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
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…