Hudibras: Part I

Original Text: 
Samuel Butler, Hudibras, Facs. edn. (Menston: Scolar, 1970). PR 3338 A7 1663A Robarts Library
     Sir Hudibras his passing worth,
     The manner how he sallied forth;
     His arms and equipage are shown;
     His horse's virtues, and his own.
     Th' adventure of the bear and fiddle
     Is sung, but breaks off in the middle.
2And men fell out, they knew not why;
3When hard words, jealousies, and fears,
4Set folks together by the ears,
5And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
7Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
8Though not a man of them knew wherefore:
9When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
11And pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
12Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
13Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
15     A wight he was, whose very sight would
16Entitle him Mirror of Knighthood;
17That never bent his stubborn knee
18To any thing but Chivalry;
20Right worshipful on shoulder-blade;
21Chief of domestic knights and errant,
23Great on the bench, great in the saddle,
25Mighty he was at both of these,
26And styl'd of war, as well as peace.
27(So some rats, of amphibious nature,
28Are either for the land or water).
29But here our authors make a doubt
31Some hold the one, and some the other;
32But howsoe'er they make a pother,
33The diff'rence was so small, his brain
35Which made some take him for a tool
36That knaves do work with, call'd a fool,
37And offer to lay wagers that
39Complains she thought him but an ass,
40Much more she would Sir Hudibras;
41(For that's the name our valiant knight
42To all his challenges did write).
43But they're mistaken very much,
44'Tis plain enough he was no such;
45We grant, although he had much wit,
46H' was very shy of using it;
47As being loth to wear it out,
48And therefore bore it not about,
50As men their best apparel do.
51Beside, 'tis known he could speak Greek
52As naturally as pigs squeak;
53That Latin was no more difficile,
54Than to a blackbird 'tis to whistle:
55Being rich in both, he never scanted
56His bounty unto such as wanted;
57But much of either would afford
58To many, that had not one word.
59For Hebrew roots, although th'are found
60To flourish most in barren ground,
61He had such plenty, as suffic'd
62To make some think him circumcis'd;
63And truly so, perhaps, he was,
64'Tis many a pious Christian's case.
65     He was in logic a great critic,
67He could distinguish, and divide
68A hair 'twixt south, and south-west side:
69On either which he would dispute,
70Confute, change hands, and still confute,
71He'd undertake to prove, by force
72Of argument, a man's no horse;
73He'd prove a buzzard is no fowl,
74And that a lord may be an owl,
75A calf an alderman, a goose a justice,
77He'd run in debt by disputation,
78And pay with ratiocination.
79All this by syllogism, true
81     For rhetoric, he could not ope
83And when he happen'd to break off
84I' th' middle of his speech, or cough,
85H' had hard words, ready to show why,
86And tell what rules he did it by;
87Else, when with greatest art he spoke,
88You'd think he talk'd like other folk,
89For all a rhetorician's rules
90Teach nothing but to name his tools.
91His ordinary rate of speech
92In loftiness of sound was rich;
94Which learned pedants much affect.
95It was a parti-colour'd dress
96Of patch'd and pie-bald languages;
99It had an odd promiscuous tone,
100As if h' had talk'd three parts in one;
101Which made some think, when he did gabble,
102Th' had heard three labourers of Babel;
105This he as volubly would vent
106As if his stock would ne'er be spent:
107And truly, to support that charge,
108He had supplies as vast and large;
109For he would coin, or counterfeit
110New words, with little or no wit:
111Words so debas'd and hard, no stone
113And when with hasty noise he spoke 'em,
114The ignorant for current took 'em;
116Did fill his mouth with pebble stones
117When he harangu'd, but known his phrase
118He would have us'd no other ways.
119     In mathematics he was greater
121For he, by geometric scale,
122Could take the size of pots of ale;
123Resolve, by sines and tangents straight,
124If bread or butter wanted weight,
125And wisely tell what hour o' th' day
126The clock does strike by algebra.
127     Beside, he was a shrewd philosopher,
128And had read ev'ry text and gloss over;
129Whate'er the crabbed'st author hath,
130He understood b' implicit faith:
131Whatever sceptic could inquire for,
132For ev'ry why he had a wherefore;
133Knew more than forty of them do,
134As far as words and terms could go.
135     All which he understood by rote,
136And, as occasion serv'd, would quote;
137No matter whether right or wrong,
138They might be either said or sung.
