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An Heroical Epistle of Hudibras to his Lady


Hudibras Writing his Epistle
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I who was once as great as CAESAR, Am now reduc'd to NEBUCHADNEZZAR; And from as fam'd a conqueror As ever took degree in war, Or did his exercise in battle, 5 By you turn'd out to grass with cattle: For since I am deny'd access To all my earthly happiness Am fallen from the paradise Of your good graces, and fair eyes; 10 Lost to the world, and you, I'm sent To everlasting banishment; Where all the hopes I had t' have won Your heart, b'ing dash'd, will break my own. Yet if you were not so severe 15 To pass your doom before you hear, You'd find, upon my just defence, How much y' have wrong'd my innocence. That once I made a vow to you, Which yet is unperformed, 'tis true: 20 But not because it is unpaid, 'Tis violated, though delay'd; Or, if it were, it is no fau't, So heinous as you'd have it thought; To undergo the loss of ears, 25 Like vulgar hackney perjurers For there's a diff'rence in the case, Between the noble and the base, Who always are observ'd t' have done't Upon as different an account: 30 The one for great and weighty cause, To salve in honour ugly flaws; For none are like to do it sooner Than those who are nicest of their honour: The other, for base gain and pay, 35 Forswear, and perjure by the day; And make th' exposing and retailing Their souls and consciences a calling. It is no scandal, nor aspersion, Upon a great and noble person, 40 To say he nat'rally abhorr'd Th' old-fashion'd trick, To keep his word; Though 'tis perfidiousness and shame In meaner men to do the same: For to be able to forget, 45 Is found more useful to the great, Than gout, or deafness, or bad eyes, To make 'em pass for wond'rous wise. But though the law on perjurers Inflicts the forfeiture of ears, 50 It is not just that does exempt The guilty, and punish th' innocent; To make the ears repair the wrong Committed by th' ungovern'd tongue; And when one member is forsworn, 55 Another to be cropt or torn. And if you shou'd, as you design, By course of law, recover mine, You're like, if you consider right, To gain but little honour by't. 60 For he that for his lady's sake Lays down his life or limbs at stake, Does not so much deserve her favour, As he that pawns his soul to have her, This y' have acknowledg'd I have done, 65 Although you now disdain to own; But sentence what you rather ought T' esteem good service than a fau't. Besides, oaths are not bound to bear That literal sense the words infer, 70 But, by the practice of the age, Are to be judg'd how far th' engage; And, where the sense by custom's checkt, Are found void, and of none effect. For no man takes or keeps a vow 75 But just as he sees others do; Nor are th' oblig'd to be so brittle, As not to yield and bow a little: For as best-temper'd blades are found, Before they break, to bend quite round, 80 So truest oaths are still most tough, And though they bow, are breaking proof. Then wherefore should they not b' allow'd In love a greater latitude? For as the law of arms approves 85 All ways to conquest, so should love's; And not be ty'd to true or false, But make that justest that prevails For how can that which is above All empire, high and mighty love, 90 Submit its great prerogative To any other power alive? Shall love, that to no crown gives place, Become the subject of a case? The fundamental law of nature, 95 Be over-rul'd by those made after? Commit the censure of its cause To any but its own great laws? Love, that's the world's preservative, 100 That keeps all souls of things alive; Controuls the mighty pow'r of fate, And gives mankind a longer date; The life of nature, that restores As fast as time and death devours; To whose free-gift the world does owe, 105 Not only earth, but heaven too; For love's the only trade that's driven, The interest of state in heav'n, Which nothing but the soul of man Is capable to entertain. 110 For what can earth produce, but love To represent the joys above? Or who but lovers can converse, Like angels, by e the eye-discourse? Address and compliment by vision; 115 Make love and court by intuition? And burn in amorous flames as fierce As those celestial ministers? Then how can any thing offend, In order to so great an end? 120 Or heav'n itself a sin f resent, That for its own supply was meant? That merits, in a kind mistake, A pardon for th' offence's sake. Or if it did not, but the cause 125 Were left to th' injury at laws, What tyranny can disapprove There should be equity in love; For laws that are inanimate, And feel no sense of love or hate, 130 That have no passion of their own, Nor pity to be wrought upon, Are only proper to inflict Revenge on criminals as strict But to have power to forgive, 135 Is empire and prerogative; And 'tis in crowns a nobler gem To grant a pardon than condemn. Then since so few do what they ought, 'Tis great t' indulge a well-meant fau't. 140 For why should he who made address, All humble ways, without success, And met with nothing, in return, But insolence, affronts, and scorn, Not strive by wit to countermine, 145 And bravely carry his design? He who was us'd so unlike a soldier, Blown up with philters of love-powder? And after letting blood, and purging, Condemn'd to voluntary scourging; 150 Alarm'd with many a horrid fright, And claw'd by goblins in the night; Insulted on, revil'd, and jeer'd, With rude invasion of his beard; And when your sex was foully scandal'd, 155 As foully by the rabble handled; Attack'd by despicable foes, And drub'd with mean and vulgar blows; And, after all, to be debarr'd So much as standing on his guard; 160 When horses, being spurr'd and prick'd, Have leave to kick for being kick'd? Or why should you, whose mother-wits Are furnish'd with all perquisites, That with your