For my blog this week, I decided to delve into some of the Biblical allusions that can be found in the song “Samson” by Regina Spektor. The song itself seems to tell the tale of a failed relationship, recounting instances where they encountered pitfalls and the circumstances that inevitably made it impossible for them to remain together. However, it also happens to be laden with imagery from and allusions to the story of Samson and Delilah, which can be found in the book of Judges. The narrator of the song never explicitly refers to herself as Delilah, but she does dub the subject of the song to be her “Samson,” and the other allusions are prominent enough that many connections can be drawn between those references and the original narrative of Samson and Delilah.
There are several lyrics throughout the song which reference hair and the cutting of it:
- “Your hair was long when we first met”
- “Samson went back to bed/Not much hair left on his head”
- “Oh, I cut his hair myself one night”
These lyrics of course allude to the story of Samson and Delilah, in which Samson’s long hair was the source of his superhuman strength thanks to his vow with God, which he lost after Delilah learned his secret and cut his hair in order to betray him to the Philistines.
“Oh, we couldn’t bring the columns down/Yeah, we couldn’t destroy a single one”: Again, we see an instance in which the columns are likely describing the challenges in a relationship with the couple invariably couldn’t overcome, which led to their eventual separation, but it also has more concrete ties back to the narrative. In the narrative, Samson, after his defeat at the hands of the Philistines and having his eyes gouged out, was summoned to entertain the Philistines. After praying to God for strength one last time, he used that aforementioned strength to tear down the pillars supporting the house, which killed everyone inside, including Samson himself.
The line “Samson went back to bed,” simple though it is, also alludes to the tale. Within the narrative, Delilah always sought to discover Samson’s secret, and each time he revealed a potential secret to his strength (though the first three were false), she would wait until he was asleep in order to summon the Philistines to come attack him.
Even the less overt lyrics can be tied in to the tale of Samson and Delilah. “You are my sweetest downfall”: yes, it can be taken as a tragically forlorn reflection on a failed love, but in terms of that narrative, Delilah was quite literally Samson’s downfall. She was the one who conspired and planned to undermine his strength and turn him over to the Philistines in exchange for a reward.
“And the Bible didn’t mention us, not even once”: this is an interesting subversion amidst the other allusions, because it seems to point out that in terms of the relationship described in the song, they won’t be remembered – it isn’t a huge historical event which will be passed down in a tome such as the Bible, unlike the doomed story of Samson and Delilah, which is indeed preserved forever within the Bible.
I find it interesting to see allusions to such a narrative within the Bible tied in with a song about doomed love and failed relationships. While Samson accomplished many grandiose feats of strength and conquest, it’s intriguing to see that more intimate tale of betrayal and downfall portrayed through a song and how it has influenced modern music and pop culture.