Handel, “Samson” (1743)

 

 

 

 

Handel, “Samson” (1743)

 

 

Handel composed Samson right after finishing Messiah. Both oratorios were composed at a furious pace.

The libretto (see below) was by Newburgh Hamilton, who based it on Milton’s poem Samson Agonistes, which in turn was based on the figure Samson in Chapter 16 of the Old Testament Book of Judges.

I think Samson is almost equal, if not equal, to Messiah. It is a splendid work; there is such magnificent music and genuine feeling in it.

 

See also:

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/05/04/handels-samson/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Libretto

Samson, HWV 57
Oratorio in tre atti
Musica di George Frideric Handel
Libretto di Newburgh Hamilton
Prima esecuzione: Londra, Covent Garden, 18 Febbario 1743
Personaggi:

Samson (tenore)
Dalila, Wife of Samson (soprano)
Micah, Friend to Samson (alto)
Manoah, Father to Samson (basso)
Harapha, a Giant (basso)
Philistine Woman, Attendant to Dalila (soprano)
Israelitish Woman (soprano)
Philistine (tenore)
Israelitish Man (tenore)
Messenger (tenore)
Chorus of Israelites
Chorus of Philistines
Chorus of Virgins

 

 

Testo del libretto

 

ACT ONE

1. Overture

Scene 1
Before the Prison in Gaza. Samson, blind and in chains.
Chorus of the Priests of Dagon, celebrating his festival.

2. Recitative

Samson
This day, a solemn feast to Dagon held,
Relieves me from my task of servile toil;
Unwillingly their superstition yields
This rest, to breathe heav’n’s air, fresh blowing,
Pure and sweet.

3a. Chorus of Philistines
Awake the trumpet’s lofty sound!
The joyful sacred festival comes round,
When Dagon king of all the earth is crown’d.

4. Air

Philistine Woman
Ye men of Gaza, hither bring
The merry pipe and pleasing string,
The solemn hymn, and cheerfuI song;
Be Dagon prais’d by ev’ry tongue!

3b. Chorus of Philistines
Awake the trumpet’s lofty sound!
The joyful sacred festival comes round,
When Dagon king of all the earth is crown’d.

5. Air

Philistine
Loud as the thunder’s awful voice,
In notes of triumph, notes of praise,
So high great Dagon’s name we’ll raise:
That heav’n and earth may hear how we rejoice!

6. Air

Philistine Woman
Then free from sorrow, free from thrall,
All blithe and gay,
With sports and play,
We’ll celebrate his festival.

3c. Chorus of Philistines
Awake the trumpet’s lofty sound!
The joyful sacred festival comes round,
When Dagon king of all the earth is crown’d.

7. Recitative

Samson
Why by an angel was my birth foretold,
As in a fiery column ascending
From off the altar, in my parents’ sight?
As of a person separate to God?
If I must die, betray’d and captiv’d thus,
The scorn and gaze of foes? Oh, cruel thought!
My griefs find no redress! They inward prey,
Like gangren’d wounds, immedicable grown.

8. Air

Samson
Torments, alas, are not confin’d
To heart, or head, or breast!
But will a secret passage find
Into the very inmost mind,
With pains intense opprest,
That rob the soul itself of rest.

Scene 2
Enter Micah and Israelites, observing Samson.

9. Recitative

Micah
(apart)
Oh, change beyond report, thought, or belief!
See, how he lies with languish’d head, unpropt,
Abandon’d, past all hope! Can this be he,
Heroic Samson, whom no strength of man,
Nor fury of the fiercest beast could quell?
Who tore the lion, as the lion tears the kid,
Ran weaponless on armies clad in iron,
Useless the temper’d steel, or coat of mail.

10. Air

Micah
Oh, mirror of our fickle state!
In birth, in strength, in deeds how great!
From highest glory fall’n so low,
Sunk in the deep abyss of woe!

