
  Sams. Fair days have oft contracted wind and rain.
  Chor. But this another kind of tempest brings.
  Sams. Be less abstruse; my riddling days are past.
  Chor. Look now for no inchanting voice, nor fear
The bait of honeyed words; a rougher tongue        1065
Draws hitherward; I know him by his stride,
The giant Harapha of Gath, his look
Haughty, as is his pile high-built and proud.
Comes he in peace? What wind hath blown him hither
I less conjecture than when first I saw        1070
The sumptuous Dalila floating this way:
His habit carries peace, his brow defiance.
  Sams. Or peace or not, alike to me he comes.
  Chor. His fraught we soon shalt know: he now arrives.
  Har. I come not, Samson, to condole thy chance,        1075
As these perhaps, yet wish it had not been,
Though for no friendly intent. I am of Gath;
Men call me Harapha, of stock renowned
As Og, or Anak, and the Emims old
That Kiriathaim held. Thou know’st me now,        1080
If thou at all art known. Much I have heard
Of thy prodigious might and feats performed,
Incredible to me, in this displeased,
That I was never present on the place
Of those encounters, where we might have tried        1085
Each other’s force in camp or listed field;
And now am come to see of whom such noise
Hath walked about, and each limb to survey,
If thy appearance answer loud report.
  Sams. The way to know were not to see, but taste.        1090
  Har. Dost thou already single me? I thought
Gyves and the mill had tamed thee. O that fortune
Had brought me to the field where thou art famed
To have wrought such wonders with an ass’ jaw!
I should have forced thee soon with other arms,        1095
Or left thy carcass where the ass lay thrown;
So had the glory of prowess been recovered
To Palestine, won by a Philistine
From the unforeskinned race, of whom thou bear’st
The highest name for valiant acts. That honour,        1100
Certain to have won by mortal duel from thee,
I lose, prevented by thy eyes put out.
  Sams. Boast not of what thou would’st have done, but do
What then thou would’st; thou seest it in thy hand.
  Har. To combat with a blind man I disdain,        1105
And thou hast need much washing to be touched.
  Sams. Such usage as your honourable Lords
Afford me, assassinated and betrayed;
Who durst not with their whole united powers
In fight withstand me single and unarmed,        1110
Nor in the house with chamber-ambushes
Close-banded durst attack me, no, not sleeping,
Till they had hired a woman with their gold,
Breaking her marriage-faith, to circumvent me.
Therefore, without feign’d shifts, let be assigned        1115
Some narrow place enclosed, where sight may give thee,
Or rather flight, nor great advantage on me;
Then put on all thy gorgeous arms, thy helmet
And brigandine of brass, thy broad habergeon,
Vant-brass and greaves and gauntlet; add thy spear,        1120
A weaver’s beam, and seven-times-folded shield:
I only with an oaken staff will meet thee,
And raise such outcries on thy clattered iron,
Which long shall not withhold me from thy head,
That in a little time, while breath remains thee,        1125
Thou oft shalt wish thyself at Gath, to boast
Again in safety what thou would’st have done
To Samson, but shalt never see Gath more.
  Har. Thou durst not thus disparage glorious arms
Which greatest heroes have in battle worn,        1130
Their ornament and safety, had not spells
And black inchantments, some magician’s art,
Armed thee or charmed thee strong, which thou from Heaven
Feign’dst at thy birth was given thee in thy hair,
Where strength can least abide, though all thy hairs        1135
Were bristles ranged like those that ridge the back
Of chafed wild boars or ruffled porcupines.
  Sams. I know no spells, use no forbidden arts;
My trust is in the Living God, who gave me,
At my nativity, this strength, diffused        1140
No less through all my sinews, joints, and bones,
Than thine, while I preserved these locks unshorn,
The pledge of my unviolated vow.
For proof hereof, if Dagon be thy god,
Go to his temple, invocate his aid        1145
With solemnest devotion, spread before him
How highly it concerns his glory now
To frustrate and dissolve these magic spells,
Which I to be the power of Israel’s God
Avow, and challenge Dagon to the test,        1150
Offering to combat thee, his Champion bold,
With the utmost of his godhead seconded:
Then thou shalt see, or rather to thy sorrow
Soon feel, whose God is strongest, thine or mine.
