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John Milton

Samson Agonistes (excerpts)

[Samson's Opening Speech]
A little onward lend thy guiding hand
To these dark steps, a little further on;
For yonder bank hath choice of sun or shade,
There I am wont to sit, when any chance
Relieves me from my task of servile toil,
Daily in the common prison else enjoin'd me,
Where I a prisoner chain'd, scarce freely draw
The air imprison'd also, close and damp,
Unwholesome draught: but here I feel amends,
The breath of Heav'n fresh-blowing, pure and sweet,
With day-spring born; here leave me to respire.
This day a solemn feast the people hold
To Dagon, their sea-idol, and forbid
Laborious works; unwillingly this rest
Their superstition yields me; hence with leave
Retiring from the popular noise, I seek
This unfrequented place to find some ease;
Ease to the body some, none to the mind
From restless thoughts, that like a deadly swarm

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Aurora Borealis

    A crystallization of color spreads from the upper regions of the dark sky towards the trembling nipples of the waves. The feathering fringes of clouds fade behind pillars of green light. Transparent curtains tremble every-where. In the arctic temple, the hidden Samson of light shakes the moon-green pillars of the night.
    Color these crystals with sudden blood; it is dawn, or else the last consumptive saliva of the dying day. Heartless hard light!
    In the crisp light of the frozen tinkling stars, no waters flow. The ice-stars are icebergs in this black ocean. When the green glass cathedrals crash, the light and the pillars of light and the green pillars of moon-green crystallized light are reflected through space and finally settle like sharp blades above the trembling nipples of the waves.
    Samson moves in the glass cathedrals. Samson and the bull and Samson and the sun and the sun is the bull and Samson is the sun and is the bull.
    Let crackling twigs of green-white light weave fantastic tree-patterns on the mirror of the sea. Let the deceptive sky celebrate the fall of its ice-cathedrals and its icebergs and its ice-stars when darkness hardens the black waters into the sullen black ice-pack of night.
    Red Samson the arctic red sun is moving in the groves of green pillars. There is the red tinge of consumptive blood flickering behind the moon-green glass pillars of light. Blood of red Samson, red blood of Samson, the red thief is sprinkling blood on the slanting pillars of the falling sanctuary of light that is doomed to succumb soon to the black ice-pack of night. Then there will be night and, suddenly thrust into dark night, the red sex of the Samson-sun must later rise out of eastern whiteness and destroy the night.
    Then the pillars of the black shattered temple of night glow with a white light and a red light of consumptive blood, but again later comes night then again the same Samson as the temples crash each time when the red thief scatters blood on the pillars of the light or the pillars of the night. And the thief is Samson and the red sun is Samson and Samson is the thief and Samson is the sun.

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How Samson Bore Away the Gates of Gaza

(A Negro Sermon.)


Once, in a night as black as ink,
She drove him out when he would not drink.
Round the house there were men in wait
Asleep in rows by the Gaza gate.
But the Holy Spirit was in this man.
Like a gentle wind he crept and ran.
("It is midnight," said the big town clock.)

He lifted the gates up, post and lock.
The hole in the wall was high and wide
When he bore away old Gaza's pride
Into the deep of the night: —
The bold Jack Johnson Israelite, —
Samson
The Judge,
The Nazarite.

