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Let us descend now, therefore, from this top Of speculation; for the hour precise Exacts our parting hence; and, see! We may no longer stay. But now lead on; In me is no delay; with thee to go Is to stay here; without thee here to stay Is to go hence unwilling; thou to me Art all things under Heaven, all places thou, Who for my wilful crime art banished hence.

This further consolation yet secure I carry hence: though all by me is lost, Such favour I unworthy am voutsafed, By me the Promised Seed shall all restore. High in front advanced, The brandished sword of God before them blazed, Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat, And vapour at the Libyan air adust, Began to parch that temperate clime; whereat In either hand the hastening Angel caught Our lingering Parents, and to the eastern gate Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast To the subjected plain—then disappeared.

10 Greatest Poems Written by John Milton

They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld Of Paradise, so late their happy seat, Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms. Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.

They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow, Through Eden took their solitary way. Here, let me repeat them for you:. Mine, as whom washed from spot of childbed taint Purification in the Old Law did save, And such as yet once more I trust to have Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint, Came vested all in white, pure as her mind. Her face was veiled; yet to my fancied sight Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shined So clear as in no face with more delight.

But, oh! The suddenness of the closing line steals the breath away, and makes me want to go hug my wife. I will not tarnish this poem with long commentary. In this genre-bending poem which is neither quite a closet drama nor quite a long verse narrative, Milton deploys all the structural tropes of Greek tragedy but—true to his Hebrew historical theme—eschews his usual classical allusions.

After all, had not Milton felt so betrayed by his first wife the marriage was arguably null, and she abandoned him after very brief acquaintance that he had become an advocate for legal divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences? And here is Delilah. Was he not blind? We begin with an early moment, in which Samson is trying to restore his composure and take stock of his situation. 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!


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O 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, In power of others, never in my own— Scarce half I seem to live, dead more than half.

The Sun to me is dark And silent as the Moon, When she deserts the night, Hid in her vacant interlunar cave. 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, 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, O 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. O miserable change!


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  • O ever-failing trust In mortal strength! Nay, what thing good Prayed for, but often proves our woe, our bane? I prayed for children, and thought barrenness In wedlock a reproach; I gained a son, And such a son as all men hailed me happy: Who would be now a father in my stead? Oh, wherefore did God grant me my request, And as a blessing with such pomp adorned? For this did the Angel twice descend? His pardon I implore; but, as for life, To what end should I seek it?

    When in strength All mortals I excelled, and great in hopes, With youthful courage, and magnanimous thoughts Of birth from Heaven foretold and high exploits, Full of divine instinct, after some proof Of acts indeed heroic, far beyond The sons of Anak, famous now and blazed, Fearless of danger, like a petty god I walked about, admired of all, and dreaded On hostile ground, none daring my affront— Then, swollen with pride, into the snare I fell Of fair fallacious looks, venereal trains, Softened with pleasure and voluptuous life At length to lay my head and hallowed pledge Of all my strength in the lascivious lap Of a deceitful Concubine, who shore me, Like a tame wether, all my precious fleece, Then turned me out ridiculous, despoiled, Shaven, and disarmed among my enemies.

    How cunningly the Sorceress displays Her own transgressions, to upbraid me mine! That malice, not repentance, brought thee hither By this appears. Such pardon, therefore, as I give my folly Take to thy wicked deed; which when thou seest Impartial, self-severe, inexorable, Thou wilt renounce thy seeking, and much rather Confess it feigned. Weakness is thy excuse, And I believe it—weakness to resist Philistian gold. If weakness may excuse, What murtherer, what traitor, parricide, Incestuous, sacrilegious, but may plead it? All wickedness is weakness; that plea, therefore, With God or Man will gain thee no remission.

    But love constrained thee! Call it furious rage To satisfy thy lust. I was a fool, too rash, and quite mistaken In what I thought would have succeeded best.


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    • Let me obtain forgiveness, of thee Samson; Afford me place to shew what recompense Towards thee I intend for what I have misdone, Misguided. Only what remains past cure Bear not too sensibly, nor still insist To afflict thyself in vain.

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      Though sight be lost, Life yet hath many solaces, enjoyed Where other senses want not their delights— At home, in leisure and domestic ease, Exempt from many a care and chance to which Eyesight exposes, daily, men abroad. I to the Lords will intercede, not doubting Their favourable ear, that I may fetch thee From forth this loathsome prison-house, to abide With me, where my redoubled love and care, With nursing diligence, to me glad office, May ever tend about thee to old age, With all things grateful cheered, and so supplied That what by me thou hast lost thou least shalt miss.

      No, no; of my condition take no care; It fits not; thou and I long since are twain; Nor think me so unwary or accursed To bring my feet again into the snare Where once I have been caught. I know thy trains, Though dearly to my cost, thy gins, and toils. This gaol I count the house of Liberty To thine, whose doors my feet shall never enter.

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      Not for thy life, lest fierce remembrance wake My sudden rage to tear thee joint by joint. At distance I forgive thee; go with that; Bewail thy falsehood, and the pious works It hath brought forth to make thee memorable Among illustrious women, faithful wives; Cherish thy hastened widowhood with the gold Of matrimonial treason: so farewell. Love-quarrels oft in pleasing concord end; Not wedlock-treachery endangering life.

      That last couplet spoken in an exchange with the Chorus has the sort of solid finality that Milton excels at—a break from his usual long, periodic sentences. To combat with a blind man I disdain, And thou hast need much washing to be touched. Such usage as your honourable Lords Afford me, assassinated and betrayed; Who durst not with their whole united powers In fight withstand me single and unarmed, Nor in the house with chamber-ambushes Close-banded durst attack me, no, not sleeping, Till they had hired a woman with their gold, Breaking her marriage-faith, to circumvent me.

      Shall I abuse this consecrated gift Of strength, again returning with my hair After my great transgression—so requite Favour renewed, and add a greater sin By prostituting holy things to idols, A Nazarite, in place abominable, Vaunting my strength in honour to their Dagon? Besides how vile, contemptible, ridiculous, What act more execrably unclean, profane? Not in their idol-worship, but by labour Honest and lawful to deserve my food Of those who have me in their civil power. Where the heart joins not, outward acts defile not. Where outward force constrains, the sentence holds: But who constrains me to the temple of Dagon, Not dragging?

      The Philistian Lords command: Commands are no constraints.

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      If I obey them, I do it freely, venturing to displease God for the fear of Man, and Man prefer, Set God behind; which, in his jealousy, Shall never, unrepented, find forgiveness. How thou wilt here come off surmounts my reach. Be of good courage; I begin to feel Some rousing motions in me, which dispose To something extraordinary in my thoughts. I with this messenger will go along— Nothing to do, be sure, that may dishonour Our Law, or stain my vow of Nazarite. If there be aught of presage in the mind, This day will be remarkable in my life By some great act, or of my days the last.

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      Yes, but more importantly the man, Samson. He has once again realized his human dignity, become capable of asserting his moral worth and responsibility to set things right. The feast and noon grew high, and sacrifice Had filled their hearts with mirth, high cheer, and wine, When to their sports they turned. Immediately Was Samson as a public servant brought, In their state livery clad: before him pipes And timbrels; on each side went armed guards; Both horse and foot before him and behind, Archers and slingers, cataphracts, and spears. At sight of him the people with a shout Rifted the air, clamouring their god with praise, Who had made their dreadful enemy, their thrall.