|Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916.|
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
|By Samuel Butler (16121680)|
From MSS. in British Museum
IS master of the noble science of offence and defence, a mungrel knight-errant, that is always upon adventures. His calling is to call those to accompt, that he thinks have more money, and less to show for their valour than himself. These are his tributaries, and when he is out of repair, he demands reparation of them. His skill consists in the prudent conduct of his quarrels, that he may not be drawn to fight the enemy but upon advantages. He is all for light skirmishes and pickeering, 1 but cares not to engage his whole body, but where he is sure to come off. He is an exact judge of honour, and can hit the very mathematic line between valour and cowardice. He gets more by treaties than fights, as the French are said to have done by the English. When he finds himself overpowrd, he draws up his forces as wide in the front as he can, though but three deep, and so faces the enemy, while he draws off in safety, tho sometimes with the loss of his baggage, that is, his honour. He is as often employd as a herald, to proclaim war, defy the enemy, and offer battle, in which desperate service he behaves himself with punctual formality, and is securd in his person by the law of nations. He is Py-powder 2 of all quarrels, affronts, and mis-prisions of affronts, rencounters, rants, assaults, and batteries, and invasions by kick, cudgel, or the lye, that fall out among the sons of Priam, the brethren of the hilt and scabbard, that have taken the croysade upon them, to fight against the Infidel, that will not trust; and he determines whether they are actionable, and will bear a duel, or not. He never surrenders without flying colours, and bullet in mouth. He professes valour but to put it off, and keeps none for his own use, as doctors never take physic, nor lawyers go to law. When he is engagd in a quarrel, he talks and looks as big as he can, as dogs when they fall out, set up the bristles of their backs, to seem taller than they are. It is safer for a man to venture his life than his conversation upon him.
|Note 1. pickeering = pilfering, or pillaging. [back]|
|Note 2. Py-powder. The court of Py-powder was a rough tribunal for the settlement of disputes at fairs. [back]|