Tag Archives: John Milton Samson Agonistes

Handel’s “Samson”








ACT THREE, Scene 3

84. Solo and Chorus (“Glorious hero”)






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



ACT ONE, Scene 2

12. Air (“Total eclipse!”)





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!



For the complete oratorio, see








I have been listening to some music today, mostly Handel, including a bit of “Samson,” an oratorio.

Handel composed “Samson” right after “Messiah.” He wrote “Messiah” in 24 days! He wrote “Samson” in about a month!

The libretto of “Samson” was based on John Milton’s “Samson Agonistes.”

It is my opinion – perhaps a minority one – that “Samson” is just about equal to “Messiah,” if not in fact equal.

It evokes such an emotional response. Raises goose bumps.

Listen to “Glorious Hero,” for example.

My mother majored in Fine Arts at Radcliffe College. She had quite a few art books from her college days that my siblings and I used to peruse.

There was a reproduction of a painting in one of her art books: “Samson and the Philistines” by Carl Heinrich Bloch, which was painted in Rome in 1863. It made such an impression on me. The painting shows Samson, in captivity, grinding grain on a treadmill. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

So did the Biblical story of Samson itself, which I knew from Sunday school.



— Roger  W. Smith

     May 4, 2016





'Samson and the Philistines'.JPG

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:





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