11. Recitative

Samson
(apart)
Whom have I to complain of but myself,
Who Heav’n’s great trust could not in silence keep,
But weakly to a woman must reveal it!
Oh, glorious strength! Oh, impotence of mind!
But without wisdom, what does strength avail?
Proudly secure, yet liable to fall?
God (when he gave it) hung it in my hair,
To show how slight the gift. – But, peace, my soul!
Strength was my bane, the source of all my woes,
Each told apart would ask a life to wail.

Micah
(to Samson)
Matchless in might! once Israel ‘s glory, now her grief!
Welcome, thy friends well known, to visit thee!

Samson
Welcome, my friends! Experience teaches now,
How counterfeit the coin of friendship is,
That’s only in the superscription shown.
In the warm sunshine of our prosp’rous days,
Friends swarm; but in the winter of adversity,
Draw in their heads; though sought, not to be found.

Micah
Which shall we first bewail,
Thy bondage, or lost sight?

Samson
O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Oh, worse than beggary, old age, or chains!
My very soul in real darkness dwells!

12. Air

Samson
Total eclipse! No sun, no moon!
All dark amidst the blaze of noon!
Oh, glorious light! No cheering ray
To glad my eyes with welcome day!
Why thus depriv’d Thy prime decree?
Sun, moon, and stars are dark to me!

13. Accompagnato

Micah
Since light so necessary is to life
That in the soul ’tis almost life itself,
Why to the tender eyes is sight confin’d,
So obvious and so easy to be quench’d;
Why not as feelings through all parts diffus’d,
That we might look at will through every pore?

14. Chorus of Israelites
O first created beam! And thou great word!
“Let there be light!” – And light was over all,
One heav’nly blaze shone round this earthly ball.
To thy dark servant, life, by light afford!

15. Recitative

Samson
Ye see, my friends, how woes enclose me round.
But had I sight, how could I heave my head
For shame? Thus, for a word, or tear, divulge
To a false woman God’s most secret gift,
And then be sung, or proverb’d for a fool!

Micah
The wisest men have err’d, and been deceiv’d
By female arts. Deject not then thyself,
Who hast of griefs a load: yet men will ask,
Why did not Samson rather wed at home?
In his own tribe are fairer, or as fair.

Samson
Oh that I had! Alas, fond wish, too late!
That specious monster, Dalila, my snare!
Myself the cause, who vanquish’d by her tears,
Gave up my fort of silence to a woman.

Micah
Here comes thy rev’rend sire, old Manoah,
With careful steps, and locks as white as down.

Samson
Alas! Another grief that name awakes.

Scene 3
Enter Manoah.

Manoah
Brethren and men of Dan, say, where is my son,
Samson, fond Israel’s boast? Inform my age!

Micah
As signal now in low dejected state,
As in the height of pow’r. – See, where he lies!

16. Accompagnato

Manoah
Oh, miserable change! Is this the man,
Renown’d afar, the dread of IsraeI’s foes?
Who with an angeI’s strength their armies duell’d,
Himself an army! – Now unequal match
To guard his breast against the coward’s spear!

17. Recitative

Israelitish Man
Oh, ever failing trust in mortal strength!
And oh, what not deceivable and vain in man!

18. Air

Israelitish Man
God of our fathers, what is man?
So proud, so vain, so great in story!
His fame a blast, his life a span,
A bubble at the height of glory!
Oft he that is exalted high,
Unseemly falls in human eye.

19. Accompagnato

Manoah
The good we wish for, often proves our bane.
I pray’d for children, and I gain’d a son,
And such a son, as all men hail’d me happy.
But who’d be now a father in my stead?
The blessing drew a scorpion’s tail behind;
This plant (select and sacred for awhile,
The miracle of all!) was in one hour
Ensnar’d, assaulted, overcome, led bound,
His foes’ derision, captive, poor, and blind!