139His notions fitted things so well,
140That which was which he could not tell;
142For th' other, as great clerks have done.
146The ghosts of defunct bodies fly;
148Like words congeal'd in northern air.
150As metaphysic wit can fly;
155And with as delicate a hand,
156Could twist as tough a rope of sand;
157And weave fine cobwebs, fit for skull
158That's empty when the moon is full;
159Such as take lodgings in a head
160That's to be let unfurnished.
161He could raise scruples dark and nice,
162And after solve 'em in a trice;
163As if Divinity had catch'd
164The itch, on purpose to be scratch'd;
165Or, like a mountebank, did wound
166And stab herself with doubts profound,
167Only to show with how small pain
168The sores of Faith are cur'd again;
169Although by woful proof we find,
170They always leave a scar behind.
172Could tell in what degree it lies;
173And, as he was dispos'd, could prove it,
174Below the moon, or else above it.
176Came from her closet in his side:
177Whether the devil tempted her
179If either of them had a navel:
181Whether the serpent, at the fall,
182Had cloven feet, or none at all.
183All this, without a gloss, or comment,
184He could unriddle in a moment,
185In proper terms, such as men smatter
186When they throw out, and miss the matter.
187     For his Religion, it was fit
188To match his learning and his wit;
190For he was of that stubborn crew
191Of errant saints, whom all men grant
193Such as do build their faith upon
194The holy text of pike and gun;
195Decide all controversies by
196Infallible artillery;
197And prove their doctrine orthodox
198By apostolic blows and knocks;
199Call fire and sword and desolation,
200A godly-thorough-reformation,
201Which always must be carried on,
202And still be doing, never done;
203As if religion were intended
204For nothing else but to be mended.
205A sect, whose chief devotion lies
206In odd perverse antipathies;
207In falling out with that or this,
208And finding somewhat still amiss;
210Than dog distract, or monkey sick.
211That with more care keep holy-day
212The wrong, than others the right way;
213Compound for sins they are inclin'd to,
214By damning those they have no mind to:
215Still so perverse and opposite,
216As if they worshipp'd God for spite.
217The self-same thing they will abhor
218One way, and long another for.
220Another, nothing else allow:
221All piety consists therein
222In them, in other men all sin:
223Rather than fail, they will defy
224That which they love most tenderly;
226Their best and dearest friend, plum-porridge;
227Fat pig and goose itself oppose,
228And blaspheme custard through the nose.
229Th' apostles of this fierce religion,
231To whom our knight, by fast instinct
232Of wit and temper, was so linkt,
233As if hypocrisy and nonsense


1] A poem of about 10,000 lines, satirizing the Puritans under the guise of a mock-romance of chivalry. Parts I and II appeared in 1663, and Part III in 1678. The idea of a knight and a squire setting off on a series of ludicrous adventures was suggested to Butler by Cervantes' Don Quixote; but the characters and exploits of Sir Hudibras and Ralpho are entirely original. Hudibras is a caricature of the Presbyterians; Ralpho represents the Independents.
fury: the first edition reads "dudgeon." Butler altered it to "fury" in 1674. Back to Line
6] punk: prostitute. Back to Line
10] long-ear'd: as the Puritans wore their hair cut short their ears appeared prominent. Back to Line
14] a colonelling: playing the colonel, soldiering. Back to Line
19] put up with.
that which laid ...: That by which the king dubb'd him knight. Back to Line
22] cartel: challenge. Back to Line
24] bind o'er: bind over to keep the peace.
swaddle: beat, cudget. Back to Line
30] stout: valiant. Back to Line
34] rage: ardour, bravery. Back to Line
38] Montaigne: cf. Essays, II, xii: "When I am playing with my Cat, who knowes whether she have more sport in dallying with me, than I have in gaming with her? We entertain one another with mutuall apish trickes" (tr. John Florio, 1603). Back to Line
49] holy-days: holidays. Back to Line
66] analytic: that division of logic which treats of the criteria for distinguishing good arguments from bad. Back to Line
76] rooks: sharpers, but with a play on the ordinary meaning.
