Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Hudibras Described
By Samuel Butler (1612–1680)
WHEN civil fury first grew high,
And men fell out, they knew not why;
When hard words, jealousies, and fears
Set folks together by the ears,
And made them fight, like mad or drunk,        5
For dame Religion as for Punk,
Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
Tho’ not a man of them knew wherefore;
When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
With long-ear’d rout, to battle sounded,        10
And pulpit, drum ecclesiastick,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
And out he rode a-colonelling.
  A Wight he was, whose very sight would        15
Entitle him Mirror of Knighthood,
That never bent his stubborn knee
To anything but chivalry;
Nor put up blow, but that which laid
Right worshipful on shoulder-blade;        20
Chief of domestic knights, and errant,
Either for chartel or for warrant;
Great on the bench, great in the saddle,
That could as well bind o’er, as swaddle:
Mighty he was at both of these,        25
And styl’d of War as well as Peace.
So some rats of amphibious nature
Are either for the land or water.
But here our authors make a doubt,
Whether he were more wise, or stout.        30
Some hold the one, and some the other;
But howsoe’er they make a pother,
The diff’rence was so small, his brain
Outweigh’d his rage but half a grain;
Which made some take him for a tool        35
That knaves do work with, call’d a Fool;
And offer’d to lay wagers that
As Montaigne, playing with his cat,
Complains she thought him but an ass,
Much more she wou’d Sir Hudibras:        40
For that’s the name our valiant knight
To all his challenges did write.
But they’re mistaken very much;
’Tis plain enough he was no such:
We grant, although he had much wit,        45
H’ was very shy of using it,
As being loth to wear it out;
And therefore bore it not about,
Unless on holy-days, or so,
As men their best apparel do.        50
  He was in Logic a great critic,
Profoundly skill’d in Analytic;
He could distinguish and divide
A hair ’twixt south and south-west side;
On either side he would dispute,        55
Confute, change hands, and still confute;
He’d undertake to prove by force
Of argument, a man’s no horse;
He’d prove a buzzard is no fowl,
And that a Lord may be an owl;        60
A calf an Alderman, a goose a Justice,
And rooks Committee-Men or Trustees.
He’d run in debt by disputation,
And pay with ratiocination,
All this by syllogism true,        65
In mood and figure, he would do.
  For Rhetoric, he could not ope
His mouth, but out there flew a trope:
And when he happen’d to break off
I’ th’ middle of his speech, or cough,        70
H’ had hard words, ready to shew why
And tell what rules he did it by.
Else, when with greatest art he spoke,
You’d think he talk’d like other folk.
For all a Rhetorician’s rules        75
Teach nothing but to name his tools.
  His ordinary rate of speech
In loftiness of sound was rich;
A Babylonish dialect,
Which learned pedants much affect;        80
It was a parti-color’d dress
Of patch’d and piebald languages:
’Twas English cut on Greek and Latin,
Like fustian heretofore on satin.
It had an odd promiscuous tone,        85
As if h’ had talk’d three parts in one;
Which made some think, when he did gabble,
Th’ had heard three laborers of Babel,
Or Cerberus himself pronounce
A leash of languages at once.        90
This he as volubly would vent
As if his stock would ne’er be spent:
And truly, to support that charge,
He had supplies as vast and large,
For he could coin or counterfeit        95
New words with little or no wit:
Words so debas’d and hard, no stone
Was hard enough to touch them on;
And when with hasty noise he spoke ’em,
The ignorant for current took ’em—        100
That had the orator who once
Did fill his mouth with pebble-stones
When he harangu’d, but known his phrase,
He would have us’d no other ways.
  In Mathematics he was greater        105
Than Tycho Brahe, or Erra Pater:
For he, by geometric scale,
Could take the size of pots of ale;
Resolve, by sines and tangents straight,
If bread or butter wanted weight;        110
And wisely tell what hour o’ th’ day
The clock does strike, by Algebra.
*        *        *        *        *
  Beside, he was a shrewd Philosopher,
And had read every text and gloss over:
Whate’er the crabbed’st author hath,        115
He understood b’ implicit faith:
Whatever Skeptic could inquire for;
For every WHY he had a WHEREFORE:
Knew more than forty of them do,
As far as words and terms could go.        120
All which he understood by rote,
And, as occasion serv’d, would quote;
No matter whether right or wrong,
They might be either said or sung.
His notions fitted things so well,        125
That which was which he could not tell,
But oftentimes mistook the one
For th’ other, as great clerks have done.
He could reduce all things to acts,
And knew their natures by abstracts;        130
Where entity and quiddity,
The ghost of defunct bodies, fly;
Where Truth in person does appear,
Like words congealed in northern air.
He knew what’s what, and that’s as high        135
As metaphysic wit can fly.
*        *        *        *        *
  For his religion, it was fit
To match his learning and his wit:
’Twas Presbyterian, true blue;
For he was of that stubborn crew        140
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true church militant:
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversy by        145
Infallible artillery;
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and desolation
A godly-thorough-Reformation,        150
Which always must be carry’d on,
And still be doing, never done,
As if Religion were intended
For nothing else but to be mended.
A sect whose chief devotion lies        155
In odd perverse antipathies:
In falling out with that or this,
And finding somewhat still amiss:
More peevish, cross, and splenetic,
Than dog distract, or monkey sick.        160
That with more care keep holy-day
The wrong, than others the right way:
Compound for sins they are inclin’d to,
By damning those they have no mind to:
Still so perverse and opposite,        165
As if they worship’d God for spite.
The self-same thing they will abhor
One way, and long another for.
Free-will they one way disavow,
Another, nothing else allow.        170
All piety consists therein
In them, in other men all sin.
Rather than fail, they will defy
That which they love most tenderly:
Quarrel with minc’d pies, and disparage        175
Their best and dearest friend—plum-porridge;
Fat pig and goose itself oppose,
And blaspheme custard through the nose.
*        *        *        *        *
  His puissant sword unto his side,
Near his undaunted heart, was ty’d,        180
With basket-hilt, that would hold broth,
And serve for fight and dinner both.
In it he melted lead for bullets,
To shoot at foes, and sometimes pullets;
To whom he bore so fell a grutch,        185
He ne’er gave quarter t’any such.
The trenchant blade, Toledo trusty,
For want of fighting was grown rusty,
And ate into itself, for lack
Of somebody to hew and hack.        190
The peaceful scabbard where it dwelt
The rancor of its edge had felt….
  This sword a dagger had, his page,
That was but little for his age:
And therefore waited on him so,        195
As dwarfs upon knights-errant do.
It was a serviceable dudgeon,
Either for fighting or for drudging:
When it had stabb’d, or broke a head,
It would scrape trenchers or chip bread,        200
Toast cheese or bacon, though it were
To bait a mouse-trap, ’twould not care:
’Twould make clean shoes, and in the earth
Set leeks and onions, and so forth:
It had been ’prentice to a brewer,        205
Where this, and more, it did endure;
But left the trade, as many more
Have lately done, on the same score.

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