Hudibras: Part 3 - Canto III

Samuel Butler 1613 - 1680

THE ARGUMENT

The Knight and squire's prodigious Flight
To quit th' inchanted Bow'r by Night.
He plods to turn his amorous Suit
T' a Plea in Law, and prosecute
Repairs to Counsel, to advise
'Bout managing the Enterprise;
But first resolves to try by Letter,
And one more fair Address, to get her.

WHO wou'd believe what strange bugbears
Mankind creates itself of fears
That spring like fern, that insect weed,
Equivocally, without seed;
And have no possible foundation,
But merely in th' imagination;
And yet can do more dreadful feats
Than hags, with all their imps and teats
Make more bewitch and haunt themselves
Than all their nurseries of elves?
For fear does things so like a witch,
'Tis hard t' unriddle which is which:
Sets up Communities of senses,
To chop and change intelligences;
As Rosicrucian virtuosos
Can see with ears, and hear with noses;
And when they neither see nor hear,
Have more than both supply'd by fear
That makes 'em in the dark see visions,
And hag themselves with apparitions;
And when their eyes discover least,
Discern the subtlest objects best
Do things not contrary, alone,
To th' course of nature, but its own;
The courage of the bravest daunt,
And turn poltroons as valiant:
For men as resolute appear
With too much as too little fear
And when they're out of hopes of flying,
Will run away from death by dying;
Or turn again to stand it out,
And those they fled, like lions, rout.

This HUDIBRAS had prov'd too true,
Who, by the furies left perdue,
And haunted with detachments, sent
From Marshal Legion's regiment,
Was by a fiend, as counterfeit,
Reliev'd and rescu'd with a cheat;
When nothing but himself, and fear,
Was both the imp and conjurer;
As, by the rules o' th' virtuosi,
It follows in due form of poesie.

Disguis'd in all the masks of night,
We left our champion on his flight,
At blind man's buff, to grope his way,
In equal fear of night and day,
Who took his dark and desp'rate course,
He knew no better than his horse;
And, by an unknown Devil led,
(He knew as little whither,) fled.
He never was in greater need,
Nor less capacity, of speed;
Disabled, both in man and beast,
To fly and run away his best;
To keep the enemy, and fear,
From equal falling on his rear.
And though with kicks and bangs he ply'd
The further and the nearer side,
(As seamen ride with all their force,
And tug as if they row'd the horse,
And when the hackney sails most swift,
Believe they lag, or run a-drift,)
So, though he posted e'er so fast,
His fear was greater than his haste:
For fear, though fleeter than the wind,
Believes 'tis always left behind.
But when the morn began t' appear,
And shift t' another scene his fear,
He found his new officious shade,
That came so timely to his aid,
And forc'd him from the foe t' escape,
Had turn'd itself to RALPHO's shape;
So like in person, garb, and pitch,
'Twas hard t' interpret which was which.

For RALPHO had no sooner told
The Lady all he had t' unfold,
But she convey'd him out of sight,
To entertain the approaching Knight;
And, while he gave himself diversion,
T' accommodate his beast and person,
And put his beard into a posture
At best advantage to accost her,
She order'd th' anti-masquerade
(For his reception) aforesaid:
But when the ceremony was done,
The lights put out, and furies gone,
And HUDIBRAS, among the rest,
Convey'd away, as RALPHO guess'd,
The wretched caitiff, all alone,
(As he believ'd) began to moan,
And tell his story to himself,
The Knight mistook him for an elf;
And did so still till he began
To scruple at RALPH's Outward Man;
And thought, because they oft agreed
T' appear in one another's stead,
And act the Saint's and Devil's part
With undistinguishable art,
They might have done so now, perhaps,
And put on one another's shapes
And therefore, to resolve the doubt,
He star'd upon him, and cry'd out,
What art? My 'Squire, or that bold Sprite
That took his place and shape to-night?
Some busy indepenent pug,
Retainer to his Synagogue?
Alas! quoth he, I'm none of those,
Your bosom friends, as you suppose;
But RALPH himself, your trusty 'Squire,
Wh' has dragg'd your Dunship out o' th' mire,
And from th' inchantments of a widow,
Wh' had turn'd you int' a beast, have freed you;
And, though a prisoner of war,
Have brought you safe where you now are;
Which you would gratefully repay
Your constant Presbyterian way.
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Samuel Butler

Samuel Evan Butler was an English cricketer. more…

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