20. Air

Manoah
Thy glorious deeds inspir’d my tongue,
Whilst airs of joy from thence did flow.
To sorrows now I tune my song,
And set my harp to notes of woe.

21. Recitative

Samson
Justly these evils have befalI’n thy son;
Sole author I, sole cause, who have profan’d
The mysteries of God; by me betray’d
To faithless parlies, feminine assaults!
To the false fair I yielded all my heart;
So far effeminacy held me yok’d
Her slave. Oh, foul indignity, oh blot
To honour and to arms!

Manoah
Worse yet remains.
This day they celebrate with pomps and sports,
And sacrifice to Dagon, idol God,
Who gave thee bound and blind into their hands;
Thus is he magnified, the living God
Blasphem’d and scorn’d by that idolatrous rout.

Samson
This have I done, this pomp, this honour brought
To idol Dagon; but to Israel shame,
And our true God disgrace.

22. Accompagnato

Samson
My griefs for this
Forbid mine eyes to close, or thoughts to rest.
But now the strife shall end: me overthrown,
Dagon presumes to enter lists with God,
Who, thus provok’d, will not convive, but rouse
His fury soon, and his great name assert;
Dagon shall stoop, ere long be quite despoil’d
Of all those boasted trophies won on me.

23. Air

Samson
Why does the God of lsrael sleep?
Arise with dreadful sound,
And clouds encompass’d round!
Then shall the heathen hear thy thunder deep.
The tempest of thy wrath now raise,
In whirlwinds them pursue,
Full fraught with vengeance due,
Till shame and trouble all thy foes shall seize!

24. Recitative

Micah
There lies our hope! True prophet may’st thou be,
That God may vindicate his glorious name;
Nor let us doubt whether God is Lord, or Dagon.

25. Chorus of Israelites
Then shall they know, that He whose name
Jehovah is alone,
O’er all the earth but One,
Was ever the Most High, and still the same.

26. Recitative

Manoah
For thee, my dearest son, must thou meanwhile
Lie, thus neglected, in this loathsome plight?

Samson
It should be so, to expiate my crime,
If possible. Shameful gratuity!
Had I reveal’d the secret of a friend,
Most heinous that! But impiously to blast
God’s counsel, is a sin without a name!

Manoah
Be for thy fate contrite: but oh, my son,
To high disposal leave the forfeit due.
God may relent, and quit thee all his debt;
Reject not then the offer’d means of life.
Already have I treated with some lords,
To ransom thee. Revenge is sated now,
To see thee thus who cannot harm them more.

Samson
Why should I live?
Soon shall these orbs to double darkness yield.

27. Accompagnato

Samson
My genial spirits droop, my hopes are fled;
Nature in me seems weary of herself;
My race of glory run, and race of shame:
Death, invocated oft, shall end my pains,
And lay me gently down with them that rest.

28. Recitative (air)

Micah
Then long eternity shall greet your bliss;
No more of earthly joys, so false and vain!

29. Air

Micah
Joys that are pure, sincerely good,
Shall then o’ertake you as a flood:
Where truth and peace do ever shine,
With love that’s perfectly divine.

30. Chorus of Israelites
Then round about the starry throne
Of Him who ever rules alone,
Your heav’nly-guided soul shall climb:
Of all this earthly grossness quit,
With glory crown’d, for ever sit,
And triumph over death, and thee, O Time!

 

 

ACT TWO

Scene 1

Samson, Manoah, Micah, and Israelites.

 

31. Recitative

Manoah
Despair not thus! You once were God’s delight,
His destin’d from the womb, by him led on
To deeds above the nerve of mortal arm.
Under his eye abstemious you grew up,
Nor did the dancing ruby, sparkling, outpour’d,
Allure you from the cool crystalline stream.

Samson
Where’er the liquid brook or fountain flow’d,
I drank, nor envy’d man the cheering grape.
But what availed this temp’rance, not complete
Against another object more enticing?
I laid my strength in lust’s lascivious lap.

