Verse > Harvard Classics > John Milton > Complete Poems
John Milton. (1608–1674).  Complete Poems.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Samson Agonistes: Lines 500-749
To their Abyss and horrid pains confined.        500
  Man. Be penitent, and for thy fault contrite;
But act not in thy own affliction, son.
Repent the sin; but, if the punishment
Thou canst avoid, self-preservation bids;
Or the execution leave to high disposal,        505
And let another hand, not thine, exact
Thy penal forfeit from thyself. Perhaps
God will relent, and quit thee all his debt;
Who ever more approves and more accepts
(Best pleased with humble and filial submission)        510
Him who, imploring mercy, sues for life,
Than who, self-rigorous, chooses death as due;
Which argues over-just, and self-displeased
For self-offence more than for God offended.
Reject not, then, what offered means who knows        515
But God hath set before us to return thee
Home to thy country and his sacred house.
Where thou may’st bring thy offerings, to avert
His further ire, with prayers and vows renewed.
  Sams. His pardon I implore; but, as for life,        520
To what end should I seek it? When in strength
All mortals I excelled, and great in hopes,
With youthful courage, and magnanimous thoughts
Of birth from Heaven foretold and high exploits,
Full of divine instinct, after some proof        525
Of acts indeed heroic, far beyond
The sons of Anak, famous now and blazed,
Fearless of danger, like a petty god
I walked about, admired of all, and dreaded
On hostile ground, none daring my affront—        530
Then, swollen with pride, into the snare I fell
Of fair fallacious looks, venereal trains,
Softened with pleasure and voluptuous life
At length to lay my head and hallowed pledge
Of all my strength in the lascivious lap        535
Of a deceitful Concubine, who shore me,
Like a tame wether, all my precious fleece,
Then turned me out ridiculous, despoiled,
Shaven, and disarmed among my enemies.
  Chor. Desire of wine and all delicious drinks,        540
Which many a famous warrior overturns,
Thou could’st repress; nor did the dancing ruby,
Sparkling out-poured, the flavour or the smell,
Or taste, that cheers the heart of gods and men,
Allure thee from the cool crystal’lin stream.        545
  Sams. Wherever fountain or fresh current flowed
Against the eastern ray, translucent, pure
With touch æthereal of Heaven’s fiery rod,
I drank, from the clear milky juice allaying
Thirst, and refreshed; nor envied them the grape        550
Whose heads that turbulent liquor fills with fumes.
  Chor. O madness! to think use of strongest wines
And strongest drinks our chief support of health,
When God with these forbidden made choice to rear
His mighty Champion, strong above compare,        555
Whose drink was only from the liquid brook!
  Sams. But what availed this temperance, not complete
Against another object more enticing?
What boots it at one gate to make defence,
And at another to let in the foe,        560
Effeminately vanquished? by which means,
Now blind, disheartened, shamed, dishonoured, quelled,
To what can I be useful? wherein serve
My nation, and the work from Heaven imposed?
But to sit idle on the household hearth,        565
A burdenous drone; to visitants a gaze,
Or pitied object; these redundant locks,
Robustious to no purpose, clustering down,
Vain monument of strength; till length of years
And sedentary numbness craze my limbs        570
To a contemptible old age obscure.
Here rather let me drudge, and earn my bread,
Till vermin, or the draff of servile food,
Consume me, and oft-invocated death
Hasten the welcome end of all my pains.        575
  Man. Wilt thou then serve the Philistines with that gift
Which was expressly given thee to annoy them?
Better at home lie bed-rid, not only idle,
Inglorious, unimployed, with age outworn.
But God, who caused a fountain at thy prayer        580
From the dry ground to spring, thy thirst to allay
After the brunt of battel, can as easy
Cause light again within thy eyes to spring,
Wherewith to serve him better than thou hast.
And I persuade me so. Why else this strength        585
Miraculous yet remaining in those locks?
His might continues in thee not for naught,
Nor shall his wondrous gifts be frustrate thus.
  Sams. All otherwise to me my thoughts portend—
That these dark orbs no more shall treat with light,        590
Nor the other light of life continue long,
But yield to double darkness nigh at hand;
So much I feel my genial spirits droop,
My hopes all flat: Nature within me seems
In all her functions weary of herself;        595
My race of glory run, and race of shame,
And I shall shortly be with them that rest.
  Man. Believe not these suggestions, which proceed
From anguish of the mind, and humours black
That mingle with thy fancy. I, however,        600
Must not omit a father’s timely care
To prosecute the means of thy deliverance
By ransom or how else: meanwhile be calm,
And healing words from these thy friends admit.
  Sams. Oh, that torment should not be confined        605
To the body’s wounds and sores,
With maladies innumerable
In heart, head, breast, and reins,
But must secret passage find
To the inmost mind,        610
There exercise all his fierce accidents,
And on her purest spirits prey,
As on entrails, joints, and limbs,
With answerable pains, but more intense,
Though void of corporal sense!        615
  My griefs not only pain me
As a lingering disease,
But, finding no redress, ferment and rage;
Nor less than wounds immedicable
Rankle, and fester, and gangrene,        620
To black mortification.
