We idly sit, like stupid
committed to our pockets,
but our tongues at large,
To get the wretches a discharge:
Like men condemn'd to thunder-bolts
Who, ere the blow, become mere dolts;
besotted with their crimes
That know not how to shift betimes,
And neither have the hearts
enough to run away.
Samuel Butler (February 8 1612 – September 25 1680) was an English satirical poet.
- For the 19th-century author of Erewhon, see Samuel Butler (novelist)
- There are more fools than knaves in the world, else the knaves would not have enough to live upon.
- The Genuine Remains in Verse and Prose of Mr. Samuel Butler (1759), edited by Robert Thyer
- And poets by their sufferings grow;
As if there were no more to do,
To make a poet excellent,
But only want and discontent.
- "Miscellaneous Thoughts" in The Poems of Samuel Butler, Volume 2, Press of C. Whittingham, 1822, p. 269
- "Fragments", reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
- They who study mathematiks only to fix their minds, and render them the steadyer to apply to all other things, as there are many who profess to do, are as wise as those who think by rowing boats, to learn to swim.
- Prose Observations (Oxford: 1979), p. 4
- 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.
- We grant, although he had much wit,
He was very shy of using it.
- Beside, 't is known he could speak Greek
As naturally as pigs squeak;
That Latin was no more difficile
Than to a blackbird 't is to whistle.
- 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.
- A Babylonish dialect
Which learned pedants much affect.
- 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.
- Where entity and quiddity,
The ghosts of defunct bodies, fly.
- He knew what 's what, and that 's as high
As metaphysic wit can fly.
- 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...
- The trenchant blade, Toledo trusty,
For want of fighting was grown rusty,
And ate into itself, for lack
Of somebody to hew and hack.
- For Rhime the Rudder is of Verses,
With which like Ships they steer their courses.
- He ne'er consider'd it, as loth
To look a gift-horse in the mouth.
- And force them, though it was in spite
Of Nature and their stars, to write.
- Quoth Hudibras, "I smell a rat!
Ralpho, thou dost prevaricate."
- Or shear swine, all cry and no wool.
- And bid the devil take the hin'most.
- With many a stiff thwack, many a bang,
Hard crab-tree and old iron rang.
- Like feather bed betwixt a wall
And heavy brunt of cannon ball.
- Ay me! what perils do environ
The man that meddles with cold iron!
- Who thought he 'd won
The field as certain as a gun.
- Nor do I know what is become
Of him, more than the Pope of Rome.
- I 'll make the fur
Fly 'bout the ears of the old cur.
- He had got a hurt
O' the inside, of a deadlier sort.
- These reasons made his mouth to water.
- While the honour thou hast got
Is spick and span new.
- With mortal crisis doth portend
My days to appropinque an end.
- For those that run away and fly,
Take place at least o' the enemy.
- I am not now in fortune's power:
He that is down can fall no lower.
- Cheer'd up himself with ends of verse
And sayings of philosophers.
- If he that in the field is slain
Be in the bed of honour lain,
He that is beaten may be said
To lie in honour's truckle-bed.
- When pious frauds and holy shifts
Are dispensations and gifts.
- Friend Ralph, thou hast
Outrun the constable at last.
- 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)Edit
- Some force whole regions, in despite
O' geography, to change their site;
Make former times shake hands with latter,
And that which was before come after.
But those that write in rhyme still make
The one verse for the other's sake;
For one for sense, and one for rhyme,
I think 's sufficient at one time.
- Some have been beaten till they know
What wood a cudgel's of by th' blow;
Some kick'd until they can feel whether
A shoe be Spanish or neat's leather.
- No Indian prince has to his palace
More followers than a thief to the gallows.
- Quoth she, I 've heard old cunning stagers
Say fools for arguments use wagers.
- Love in your hearts as idly burns
As fire in antique Roman urns.
- For what is worth in anything
But so much money as 't will bring?
- Love is a boy by poets styl'd;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.
- The sun had long since in the lap
Of Thetis taken out his nap,
And, like a lobster boil'd, the morn
From black to red began to turn.
- Have always been at daggers-drawing,
And one another clapper-clawing.
- For truth is precious and divine,—
Too rich a pearl for carnal swine.
- Why should not conscience have vacation
As well as other courts o' th' nation?
- He that imposes an oath makes it,
Not he that for convenience takes it;
Then how can any man be said
To break an oath he never made?
- As the ancients
Say wisely, have a care o' th' main chance,
And look before you ere you leap;
For as you sow, ye are like to reap.
- Doubtless the pleasure is as great
Of being cheated as to cheat.
- He made an instrument to know
If the moon shine at full or no.
- Each window like a pill'ry appears,
With heads thrust thro' nail'd by the ears.
- To swallow gudgeons ere they 're catch'd,
And count their chickens ere they're hatch'd.
- There 's but the twinkling of a star
Between a man of peace and war.
- But Hudibras gave him a twitch
As quick as lightning in the breech,
Just in the place where honour's lodg'd,
As wise philosophers have judg'd;
Because a kick in that part more
Hurts honour than deep wounds before.
Hudibras Part III (1678)Edit
- As men of inward light are wont
To turn their optics in upon 't.
- Still amorous and fond and billing,
Like Philip and Mary on a shilling.
- What makes all doctrines plain and clear?
About two hundred pounds a year.
And that which was prov'd true before
Prove false again? Two hundred more.
- The hollow-hearted, disaffected,
And close malignant are detected ;
Who lay their lives and fortunes down,
For pledges to secure our own.
- 'Cause grace and virtue are within
Prohibited degrees of kin;
And therefore no true saint allows
They shall be suffer'd to espouse.
- Nick Machiavel had ne'er a trick,
Though he gave his name to our Old Nick.
- With crosses, relics, crucifixes,
Beads, pictures, rosaries, and pixes,—
The tools of working our salvation
By mere mechanic operation.
- True as the dial to the sun,
Although it be not shin'd upon.
- But still his tongue ran on, the less
Of weight it bore, with greater ease.
- We idly sit, like stupid blockheads,
Our hands committed to our pockets,
And nothing but our tongues at large,
To get the wretches a discharge:
Like men condemn'd to thunder-bolts,
Who, ere the blow, become mere dolts;
Or fools besotted with their crimes,
That know not how to shift betimes,
And neither have the hearts to stay,
Nor wit enough to run away.
- For those that fly may fight again,
Which he can never do that's slain.
- He that complies against his will.
Is of his own opinion still.
- Canto III, line 547. Sometimes misreported as "is convinced" instead of "complies"; reported in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 11
- With books and money plac'd for show
Like nest-eggs to make clients lay,
And for his false opinion pay.