  Har. Presume not on thy God. Whate’er he be,        1155
Thee he regards not, owns not, hath cut off
Quite from his people, and delivered up
Into thy enemies’ hand; permitted them
To put out both thine eyes, and fettered send thee
Into the common prison, there to grind        1160
Among the slaves and asses, thy comrades,
As good for nothing else, no better service
With those thy boisterous locks; no worthy match
For valour to assail, nor by the sword
Of noble warrior, so to stain his honour,        1165
But by the barber’s razor best subdued.
  Sams. All these indignities, for such they are
From thine, these evils I deserve and more,
Acknowledge them from God inflicted on me
Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon,        1170
Whose ear is ever open, and his eye
Gracious to re-admit the suppliant;
In confidence whereof I once again
Defy thee to the trial of mortal fight,
By combat to decide whose god is God,        1175
Thine, or whom I with Israel’s sons adore.
  Har. Fair honour that thou dost thy God, in trusting
He will accept thee to defend his cause,
A murtherer, a revolter, and a robber!
  Sams. Tongue-doughty giant, how dost thou prove me these?        1180
  Har. Is not thy nation subject to our Lords?
Their magistrates confessed it when they took thee
As a league-breaker, and delivered bound
Into our hands; for hadst thou not committed
Notorious murder on those thirty men        1185
At Ascalon, who never did thee harm,
Then, like a robber, stripp’dst them of their robes?
The Philistines, when thou hadst broke the league,
Went up with armed powers thee only seeking,
To others did no violence nor spoil.        1190
  Sams. Among the daughters of the Philistines
I chose a wife, which argued me no foe,
And in your city held my nuptial feast;
But your ill-meaning politician lords,
Under pretence of bridal friends and guests,        1195
Appointed to await me thirty spies,
Who, threatening cruel death, constrained the bride
To wring from me, and tell to them, my secret,
That solved the riddle which I had proposed.
When I perceived all set on enmity,        1200
As on my enemies, wherever chanced,
I used hostility, and took their spoil,
To pay my underminers in their coin.
My nation was subjected to your lords!
It was the force of conquest; force with force        1205
Is well ejected when the conquered can.
But I, a private person, whom my country
As a league-breaker gave up bound, presumed
Single rebellion, and did hostile acts!
I was no private, but a person raised,        1210
With strength sufficient, and command from Heaven,
To free my country. If their servile minds
Me, their Deliverer sent, would not receive,
But to their masters gave me up for nought,
The unworthier they; whence to this day they serve.        1215
I was to do my part from Heaven assigned,
And had performed it if my known offence
Had not disabled me, not all your force.
These shifts refuted, answer thy appellant,
Though by his blindness maimed for high attempts,        1220
Who now defies thee thrice to single fight,
As a petty enterprise of small enforce.
  Har. With thee, a man condemned, a slave enrolled,
Due by the law to capital punishment?
To fight with thee no man of arms will deign.        1225
  Sams. Cam’st thou for this, vain boaster, to survey me,
To descant on my strength, and give thy verdict?
Come nearer; part not hence so slight informed;
But take good heed my hand survey not thee.
  Har. O Baal-zebub! can my ears unused        1230
Hear these dishonours, and not render death?
  Sams. No man withholds thee; nothing from thy hand
Fear I incurable; bring up thy van;
My heels are fettered, but my fist is free.
  Har. This insolence other kind of answer fits.        1235
  Sams. Go, baffled coward, lest I run upon thee,
Though in these chains, bulk without spirit vast,
And with one buffet lay thy structure low,
Or swing thee in the air, then dash thee down,
To the hazard of thy brains and shattered sides.        1240
  Har. By Astaroth, ere long thou shalt lament
These braveries, in irons loaden on thee.
  Chor. His Giantship is gone somewhat crest-fallen,
Stalking with less unconscionable strides,
And lower looks, but in a sultry chafe.        1245
  Sams. I dread him not, nor all his giant brood,
Though fame divulge him father of five sons,
All of gigantic size, Goliah chief.
  Chor. He will directly to the lords, I fear,


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