[Milton-L] Samson's prayer of revenge

jenniferjoe jenniferjoe at sprynet.com
Wed Feb 27 13:11:25 EST 2008

           with head a while enclin'd,
And eyes fast fixt he stood, as one who pray'd,
Or some great matter in his mind revolv'd.

These lines, I think, are problematic not just because of the ambiguity already much discussed.  In addition, there's the apparent absurdity of Samson's eyes being fast fixt.  He doesn't have any eyes:  he is "eyeless in Gaza", both his eyes "put out".  How can his missing eyes be fast fixt?  

I'm not sure what to make of this.  Samson's face may give the appearance of a fixed gaze; putting this appearance together with the inclination of his head, the messenger infers  that Samson is deep in some kind of thought.  But as the fixed gaze is only an appearance, so the inference may be mistaken.  There's no way of knowing the state of Samson's mind at this moment. Perhaps that is what Milton is telling us.

Or, Milton wants us to know that Samson collects himself before his final action.  Whereas his earlier actions are instinctive, this one is deliberate, and as such conveys a certain understanding of his stituation.  (By counching his defeat of the the Philistines as the final, show-stopping act of his idolatrous performance  before Dagaon, he acknowlegdges that he is too compromised to make his exit in the earlier role of God's champion and deliverer.)  Samson's gathering of thought might not be sufficiently evident from an inclination of the head alone, so Milton adds the eyes fast fixt.  This second explanation of the eyes fast fixt seems to me the likelier.  I'd be interested in hearing other explanations.

Joe Mayer

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