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William Blake

Samson

Samson, the strongest of the children of men, I sing; how he was foiled by woman's arts, by a false wife brought to the gates of death! O Truth! that shinest with propitious beams, turning our earthly night to heavenly day, from presence of the Almighty Father, thou visitest our darkling world with blessed feet, bringing good news of Sin and Death destroyed! O whiterobed Angel, guide my timorous hand to write as on a lofty rock with iron pen the words of truth, that all who pass may read. -- Now Night, noontide of damned spirits, over the silent earth spreads her pavilion, while in dark council sat Philista's lords; and, where strength failed, black thoughts in ambush lay. Their helmed youth and aged warriors in dust together lie, and Desolation spreads his wings over the land of Palestine: from side to side the land groans, her prowess lost, and seeks to hide her bruised head under the mists of night, breeding dark plots. For Dalila's fair arts have long been tried in vain; in vain she wept in many a treacherous tear. `Go on, fair traitress; do thy guileful work; ere once again the changing moon her circuit hath performed, thou shalt overcome, and conquer him by force unconquerable, and wrest his secret from him. Call thine alluring arts and honest-seeming brow, the holy kiss of love, and the transparent tear; put on fair linen that with the lily vies, purple and silver; neglect thy hair, to seem more lovely in thy loose attire; put on thy country's pride, deceit, and eyes of love decked in mild sorrow; and sell thy lord for gold.' For now, upon her sumptuous couch reclined in gorgeous pride, she still entreats, and still she grasps his vigorous knees with her fair arms. `Thou lov'st me not! thou'rt war, thou art not love! O foolish Dalila! O weak woman! it is death clothed in flesh thou lovest, and thou hast been encircled in his arms! Alas, my lord, what am I calling thee? Thou art my God! To thee I pour my tears for sacrifice morning and evening. My days are covered with sorrow, shut up, darkened! By night I am deceived! Who says that thou wast born of mortal kind? Destruction was thy father, a lioness suckled thee, thy young hands tore human limbs, and gorged human flesh. Come hither, Death; art thou not Samson's servant? 'Tis Dalila that calls, thy master's wife; no, stay, and let thy master do the deed: one blow of that strong arm would ease my pain; then should I lay at quiet and have rest. Pity forsook thee at thy birth! O Dagon furious, and all ye gods of Palestine, withdraw your hand! I am but a weak woman. Alas, I am wedded to your enemy! I will go mad, and tear my crisped hair; 1000 I'll run about, and pierce the ears o' th' gods! O Samson, hold me not; thou lovest me not! Look not upon me with those deathful eyes! Thou wouldst my death, and death approaches fast.' Thus, in false tears, she bath'd his feet, and thus she day by day oppressed his soul: he seemed a mountain; his brow among the clouds; she seemed a silver stream, his feet embracing. Dark thoughts rolled to and fro in his mind, like thunder clouds troubling the sky; his visage was troubled; his soul was distressed. `Though I should tell her all my heart, what can I fear? Though I should tell this secret of my birth, the utmost may be warded off as well when told as now.' She saw him moved, and thus resumes her wiles. `Samson, I'm thine; do with me what thou wilt: my friends are enemies; my life is death; I am a traitor to my nation, and despised; my joy is given into the hands of him who hates me, using deceit to the wife of his bosom. Thrice hast thou mocked me and grieved my soul. Didst thou not tell me with green withs to bind thy nervous arms; and, after that, when I had found thy falsehood, with new ropes to bind thee fast? I knew thou didst but mock me. Alas, when in thy sleep I bound thee with them to try thy truth, I cried, "The Philistines be upon thee, Samson!" Then did suspicion wake thee; how didst thou rend the feeble ties! Thou fearest nought, what shouldst thou fear? Thy power is more than mortal, none can hurt thee; thy bones are brass, thy sinews