Verse > Harvard Classics > John Milton > Complete Poems
John Milton. (1608–1674).  Complete Poems.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Samson Agonistes: Lines 750-999
Then, as repentant, to submit beseech,        750
And reconcilement move with feigned remorse,
Confess, and promise wonders in her change—
Not truly penitent, but chief to try
Her husband, how far urged his patience bears,
His virtue or weakness which way to assail:        755
Then, with more cautious and instructed skill,
Again transgresses, and again submits;
That wisest and best men, full oft beguiled,
With goodness principled not to reject
The penitent, but ever to forgive,        760
Are drawn to wear out miserable days,
Entangled with a poisonous bosom-snake,
If not by quick destruction soon cut off,
As I by thee, to ages an example.
  Dal. Yet hear me, Samson; not that I endeavour        765
To lessen or extenuate my offence,
But that, on the other side, if it be weighed
By itself, with aggravations not surcharged,
Or else with just allowance counterpoised,
I may, if possible, thy pardon find        770
The easier towards me, or thy hatred less.
First granting, as I do, it was a weakness
In me, but incident to all our sex,
Curiosity, inquisitive, importune
Of secrets, then with like infirmity        775
To publish them—both common female faults—
Was it not weakness also to make known
For importunity, that is for naught,
Wherein consisted all thy strength and safety?
To what I did thou shew’dst me first the way.        780
But I to enemies revealed, and should not!
Nor should’st thou have trusted that to woman’s frailty:
Ere I to thee, thou to thyself wast cruel.
Let weakness, then, with weakness come to parle,
So near related, or the same of kind;        785
Thine forgive mine, that men may censure thine
The gentler, if severely thou exact not
More strength from me than in thyself was found.
And what if love, which thou interpret’st hate,
The jealousy of love, powerful of sway        790
In human hearts, nor less in mine towards thee,
Caused what I did? I saw thee mutable
Of fancy; feared lest one day thou would’st leave me
As her at Timna; sought by all means, therefore,
How to endear, and hold thee to me firmest:        795
No better way I saw than my importuning
To learn thy secrets, get into my power
Thy key of strength and safety. Thou wilt say,
“Why, then, revealed?” I was assured by those
Who tempted me that nothing was designed        800
Against thee but safe custody and hold.
That made for me; I knew that liberty
Would draw thee forth to perilous enterprises,
While I at home sat full of cares and fears,
Wailing thy absence in my widowed bed;        805
Here I should still enjoy thee, day and night,
Mine and love’s prisoner, not the Philistines’,
Whole to myself, unhazarded abroad,
Fearless at home of partners in my love.
These reasons in Love’s law have passed for good,        810
Though fond and reasonless to some perhaps;
And love hath oft, well meaning, wrought much woe,
Yet always pity or pardon hath obtained.
Be not unlike all others, not a stere
As thou art strong, inflexible as steel.        815
If thou in strength all mortals dost exceed,
In uncompassionate anger do not so.
  Sams. How cunningly the Sorceress displays
Her own transgressions, to upbraid me mine!
That malice, not repentance, brought thee hither        820
By this appears. I gave, thou say’st, the example,
I led the way—bitter reproach, but true;
I to myself was false ere thou to me.
Such pardon, therefore, as I give my folly
Take to thy wicked deed; which when thou seest        825
Impartial, self-severe, inexorable,
Thou wilt renounce thy seeking, and much rather
Confess it feigned. Weakness is thy excuse,
And I believe it—weakness to resist
Philistian gold. If weakness may excuse,        830
What murtherer, what traitor, parricide,
Incestuous, sacrilegious, but may plead it?
All wickedness is weakness; that plea, therefore,
With God or Man will gain thee no remission.
But love constrained thee! Call it furious rage        835
To satisfy thy lust. Love seeks to have love;
My love how could’st thou hope, who took’st the way
To raise in me inexpiable hate,
Knowing, as needs I must, by thee betrayed?
In vain thou striv’st to cover shame with shame,        840
Or by evasions thy crime uncover’st more.
  Dal. Since thou determin’st weakness for no plea
In man or woman, though to thy own condemning,
Hear what assaults I had, what snares besides,
What sieges girt me round, ere I consented;        845
Which might have awed the best-resolved of men,
The constantest, to have yielded without blame.
It was not gold, as to my charge thou lay’st,
That wrought with me. Thou know’st the Magistrates
And Princes of my country came in person,        850
Solicited, commanded, threatened, urged,
Adjured by all the bonds of civil duty
And of religion—pressed how just it was,
How honourable, how glorious, to entrap
A common enemy, who had destroyed        855
Such numbers of our nation: and the Priest
Was not behind, but ever at my ear,
Preaching how meritorious with the gods
It would be to ensnare an irreligious
Dishonourer of Dagon. What had I        860
To oppose against such powerful arguments?
Only my love of thee held long debate,
And combated in silence all these reasons
With hard contest. At length, that grounded maxim,
So rife and celebrated in the mouths        865
Of wisest men, that to the public good
Private respects must yield, with grave authority
Took full possession of me, and prevailed;
Virtue, as I thought, truth, duty, so enjoining.
  Sams. I thought where all thy circling wiles would end—        870
In feigned religion, smooth hypocrisy!
But, had thy love, still odiously pretended,
Been, as it ought, sincere, it would have taught thee
Far other reasonings, brought forth other deeds.