Manoah
Trust yet in God! Thy father’s timely care
Shall prosecute the means to free thee hence;
Meantime, all healing words from these thy friends admit.

32. Air

Manoah
Just are the ways of God to man,
Let none his secret actions scan;
For all is best, though oft we doubt,
Of what his wisdom brings about.
Still his unsearchable dispose
Blesses the righteous in the close.

33. Recitative

Samson
My evils hopeless are! One pray’r remains,
A speedy death, to close my miseries.

Micah
Relieve Thy champion, image of Thy strength,
And turn his labours to a peaceful end!

34. Air and Chorus

Micah
Return, O God of hosts! Behold
Thy servant in distress,
His mighty griefs redress,
Nor by the heathen be it told.

Israelites
To dust his glory they would tread,
And number him amongst the dead.

Scene 2
Samson, Micah. Enter Dalila, attended by her Virgins.

35. Recitative

Micah
But who is this, that so bedeck’d and gay,
Comes this way sailing like a stately ship?
With all her streamers waving in the winds,
An odorous perfume her harbinger,
A damsel train behind. – ‘Tis Dalila, thy wife.

Samson
My wife, my traitress? Let her not come near me!

Micah
She stands, and eyes thee fix’d, with head declin’d.
Like a fair flow’r surcharg’d with dew, she weeps;
Her words address’d to thee, seem tears dissolv’d,
Wetting the borders of her silken veil.

Dalila
With doubtful feet, and wav’ring resolution,
I come, O Samson, dreading thy displeasure;
But conjugal affection led me on,
Prevailing over fear and tim’rous doubt,
Glad if in aught my help or love could serve,
To expiate my rash, unthought misdeed.

Samson
Out, thou hyæna! ‘Twas malice brought thee here!
These are the arts of women false like thee,
To break all vows, repent, deceive, submit,
Then with instructed skill again transgress.
The wisest men have met such bosom snakes,
BeguiI’d like me, to ages an example.

Dalila
I would not lessen my offence, yet beg
To weigh it by itself. What is it then
But curiosity? A small female fault,
Greedy of secrets, but to publish them.
Why would you trust a woman’s frailty then,
And to her importunity your strength?
A mutual weakness mutual pardon claims.

Samson
How cunningly the sorceress displays
Her own transgressions, to upbraid me mine!
I to myself was false, ere thou to me;
Bitter reproach, but true! The pardon, then,
I to my folly give, take thou to thine!

36. Air

Philistine Woman / Dalila
With plaintive notes and am’rous moan,
Thus coos the turtle left alone.
Like her / me, averse to each delight,
She wears the tedious widow’d night:
But when her absent mate returns,
With doubled raptures then she burns.

37. Recitative

Dalila
Alas! Th’event was worse than I foresaw:
Fearless at home of partners in my love,
‘Twas jealousy did prompt to keep you there
Both day and night, love’s pris’ner, wholly mine.

Samson
Did love constrain thee? No, ’twas raging lust!
Love seeks for love; thy treason sought my hate.
In vain you strive to cover shame with shame:
Once join’d to me, though judg’d your country’s foe,
Parents, and all, were in the husband lost.

38. Air

Samson
Your charms to ruin led the way,
My sense deprav’d,
My strength enslavd,
As I did love, you did betray.
How great the curse, how hard my fate
To pass life’s sea with such a mate!

39. Recitative

Dalila
Forgive what’s done, nor think of what’s past cure
From forth this prison-house come home to me,
Where with redoubled love and nursing care,
(To me glad office!) my virgins and myself
Shall tend about thee to extremest age.

40. Air and duet

Dalila
My faith and truth, O Samson, prove,
But hear me, hear the voice of love!
With love no mortal can be cloy’d,
All happiness is love enjoy’d.

Philistine Woman
Her faith and truth, O Samson, prove,
But hear her, hear the voice of love!