are iron. Ten thousand spears are like the summer grass; an army of mighty men are as flocks in the valleys; what canst thou fear? I drink my tears like water; I live upon sorrow! O worse than wolves and tigers, what canst thou give when such a trifle is denied me? But O! at last thou mockest me, to shame my over-fond inquiry. Thou toldest me to weave thee to the beam by thy strong hair; I did even that to try thy truth; but, when I cried "The Philistines be upon thee!" then didst thou leave me to bewail that Samson loved me not.' He sat, and inward griev'd; he saw and lov'd the beauteous suppliant, nor could conceal aught that might appease her; then, leaning on her bosom, thus he spoke: `Hear, O Dalila! doubt no more of Samson's love; for that fair breast was made the ivory palace of my inmost heart, where it shall lie at rest: for sorrow is the lot of all of woman born: for care was I brought forth, and labour is my lot: nor matchless might, nor wisdom, nor every gift enjoyed, can from the heart of man hide sorrow. Twice was my birth foretold from heaven, and twice a sacred vow enjoined me that I should drink no wine, nor eat of any unclean thing; for holy unto Israel's God I am, a Nazarite even from my mother's womb. Twice was it told, that it might not be broken. "Grant me a son, kind Heaven," Manoa cried; but Heaven refused. Childless he mourned, but thought his God knew best. In solitude, though not obscure, in Israel he lived, till venerable age came on: his flocks increased, and plenty crowned his board, beloved, revered of man. But God hath other joys in store. Is burdened Israel his grief? The son of his old age shall set it free! The venerable sweetener of his life receives the promise first from Heaven. She saw the maidens play, and blessed their innocent mirth; she blessed each new-joined pair; but from her the long-wished deliverer shall spring. Pensive, alone she sat within the house, when busy day was fading, and calm evening, time for contemplation, rose from the forsaken east, and drew the curtains of heaven: pensive she sat, and thought on Israel's grief, and silent prayed to Israel's God; when lo! an angel from the fields of light entered the house. His form was manhood in the prime, and from his spacious brow shot terrors through the evening shade. But mild he hailed her, "Hail, highly favoured!" said he; "for lo! thou shalt conceive, and bear a son, and Israel's strength shall be upon his shoulders, and he shall be called Israel's Deliverer. Now, therefore, drink no wine, and eat not any unclean thing, for he shall be a Nazarite to God." Then, as a nei 727 ghbour, when his evening tale is told, departs, his blessing leaving, so seemed he to depart: she wondered with exceeding joy, nor knew he was an angel. Manoa left his fields to sit in the house, and take his evening's rest from labour -- the sweetest time that God has allotted mortal man. He sat, and heard with joy, and praised God, who Israel still doth keep. The time rolled on, and Israel groaned oppressed. The sword was bright, while the ploughshare rusted, till hope grew feeble, and was ready to give place to doubting. Then prayed Manoa: "O Lord, thy flock is scattered on the hills! The wolf teareth them, Oppression stretches his rod over our land, our country is ploughed with swords, and reaped in blood. The echoes of slaughter reach from hill to hill. Instead of peaceful pipe the shepherd bears a sword, the ox-goad is turned into a spear. O when shall our Deliverer come? The Philistine riots on our flocks, our vintage is gathered by bands of enemies. Stretch forth thy hand, and save!" Thus prayed Manoa. The aged woman walked into the field, and lo! again the angel came, clad as a traveller fresh risen on his journey. She ran and called her husband, who came and talked with him. "O man of God," said he, "thou comest from far! Let us detain thee while I make ready a kid, that thou mayest sit and eat, and tell us of thy name and warfare; that, when thy sayings come to pass, we may honour thee." The Angel answered, "My name is Wonderful; inquire not after it, seeing it is a secret; but, if thou wilt, offer an offering unto the Lord."'