I, before all the daughters of my tribe        875
And of my nation, chose thee from among
My enemies, loved thee, as too well thou knew’st;
Too well; unbosomed all my secrets to thee,
Not out of levity, but overpowered
By thy request, who could deny thee nothing;        880
Yet now am judged an enemy. Why, then,
Didst thou at first receive me for thy husband—
Then, as since then, thy country’s foe professed?
Being once a wife, for me thou wast to leave
Parents and country; nor was I their subject,        885
Nor under their protection, but my own;
Thou mine, not theirs. If aught against my life
Thy country sought of thee, it sought unjustly,
Against the law of nature, law of nations;
No more thy country, but an impious crew        890
Of men conspiring to uphold their state
By worse than hostile deeds, violating the ends
For which our country is a name so dear;
Not therefore to be obeyed. But zeal moved thee;
To please thy gods thou didst it! Gods unable        895
To acquit themselves and prosecute their foes
But by ungodly deeds, the contradiction
Of their own deity, Gods cannot be—
Less therefore to be pleased, obeyed, or feared.
These false pretexts and varnished colours failing,        900
Bare in thy guilt, how foul must thou appear!
  Dal. In argument with men a woman ever
Goes by the worse, whatever be her cause.
  Sams. For want of words, no doubt, or lack of breath!
Witness when I was worried with thy peals.        905
  Dal. I was a fool, too rash, and quite mistaken
In what I thought would have succeeded best.
Let me obtain forgiveness, of thee Samson;
Afford me place to shew what recompense
Towards thee I intend for what I have misdone,        910
Misguided. Only what remains past cure
Bear not too sensibly, nor still insist
To afflict thyself in vain. Though sight be lost,
Life yet hath many solaces, enjoyed
Where other senses want not their delights—        915
At home, in leisure and domestic ease,
Exempt from many a care and chance to which
Eyesight exposes, daily, men abroad.
I to the Lords will intercede, not doubting
Their favourable ear, that I may fetch thee        920
From forth this loathsome prison-house, to abide
With me, where my redoubled love and care,
With nursing diligence, to me glad office,
May ever tend about thee to old age,
With all things grateful cheered, and so supplied        925
That what by me thou hast lost thou least shalt miss.
  Sams. No, no; of my condition take no care;
It fits not; thou and I long since are twain;
Nor think me so unwary or accursed
To bring my feet again into the snare        930
Where once I have been caught. I know thy trains,
Though dearly to my cost, thy gins, and toils.
Thy fair enchanted cup, and warbling charms,
No more on me have power; their force is nulled;
So much of adder’s wisdom I have learned,        935
To fence my ear against thy sorceries.
If in my flower of youth and strength, when all men
Loved, honoured, feared me, thou alone could hate me,
Thy husband, slight me, sell me, and forgo me,
How would’st thou use me now, blind, and thereby        940
Deceivable, in most things as a child
Helpless, thence easily contemned and scorned,
And last neglected! How would’st thou insult,
When I must live uxorious to thy will
In perfect thraldom! how again betray me,        945
Bearing my words and doings to the lords
To gloss upon, and, censuring, frown or smile!
This gaol I count the house of Liberty
To thine, whose doors my feet shall never enter.
  Dal. Let me approach at least, and touch thy hand.        950
  Sams. Not for thy life, lest fierce remembrance wake
My sudden rage to tear thee joint by joint.
At distance I forgive thee; go with that;
Bewail thy falsehood, and the pious works
It hath brought forth to make thee memorable        955
Among illustrious women, faithful wives;
Cherish thy hastened widowhood with the gold
Of matrimonial treason: so farewell.
  Dal. I see thou art implacable, more deaf
To prayers than winds and seas. Yet winds to seas        960
Are reconciled at length, and sea to shore:
Thy anger, unappeasable, still rages,
Eternal tempest never to be calmed.
Why do I humble thus myself, and, suing
For peace, reap nothing but repulse and hate,        965
Bid go with evil omen, and the brand
Of infamy upon my name denounced?
To mix with thy concernments I desist
Henceforth, nor too much disapprove my own.
Fame, if not double-faced, is double-mouthed,        970
And with contrary blast proclaims most deeds;
On both his wings, one black, the other white,
Bears greatest names in his wild aerie flight.
My name, perhaps, among the Circumcised
In Dan, in Judah, and the bordering Tribes,        975
To all posterity may stand defamed,
With malediction mentioned, and the blot
Of falsehood most unconjugal traduced.
But in my country, where I most desire,
In Ecron, Gaza, Asdod, and in Gath,        980
I shall be named among the famousest
Of women, sung at solemn festivals,
Living and dead recorded, who, to save
Her country from a fierce destroyer, chose
Above the faith of wedlock bands; my tomb        985
With odours visited and annual flowers;
Not less renowned than in Mount Ephraim
Jael, who, with inhospitable guile,
Smote Sisera sleeping, through the temples nailed.
Nor shall I count it heinous to enjoy        990
The public marks of honour and reward
Conferred upon me for the piety
Which to my country I was judged to have shewn.
At this whoever envies or repines,
I leave him his lot, and like my own.        995
  Chor. she’s gone—a manifest Serpent by her sting
Discovered in the end, till now concealed.
  Sams. So let her go. God sent her to debase me,
And aggravate my folly, who committed


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