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Hudibras, Part I (excerpts)

Samuel Butler 1613 (Strensham) – 1680 (London)

THE ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST CANTOSir Hudibras his passing worth,
The manner how he sallied forth;
His arms and equipage are shown;
His horse's virtues, and his own.
Th' adventure of the bear and fiddle
Is sung, but breaks off in the middle.
  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,
  For Dame Religion, as for punk;
  Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
  Though not a man of them knew wherefore:
  When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
  With long-ear'd rout, to battle sounded,
  And pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
  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
  Entitle him Mirror of Knighthood;
  That never bent his stubborn knee
  To any thing but Chivalry;
  Nor put up blow, but that which laid
  Right worshipful on shoulder-blade;
  Chief of domestic knights and errant,
  Either for cartel 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,
  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:
  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
  That knaves do work with, call'd a fool,
  And offer to lay wagers that
  As Montaigne, playing with his cat,
  Complains she thought him but an ass,
  Much more she would Sir Hudibras;
  (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,
  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.
  Beside, 'tis known he could speak Greek
  As naturally as pigs squeak;
  That Latin was no more difficile,
  Than to a blackbird 'tis to whistle:
  Being rich in both, he never scanted
  His bounty unto such as wanted;
  But much of either would afford
  To many, that had not one word.
  For Hebrew roots, although th'are found
  To flourish most in barren ground,
  He had such plenty, as suffic'd
  To make some think him circumcis'd;
  And truly so, perhaps, he was,
  'Tis many a pious Christian's case.

  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 which he would dispute,
  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,
  A calf an alderman, a goose a justice,
  And rooks Committee-men and Trustees.
  He'd run in debt by disputation,
  And pay with ratiocination.
  All this by syllogism, true
  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,
  H' had hard words, ready to show 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
  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.
  It was a parti-colour'd dress
  Of patch'd and pie-bald languages;
  'Twas English cut on Greek and Latin,
  Like fustian heretofore on satin;
  It had an odd promiscuous tone,
  As if h' had talk'd three parts in one;
  Which made some think, when he did gabble,
  Th' had heard three labourers of Babel;
  Or Cerberus himself pronounce
  A leash of languages at once.
  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 would coin, or counterfeit
  New words, with little or no wit:
  Words so debas'd and hard, no stone
  Was hard enough to touch them on;
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:56 min read

Samuel Butler

Samuel Evan Butler was an English cricketer. more…

All Samuel Butler poems | Samuel Butler Books

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