'The poet's fate is here in emblem
shown: he asked for bread, and he received a stone'
|Samuel Butler is buried in St Paul's Church, Covent
Garden, London, England. (There is also a memorial to him in
Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.)
Samuel Butler's Memorial in
|Butler was born in Strensham south of Worcester - the
son of a farmer. He was educated at King's School Worcester
and then found work as a clerk to a local justice of the
peace. He later secured the role of secretary to the
countess of Kent.
Butler's fame rests almost entirely
upon his long satirical poem Hudibras - which was
published in 1663 and was based upon Don Quixote by
Cervantes. It concerns the adventures of a knight
called Sir Hudibras and his squire Ralpho and was written in
three parts. In the first part the twosome set out on
horseback and soon meet a bear-baiting mob who imprison them
in the stocks. In part two, a widow who Hudibras hopes to
marry agrees to release them from the stocks on the
assumption that Sir Hudibras whips himself. In part three,
Hudibras returns to the widow to claim he has fulfilled his
promise but is interrupted by a gang he mistakes for
Sidrophel's supernatural agents.
The poem, which
contains many learned allusions, is written in rhyming
octosyllabic couplets and rattles along at a good pace. The
adventures of Hudibras are comic but the digressions are
what the poem is probably best known for. The poem owes
something to the work of John Skelton.
The success of the poem enabled Butler to gain the
position as secretary to the second Duke of Buckingham. In
1677 Butler was awarded a £100 annual pension by Charles II
- but he died in poverty on 25th September 1680.
Most of Butler's other writings did not make it into print
until Robert Thyer published a collection in the next
century in 1759.
When civil dudgeon first grew
And men fell out they knew not why?
words, jealousies, and fears,
Set folks together by the
And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
Dame Religion, as for punk;
Whose honesty they all durst
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.
(From Hudibras Part 1)