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Enter Chorus.

Cho. This, this is he; softly awhile;

Let us not break in upon


O change beyond report, thought, or belief!

See how he lies at random, carelessly diffused,"
With languish'd head unpropp'd,

As one past hope abandon'd,

And by himself given over;

In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds

O'erworn and soil'd;

Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he,

That heroick, that renown'd,

Irresistible Samson? whom unarm'd

No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast, could withstand;
Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid;

Ran on embattel'd armies clad in iron;

And, weaponless himself,


Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery

Of brazen shield and spear, the hammer'd cuirass,


Chalybean temper'd steel, and frock of mail

Adamantëan proof?

But safest he who stood aloof,

When insupportably his foot advanced,

In scorn of their proud arms and warlike tools,






Spurn'd them to death by troops. The bold Ascate

Fled from his lion ramp;" old warriours turn'd
Their plated backs under his heel;

P Carelessly diffused.


This beautiful application of the word "diffused" Milton has borrowed from the Latins. So Ovid, "Ex Ponto," 1. iii. 7:—

Publica me requies curarum somnus habebat,

Fusaque erant toto languida membra toro.-THYER.

a Made arms ridiculous.

This, it must be admitted, is prosaic.

r Chalybean temper'd steel.

That is, the best tempered steel by the Chalybes, who were famous among the ancients for their iron works. Virg. "Georg." i. 58. "At Chalybes nudi ferrum."NEWTON.

When insupportably his foot advanced.

For this nervous expression Milton was probably indebted to the following lines of Spenser, "Faery Queen," i. vii. 11:

That when the knight he spied, he 'gan advance

With huge force, and insupportable main.-THYER.

t The bold Ascalonite.

The inhabitants of Ascalon, one of the five principal cities of the Philistines, mentioned 1 Sam. vi. 17.-NEWTON.

u His lion ramp.

His attack like that of a lion rampant. "Rampant" is an heraldic term.-T. Warton.

Old warriours turn'd

Their plated backs, &c.

The deeds of valorous knights were now in Milton's mind. Artegall is thus described, "like a lion;"—

Hewing and slashing shields and helmets bright,
And beating downe whatever nigh him came.

Or, groveling, soil'd their crested helmets in the dust.
Then with what trivial weapon came to hand,

The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone,

A thousand foreskins fell, the flower of Palestine,

In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day.

Then by main force pull'd up, and on his shoulders bore
The gates of Azza, post, and massy bar,

Up to the hill by Hebron, seat of giants old,"

No journey of a sabbath-day, and loaded so;


Like whom the Gentiles feign to bear heaven.
Which shall I first bewail,

Thy bondage or lost sight,

Prison within prison

Inseparably dark?

Thou art become (O worst imprisonment!)

The dungeon of thyself; thy soul,

(Which men enjoying sight oft without cause complain)
Imprison'd now indeed,

In real darkness of the body dwells,"



from outward light

To incorporate with gloomy night;

For inward light, alas!

Puts forth no visual beam.b

O mirrour of our fickle state!

That every one 'gan shun his dreadful sight,

No lesse than Death, &c.-" Faer. Qu." iv. iv. 41.

See a similar account of Marinell, "Faer. Qu." v. iii. 8.-TODD.

w Crested helmets.

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"Galeæ cristatæ quæ speciem magnitudini corporum adderent." Liv. ix. 40: and Ovid, "Met." viii. 25. "Cristata casside."-DUNSTER.

x In Ramath-lechi, famous to this day.

Judges xv. 17. "He cast away the jaw-bone out of his hand, and called that place Rameth-lechi," that is, the lifting up of the jaw-bone, or casting away of the jaw-bone, as it is rendered in the margin of our Bibles.-NEWTON.

The gates of Azza.

Another name for Gaza. Sandys, speaking of this city, says, "Gaza or Aza signifieth strong in the Persian language, a treasury." Travels, fol. 1615, p. 149.-TODD.

z Hebron, seat of giants old.

"For Hebron was the city of Arba, the father of Anak, and the seat of the Anakims," Josh. xv. 13, 14. "And the Anakims were giants, which come of the giants," Numb. xiii. 33.-NEWTON.

