Samson Agonistes "No Man Therein Doctor But Himself"

John Milton

"No Man Therein Doctor But Himself"

Context: The work begins with a long soliloquy by Samson, blinded and lying on a sunny bank in Gaza during a great holiday celebration of the Philistines in honor of their god Dagon. The tenor of Samson's reflections is that he had been born for greatness, for the deliverance of his people from the yoke of their hated masters, the Philistines; but he had thrown away his great gift, his physical strength, because he had been weak in his dealings with the treacherous Delilah, who in the drama is his wife, but who in Judges 16:4 is merely a woman of the valley of Sorek whom he loves. As he communes with himself he is joined by the Chorus, whom he asks whether or not he is now sung and proverbed as a fool for having told God's secret to a deceitful woman. He says that his great strength of body should have been joined to wisdom. The Chorus tells him that he should not blame God for his situation; many wise men have been deceived by women, and more will be. But why did he have to marry a Philistine? Samson says that as his first marriage to the woman of Timnath had given him occasion to move against the Philistines, so he thought that the second marriage might provide further occasions. Upon the citing of examples of men who had warred against the Philistines, Samson said that God's purposed deliverance of the Jews had not worked out through him. The Chorus says that God's ways are just and are capable of being explained by everyone except those who do not believe in God; such people are fools and belong to no school, and each man must be his own authoritative teacher.

Just are the ways of God
And justifiable to men;
Unless there be who think not God at all:
If any be, they walk obscure;
For of such doctrine never was there school,
But the heart of the fool,
And no man therein doctor but himself.
Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just,
As to his own edicts, found contradicting,
Then give the reins to wandering thought,
Regardless of his glory's diminution;
Till by their own perplexities involved
They ravel more, still less resolved,
But never find self-satisfying solution.