Samuel Butler (poet)

poet and satirist

Samuel Butler (February 8 1612September 25 1680) was an English satirical poet.

Samuel Butler by Pieter Borsseler (circa 1665)
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.
Frontispiece and titlepage of a 1744 illustrated and annotated edition of Butler's Hudibras
For the 19th-century author of Erewhon, see Samuel Butler (novelist)

Quotes edit

  • 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
  • Authority intoxicates, And makes mere sots of magistrates;
    The fumes of it invade the brain, And make men giddy, proud and vain;
    By this the fool commands the wise, The noble with the base complies,
    The sot assumes the rule of wit, and cowards make the base submit.
    • From Miscellaneous Thoughts, lines 283-290 ; as contained in The Poetical Works of Samuel Butler: A Revised Edition with Memoir and Notes, Volume 2, Samuel Butler, G. Bell & Sons (1893), pp. 275-276
  • 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

Hudibras edit

Hudibras on Wikisource.

Part I (1663–1664) edit

  • 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.
    • Canto I, first lines
  • We grant, although he had much wit,
    He was very shy of using it.
    • Canto I, line 45
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 51
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 65
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 81
  • A Babylonish dialect
    Which learned pedants much affect.
    • Canto I, line 93
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 119
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 131
  • Where entity and quiddity,
    The ghosts of defunct bodies, fly.
    • Canto I, line 145
  • He knew what 's what, and that 's as high
    As metaphysic wit can fly.
    • Canto I, line 149
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 159
  • 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
    Infallible artillery;
    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...
    • Canto I, line 189
  • The trenchant blade, Toledo trusty,
    For want of fighting was grown rusty,
    And ate into itself, for lack
    Of somebody to hew and hack.
    • Canto I, line 359
  • For Rhime the Rudder is of Verses,
    With which like Ships they steer their courses.
    • Canto I, line 463
  • He ne'er consider'd it, as loth
    To look a gift-horse in the mouth.
    • Canto I, line 490
  • And force them, though it was in spite
    Of Nature and their stars, to write.
    • Canto I, line 647
  • Quoth Hudibras, "I smell a rat!
    Ralpho, thou dost prevaricate."
    • Canto I, line 821
  • Or shear swine, all cry and no wool.
    • Canto I, line 852
  • And bid the devil take the hin'most.
    • Canto II, line 633
  • With many a stiff thwack, many a bang,
    Hard crab-tree and old iron rang.
    • Canto II, line 831
  • Like feather bed betwixt a wall
    And heavy brunt of cannon ball.
    • Canto II, line 872
  • Ay me! what perils do environ
    The man that meddles with cold iron!
    • Canto III, line 1
  • Who thought he 'd won
    The field as certain as a gun.
    • Canto III, line 11
  • Nor do I know what is become
    Of him, more than the Pope of Rome.
    • Canto III, line 263
  • I 'll make the fur
    Fly 'bout the ears of the old cur.
    • Canto III, line 277
  • He had got a hurt
    O' the inside, of a deadlier sort.
    • Canto III, line 309
  • These reasons made his mouth to water.
    • Canto III, line 379
  • While the honour thou hast got
    Is spick and span new.
    • Canto III, line 398
  • With mortal crisis doth portend
    My days to appropinque an end.
    • Canto III, line 589
  • For those that run away and fly,
    Take place at least o' the enemy.
    • Canto III, line 609
  • I am not now in fortune's power:
    He that is down can fall no lower.
    • Canto III, line 877
  • Cheer'd up himself with ends of verse
    And sayings of philosophers.
    • Canto III, line 1011
  • 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.
    • Canto III, line 1047
  • When pious frauds and holy shifts
    Are dispensations and gifts.
    • Canto III, line 1145
  • Friend Ralph, thou hast
    Outrun the constable at last.
    • Canto III, line 1367
  • 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.

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.
    • Canto I, line 23
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 221
  • No Indian prince has to his palace
    More followers than a thief to the gallows.
    • Canto I, line 273
  • Quoth she, I 've heard old cunning stagers
    Say fools for arguments use wagers.
    • Canto I, line 297
  • Love in your hearts as idly burns
    As fire in antique Roman urns.
    • Canto I, line 309
  • For what is worth in anything
    But so much money as 't will bring?
    • Canto I, line 465
  • Love is a boy by poets styl'd;
    Then spare the rod and spoil the child.
    • Canto I, line 843
  • 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.
    • Canto II, line 29
  • Have always been at daggers-drawing,
    And one another clapper-clawing.
    • Canto II, line 79
  • For truth is precious and divine,—
    Too rich a pearl for carnal swine.
    • Canto II, line 257
  • Why should not conscience have vacation
    As well as other courts o' th' nation?
    • Canto II, line 317
  • 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?
    • Canto II, line 377.
  • 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.
    • Canto II, line 501
  • Doubtless the pleasure is as great
    Of being cheated as to cheat.
    • Canto III, line 1
  • He made an instrument to know
    If the moon shine at full or no.
    • Canto III, line 261
  • Each window like a pill'ry appears,
    With heads thrust thro' nail'd by the ears.
    • Canto III, line 391
  • To swallow gudgeons ere they 're catch'd,
    And count their chickens ere they're hatch'd.
    • Canto III, line 923
  • There 's but the twinkling of a star
    Between a man of peace and war.
    • Canto III, line 957
  • 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.
    • Canto III, line 1065

Part III (1678) edit

  • As men of inward light are wont
    To turn their optics in upon 't.
    • Canto I, line 481
  • Still amorous and fond and billing,
    Like Philip and Mary on a shilling.
    • Canto I, line 687
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 1277
  • 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.
    • Canto I, line 1293
  • Nick Machiavel had ne'er a trick,
    Though he gave his name to our Old Nick.
    • Canto I, line 1313
  • With crosses, relics, crucifixes,
    Beads, pictures, rosaries, and pixes,—
    The tools of working our salvation
    By mere mechanic operation.
    • Canto I, line 1495
  • True as the dial to the sun,
    Although it be not shin'd upon.
    • Canto II, line 175
  • But still his tongue ran on, the less
    Of weight it bore, with greater ease.
    • Canto II, line 443
  • 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.
    • Canto III, line 243
  • 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.
    • Canto III, line 624

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