Perhaps an allusion to

great is that darkness!"

a Imprison'd now indeed,

In real darkness of the body dwells.

Matt. vi. 23. "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how
So, in "Comus:"-

He, that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts,

Benighted walks under the mild-day sun;
Himself is his own dungeon.-TODD.

b For inward light, alas!

Puts forth no visual beam.

The expression is fine, and means the ray of light which occasions vision.—WAR


c O mirrour of our fickle state, &c.

There is a fine resemblance in the remainder of these pathetic reflections to those of

Since man on earth unparallel'd,

The rarer thy example stands,

By how much from the top of wondrous glory,
Strongest of mortal men,

To lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen.
For him I reckon not in high estate,

Whom long descent of birth,

Or the sphere of fortune raises;

But thee, whose strength, while virtue was her mate,
Might have subdued the earth,

Universally crown'd with highest praises."




Sam. I hear the sound of words; their sense the air

Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.

Cho. He speaks: let us draw nigh. Matchless in might,

The glory late of Israel, now the grief;

We come, thy friends and neighbours not unknown,


From Eshtaol and Zora's fruitful vale,s

To visit or bewail thee; or, if better,

Council or consolation we may bring,

Salve to thy sores: apt words have power to swage
The tumours of a troubled mind,


And are as balm to fester'd wounds.

Sam. Your coming, friends, revives me: for I learn

Now of my own experience, not by talk,

How counterfeit a coin' they are who friends
Bear in their superscription: (of the most


the Chorus, on the fate of Edipus Tyrannus, in the play of that name, by Sophocles, v. 1211.-TODD.

a Long descent of birth.

Juv. Sat. viii. 1:—

quid prodest, Pontice, longo

Sanguine censeri ?-TODD.

e Or the sphere of fortune.

Fortune is painted on a globe, which by her influence is in a perpetual rotation on its axis.-WARBurton.

f Highest praises.

Though there are magnificent passages in this Chorus, I cannot quite reconcile my ear to the rhythm; nor to some of the expressions, which are, I confess, too like prose.

From Eshtaol, and Zora's fruitful vale.

These were two towns of the tribe of Dan, Josh. xix. 41: the latter the birthplace of Samson, Judg. xiii. 2; and they were near one another. "And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zora and Eshtaol," Judg. xiii. 25. And they were both situated in the valley, Josh. xv. 33; and therefore the poet with great exactness says "Esthaol and Zora's fruitful vale."-NEWTON.

h To visit or bewail thee.

The poet dictated "to visit and bewail thee :" the purpose of their visit was to bewail him; or, if better (that is, if they found it more proper), to advise or comfort him.CALTON.

i How counterfeit a coin, &c.

The groundwork of this passage is perhaps the following in the "Mirrour for Magistrates:"

A golden treasure is the tried friend;

But who may gold from counterfeits defend?

Or in Shakspeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona," a. v. s. 4. "Thou counterfeit to thy

true friend!"-DUNSTER.

I would be understood) in prosperous days
They swarm, but in adverse withdraw their head,
Not to be found, though sought. Ye see, O friends,
How many evils have inclosed me round;

Yet that which was the worst now least afflicts me,
Blindness; for had I sight, confused with shame,
How could I once look up, or heave the head,
Who, like a foolish pilot, have shipwreck'd
My vessel1 trusted to me from above,
Gloriously rigg'd; and for a word, a tear,
Fool! have divulged the secret gift of God
To a deceitful woman? tell me, friends,
Am I not sung and proverb'd for a fool


every street? do they not say, how well
Are come upon him his deserts? yet why?
Immeasurable strength they might behold
In me, of wisdom nothing more than mean:
This with the other should, at least, have pair'd;
These two, proportion'd ill, drove me transverse.

Cho. Tax not divine disposal; wisest men
Have err'd, and by bad women been deceived;
And shall again, pretend they ne'er so wise.
Deject not then so overmuch thyself,

Who hast of sorrow thy full load besides:
Yet, truth to say, I oft have heard men wonder

In prosperous days.

See Gray's "Hymn to Adversity:"

Light they disperse, and with them go

The summer friend, &c.

k Yet that which was the worst now least afflicts me.

