Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DELILAH, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS

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DELILAH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Because thou wast most delicate
Last Line: A woman fair to look upon.
Subject(s): Delilah (bible); Samson; Women In The Bible

Because thou wast most delicate,
A woman fair for men to see,
The earth did compass thy estate,
Thou didst hold life and death in fee,
And every soul did bend the knee.

Much pleasure also made thee grieve
For that the goblet had been drained.
The well spiced viand thou didst leave
To frown on want whose throat was strained,
And violence whose hands were stained.

The purple of thy royal cloak,
Made the sea paler for its hue.
Much people bent beneath the yoke
To fetch thee jewels white and blue,
And rings to pass thy gold hair through.

Therefore, Delilah wast thou called,
Because the choice wines nourished thee
In Sorek, by the mountains walled
Against the north wind's misery,
Where flourished every pleasant tree.

Thy lovers also were as great
In numbers as the sea sands were;
Thou didst requite their love with hate;
And give them up to massacre,
Who brought thee gifts of gold and myrrh.

At Gaza and at Ashkelon,
The obscene Dagon worshipping,
Thy face was fair to look upon.
Yet thy tongue, sweet to talk or sing,
Was deadlier than the adder's sting.

Wherefore, thou saidst: "I will procure
The strong man Samson for my spouse,
His death will make my ease secure.
The god has heard this people's vows
To recompense their injured house."

Thereafter, when the giant lay
Supinely rolled against thy feet,
Him thou didst craftily betray,
With amorous vexings, low and sweet,
To tell thee that which was not meet.

And Samson spake to thee again;
"With seven green withes I may be bound,
So shall I be as other men."
Whereat the lords the green withes found --
The same about his limbs were bound.

Then did the fish-god in thee cry:
"The Philistines be upon thee now."
But Samson broke the withes awry,
As when a keen fire toucheth tow;
So thou didst not the secret know.

But thou, being full of guile, didst plead:
"My lord, thou hast but mocked my love
With lies who gave thy saying heed;
Hast thou not vexed my heart enough,
To ease me all the pain thereof?"

Now, in the chamber with fresh hopes,
The liers in wait did list, and then
He said: "Go to, and get new ropes,
Wherewith thou shalt bind me again,
So shall I be as other men."

Then didst thou do as he had said,
Whereat the fish-god in thee cried,
"The Philistines be upon thy head,"
He shook his shoulders deep and wide,
And cast the ropes like thread aside.

Yet thou still fast to thy conceit,
Didst chide him softly then and say:
"Beforetime thou hast shown deceit,
And mocked my quest with idle play,
Thou canst not now my wish gainsay."

Then with the secret in his thought,
He said: "If thou wilt weave my hair,
The web withal, the deed is wrought;
Thou shalt have all my strength in snare,
And I as other men shall fare."

Seven locks of him thou tookest and wove
The web withal and fastened it,
And then the pin thy treason drove,
With laughter making all things fit,
As did beseem thy cunning wit.

Then the god Dagon speaking by
Thy delicate mouth made horrid din;
"Lo the Philistine lords are nigh" --
He woke ere thou couldst scarce begin,
And took away the web and pin.

Yet, saying not it doth suffice,
Thou in the chamber's secrecy,
Didst with thy artful words entice
Samson to give his heart to thee,
And tell thee where his strength might be.

Pleading, "How canst thou still aver,
I love thee, being yet unkind?
How is it thou dost minister
Unto my heart with treacherous mind,
Thou art but cruelly inclined."

From early morn to falling dusk,
At night upon the curtained bed,
Fragrant with spikenard and with musk,
For weariness he laid his head,
Whilst thou the insidious net didst spread.

Nor wouldst not give him any rest,
But vexed with various words his soul,
Till death far more than life was blest,
Shot through and through with heavy dole,
He gave his strength to thy control.

Saying, "I am a Nazarite,
To God alway, nor hath there yet
Razor or shears done despite
To these my locks of coarsen jet,
Therefore my strength hath known no let."

"But, and if these be shaven close,
Whereas I once was strong as ten,
I may not meet my meanest foes
Among the hated Philistine,
I shall be weak like other men."

He turned to sleep, the spell was done,
Thou saidst "Come up this once, I trow
The secret of his strength is known;
Hereafter sweat shall bead his brow,
Bring up the silver thou didst vow."

They came, and sleeping on thy knees,
The giant of his locks was shorn.
And Dagon, being now at ease,
Cried like the harbinger of morn,
To see the giant's strength forlorn.

For he wist not the Lord was gone: --
"I will go as I went erewhile,"
He said, "and shake my mighty brawn."
Without the captains, file on file,
Did execute Delilah's guile.

At Gaza where the mockers pass,
Midst curses and unholy sound,
They fettered him with chains of brass,
Put out his eyes, and being bound
Within the prison house he ground.

The heathen looking on did sing;
"Behold our god into our hand,
Hath brought him for our banqueting,
Who slew us and destroyed our land,
Against whom none of us could stand."

Now, therefore, when the festival
Waxed merrily, with one accord,
The lords and captains loud did call,
To bring him out whom they abhorred,
To make them sport who sat at board.

And Samson made them sport and stood
Betwixt the pillars of the house,
Above with scornful hardihood,
Both men and women made carouse,
And ridiculed his eyeless brows.

Then Samson prayed "Remember me
O Lord, this once, if not again.
O God, behold my misery,
Now weaker than all other men,
Who once was mightier than ten."

"Grant vengeance for these sightless eyes,
And for this unrequited toil,
For fraud, injustice, perjuries,
For lords whose greed devours the soil,
And kings and rulers who despoil."

"For all that maketh light of Thee,
And sets at naught Thy holy word,
For tongues that babble blasphemy,
And impious hands that hold the sword --
Grant vengeance, though I perish, Lord."

He grasped the pillars, having prayed,
And bowed himself -- the building fell,
And on three thousand souls was laid,
Gone soon to death with mighty yell.
And Samson died, for it was well.

The lords and captains greatly err,
Thinking that Samson is no more,
Blind, but with ever-growing hair,
He grinds from Tyre to Singapore,
While yet Delilah plays the whore.

So it hath been, and yet will be,
The captains, drunken at the feast
To garnish their felicity,
Will taunt him as a captive beast,
Until their insolence hath ceased.

Of ribaldry that smelleth sweet,
To Dagon and to Ashtoreth;
Of bloody stripes from head to feet,
He will endure unto the death,
Being blind, he also nothing saith.

Then 'gainst the Doric capitals,
Resting in prayer to God for power,
He will shake down your marble walls,
Abiding heaven's appointed hour,
And those that fly shall hide and cower.

But this Delilah shall survive,
To do the sin already done,
Her treacherous wiles and arts shall thrive,
At Gaza and at Ashkelon,
A woman fair to look upon.

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