Hudibras (selections)

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,

Though 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.

… For his Religion, it was fit

To match his learning and his wit;                            190

‘Twas Presbyterian true blue;

For he was of that stubborn crew

Of errant saints, whom all men grant

To be the true Church Militant;

Such as do build their faith upon                             195

The holy text of pike and gun;

Decide all controversies by

Infallible artillery;

And prove their doctrine orthodox

By apostolic blows and knocks;                                200

Call fire and sword and desolation,

A godly thorough reformation,

Which always must be carried on,

And still be doing, never done;

As if religion were intended                                  205

For nothing else but to be mended.

A sect, whose chief devotion lies

In odd perverse antipathies;

In falling out with that or this,

And finding somewhat still amiss;                             210

More peevish, cross, and splenetick,

Than dog distract, or monkey sick.

That with more care keep holy-day

The wrong, than others the right way;

Compound for sins they are inclin’d to,                       215

By damning those they have no mind to:

Still so perverse and opposite,

As if they worshipp’d God for spite.

The self-same thing they will abhor

One way, and long another for.                                220

Free-will they one way disavow,

Another, nothing else allow:

All piety consists therein

In them, in other men all sin:

Rather than fail, they will defy                              225

That which they love most tenderly;

Quarrel with minc’d-pies, and disparage

Their best and dearest friend, plum-porridge;

Fat pig and goose itself oppose,

And blaspheme custard through the nose.                       230

Th’ apostles of this fierce religion,

Like MAHOMET’S, were ass and pidgeon,

To whom our knight, by fast instinct

Of wit and temper, was so linkt,

As if hypocrisy and nonsense                                  235

Had got th’advowson of his conscience.

…A squire he had, whose name was RALPH,

That in th’ adventure went his half:

Though writers, for more stately tone,

Do call him RALPHO; ’tis all one;                             460

And when we can with metre safe,

We’ll call him so; if not, plain RALPH:

(For rhyme the rudder is of verses,

With which like ships they steer their courses.)

… His knowledge was not far behind

The Knight’s, but of another kind,                            480

And he another way came by ‘t:

Some call it GIFTS, and some NEW-LIGHT;

A liberal art, that costs no pains

Of study, industry, or brains.

His wit was sent him for a token,                             485

But in the carriage crack’d and broken.

Like commendation nine-pence crook’d,

With — To and from my love — it look’d.

He ne’er consider’d it, as loth

To look a gift-horse in the mouth;                            490

And very wisely wou’d lay forth

No more upon it than ’twas worth.

But as he got it freely, so

He spent it frank and freely too.

For Saints themselves will sometimes be                       495

Of gifts, that cost them nothing, free.

By means of this, with hem and cough,

Prolongers to enlighten’d stuff,

He cou’d deep mysteries unriddle

As easily as thread a needle.                                 500

For as of vagabonds we say,

That they are ne’er beside their way;

Whate’er men speak by this New Light,

Still they are sure to be i’ th’ right.

‘Tis a dark-lanthorn of the Spirit,                           505

Which none see by but those that bear it:

A light that falls down from on high,

For spiritual trades to cozen by

An Ignis Fatuus, that bewitches

And leads men into pools and ditches,                         510

To make them dip themselves, and sound

For Christendom in dirty pond

To dive like wild-fowl for salvation,

And fish to catch regeneration.

This light inspires and plays upon                            515

The nose of Saint like bag-pipe drone,

And speaks through hollow empty soul,

As through a trunk, or whisp’ring hole,

Such language as no mortal ear

But spirit’al eaves-droppers can hear:                        520

So PHOEBUS, or some friendly muse,

Into small poets song infuse,

Which they at second-hand rehearse,

Thro’ reed or bag-pipe, verse for verse…

Link to full text of poem

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