Friday, March 02, 2007

Grandmaster Samuel Butler

NOTE: I can't seem to get anything right on this blog anymore. A little thought would have made it clear that the two Samuel Butlers couldn't be the same person. Thanks to the anonymous commenter for setting it straight. I was amusing myself while the kids took a test and just threw it up. But I still can't read Hudibras without hearing an old school hip hop beat.

I also forgot to quote this bit of it:

Beside, 'tis known he could speak Greek
As naturally as pigs squeak;
That Latin was no more difficile,
Than to a blackbird 'tis to whistle
(Notice the pronunciation of difficile.)

Samuel Butler (discussed previously regarding Homer's gender), is the source of a quotation that I use with one of my classes to illustrate 'ratiocination' (they learn the etymology, etc.).

The lines in question run as follows:
He'd run in debt by disputation,
And pay with ratiocination.
These are from a poem called Hudibras, which has given its name to a type of verse, a rhyming iambic tetrameter. I hadn't realized that Jonathan Swift wrote extensively in Hudibrastic, but then again I hadn't realized that many old school rappers did as well.

Compare Samuel Butler:
When civil fury first grew high,
And men fell out, they knew not why;
When hard words, jealousies, and fears,
Set folks together by the ears,
And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
For Dame Religion, as for punk;
Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
Though not a man of them knew wherefore:
When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
With long-ear'd rout, to battle sounded,
And pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
And out he rode a colonelling.
With wonder Mike of the Sugar Hill Gang:
A can of beer that's sweeter than honey,
Like a millionaire that has no money,
Like a rainy day that is not wet,
Like a gambling fiend that does not bet,
Like Dracula without his fangs,
Like the boogie to the boogie without the boogie bang,
Like collard greens that don't taste good,
Like a tree that's not made out of wood,
Like goin' up and not comin' down,
Is just like the beat without the sound
Wonder Mikes takes a few more liberties, but produces a more pleasing verse, adorned as it with anaphora and playing with the expectations of the meter by various substitutions. This makes up for the paucity of feminine rhymes and the weakness of those present, but Wonder Mike clearly viewed himself as a part of the hudibrastic tradition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Samuel Butler who wrote about Homer isn't the same as the Samuel Butler who wrote Hudibras. At least two hundred years separate them.