41a. Chorus of Virgins

Her faith and truth, O Samson, prove
But hear her, hear the voice of love!

42. Air

Dalila
To fleeting pleasures make your court,
No moment lose, for life is short!
The present now’s our only time
The missing that our only crime.

41b. Chorus repeated

How charming is domestic ease!
A thousand ways I’ll strive to please.
Life is not lost, though lost your sight;
Let other senses taste delight.

41c. Chorus of Virgins
Her faith and truth, oh Samson, prove,
But hear her, hear the voice of love!

43. Recitative

Samson
Ne’er think of that! I know thy warbling charms,
Thy trains, thy wiles, and fair enchanted cup.
Their force is nulI’d; where once I have been caught,
I shun the snare. These chains, this prison-house,
I count the house of liberty to thine.

Dalila
Let me approach, at least, and touch thy hand.

Samson
Not for thy life, lest fierce remembrance wake
My sudden rage to tear thee limb from limb.
At distance I forgive: depart with that.
Now triumph in thy falsehood; so farewell!

Dalila
Thou art more deaf to pray’rs than winds or seas.
Thy anger rages an etemal tempest.
Why should I humbly sue for peace, thus scorn’d,
With infamy upon my name denounc’d?
When in this land I ever shall be held
The first of womankind, living or dead.
My praises shall be sung at solemn feasts,
Who sav’d my country from a fierce destroyer.

44. Duet

Dalila
Traitor to love! I’ll sue no more
For pardon scorn’d, your threats give o’er!
Samson
Traitress to love! I’ll hear no more
The charmer’s voice, your arts give o’er!

Exeunt Dalila and Virgins.

Scene 3
45. Recitative

Micah
She’s gone! A serpent manifest, her sting
Discover’d in the end.

Samson
So let her go!
God sent her here to aggravate my folly.

46. Air

Micah
It is not virtue, valour, wit,
Or comeliness of grace
That woman’s love can truly hit,
Or in her heart claim place.
Still wav’ring where their choice to fix,
Too oft they choose the wrong:
So much self-love does rule the sex,
They nothing else love long.
It is not virtue. . . da capo

47. Recitative

Samson
Favour’d of heaven is he, who finds one true.
How rarely found! – His way to peace is smooth.

48. Chorus of Israelites
To man God’s universal law
Gave pow’r to keep the wife in awe.
Thus shall his life be ne’er dismay’d,
By female usurpation sway’d.

Scene 4

49. Recitative

Micah
No words of peace, no voice enchanting fear,
A rougher tongue expect. Here’s Harapha,
I know him by this stride and haughty look.
Enter Harapha and Philistines.

Harapha
I come not, Samson, to condole thy chance;
I am of Gath, men call me Harapha;
Thou know’st me now. Of thy prodigious might
Much have I heard, incredible to me!
Nor less displeas’d, that never in the field
We met, to try each other’s deeds of strength.
I’d see if thy appearance answers loud report.

Samson
The way to know. were not to see, but taste.

Harapha
Ha! Dost thou then already single me?
I thought that labour and thy chains had tam’d thee.
Had fortune brought me to that field of death,
Where thou wrought’st wonder with an ass’s jaw,
I’d left thy carcass where the ass lay thrown.

Samson
Boast not of what thou would’st have done, but do.

Harapha
The honour certain to have won from thee
I lose, prevented by thy eyes put out;
To combat with a blind man, I disdain.

50. Air

Harapha
Honour and arms scorn such a foe,
Though I could end thee at a blow;
Poor victory,
To conquer thee,
Or glory in thy overthrow!
Vanquish a slave that is half slain:
So mean a triumph I disdain.
Honour and arms. . . da capo

51. Recitative

Samson
Put on your arms, then take for spear
Your weighty weaver’s beam, and come within my reach!

52. Air

Samson
My strength is from the living God,
By Heav’n free-gifted at my birth,
To quell the mighty of the earth,
And prove the brutal tyrant’s rod.
But to the righteous peace and rest,
With liberty to all opprest.

