Samuel Butler (1612-1680)
It is not easy, but you have to be willing to make mistakes. And the earlier you make those mistakes, the better.Jane Cahill Pfeiffer
Samuel Butler (4 December 1612 - 18 June 1680)
For the 19th Century author of Erewhon see Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
- There are more fools than knaves in the world, else the knaves would not have enough to live upon.
- Genuine Remains in Verse and Prose (1759)
Hudibras Part I (1663)-1664)
- 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 ecclesiastick,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
And out he rode a colonelling.
- First lines
- 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.
- 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.
- For he could 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;
And when with hasty noise he spoke 'em;
The ignorant for current took 'em;
- A skilful leech is better far
Than half an hundred men of war,
So he appear'd; and by his skill,
No less than dint of sword, cou'd kill.
- Shall we that in the Cov'nant swore,
Each man of us to run before
Another, still in Reformation,
Give dogs and bears a dispensation?
How will Dissenting Brethren relish it?
What will malignants say? videlicet,
That each man Swore to do his best,
To damn and perjure all the rest!
And bid the Devil take the hin'most,
Which at this race is like to win most.
- They'll say our bus'ness, to reform
The Church and State, is but a worm;
For to subscribe, unsight, unseen,
To an unknown Church-discipline,
What is it else, but before-hand
T'engage, and after understand?
For when we swore to carry on
The present Reformation,
According to the purest mode
Of Churches best reformed abroad,
What did we else, but make a vow
To do we know not what, nor how?'
- 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 and butter wanted weight;
And wisely tell what hour o' th' day
The clock doth strike, by algebra.
- Whatever sceptic could inquire for,
For ev'ry why he had a wherefore;
Knew more than forty of them do,
As far as words and terms cou'd go.
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,
That which was which he could not tell;
But oftentimes mistook th' one
For th' other, as great clerks have done.
- And weave fine cobwebs, fit for skull
That's empty when the moon is full;
Such as take lodgings in a head
That's to be let unfurnished.
- For his Religion, it was fit
To match his learning and his wit;
'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
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks;
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
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;
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,
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.
Free-will they one way disavow,
Another, nothing else allow:
All piety consists therein
In them, in other men all sin...
- For Rhime the Rudder is of Verses,
With which like Ships they steer their courses.
- This Light inspires, and plays upon
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 spiritual Eve-droppers can hear.
- He cou'd foretel whats'ever was
By consequence to come to pass;
As death of great men, alterations,
Diseases, battles, inundations.
All this, without th' eclipse o' th' sun,
Or dreadful comet, he hath done,
By inward light; away as good,
And easy to be understood;
But with more lucky hit than those
That use to make the stars depose,
Like Knights o' th' post, and falsely charge
Upon themselves what others forge:
As if they were consenting to
All mischiefs in the world men do:
Or, like the Devil, did tempt and sway 'em
To rogueries, and then betray 'em.
Hudibras Part II (1664)
- To swallow gudgeons ere they're catched,
And count their chickens ere they're hatched.
- Love is a boy, by poets styled,
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.
Hudibras Part III (1678)
- What makes all doctrines plain and clear?
About two hundred pounds a year.
And that which was proved true before
Prove false again? Two hundred more.
- Neither have they hearts to stay,
Nor wit enough to run away.
- Hudibras at Project Gutenberg