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Sam. But what avail'd 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,

Effeminately vanquish'd? by which means,

Now blind, dishearten'd, shamed, dishonour'd, quell'd,

To what can I be useful, wherein serve

My nation, and the work from Heaven imposed,

But to sit idle on the household hearth,"

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
And sedentary numbness craze my limbs
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.

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, unemploy'd, with age outworn.

But God, who caused a fountain at thy prayer







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
Miraculous yet remaining in those locks?

2 But to sit idle on the household hearth, &c.


It is supposed, with probability enough, that Milton chose Samson for his subject, because he was a fellow-sufferer with him in the loss of his eyes: however, one may venture to say, that the similitude of their circumstances has enriched the poem with several very pathetic descriptions of the misery of blindness.-THYER.

a Craze my limbs.

He uses the word "craze" much in the same manner as in the "Par. Lost," b. xii. 210.-NEWTON.

b Draff.

The refuse. See "Par. Lost," b. x. 630. Thus Chaucer, "Prol. to the Parsones Tale:"

Why should I sowen draf out of my fist,
When I may sowen whete if that me liste?

And Shakspeare, "Hen. IV." part 1. a. iv. s. 2. "You would think I had a hundred and fifty tattered prodigals, lately come from swine-keeping, from eating draff and husks."-DUNSTER.

e But God, who caused a fountain at thy prayer
From the dry ground to spring, &c.

See Judges xv. 18, 19. But Milton differs from our translation of the Bible. The translation says, that "God clave a hollow place that was in the jaw:" Milton says, that "God caused a fountain from the dry ground to spring;" and herein he follows the Chaldee paraphrast and the best commentators, who understand it that God made a cleft in some part of the ground or rock, in the place called Lehi; Lehi signifying both a jaw and a place so called.-NEWTON.

His might continues in thee not for naught,
Nor shall his wondrous gifts be frustrate thus.

Sam. All otherwise to me my thoughts portend,
That these dark orbs no more shall treat with light,
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;

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
Must not omits 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.
Sam. O, that torment should not be confined 1
To the body's wounds and sores,

With maladies innumerable

In heart, head, breast, and reins;
But must secret passage find

a His might continues, &c.

[Exit. 605


A fine preparative, which raises our expectation of some great event to be produced by his strength.-WARBURTON.

e So much I feel my genial spirits droop, &c.

Here Milton, in the person of Samson, describes exactly his own case, what he felt, and what he thought, in some of his melancholy hours: he could not have written so well but from his own feeling and experience; and the very flow of the verses is melancholy, and excellently adapted to the subject. As Mr. Thyer expresses it, there is a remarkable solemnity and air of melancholy, in the very sound of these verses; and the reader will find it very difficult to pronounce them without that grave and serious tone of voice which is proper for the occasion.-NEWTON.

Every reader of taste must subscribe with heartiness to this testimony of Thyer and Newton. The passage is truly pathetic and melodious.

And humours black,

That mingle with thy fancy.

This very just notion of the mind or fancy's being affected, and as it were tainted with the vitiated humours of the body, Milton had before adopted in his "Paradise Lost," where he introduces Satan in the shape of a toad at the ear of Eve, b. iv. 804. Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint The animal spirits, &c.

So again in "Comus," v. 809.

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Must not omit, &c.

Such is also the language of Oceanus to his nephew Prometheus, Esch. "Prom. Vinet."-DUNSTER.

hO that torment should not be confined, &c.

Milton, no doubt, was apprehensive that this long description of Samson's grief and misery might grow tedious to the reader, and therefore here with great judgment varies both his manner of expressing it, and the versification. These sudden starts of impatience are very natural to persons in such circumstances, and this rough and unequal measure of the verse is very well suited to it.-THYER.

To the inmost mind,

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.

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,

To black mortification.

Thoughts, my tormentors, arm'd with deadly stings,

Mangle my apprehensive tenderest parts,

Exasperate, exulcerate, and raise

Dire inflammation, which no cooling herb

Or med'cinal liquor can asswage,

Nor breath of vernal airk from snowy Alp.1
Sleep hath forsook and given me o'er

To death's benumbing opium as my only cure:
Thence faintings, swoonings of despair,
And sense of Heaven's desertion.

I was his nursling once," and choice delight,

i Thoughts, my tormentors, arm'd with deadly stings,
Mangle, &c.





This descriptive imagery is fine and well pursued. The idea is taken from the effects of poisonous salts in the stomach and bowels, which stimulate, tear, inflame, and exulcerate the tender fibres, and end in a mortification, which he calls "death's benumbing opium," as in that stage the pain is over.-WARBURTON.

i Or med'cinal liquor.