Thoughts, my tormentors, armed with deadly stings,
Mangle my apprehensive tenderest parts,
Exasperate, exulcerate, and raise
Dire inflammation, which no cooling herb        625
Or medicinal liquor can assuage,
Nor breath of vernal air from snowy Alp.
Sleep hath forsook and given me o’er
To death’s benumbing opium as my only cure;
Thence faintings, swoonings of despair,        630
And sense of Heaven’s desertion.
  I was his nursling once and choice delight,
His destined from the womb,
Promised by heavenly message twice descending.
Under his special eye        635
Abstemious I grew up and thrived amain;
He led me on to mightiest deeds,
Above the nerve of mortal arm,
Against the Uncircumcised, our enemies:
But now hath cast me off as never known,        640
And to those cruel enemies,
Whom I by his appointment had provoked,
Left me all helpless, with the irreparable loss
Of sight, reserved alive to be repeated
The subject of their cruelty or scorn.        645
Nor am I in the list of them that hope;
Hopeless are all my evils, all remediless.
This one prayer yet remains, might I be heard,
No long petition—speedy death,
The close of all my miseries and the balm.        650
  Chor. Many are the sayings of the wise,
In ancient and in modern books enrolled,
Extolling patience as the truest fortitude,
And to the bearing well of all calamities,
All chances incident to man’s frail life,        655
Consolatories writ
With studied argument, and much persuasion sought,
Lenient of grief and anxious thought.
But with the afflicted in his pangs their sound
Little prevails, or rather seems a tune        660
Harsh, and of dissonant mood from his complaint,
Unless he feel within
Some source of consolation from above,
Secret refreshings that repair his strength
And fainting spirits uphold.        665
  God of our fathers! what is Man,
That thou towards him with hand so various—
Or might I say contrarious?—
Temper’st thy providence through his short course:
Not evenly, as thou rul’st        670
The angelic orders, and inferior creatures mute,
Irrational and brute?
Nor do I name of men the common rout,
That, wandering loose about,
Grow up and perish as the summer fly,        675
Heads without name, no more remembered;
But such as thou hast solemnly elected,
With gifts and graces eminently adorned
To some great work, thy glory,
And people’s safety, which in part they effect.        680
Yet toward these, thus dignified, thou oft,
Amidst their highth of noon,
Changest thy countenance and thy hand, with no regard
Of highest favours past
From thee on them, or them to thee of service        685
  Nor only dost degrade them, or remit
To life obscured, which were a fair dismission,
But throw’st them lower than thou didst exalt them high—
Unseemly falls in human eye,
Too grievous for the trespass or omission;        690
Oft leav’st them to the hostile sword
Of heathen and profane, their carcasses
To dogs and fowls a prey, or else captived,
Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times,
And condemnation of the ungrateful multitude.        695
If these they scape, perhaps in poverty
With sickness and disease thou bow’st them down,
Painful diseases and deformed,
In crude old age;
Though not disordinate, yet causeless suffering        700
The punishment of dissolute days. In fine,
Just or unjust alike seem miserable,
For oft alike both come to evil end.
  So deal not with this once thy glorious Champion,
The image of thy strength, and mighty minister.        705
What do I beg? how hast thou dealt already!
Behold him in this state calamitous, and turn
His labours, for thou canst, to peaceful end.
  But who is this? what thing of sea or land—
Female of sex it seems—        710
That, so bedecked, ornate, and gay,
Comes this way sailing,
Like a stately ship
Of Tarsus, bound for the isles
Of Javan or Gadire,        715
With all her bravery on, and tackle trim,
Sails filled, and streamers waving,
Courted by all the winds that hold them play;
An amber scent of odorous perfume
Her harbinger, a damsel train behind?        720
Some rich Philistian matron she may seem;
And now, at nearer view, no other certain
Than Dalila thy wife.
  Sams. My wife! my traitress! let her not come near me.
  Chor. Yet on she moves; now stands and eyes thee fixed,        725
About to have spoke; but now, with head declined,
Like a fair flower surcharged with dew, she weeps,
And words addressed seem into tears dissolved,
Wetting the borders of her silken veil.
But now again she makes address to speak.        730
  Dal. With doubtful feet and wavering resolution
I came, I still dreading thy displeasure, Samson;
Which to have merited, without excuse,
I cannot but acknowledge. Yet, if tears
May expiate (though the fact more evil drew        735
In the perverse event than I foresaw),
My penance hath not slackened, though my pardon
No way assured. But conjugal affection,
Prevailing over fear and timorous doubt,
Hath led me on, desirous to behold        740
Once more thy face, and know of thy estate,
If aught in my ability may serve
To lighten what thou suffer’st, and appease
Thy mind with what amends is in my power—
Though late, yet in some part to recompense        745
My rash but more unfortunate misdeed.
  Sams. Out, out, Hyæna! These are thy wonted arts,
And arts of every woman false like thee—
To break all faith, all vows, deceive, betray;


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