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SAMUEL BUTLER. 1612–1680.


WHEN civil dudgeon 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 bow'd his stubborn knee
To anything but chivalry,
Nor put up blow, but that which laid
Knight worshipful on shoulder blade ;
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,
And styled of war as well as peace
(So some rats, of amphibious nature,
Àre 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. For 't has been held by many,

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 not such. We grant, although he had much wit, H' was very shy of using it, As being loath to wear it out, And therefore bore it not about: Unless on holydays or so, As men their best apparel do. Besides, '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.

He was in logic a great critic, Profoundly skill'd in analytic: He could distinguish, and divide A hair 'twixt south and southwest 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.
But, when he pleased to show 't, his 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 piebald 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 could coin or counterfeit
New words, with little or no wit;
Words so debased 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;
That had the orator, who once
Did fill his mouth with pebble stones
When he harangued, but known his phrase,
He would have used no other ways.
In mathematics he was greater
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 ;
And wisely tell what hour o'th' day
The clock does strike, by algebra.
Besides, he was a shrewd philosopher,
And had read ev'ry text and gloss over:
Whate'er the crabbed'st author hath,
He understood b'implicit faith:
Whatever skeptic could inquire for,
For ev'ry why he had a wherefore ;
Knew more than forty of them do,
As far as words and terms could go;
All which he understood by rote,
And, as occasion served, would quote:
No matter whether right or wrong,
They might be either said or sung.
His notions fitted things so well,
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;
Where Entity and Quiddity,
The ghosts of defunct bodies, fly;
Where truth in person does appear,
Like words congeal'd in northern air.
He knew what's what, and that's as high
As metaphysic wit can fly:


In school-divinity as able
As he that hight Irrefragable ;
A second Thomas, or, at once
To name them all, another Dunce;
Profound in all the Nominal
And Real ways beyond them all :

For he a rope of sand could twist 1. As tough as learned Sorbonist,

And weave fine cobwebs, fit for scull
That's empty when the moon is full;
Such as take lodgings in a head
That's to be let unfurnished.
He could raise scruples dark and nice,
And after solve 'em in a trice;

He knew the seat of Paradise,
Could tell in what degree it lies,
And, as he was disposed, could prove it
Below the moon, or else above it;
What Adam dream'd of, when his bride
Came from her closet in his side ;
Whether the devil tempted her
By a High Dutch interpreter ;

Whether the serpent, at the fall,
Had cloven feet, or none at all:
All this, without a gloss or comment,
He could unriddle in a moment,
In proper terms, such as men smatter,
When they throw out, and miss the matter.

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