53. Recitative

Harapha
With thee, a man condemn’d, a slave enroll’d,
No worthy match to stain the warrior’s sword!

Samson
Cam’st thou for this, vain boaster? Yet take heed!
My heels are fetter’d, but my hands are free.
Thou bulk of spirit void! I once again,
Blind and in chains, provoke thee to the fight!

Harapha
O Dagon! Can I hear this insolence
To me unus’d, not rend’ring instant death?

54. Duet

Samson
Go, baffled coward, go,
Lest vengeance lay thee low,
In safety fly my wrath with speed!

Harapha
Presume not on thy God,
Who under foot has trod
Thy strength and thee, at greatest need.

55. Recitative

Micah
Here lies the proof: – if Dagon be thy God,
With high devotion invocate his aid,
His glory is concern’d. Let him dissolve
Those magic spells that gave our hero strength;
Then know whose God is God, Dagon, of mortal make,
Or that Great One whom Abra’m’s sons adore.

56. Chorus of Israelites
Hear, Jacob’s God, Jehovah, hear!
Oh, save us, prostrate at thy throne!
Israel depends on thee alone,
Save us, and show that thou art near!

57. Recitative

Harapha
Dagon, arise, attend thy sacred feast!
Thy honour calls, this day admits no rest.

58. Air
A Philistine
To song and dance we give the day,
Which shows thy universal sway.
Protect us by thy mighty hand.
And sweep this race from out the land!
To song and dance. . . da capo

59. Chorus of Philistines
To song and dance we give the day,
Which shows thy universal sway.
Protect us by thy mighty hand.
And sweep this race from out the land!

60. Chorus of Israelites and Philistines
Fix’d in his everlasting seat,
Jehovah / Great Dagon rules the world in state.
His thunder roars, Heav’n shakes, and earth’s aghast,
The stars with deep amaze,
Remain in stedfast gaze.
Jehovah / Great Dagon is of Gods the first and last.

 

 

ACT THREE

Scene 1

Samson, Micah, Harapha and Chorus of Israelites.

 

61. Recitative

Micah
More trouble is behind, for Harapha
Comes on amain, speed in his steps and look.
Samson
I fear him not, nor all his giant brood.
Enter Harapha.

Harapha
Samson, to thee our lords thus bid me say:
This day to Dagon we do sacrifice
With triumph, pomp, and games; we know, thy strength
Surpasses human race; come then, and show
Some public proof to grace this solemn feast.

Samson
I am an Hebrew, and our law forbids
My presence at their vain religious rites.

Harapha
This answer will offend; regard thyself.

Samson
Myself, my conscience and intemal peace!
Am I so broke with servitude, to yield
To such absurd commands, to be their fool,
And play before their God? – I will not come.

Harapha
My message, giv’n with speed, brooks no delay.

62. Air

Harapha
Presuming slave, to move their wrath!
For mercy sue,
Or vengeance due
Dooms in one fatal word thy death!
Consider, ere it be too late,
To ward th’unerring shaft of fate.

63. Recitative

Micah
Reflect then. Samson, matters now are strain’d
Up to the height, whether to hold, or break.
He’s gone, whose malice may inflame the lords.

Samson
Shall I abuse this consecrated gift
Of strength, again returning with my hair,
By vaunting it in honour to their god
And prostituting holy things to idols?

Micah
How thou wilt here come off surmounts my reach;
‘Tis Heav’n alone can save, both us and thee.

64. Chorus of Israelites
With thunder arm’d, great God, arise!
Help, Lord, or Israel’s champion dies!
To thy protection this thy servant take,
And save, oh, save us for thy servant’s sake!
With thunder arm’d. . . da capo

65. Recitative

Samson
Be of good courage, I begin to feel
Some inward motions, which do bid me go.

