Samson Agonistes is the story of the Biblical Hebrew hero, Samson, and his capture by the Philistines. It begins after the cutting of his hair, the source of his power, and the removal of his eyes by his captors. The play goes on to deliver Samson's experiences through the form of an epic poem. It details Samson's heroism, his relationship with his wife, and especially his intense spiritual anguish at the losses he has suffered.
Without all hope of day!
When she deserts the night,
Hid in her vacant interlunar cave.
Made arms ridiculous.
Unless there be who think not God at all.
That so bedecked, ornate, and gay,
Comes this way sailing
Like a stately ship
Of Tarsus, bound for th' isles
Of Javan or Gadire,
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
Samson : For want of words, no doubt, or lack of breath!
On both his wings, one black, the other white,
Bears greatest names in his wild airy flight.
Love once possessed.
With inward eyes illuminated,
His fiery virtue roused
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an ev'ning dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts
And nests in order rang'd
Of tame villatic fowl.
So Virtue, given for lost,
Depressed and overthrown, as seemed,
Like that self-begotten bird
In the Arabian woods embost,
That no second knows now third,
And lay erewhile a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teemed,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous mostWhen most unactive deemed ;
And, though her body die, her fame survives,
A secular bird, ages of lives.
Dispraise, or blame, nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble.
Of highest Wisdom brings about.