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God, when he gave me strength, to show withal
How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair.
But peace! I must not quarrel with the will
Of highest dispensation, which herein
Haply had ends above my reach to know:
Suffices that to me strength is my bane,
And proves the source of all my miseries;
So many and so huge, that each apart
Would ask a life to wail; but chief of all,
O loss of sight, of thee I most complain !
Blind among enemies, 0 worse than chains,
Dungeon or beggary, or decrepit age!
Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight
Annulled, which might in part my grief have eased ,
Inferior to the vilest now become
Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me;
They creep, yet see; I, dark in light, exposed
To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong,
Within doors, or without, still as a fool,
of others, never in my own;
Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.
Oh, dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse,
Without all hope of day!
O first created beam, and thou great Word,
“Let there be light!” and light was over all ;
Why am I thus bereaved thy prime decree?
The sun to me is dark
And silent as the moon,
When she deserts the night,
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.1
Since light so necessary is to life,
And almost life itself, if it be true
That light is in the soul,
She all in every part: why was the sight
To such a tender ball as the eye confined,
So obvious and so easy to be quenched ?
1 Perhaps, as Thyer observes, alluding to the notion which our poet has adopted from Hesiod, in Paradise Lost, vi. 4:
“ There is a cave
Within the mount of God, fast by his throne,
Where light and darkness in perpetual round
Lodge and dislodge by turns."
And not as feeling through all parts diffused,
That she might look at will through every pore?
Then had I not been thus exiled from light,
As in the land of darkness, yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but, oh, yet more miserable !
Myself, my sepulchre, a moving grave,
Buried, yet not exempt
By privilege of death and burial
From worst of other evils, pains and wrongs,
But made hereby obnoxious more
To all the miseries of life,
Life in captivity
Among inhuman foes.
But who are these? for with joint pace I hear
The tread of many feet steering this way;
Perhaps my enemies, who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps to insult,
Their daily practice to afflict me more.
This, this is he; softly awhile, Let us not break in upon him : Oh, change beyond report, thought, or belief! See how he lies at random, carelessly diffused," With languished head unpropped, As one past hope, abandoned, And by himself given over; In slavish habit, ill-fitted weeds O'er-worn and soiled ; Or do my eyes misrepresent? Can this be he, That heroic, that renowned, Irresistible Samson? whom un No strength of man, or fiercest wild beast could withstand; Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid; Ran on embattled armies clad in iron, And weaponless himself; Made arms ridiculous, useless the forgery Of brazen shield and spear, the hammered cuirass, Chalybeana tempered steel, and frock of mail, Adamantean proof; But safest he who stood aloof, 1 Poured, stretched out.
? So called from the Chalybes, who were famous for their skill in tempering steel,
When insupportably his foot advanced,
In scorn of their proud arms and warlike tools,
Spurned them to death by troops. The bold Ascalonite
Fled from his lion ramp, old warriors turned
Their plated backs under his heel ;
Or grovelling soiled 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-lechia famous to this day.
Then by main force pulled up, and on his shoulders bore
The gates of Azza, post, and massy bar,
Up to the hill by Hebron, seat of giants old,4
No journey of a sabbath-day, and loaded so;
Like whom the Gentiles feign to bear up Heaven
Which shall I first bewail,
Thy bondage or lost sight,
Prison within prison,
Inseparably dark ?
Thou art become (oh, worst imprisonment !)
The dungeon of thyself; thy soul
(Which men enjoying sight oft without cause complain)
Imprisoned now indeed,
In real darkness of the body dwells,
Shut up from outward light
To incorporate with gloomy night;
For inward light, alas !
Puts forth no visual beam.
O mirror of our fickle state,
Since man on earth unparalleled !
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.
1 For this nervous expression Milton was probably indebted to Spenser, F. Q. i. 7, 11:
That when the knight he spied, he 'gan advance
With huge force, and insupportable main.”—Thyer. 2 Cf. Judges xv. 17. 3 Some propose to read "posts," from Judges xvi. 3. “Josh. xv. 13 sq.; Numbers xiii. 33.
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 crowned with highest praises.
I hear the sound of words, their sense the air
Dissolves unjointed ere it reach my ear.
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
To visit or bewail thee; or, if better,
Counsel 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 festered wounds.
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 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 enclosed 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 shipwrecked My vessel trusted to me from above, Gloriously rigged ; 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 proverbed for a fool In 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 paired,
These two proportioned ill drove me transverse.
Tax not divine disposal; wisest men
Have erred, 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
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.
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 motioned 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 called
She proving false, the next I took to wife
(Oh that I never had ! fond wish too late)
Was in the vale of Sorec, Dalila,
That specious monster, my accomplished snare.
I thought it lawful from my former act,
And the same end; still watching to oppress
Israel's oppressors : of what now I suffer
She was not the prime cause, but I myself,
Who vanquished with a peal of words (Oh weakness')
Gave up my fort of silence to a woman.
In seeking just occasion to provoke
The Philistine, thy country's enemy,
Thou never wast remiss, I bear thee witness:
Yet Israël still serves with all his sons.
That fault I take not on me, but transfer
On Israel's governors, and heads of tribes,
Who seeing those great acts, which God had done
Singly by me against their conquerors,
Acknowledged not, or not at all considered
Deliverance offered : I, on the other side,
1 Judges xiv. i.
2 Judges xvi. f.