Lydgate, The Fall of Princes (1431), Book I

Of mighty Sampson, which told his counsel to Dalida whereby he was deceived.













































WHO was more mighty or strong than Sampson? 
None more deliver, the Bible beareth witness: 
Without weapon he slew a fierce lion, 
And for his enemies to him did express
His uncouth problem, anon he did him dress
Against the Philistenes and slew of them thirty, 
To pay his promise despoiled them by and by.

His problem was, the text thus rehearsing, 
After the letter in very sothfastnesse: 
"There cam out meat of a thing eating, 
And from the strong there went out sweetness." 
But his wife, of froward doubleness, 
Which ever wrought to his disavail,
Of worthy Sampson told the counsel: 

"What is more strong than is a lion, 
Or more sweet than honey in tasting?" 
But women have this condition, 
Of secret things when they have knowledge, 
They boil inward, their hearts ay fretting: 
Either they must die or discure,
So brittle is of custom their nature. 

This was the case: the lion that was dead, 
Against the sun gaping lay upright; 
A swarm of bees entered in his head, 
Of whom there came honey anon right.
And when Sampson thereof had a sight, 
He fantasied in his opinion 
Full secretly this proposition, 

As ye have herd, and did it forth purpose,
That Philistines to him it should expound, 
Under a pain the truth to him unclose. 
But with his wife they privily did rowne;
And she on Sampson did complain and frown, 
And feigningly so long upon him weep, 
That he not could his counsel from her keep. 

Which when she knew, she made no tarrying, 
But plain and whole she did it to declare. 
Such double trust is in their weeping; 
To keep their tongues women can not spare. 
Such weeping wives, evil mot they fare!
And all husbands, I pray God give them sorrow, 
That to them tell their counsel eve or morrow. 

She told them whole, she told it them not half; 
And Sampson then did upon them smile, 
"If ye not had herd it from my calf, 
Ye should not have found it a great while." 
Who may be sure, where women list beguile!
Though books Sampson of strengths so commend 
Yet dared he not against his wife offend. 

This mighty Sampson did also his pain, 
Three hundred foxes once that he found, 
He took her tails, knit them two by two, 
And amid every one he set a fire-brand; 
And as they ran in Philistines land, 
So furiously up and down they went, 
That they their fruits and their vines burned. 

Eek by treason when he was once bound
With new cords as he lay and sleep, 
There came three thousand, which that Sampson found, 
To have murdered him, ere that he took keep:
He broke his bonds, and up anon he leaped, 
Of an ass he caught a jaw-bon, 
And a thousand he slew of them anon. 

He began to faint and had a sudden lust
For to drink, faded face and cheer; 
And God sent him to staunch with his thirst water. 
From the ass's tooth water crystal clear, 
Which that sprang out large as a river, 
Refreshed his spirit, which before did dull, 
Till that he had of water drunk his full. 

After he went to Gaza the city, 
Among all his enemies, that were of great might, 
To his pleasance where he did see 
A full fair woman, lay with her all night, 
And on the morrow, long ere it was light, 
Maugré the watch, upon his shoulders square
The gates strong up to an hill he bare. 

And in a vale which called was Sorek 
Full hot he loved Dalida the faire, 
On whom his heart was full sore set, 
She could her feign so meek and debonair, 
Make him such cheer when that him list repair. 
But I dare call her Dalida the double, 
Chief root and cause of all his mortal trouble. 

He never drank wines white nor red, 
Of Nazarenes such is the governance; 
Razor nor shears touched never his head 
For in long growing stondeth their pleasance. 
And this Sampson, most mighty of substance, 
Had all his force by influence of heaven, 
By hairs waxing, that were in number seven. 

It was full secret in every man's sight, 
Among people told for an uncouth thing,
Whereof Sampson had so great might, 
Outward showed by force of his working. 
But Dalida with her flattering 
Would never stint, inquiring ever among,
Till that she knew whereby he was so strong. 

She like a serpent lurking under flowers, 
Or like a worm that wrotith on a tree,
Or like an adder of manifold colors, 
Right fresh appearing and fair upon to see: 
For shrouded was her mutability 
With lowliness and a fair pretense 
Of true meaning under false appearance. 

He meant truth, and she was variable, 
He was faithful, and she was untrue, 
He was steadfast, and she was unstable, 
His trust ay one; she loved things new:
She wore colors of many diverse hue, 
In stead of blue, which steadfast is and clean; 
She loved changes of many diverse green. 

But to the purpose for to condescend, 
When she of Sampson knew all the privity,
Her falsehood shortly for to comprehends, 
She made him sleep full softly on her knee; 
And a sharp razor after that took she, 
Shaved off his hair, large and of great length, 
Whereby, alas, he lost all his strength. 

Damage in earth is none so grievous, 
As an enemy which that is secret, 
Nor pestilence none so perilous 
As falseness where he is privy,
And specially in femininity; 
For if wives be found variable, 
Where shall husbands find other stable? 

Thus Sampson was by Dalida deceived, 
She could so well flatter, forge and feign, 
Which Philistines, when they have conceived, 
Unwarily bound him in a mighty chain, 
Cast him in prison, put out his eyes twain, 
And of despite, after, as I find, 
At their querns made him for to grind.

They made a feast stately and solemn, 
When they had all this treason wrought; 
And to rebuke him, scorn him and condemn, 
Blind Sampson was before them brought: 
Which thing full sore grieved him in his thought, 
Cast he would in his privy mind
To avenge his blindness some manner way find. 

And when he had thus bethought him long, 
He made a child him privily to lead 
To two posts, large, square and stronge, 
Embraced them, ere any man took heed, 
And began to shake them, without fear or dread, 
So sturdily among his foemen all, 
That the temple is upon them fall. 

Thus he was avenged on his foes, 
Which that falsely did against him strive, 
Slew in his dying, God wot, many a one 
More than he did ever before in his life. 
And he was also, the date to descrive,
In Israel, the Bible is mine author, 
Twenty year there judge and governor. 

The Envoy 

THIS tragedy giveth in evidence 
To whom men shall their counsel out discover; 
For rakell tongues, for lack off prudence,
Have done great harm to many a creature: 
When harm is done, full hard is to recover. 
Beth war by Sampson, your counsel well to keep, 
Though Dalida complain, cry and weep. 

Whilom Sampson, for manhood and prudence, 
Had Israel in governance and cure,
Daunted lions through his magnificence, 
Made on a thousand a discomfiture; 
But his most perilous adventure, 
Was when he lay with Dalida to sleep, 
Which falsely could complain, cry and weep. 

Ye noble Princes, conceiveth the sentence
Of this story, remembered in scripture 
How that Sampson of willful negligence 
Was shaved and shorn, defaced his figure; 
Keep your conceits under coverture,
Suffer no night-worm within your counsel creep, 
Though Dalida complain, cry and weep! 


make known 
rare, unusual; go 

one by one 


reveal the secret 



secretly; whisper 


desire to 


took heed 


despite the guards 

rare, unusual 



ever the same 




plan, contrive; secret 




rash, impetuous 



private thoughts 


Modernized from Lydgate's Fall of Princes, ed. Henry Bergen, Part I, EETS, e. s. 121. London. 1924.