Micah
In time thou hast resolv’d, again he comes.
Enter Harapha.

Harapha
Samson, this second summons send our lords:
Haste thee at once; or we shall engines find
To move thee, though thou wert a solid rock.

Samson
Vain were their art if tried, I yield to go,
Not through your streets be like a wild beast trail’d.

Harapha
You thus may win the lords to set you free.

Samson
In nothing I’ll comply that’s scandalous
Or sinful by our law. – Brethren, farewell!
Your kind attendance now, I pray, forbear,
Lest it offend to see me girt with friends.
Expect of me you’ll nothing hear impure,
Unworthy God, my nation, or myself.

Micah
So may’st thou act as serves His glory best.

Samson
Let but that spirit (which first rush’d on me
In the camp of Dan) inspire me at my need:

66. Accompagnato

Samson
Then shall I make Jehovah’s glory known!
Their idol gods shall from his presence fly,
Scatter’d like sheep before the God of hosts.

67. Air

Samson
Thus when the sun from’s wat’ry bed
All curtain’d with a cloudy red,
Pillows his chin upon an orient wave;
The wand’ring shadows ghastly pale,
All troop to their infemal jail
Each fetter’d ghost slips to his sev’ral grave.

68. Accompagnato

Micah
With might endu’d above the sons of men,
Swift as the lightning’s glance His errand execute,
And spread His name amongst the heathen round.

69. Air and Chorus

Micah
The Holy One of Israel be thy guide,
The Angel of thy birth stand by thy side!
To fame immortal go,
Heav’n bids thee strike the blow:
The Holy One of Israel is thy guide.

Israelites
To fame immortal go
Heav’n bids thee strike the blow
The Holy One of Israel is thy guide.

Scene 2
Micah, Manoah, and Chorus of Israelites.

70. Recitative

Micah
Old Manoah, with youthful steps, makes haste
To find his son, or bring us some glad news.

Manoah
I come, my brethren, not to seek my son,
Who at the feast does play before the lords;
But give you part with me, what hopes I have
To work his liberty.

71. Air

Philistine, at a distance
Great Dagon has subdu’d our foe
And brought their boasted hero low:
Sound out his pow’r in notes divine
Praise him with mirth, high cheer and wine.

72. Chorus of Philistines, at a distance
Great Dagon has subdu’d our foe.
And brought their boasted hero low:
Sound out his pow’r in notes divine
Praise him with mirth, high cheer and wine.

73. Recitative

Manoah
What noise of joy was that? It tore the sky.

Micah
They shout and sing, to see their dreaded foe
Now captive, blind, delighting with his strength.

Manoah
Could my inheritance but ransom him,
Without my patrimony, having him
The richest of my tribe.

Micah
Sons care to nurse
Their parents in old age; but you, – your son!

74. Air

Manoah
How willing my paternal love
The weight to share
Of filial care,
And part of sorrow’s burden prove!
Though wand’ring in the shades of night,
Whilst I have eyes he wants no light.

75. Recitative

Micah
Your hopes of his deliv’ry seem not vain,
In which all Israel’s friends participate.

Manoah
I know your friendly minds, and –
A symphony of horror and confusion.
Heav’n! What noise!
Horribly loud, unlike the former shout.

76. Chorus of Philistines, at a distance
Hear us, our God! Oh, hear our cry!
Death, ruin, falI’n, no help is nigh,
Oh mercy, Heav’n, we sink, we die!

77. Recitative

Micah
Noise call you this? An universal groan,
As if the world’s inhabitation perish’d!
Blood, death, and ruin, at their utmost point!

Manoah
Ruin indeed! Oh, they have slain my son!

Micah
Thy son is rather slaying them; that cry
From slaughter of one foe could not ascend.
But see, my friends,
One hither speeds, an Hebrew of our tribe.

Scene 3
Enter a Messenger.

78. Recitative

Messenger
Where shall I run, or which way fly the thoughts
Of this most horrid sight? O countrymen,
You’re in this sad event too much concem’d!

