« ForrigeFortsett »
the court, that Butler's loyalty and wit did not procure him some alleviation from obscurity and want. Like Cervantes he was universally admired, and like him suffered to languish in indigence. Charles 2, indeed once ordered him £300, which seems to be the only court favour he ever received.
He did not, however, take a single shilling of it himself, but requested his friends Mr. Longueville to convert the whole gratuity to the payment of some debts. This neglect appears the more strange as the king was excessively fond of the poem. Butler was not insensible to his situation, for in his “Hudibras at Court” he says.
“ Now you must know, Sir Hudibras
by some that were with him too bold, No. 77.
ife'er you hope to gain your ends,
a poor reward for loyalty !” The integrity of Butler's life the acuteness of his wit, and easiness of his conversation rendered his company highly acceptable; yet he was very delicate, as well as sparing in the choice of his acquaintance. Tho' he had done more, by the sarcastic powers of his muse, is exposing the fanatical supporters of republicanism, than all who shared the smiles of Charles, he was discouraged from writing more for the amuse-? ment of the public, and the poem remained unfinished. After having lived to a good old age, (Anthony Wood says 78, Mr. Longueville says 80,) he died the 25th of Septemper 1680, and was buried in Coventgarden Church-yard, at the expense of his friend Mr. Longueville of the Temple, who had in vain solicited a subscription for his interment in Westminster-abbey. Sixty years afterwards, the memory of the poet was rescued from sepulchral oblivion by a monument erected in that sacred pile by mr. Barber, a printer, and alderman of London.
Natus 1612 obiit Londini 1680.
Vir doctus imprinais, acer, integer;
nos carminis artifex egregius;
scelera liberrime exagitavit;
Ne cui vivo deerant fere omnia
deesset etiam mortuo tumulus, hoc tandum posito marmore, curavit
Joannes Barber Civis Londinensis. 1721. Soon after the erection of this monument, Mr. Samuel Wesley wrote the following Epigram.
" While Butler, needy wretch) was yet alive,
he ask'd for bread, and he receiv'd a stone. The principal poem of our poet stands unrivalled in it's ingenuity, wit, and learning. It is intended to ridicule that party which subverted the monarchy and church of England in the reign of Charles 1. The fable of this burlesque heroic is copied from Don Quixote; the knight's name and something of his character are borrowed from Spencer's Fairy Queen.
« He that made love unto the eldest dame,
was hight Sir Hudibras, an hardy man.” What the poem of Hudibras would have been if the author had finished it, cannot be conjectured. The work as a whole is deficientin incident and interest; it's general objects are of a local nature, and it's political allusions are now almost obsolete, for the manners which gave them birth exist no longer. Indeed this long poem can be read through by few but as a task.
Dr. Aikin says “the personages of the story are so contemptible, what is to become of them? It must also be confessed, that the diction and imagery are not free from coarseness and vulgarity. Butler has been famous for his double rhymes, which often, from their oddity, heighten the ludicrousness of the matter; yet they are frequently halting and imperfect, and the style and versification in general are careless and slovenly. In these respects he is much inferior to Swift, who, with more ease and true fainiliarity, has also, in bis best pieces, an air of good company, which Butler wants." Addison, speaking of false wit, says, “ I must subjoin the double rhymes, which are used in doggrel poetry, and generally applauded by ignorant readers.
If the thought of the couplet in such compositions be good, the rhymes add little to it; and if bad, it will not be in the power of the rhyme to recommend it. I am afraid, that great numbers of those, who admire the incomparable Hudibras, do it more on account of those doggrel rhymes, than of the parts that really deserve admiration. I am sure, I have heard
* When pulpit, drum ecclesiastick,
was beat with fist instead of a stick," and
" There was an ancient sage philosopher,
who had read Alexander Ross over," more frequently quoted than the finest pieces of wit in the whole poem.” Spec. v. i, 60.
Dr. Johnson, after a statement that the original idea of Hudibras is to be found in the history of Don Quixote, says,
“ Cervantes had so much kindness for his knight, that however he embarasses him with 'absurd distresses, he gives him so much sense and virtue ás may preserve our esteem: wherever he is, or what. ever he does, he is made by matchless dexterity commonly ridiculous but never contemptible. But for poor Hudibras, his poet had no tenderness: he chuses not that any pity should be shewn or respect paid him; he gives him up at once to laughter and contempt, without any quality that can dignify or protect him. Every reader regrets the paucity of events, and complains that in the poem of Hudibras, as in the history of Thucydides, there is more said than done. The scenes are too seldom changed, and the attention is tired with long conversations. The great source of pleasure is variety. Uniformity must tire at last tho' it be uniformity of excellence. If unexhaustible wit could give perpetual pleasure, no eye could ever leave half-read the work of Butler; for what poet has ever brought so many remote images so happily together? By the first paragraph the reader is amused, by the next he is delighted, and by a few more strained to astonishment; but astonishment is a toilsome pleasure: he is soon weary of wondering and longs to be diverted. Whatever topic employs our author, he shews himself qualified to expand and illustrate it with all the accessories that books can furnish: be is found not only to have travelled the beaten road, by the bye-paths of literature; not only to have taken general surveys, but to have examined particulars with minute inspection. If the French boast of the learning of Rabelais, we need not be afraid of confronting them with Butler. But the most valuable parts of his performance are those which retired study and native wit cannot supply. Butler had not suffered life to glide beside him upseen or unobserved.. He had watched with great diligence the operations of human nature, and traced the effects of opinions, humour, interest, and passion. From such remarks proceeded that great number of sententious distichs which have passed into conversation, and are added as proverbial axioms to the general stock of practical knowledge. But human works are not easily found without a perishable part.
Of the ancient poets every reader feels the mythology tedious and oppressive. Of Hudibras, the manners being founded on opinions, are temporary and local, and therefore become every day less intelligible and less striking. The diction of this poem is grossly familiar, and the numbers purposely neglected, except in a few places where the thoughts, by their native excellence secure themselves from violation, being such as mean language cannot