Hudibras: Part 2 - Canto II

THE ARGUMENT

The Knight and Squire, in hot dispute,
Within an ace of falling out,
Are parted with a sudden fright
Of strange alarm, and stranger sight;
With which adventuring to stickle,
They're sent away in nasty pickle.

'Tis strange how some mens' tempers suit
(Like bawd and brandy) with dispute,
That for their own opinions stand last
Only to have them claw'd and canvast;
That keep their consciences in cases,
As fiddlers do their crowds and bases,
Ne'er to be us'd, but when they're bent
To play a fit for argument;
Make true and false, unjust and just,
Of no use but to be discust;
Dispute, and set a paradox
Like a straight boot upon the stocks,
And stretch it more unmercifully
Than HELMONT, MONTAIGN, WHITE, or TULLY,
So th' ancient Stoicks, in their porch,
With fierce dispute maintain'd their church;
Beat out their brains in fight and study,
To prove that Virtue is a Body;
That Bonum is an Animal,
Made good with stout polemic brawl;
in which some hundreds on the place
Were slain outright; and many a face
Retrench'd of nose, and eyes, and beard,
To maintain what their sect averr'd;
All which the Knight and Squire, in wrath,
Had like t' have suffered for their faith,
Each striving to make good his own,
As by the sequel shall be shown.

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,
When HUDIBRAS, whom thoughts and aking,
'Twixt sleeping kept all night and waking,
Began to rub his drowsy eyes,
And from his couch prepar'd to rise,
Resolving to dispatch the deed
He vow'd to do with trusty speed.
But first, with knocking loud, and bawling,
He rouz'd the Squire, in truckle lolling;
And, after many circumstances,
Which vulgar authors, in romances,
Do use to spend their time and wits on,
To make impertinent description,
They got (with much ado) to horse,
And to the Castle bent their course,
In which he to the Dame before
To suffer whipping duly swore;
Where now arriv'd, and half unharnest,
To carry on the work in earnest,
He stopp'd, and paus'd upon the sudden,
And with a serious forehead plodding,
Sprung a new scruple his head,
Which first he scratch'd, and after said -
Whether it be direct infringing
An oath, if I should wave this swingeing,
And what I've sworn to bear, forbear,
And so b' equivocation swear,
Or whether it be a lesser sin
To be forsworn than act the thing,
Are deep and subtle points, which must,
T' inform my conscience, be discust;
In which to err a tittle may
To errors infinite make way;
And therefore I desire to know
Thy judgment e'er we further go.

Quoth Ralpho, Since you do enjoin't,
I shall enlarge upon the point;
And, for my own part, do not doubt
Th' affirmative may be made out,
But first, to state the case aright,
For best advantage of our light,
And thus 'tis: Whether 't be a sin
To claw and curry your own skin,
Greater or less, than to forbear,
And that you are forsworn, forswear.
But first, o' th' first: The inward man,
And outward, like a clan and clan,
Have always been at daggers-drawing,
And one another clapper-clawing.
Not that they really cuff, or fence,
But in a Spiritual Mystick sense;
Which to mistake, and make 'em squabble
In literal fray's abominable.
'Tis heathenish, in frequent use
With Pagans and apostate Jews,
To offer sacrifice of bridewells,
Like modern Indians to their idols;
And mongrel Christians of our times,
That expiate less with greater crimes,
And call the foul abomination,
Contrition and mortification.
Is 't not enough we're bruis'd and kicked
With sinful members of the wicked,
Our vessels, that are sanctify'd,
Prophan'd and curry'd back and side,
But we must claw ourselves with shameful
And heathen stripes, by their example;
Which (were there nothing to forbid it)
Is impious because they did it;
This, therefore, may be justly reckon'd
A heinous sin. Now to the second
That Saints may claim a dispensation
To swear and forswear, on occasion,
I doubt not but it will appear
With pregnant light: the point is clear.
Oaths are but words, and words but wind;
Too feeble implements to bind;
And hold with deeds proportion so
As shadows to a substance do.
Then when they strive for place, 'tis fit
The weaker vessel should submit.
Although your Church be opposite
To ours as Black Friars are to White,
In rule and order, yet I grant,
You are a Reformado Sain
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Samuel Butler

Samuel Evan Butler was an English cricketer. more…

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