December 19: Revenge! (The bummer December reading event continues)

But now I'm giving away the ending.

The first thing I think of when hearing the name Samson is that of a noirish tale of a high and mighty man done in by a dame. But then there's the third act of the Samson story, the revenge, and the end of it is what we get today in Milton's hit adaptation Samson Agonistes, which is a poem in play form -- the surprising things you learn when you're not an English major.

Samson, you may remember, is the prototype of a suicide bomber: he brings the roof down on the Pharisees:
...those two massy pillars
With horrible convulsion to and fro
He tugged, he shook, till down they came, and drew
The whole roof after them with burst of thunder
Upon the heads of all who sat beneath,
Lords, ladies, captains, counsellors, or priests,
Their choice nobility and flower, not only
Of this, but each Philistian city round,
Met from all parts to solemnize this feast.
Samson, with these immixed, inevitably
Pulled down the same destruction on himself...
Underneat Milton's general stentoriousness, in fact, lurks a revolutionary who has a Che Guevara poster up in his dorm room:
O, how comely it is, and how reviving
To the spirits of just men long oppressed,
When God into the hands of their deliverer
Puts invincible might,
To quell the mighty of the earth, the oppressor,
The brute and boisterous force of violent men,
Hardy and industrious to support
Tyrannic power
I like "reviving," here -- as if Samson's crushing of the Pharisees were a refreshing (Molotov) cocktail.

Milton came by these sentiments honestly, having been an actually revolutionary forced into retirement by the return of the monarchy. So, when we complain about the partisan tone of our politics, at least we don't have Karl Rove writing 1700-line poems fantasizing about the violent destruction of his enemies.

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