Well-worn musical icon of countless Christmas rites, “The Hallelujah Chorus” is Handel’s most famous piece. But he celebrated the slimy fish-god Dagon with as much verve, and far more wit. The same month that he completed Messiah (September 1741), Handel had started Samson. As he went to Dublin for Messiah’s premier, he was just finishing up his next oratorio, which begins with a chorus of crazed Philistines writhing and wailing at their pagan altar.
“Awake the trumpet’s lofty sound!
The joyful sacred festival comes round
when Dagon king of all earth is crown’d.
The solemn hymn and cheerful song:
be Dagon praised by ev’ry tongue.
In notes of triumph, notes of praise
so high great Dagon’s name we’ll raise.”

The music could be right out of “For Unto us a Child is Born.” But it’s a hymn of praise to Lovecraft’s favorite squamous deity instead of Jesus. Half man, half fish, and all eldritch, Dagon rises roaring from his deep-sea bed while the baby Jesus lies cooing sweetly in his cradle.

Samson, the dreadlocked Israelite muscleman, had made his name killing a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of dismembered donkey. But no asinine mandible could protect him from the charms of Dalila.

Like the Rastas who take him as their mightiest exemplar, Samson had joined the secret society of the Nazarites, devoting himself to slaughter and God by vowing never to drink wine or beer, touch a corpse or cut his hair. Wild sex, however, was another matter. And The Book of Judges details his various conquests and one night stands. Whores and hussies, virgins and pagan votaries feel the irresistible urge when he flexes his muscle of love. Dalila’s relationship with the throbbing hunk of Nazarite manhood is far more complex. She may fall for his bulging biceps, but when offered cold cash by Philistine kings, she turns betrayer.

With his eyes torn out, captive in their temple, Samson endures the taunts of the Philistines as they pray to their vile fish-god in a last drunken chorus:
“Great Dagon has subdued our foe
who brought their boasted hero low.
Sound out his pow’r in notes divine
praise him with mirth, high cheer and wine.”

Yes, there is a somber resolution. Samson dies as he pulls down the Philistine temple, off-stage. But like Paradise Lost, where Satan gets all the best lines, in this one, Dagon gets the best music.