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Samson & Delilah

If I had my way, I would tear this old building down.
Well delilah was a woman, she was fine and fair,
She had good looks, God knows, and coal black hair,
Delilah she gained old samsons mind.
When first he saw this woman, you know he couldnt believe his mind.
Delilah she climbed up on samsons knee,
Said tell me where your strength lies if you please.
She spoke so kind and she talked so fair,
Well samson said, delilah cut off my hair.
You can shave my head, clean as my hand
And my strength will become as natural as any old man.
If I had my way, if I had my way, if I had my way,
I would tear this old building down.
You read about samson, all from his works,
He was the strongest man that ever had lived on earth.
One day when samson was walking along,
Looked down on the ground, he saw an old jawbone.
He stretched out his arm, God knows, chains broke like thread,
When he got to moving, ten thousand was dead.
If I had my way, if I had my way, if I had my way,

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Black Sampson Of Brandywine

'In the fight at Brandywine, Black Samson, a giant negro armed with
a scythe, sweeps his way through the red ranks....' C. M. Skinner's
'_Myths and Legends of Our Own Land_.'

Gray are the pages of record,
Dim are the volumes of eld;
Else had old Delaware told us
More that her history held.
Told us with pride in the story,
Honest and noble and fine,
More of the tale of my hero,
Black Samson of Brandywine.

Sing of your chiefs and your nobles,
Saxon and Celt and Gaul,
Breath of mine ever shall join you,
Highly I honor them all.
Give to them all of their glory,
But for this noble of mine,
Lend him a tithe of your tribute,

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Erewhile A Holocaust

The phoenix that erewhile has from a holocaust
arisen is reborn anew, molecularly
distinguished from its predecessors, having lost
all contact with its past, now living secularly
estranged from rules and customs and from texts that formed
its previous identity. It has a land
that it can call its own, but it does not conform
with aspirations ancestors could understand.

The ovens and the ashes from which it emerged
extinguished the traditions that once helped it fly,
but quite miraculously new ones have emerged
providing ashes with curricula vitae,
but like Samson it can blindly now bring down
the temples of its enemies, new Philistines
who do not want to let it fly, as Gaza town
confronts its new-old settlements in shrapnelled shrines.
Inspired by an article on Milton by Frank Kermode in the February 26,2009 edition of NYR (Heroic Milton: Happy Birthday”) in which Kermode review three new books on Milton, John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought, by Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns, Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot by Anna Beer and Is Milton Better Than Shakespeare? by Nigel Smith:
The last of Milton's poems, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, are both profoundly concerned with heroic virtue (Job, Jesus, Samson) , with variations on a pattern he also applied to his own life. Christian heroic virtue shuns glory, shuns sensual satisfaction, shuns even pagan learning and poetry. It includes all other virtues. Milton seeks to achieve it in his own life and to represent it in his last poems. Commentators have often wondered at the change in character of the blank verse in Paradise Regained, but it is a bold move from the prosody of grandeur in Paradise Lost to one of calm assurance, a deliberate rejection of glory, like its hero's. The verse of Samson Agonistes is even more extraordinary, not Greek, not Hebrew, a celebration of the operation of unexampled heroic virtue under the direction of Providence, and so once again a reflection of the triumph of the blind master:
But he though blind of sight,

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Oh Africa!

oh! my continent
where my people starve for food,
where my people are suffering,
with extreme poverty.
where things interchange
corruption for the leader,
hopeless for the citizen,
poverty for the people,
street for the lunatic,
Rigging for the election,
jobless for the educative,
fraud for the youth,
expensive cars for the politicians,
laughage film for the white,
crying bitter things for the Black,
should we call this fate?
The fifty_four caps had turned Africa to something else,
The fifty_four caps has now unable to fit us.

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Keeper of the Ancient Doors

Thou Keeper of the ancient doors
Thou Angel of the deep in the light
Thou Spirit in the seers of the times of yore
Thou that keeps the secrets of the distant future
Thou that preserves the history of the ancient past
Grant thou me entrance through thy door
That I may see into the future with thee
For unto the prince of darkness the world shall turn
Save thou grant the son of light the future’s light

Unstop my ears to the whispers from the future
Enlighten my eyes to behold the things that shall be
Grant thou me the spirit of the future today
That I might ride on his wings to times yet unborn
Let me soar on the wings of the eagle from the future
That I may see beyond the now and the near
For unto thee the future is as history in the open
And before thy eyes is nothing ever concealed at-all
Quicken my discernment in line with thine
That I may discern the way thou doesth

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The Revolutionary

Look at them standing there in authority
The pale-faces,
As if it could have any effect any more.

Pale-face authority,
Caryatids,
Pillars of white bronze standing rigid, lest the skies fall.

What a job they've got to keep it up.
Their poor, idealist foreheads naked capitals
To the entablature of clouded heaven.

When the skies are going to fall, fall they will
In a great chute and rush of débâcle downwards.

Oh and I wish the high and super-gothic heavens would come down now,
The heavens above, that we yearn to and aspire to.

I do not yearn, nor aspire, for I am a blind Samson.
And what is daylight to me that I should look skyward?

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