Here "medicinal" is pronounced with the accent upon the last syllable but one, as in Latin; which is more musical than as we commonly pronounce it, "medicinal," with the accent upon the last syllable but two, or "med'cinal" as Milton has used it in "Comus." The same pronunciation occurs in Shakspeare, "Othello," a. v. s. 2:—

Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees

Their medicinal gum.-NEWTON.

"Medicinal" is not the reading of Milton's own edition: in that it is "medcinal." The supposed emendation of "medicinal" is made in the folio of 1688, and it has been since invariably followed.-TODD.

k Nor breath of vernal air.

So, in that most delightful passage in "Paradise Lost," b. iv. 264:

airs, vernal airs,

Breathing the smell of field and grove.-TODD.

1 From snowy Alp.

He uses "Alp" for mountain in general, as in "Paradise Lost," b. ii. 620. "Alp,” in the strict etymology of the word, signifies a mountain white with snow. We have indeed appropriated the name to the high mountains which separate Italy from France and Germany; but any high mountain may be so called, and so Sidonius Apollinaris calls Mount Athos, speaking of Xerxes cutting through it, "Carm." ii. 510.-NEWTON. Milton took this use of the word from the Italian poets, amongst whom it was very common.-HURD.

m I was his nursling once, &c.

This part of Samson's speech is little more than a repetition of what he had said before, v. 23:

O, wherefore was my birth from Heaven foretold
Twice by an angel, &c.

His destined from the womb,

Promised by heavenly message twice descending.

Under his special eye

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,
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.
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.

Cho. Many are the sayings of the wise,
In ancient and in modern books inroll'd,
Extolling patience as the truest fortitude;
And to the bearing well of all calamities,
All chances incident to man's frail life,
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

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.

God of our fathers, what is man








But yet it cannot justly be imputed as a fault to our author. Grief, though eloquent, is not tied to forms; and is besides apt in its own nature frequently to recur to, and repeat, its source and subject.-THYER.

n And much persuasion sought.

I suppose an error of the press for fraught.-WARBURTON.

But "sought" may mean, collected studiously or with pains; or it may be used in the sense of recherché in French; curious, refined, far-fetched.-DUNSTER.

o Lenient of grief.

Expressed from what we quoted before from Horace, "Ep." 1. i. 34:

Sunt verba et voces, quibus hunc lenire dolorem


P Or rather seems a tune

Harsh, and of dissonant mood, &c.

Alluding to Ecclus. xxii. 6:-"A tale out of season is as music in mourning."THYER.

4 God of our fathers, what is man! &c.

This, and the following paragraph, to ver. 705, seem to be an imitation of the Chorus in Seneca's "Hippolytus," where the immature and undeserved fate of that young hero is lamented, a. iv. 971:

That thou toward him with hand so various,

Or might I say contrarious,"

Temper'st thy providence through his short course,
Not evenly, as thou rulest

The angelick orders, and inferiour 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,
Heads without name, no more remember'd;
But such as thou hast solemnly elected,

With gifts and graces eminently adorn'd,

To some great work, thy glory,

And people's safety, which in part they effect:

Yet toward these thus dignified, thou oft,

Amidst their highth of noon,t

Changest thy countenance, and thy hand, with no regard

Of highest favours past

From thee on them, or them to thee of service.

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;

Oft leavest 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,"

sed cur idem,

Qui tanta regis, sub quo vasti

Pondera mundi librata suos

Ducunt orbes, hominum nimium

Securus ades; non sollicitus

Prodesse bonis, nocuisse malis?—THYER.

This apostrophe opens with a sublime pathos.

r Contrarious.

This seems to me a harsh word, though Todd shows that it is used by Chaucer.

So Dryden :

s Heads without name, &c.

A tribe without a name.


Milton here probably had in view the Greek term for this lower class of mortals. They style them "men not numbered," or "not worth the numbering."-THYER.

t Amidst their highth of noon.

This forcible expression is applied in the same manner by Sandys, in his "Paraphrase upon Job," ed. 1648, p. 34:

When men are from their noon of glory thrown.

Again, in his "Paraphrase upon the Psalms," ed. supr. p. 127:-
Thou hast on slippery heights their greatness placed;
Down headlong from their noon of glory cast.-TODD.
u Their carcasses

Te dogs and foils a prey.

Plainly alluding to Homer, "II." i. 4.-NEWTON.

▾ Or to the unjust tribunals, under change of times, &c.

Here, no doubt, Milton reflected upon the trials and sufferings of his party after

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