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But by your dialect and discourse,
Quoth he, The fortune of the war,
Quoth she, Those need not be asham’d
title to his own beard,
I'th' pill’ry set at the wrong end.'
condition that he shall administer a sound flogging to himself. Hudibras willingly promises this, and is released, but next day he thinks better of it, and consults Ralpho whether he is actually bound by his oath. Ralpho's reply abounds with the pithy couplets so frequent in Hudibras, which have become a part of the language:
Oaths were not purposed, more than law,
The Rabbins write, when any Jew
• Does not in Chancery every man swear What makes best for him in his answer ?'
'He that imposes an oath makes it,
• That sinners may supply the place
Hudibras, however, is but half convinced, or rather, doubts whether conviction can be brought to the minds of others. He bethinks himself of a middle course, and suggests that the whipping shall be inflicted by proxy, and that Ralpho shall be the proxy. To this Ralpho demurs, and an impending rupture is only averted by a new adventure, which seems invented for the purpose. When it is over Hudibras has profited by the interval of reflection to resolve to consult the wizard Sidrophel, who is apparently intended for Lilly. The scene affords Butler an opportunity of venting the dislike to physical science which he shared with so many other literary men, and to which he gave more definite expression in The Elephant in the Moon. The interview terminates in a scuffle, in which Hudibras overthrows Sidrophel, and, thinking he has killed him, makes off, leaving Ralpho, as he deems, to bear the brunt. The trusty squire, however, has already gone to the lady with the tale of Hudibras's perjury, which insures the knight a warm reception. Here the action of the story ends, the remainder of the poem being chiefly occupied by heroical epistles' between the parties, which do not help it on, and by a digression on the downfall of the Rump, chiefly remarkable for allusions to politics of later date.
One of the most noticeable phenomena in Butler is, that after all this Cavalier poet is little of a Cavalier, and this assailant of Puritanism little of a Churchman. His loyalty
is but hatred of anarchy, and his religion but hatred of cant. The genuineness of both these feelings is attested by the detached thoughts found among his papers; otherwise it might fairly have been doubted whether his motive for espousing the royalist cause had been any other than the infinitely greater scope which Puritanism and Republicanism offered to the shafts of a satirist. The follies of the Cavalier party proved that things may be absurd without being ridiculous ; those of their opponents demonstrated that ridicule may justly attach to things not intrinsically absurd. It is clear, notwithstanding, from Butler's prose remains, that he was constitutionally hostile to liberty in politics and to the inward light in religion, and that he obeyed his own sincere conviction in attacking them. But it is equally clear that his preference for monarchy was solely utilitarian, and that his preferences in religion were determined simply by taste. The ground of his acquiescence in the Church of England is thus frankly stated by himself in one of his detached thoughts:
“Men ought to do in religion as they do in war. When a man of honour is overpowered, and must of necessity surrender himself up a prisoner, such are always wont to endeavour to do it to some person of command and quality, and not to a mere scoundrel. So, since all men are obliged to be of some church, it is more honourable, if there were nothing else in it, to be of that which has some reputation, than such a one as is contemptible, and justly despised by all the best of men.'
This is not the language of a very fervent churchman; and Butler's royalism is like his religion, a pis aller. Nowhere does his aversion for Puritanism kindle into enthusiasm for its contrary, any more than his humour ever rises into poetry. In his verse he is a satirist; in his prose a sceptic; and his satire and his scepticism are alike rooted in a low opinion of human nature, and a disbelief that
things can ever be much better than they are.
He is a strong spirit, but of the earth, earthy. At the same time he is not one of the satirists who make their readers cynics ; on the contrary, his hearty geniality puts the reader into good humour with mankind, and suggests that if there is not much to admire there is also but little to condemn. It is unnecessary to dilate on his peculiar merits, which are of universal notoriety. Few have enriched the language
. with so many familiar quotations; few have so much fancy along with a total absence of sentiment; few have been so fertile in odd rhymes and quaint illustrations and comparisons; few have so thoroughly combined the characters of wit and humorist.
In 1759 a quantity of MS. compositions of Butler's, which had remained unpublished during his life, and had come into the possession of his friend Longueville, were edited by R. Thyer, librarian of the Chetham Library at Manchester. The most important, his characters in the manner of Theophrastus, and detached thoughts in prose, will be noticed along with the prose essayists. Of the metrical compositions, the most elaborate is The Elephant in the Moon, a satire on the appetite for marvels displayed by some of the members of the then infant Royal Society, which exists in two recensions, one in Hudibrastic, the other in heroic verse. The other pieces are also for the most part satirical, with a strong affinity to Hudibras, except where they parody the style of some poet of the day. They are always clever, sometimes very humorous and pointed, and, with Marvell's satires, form a transition from the unpolished quaintness of Donne to the weight and splendour of Dryden. Butler in one instance appears a downright plagiarist; in another he would seem, were the thing possible, to have been copied by a later and more illustrious writer. In his satire against rhyme, he writes :