Adelard of Bath, The First English Scientist, The Lament of Israel for Samson

Israel Weeps Over Samson. Similar to Joseph’s lament, Samson’s does not include any redeeming power of human sacrifice or any providential purpose. Abelard paints a different picture of Samson’s humiliation; what’s more, he doesn’t see his destruction of the site of his shame and murder of his foes as an act of triumphant vengeance but rather of hopelessness. The majority of the biblical account is devoted to Dalila’s early and unsuccessful efforts to deceive Samson into divulging the secret source of his power, although Abelard hardly touches on this in his retelling of the story. Abelard skips over that and gets right to Samson’s blindness and hair loss.

Samson, who was previously strong, is now shown as blind and laboring in the dark, his body weakened by the repetitive motion of milling. Samson lives in “twin darknesses,” where he is “weighed down [oppressus]” due to the devastating effects of his captivity on his superhuman strength and the opacity of his surroundings on his vision. Dronke points out that Abelard may have discovered a pattern in Gregory the Great, and these twofold losses may be symbolic of Samson’s loss of both inner and physical sight. Samson recovers his strength in the poem’s second half, but he uses it to kill himself and his foes. The focus shifts from “play to serious matters,” and Samson is compelled to “put an end to all suffering.”

The “sorrow” that “unites [miscet] his and his enemies’ death” motivates Samson to use his strength to bring down the house’s pillars. As Abelard explains in the Theologia “christiana,” Samson obeyed a divine order that defies logic and reason. He, too, must decide between God and nature, much like Jephtha’s daughter. But he doesn’t run to God like Jephtha’s daughter does; instead, he displays an affectless behavior.

Neither vengeance nor even his own frailty brings this Samson (a symbol of Christ) victory. According to Dronke, the understanding of Samson’s death has been that it “meant the deliverance of his people, the sacrificial act by which he fulfilled his destiny, the greatest deed in which… he foreshadowed Christ” ever since Augustine and Jerome.

On the other hand, Abelard shows Samson and Israel in a state of hopelessness, as if there were no greater benefit that could be gained from Samson’s defeat and shame. Abelard frames Samson’s anguish, which adds complexity to this lament. The first strophe is a component of that framework; it introduces the topic of divine judgments being incomprehensible, which links this lament to the preceding ones. “A great abyss are your judgments, God, the more formidable, the more they are hidden” .
Adelard of Bath, The First English Scientist, The Lament of Israel for Samson
The difficulty of obeying God’s will, even when known, is echoed in this prologue, which recalls Jacob’s confusion over the divine plan. The poem concludes with a sexist tirade that blames Dalila for Samson’s downfall and, more broadly, “woman” for the fall of man in a continuous chain that began with Eve. The expected caution not to commit to a lady lest one wishes to follow these men into ruin concludes the rant. The poem claims that the providential plan for Samson is for a woman to kill him, just as it was for David, Solomon, and Adam. “Brought down the father of all [Adam]” and “offers the cup of death to all” are two ways in which the poem describes women: as “supreme destroyer of the mighty” and as having been “created” to fulfill this role.

Consequently, the poem portrays Samson’s death and suffering as a necessary setback rather than an eventual triumph. An alternative to denying providence in the face of seemingly meaningless human suffering is to imagine a world ruled by an evil entity.

So, the lament for Samson delves into the human propensity to question the presence of providence and to attribute pain to evildoing. Being blind to the fact that you have broken into the master plan for human events is one form of perceptual blindness.

Here, our vision is so impaired that it paints an inaccurate picture, much as a phobia that is so strong that it makes its target anti-phobic. Conspiracy theorists and counterphobes are polar opposites in every way; yet, both appear smart and courageous.

That women are to blame for man’s demise is a common medieval conspiracy notion that Abelard employs here. We need to know how he puts it to use. The proof of Abelard’s sexism is not quite conclusive. He writes extensively in his letters about how women are more spiritually advanced and virtue-filled than males, and he strongly disagrees with Heloise’s claim that she is just one of many women who have brought down great men. Abelard extols Heloise for more than just being a woman. It was quite acceptable to praise women for their morality and spirituality while simultaneously engaging in sexist tirades in the eleventh century.
Abelard extols Heloise for more than just being a woman. It was quite acceptable to praise women for their morality and spirituality while simultaneously engaging in sexist tirades in the eleventh century.
Like many in the Christian past, Abelard appears to have fundamentally mixed feelings regarding women, praising them in some places and vilifying them in others. We should not be surprised that he takes a more radical stance on these issues. Despite Abelard’s continued advocacy for women’s equality, supremacy, and dignity, his account of the Fall is more critical of Eve and women than the conventional view.