There is no inconsistence in this with what he said before, ver. 66:

But chief of all,

O loss of sight, of thee I most complain.






When he was by himself, he considered his blindness as the worst of evils; but now, upon his friends coming in and seeing him in this wretched condition, it "least afflicts me," says he; as being some cover to his shame and confusion.-NEWTON.

1 Who, like a foolish pilot, have shipwreck'd
My vessel, &c.

Dr. Johnson observes, that "metaphors sometimes find admission where their consistency is not accurately preserved. Thus," he adds, with a reference to this passage, "Samson confounds loquacity with a shipwreck." Surely this is not criticising very accurately. The fact is, Samson ascribes his own ruin, or shipwreck, to a very natural cause, his own indiscretion. The Greek writers use "to suffer shipwreck" in a metaphorical sense. It is particularly thus used by St. Paul for shipwreck, or the most fatal ruin, when caused immediately by misconduct; "Holding faith and a good conscience; which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck." In the "Table of Cebes," it is said of foolish and wicked men, "they suffer shipwreck in life." Compare Spenser's description of those who are wrecked on the rock of vile reproach; and who,

Having all their substance spent

In wanton ioyes and lust intemperate,
Did afterwards make shipwrack violent

Both of their life and fame, &c.-F. Q. 11. xii. 7.

It may be observed also, that St. James compares the tongue to the helm of a ship, ch. iii. 4, and that Samson suffered all he had undergone in consequence of not duly governing his tongue. The metaphor then is so far also scriptural.-DUNSTER.

Why thou shouldst wed Philistian women rather,
Than of thine own tribe fairer, or as fair,
At least of thy own nation, and as noble.


Sam. The first I saw at Timna, and she pleased
Me, not my parents, that I sought to wed
The daughter of an infidel: they knew not
That what I motion'd was of God; I knew
From intimate impulse, and therefore urged
The marriage on; that by occasion hence
I might begin Israel's deliverance,
The work to which I was divinely" call'd.
She proving false, the next I took to wife
(0, that I never had! fond wish too late)
Was in the vale of Sorec, Dalila,

That specious monster," my accomplish'd snare.P
I thought it lawful from my former act,
And the same end; still watching to oppress
Israel's oppressours: of what now I suffer

She was not the prime cause, but I myself,

Who, vanquish'd with a peal of words, (0, weakness !)
Gave up my fort of silence to a woman.
Cho. In seeking just occasion to provoke

The Philistine, thy country's enemy,

Thou never wast remiss, I bear thee witness:
Yet Israel still serves with all his sons.

The first I saw at Timna, and she pleased
Me, not my parents, &c.






None of the critics have observed that Milton here alludes to some of the particulars of his first match. The Chorus had just before remarked,

I oft have heard men wonder

Why thou shouldst wed Philistian women rather
Than of thine own tribe fairer, or as fair.

To say nothing of the dissatisfaction Milton's first wife had conceived at her husband's unsocial and philosophical system of life, so different from the convivial cheerfulness and plenty of her father's family; it is probable that the quarrel was owing to party, which also might operate mutually; but when Cromwell's faction proved victorious, her father, who had taken a very forward part in assisting the king during the siege of Oxford, finding his affairs falling into distress, for prudential reasons, strove to bring about an agreement between the separated couple: and thus the reconciliation was interested; nor was it effected but by her unsolicited and apparently humble submission, and after the most earnest entreaties, which the husband for some time resisted: on the whole, therefore, we may suppose that not much real or uninterrupted cordiality followed; and I think it clear that Milton's own experience, in the course of this marriage, furnished the substance of the sentiments in another speech of Samson, ver. 750 to 763. Phillips says that Milton was inclined to pardon his repudiated bride, "partly from his own generous nature, more inclinable to reconciliation than to perseverance in anger and revenge."-T. WARTON.

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In the Latin sense of specious; handsome, captivating. The whole expression seems to refer to the Echidna of Hesiod.-DUNSTER.

P My accomplish'd snare.

There seems to be a quibble in the use of this epithet.-WARBURTON.

It rather appears to be irony.-J. WARTON.

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