Committee men and trustees: delegates of the Long Parliament who were empowered to dispossess royalist clergymen and landowners. Back to Line
80] mood: the arrangement of the propositions in the syllogism.
figure: the character of the syllogism with regard to the position of the term. Back to Line
82] trope: figure of speech. Back to Line
93] Babylonish: as confused as the speech of Babel. Babylon was supposed to have been built on the site of Babyl. Back to Line
97] cut on: slashed and placed on. The metaphor is from slashed fustian sleeves showing a satin lining beneath the openings. Back to Line
98] fustian: coarse cloth. Back to Line
103] Cerberus: a three-headed dog, the guardian of Hades. Back to Line
104] leash: set of three [dogs]; a sporting term. Back to Line
112] touch: test. The touchstone is stained yellow by gold owing to that metal's softness. Back to Line
115] the orator: Demosthenes. Back to Line
120] Tycho Brahe: the great Danish astronomer (1546-1601).
Erra Pater: the name of an old astrologer. Back to Line
141] According to Plato, general notions or conceptions (which he calls "ideas") are the only realities and sensible phenomena are mere reflections of them. This was also the view of the Realists in opposition to the Nominalists among the mediaeval scholastic philosophers. Back to Line
143] reduce all things to acts: St. Thomas Aquinas distinguishes between matter, "esse in potentia" (potential being) and form, "esse in actu" (actual being). Back to Line
144] There seems to be a reference here to the dispute between the Nominalists and the Realists as to the comparative reality of particular things and abstract ideas. Back to Line
145] entity: abstract being.
quiddity: the real nature of a thing. Back to Line
147] An allusion to a passage in the Pantagruel of Rabelias, IV, lv-lvi. Pantagruel and his companions, while on a voyage in northern waters, hear a multitude of words and outcries which have been frozen during a great battle and are now thawed out and falling from the sky. Back to Line
149] what's what: Quid est wuid? What is the nature of the ultimate reality? a question of the schoolmen. Back to Line
151] school-divinity: scholastic theology. Back to Line
152] hight: was called.
irrefragable: Alexander of Hales (d. 1245), "the irrefragable doctor," professor of theology at Paris and commentator on Aristotle. In the first edition two lines follow here:
A second Thomas, or, at once,
To name them all, a second Duns.
Thomas is St. Thomas Aquinas, author of the Summa Theologiæ, the greatest work of scholastic philosophy. Duns is Duns Scotus, the most important critic of Aquinas, whose disciples used the name Duns as a term of opprobrium (later written "dunce"). Back to Line
153] Nominal: pertaining to the nominalistic philosophy (taught by Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and others). According to their views general conceptions are mere names and have no real existence apart from the particular things from which they are drawn. Back to Line
154] Real: pertaining to the realistic philosophy maintained by Scotus Erigena and Thomas Aquinas. See note on ll. 141-142. Back to Line
171] Paradise: an undifferentiated name for the Garden of Eden, or the later and legendary Earthly Paradise, or Heaven, or the intermediate abode of blessed spirits between death and the Last Judgment. The locality of all these regions has been disputed by poets and theologians. Back to Line
175] Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII, 460-77. A related question of equal difficulty is suggested by Sir Thomas Browne in Religio Medici (1642): "That Eve was edified out of the rib of Adam I believe, yet raise no question who shall arise with that rib at the Resurrection." Back to Line
178] High Dutch: German, Hoch-deutsch, the literary speech of Germany. A German scholar had made the claim that his language was the first spoken (Goropius Becanus in Hermathena). Back to Line
180] made music malleable: Pythagoras was said to have invented music through hearing the noise of hammers on anvils. (Latin mallei). Back to Line
189] true blue: blue was traditionally a symbol for faithfulness; it was also much worn by the Puritans and came to be a badge of their party. Back to Line
192] Church militant: the earthly Church. Back to Line
209] splenetic: sullen. Back to Line
219] "The Puritans, who will allow no Free Will at all, but God does all, yet will allow the subject his liberty to do or not to do, notwithstanding the King, the God upon earth." (John Selden's Table Talk, 1689). Back to Line
225] The Puritans objected to the celebration of Christmas on the ground that it was a pagan festival. Back to Line
230] ass: in Mohammedan legend a white ass, Alborach, bargained with the prophet for an entry into Paradise.
widgeon: in Christian tradition a pigeon, trained to pick peas from Mahomet's ear and pass for an angel dictating to him. Back to Line
234] advowson: literally patronage, right of appointment, hence, control. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.446; RPO 1996-2000.