Micah
The accident was loud, we long to know from whence.

Messenger
Let me recover breath; it will burst forth.

Manoah
Tell us the sum, the circumstance defer.

Messenger
Gaza yet stands, but all her sons are falI’n.

Manoah
Sad, not to us! But now relate by whom?

Messenger
By Samson done.

Manoah
The sorrow lessens still,
And nigh converts to joy.

Messenger
O Manoah!
In vain I would refrain; the evil tale
Too soon will rudely pierce thy aged ear.

Manoah
Suspense in news is torture, speak them out!

Messenger
Then take the worst in brief – Samson is dead.

Manoah
The worst indeed! My hopes to free him hence
Are baffled all! But death, who sets all free,
Hath paid his ransom now.

Micah
Yet, ere we give the reins to grief, say first
How died he? Death to life is crown, or shame.

Messenger
Unwounded of his enemies he fell,
At once he did destroy, and was destroy’d;
The edifice, where all were met to see,
Upon their heads, and on his own he pulI’d!

Manoah
Oh, lastly overstrong against thyself!
A dreadful way thou took’st to thy revenge:
Glorious, yet dearly bought!

79. Air and Chorus

Micah
Ye sons of lsrael, now lament,
Your spear is broke, your bow’s unbent.
Your glory’s fled,
Amongst the dead
Great Samson lies,
For ever, ever, clos’d his eyes!

Israelites
Weep, Israel, weep a louder strain;
Samson, your strength, your hero, is slain!

80. Recitative

Manoah
Proceed we hence to find his body
Soak’d in vile Philistine blood; with the pure stream,
And cleansing herbs wash off his clodded gore;
Then solemnly attend him to my tomb
With silent obsequies, and fun’ral train.

81. Symphony: dead march
82. Recitative

Micah
The body comes; we’ll meet it on the way
With laurels ever green, and branching palm;
Then lay it in his monument, hung round
With all his trophies, and great acts enrolI’d
In verse heroic, or sweet lyric song.

Manoah
There shall all IsraeI’s valiant youth resort,
And from his memory inflame their breasts
To matchless valour, whilst they sing his praise.
Enter Israelites with the body of Samson.

83. Air and Chorus

Manoah
Glorious hero, may thy grave
Peace and honour ever have;
After all thy pain and woes
Rest etemal, sweet repose!

Israelites
Glorious hero, may thy grave
Peace and honour ever have!

84. Solo and Chorus

Israelite Woman
The virgins too shall on their feastful days
Visit his tomb with flow’rs, and there bewail
His lot unfortunate in nuptial choice.

Virgins
Bring the laurels, bring the bays,
Strew his hearse, and strew the ways!

Israelite Woman
May ev’ry hero fall like thee,
Through sorrow to felicity!

Virgins
Bring the laurels, bring the bays
Strew his hearse and strew the ways!

Israelites
Glorious hero, may thy grave
Peace and honour ever have,
After all thy pains and woes,
Rest etemal, sweet repose!

85. Recitative

Manoah
Come, come! No time for lamentation now,
No cause for grief; Samson like Samson fell,
Both life and death heroic. To his foes
Ruin is left; to him eternal fame.

Micah
Why should we weep or wail, dispraise or blame,
Where all is well and fair to quiet us?
Praise we Jehovah then, who to the end
Not parted from him, but assisted still,
‘Till desolation fill’d Philistia’s lands,
Honour and freedom giv’n to Jacob’s seed.

86. Air

Israelite Woman
Let the bright seraphim in burning row,
Their loud, uplifted angel trumpets blow.
Let the cherubic host, in tuneful choirs,
Touch their immortal harps with golden wires.

87. Chorus of Israelites
Let their celestial concerts all unite,
Ever to sound his praise in endless blaze of light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts a websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim Aleksandrovich Sorokin.
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