breeding-teeth begin, 165 And nursing babies, that lie in, B' allow'd to put all tricks upon Our cully sex, and we use none? We, who have nothing but frail vows Against your stratagems t' oppose; 170 Or oaths more feeble than your own, By which we are no less put down? You wound, like g Parthians, while you fly, And kill with a retreating eye: Retire the more, the more we press 175 To draw us into ambushes. As pirates all false colours wear T' intrap th' unwary mariner, So women, to surprise us, spread The borrow'd flags of white and red; 180 Display 'em thicker on their cheeks Than their old grandmothers, the Picts; And raise more devils with their looks, Than conjurer's less subtle books; Lay trains of amorous intrigues, 185 In tow'rs, and curls, and perriwigs, With greater art and cunning rear'd, Than h PHILIP NYE's thanksgiving beard, Prepost'rously t' entice, and gain Those to adore 'em they disdain; 190 And only draw 'em in, to clog With idle names a catalogue. A lover is, the more he's brave, T' his mistress but the more a slave; And whatsoever she commands, 195 Becomes a favour from her hands; Which he's obliged t' obey, and must, Whether it be unjust or just. Then when he is compell'd by her T' adventures he would else forbear, 200 Who with his honour can withstand, Since force is greater than command? And when necessity's obey'd, Nothing can be unjust or bad And therefore when the mighty pow'rs 205 Of love, our great ally and yours, Join'd forces not to be withstood By frail enamour'd flesh and blood, All I have done, unjust or ill, Was in obedience to your will; 210 And all the blame that can be due, Falls to your cruelty and you. Nor are those scandals I confest, Against my will and interest, More than is daily done of course 215 By all men, when they're under force; When some upon the rack confess What th' hangman and their prompters please; But are no sooner out of pain, Than they deny it all again. 220 But when the Devil turns confessor, Truth is a crime he takes no pleasure To hear, or pardon, like the founder Of liars, whom they all claim under And therefore, when I told him none, 225 I think it was the wiser done. Nor am I without precedent, The first that on th' adventure went All mankind ever did of course, And daily dues the same, or worse. 230 For what romance can show a lover, That had a lady to recover, And did not steer a nearer course, To fall a-board on his amours? And what at first was held a crime, 235 Has turn'd to honourable in time. To what a height did i infant ROME, By ravishing of women, come When men upon their spouses seiz'd, And freely marry'd where they pleas'd, 240 They ne'er forswore themselves, nor ly'd. Nor, in the mind they were in, dy'd; Nor took the pains t' address and sue, Nor play'd the masquerade to woo; Disdain'd to stay for friends' consents; 245 Nor juggled about settlements: Did need no license, nor no priest, Nor friends, nor kindred, to assist; Nor lawyers, to join land and money In th' holy state of matrimony, 250 Before they settled hands and hearts, Till k alimony or death them parts: Nor wou'd endure to stay until Th' had got the very bride's good will; But took a wise and shorter course 255 To win the ladies, downright force. And justly made 'em prisoners then, As they have often since, us men, With acting plays, and dancing jigs, The luckiest of all love's intrigues; 260 And when they had them at their pleasure, Then talk'd of love and flames at leisure; For after matrimony's over, He that holds out but half a lover, Deserves for ev'ry minute more 265 Than half a year of love before; For which the dames in contemplation Of that best way of application, Prov'd nobler wives than e'er was known, By suit or treaty to be won; 270 And such as all posterity Cou'd never equal nor come nigh. For women first were made for men, Not men for them. -- It follows, then, That men have right to ev'ry one, 275 And they no freedom of their own And therefore men have pow'r to chuse, But they no charter to refuse. Hence 'tis apparent, that what course Soe'er we take to your amours, 280 Though by the indirectest way, 'Tis no injustice, nor foul play; And that you ought to take that course, As we take you, for better or worse; And gratefully submit to those 285 Who you, before another, chose. For why should ev'ry savage beast Exceed his great lord's interest? Have freer pow'r than he in grace, And nature, o'er the creature has? 290 Because the laws he since has made Have cut off all the pow'r he had; Retrench'd the absolute dominion That nature gave him over women; When all his pow'r will not extend 295 One law of nature to suspend; And but to offer to repeal The smallest clause, is to rebel. This, if men rightly understood Their privilege, they wou'd make good; 300 And not, like sots, permit their wives T' encroach on their prerogatives; For which sin they deserve to be Kept, as they are, in slavery: And this some precious Gifted Teachers, 305 Unrev'rently reputed leachers, And disobey'd in making love, Have vow'd to all the world to prove, And make ye suffer, as you ought, For that uncharitable fau't. 310 But I forget myself, and rove Beyond th' instructions of my love. Forgive me (Fair) and only blame Th' extravagancy of my flame, Since 'tis too much at once to show 315 Excess of love and temper too. All I have said that's bad and true, Was never meant to aim at you, Who have so sov'reign a controul O'er that poor slave of yours, my soul, 320 That, rather than to forfeit you, Has ventur'd loss of heaven too: Both with an equal pow'r possest, To render all that serve you blest: But none like him, who's destin'd either 325 To have, or lose you, both together. And if you'll but this fault release (For so it must be, since you please) I'll pay down all that vow, and more, Which you commanded, and I swore, 330 And expiate upon my skin Th' arrears in full of all my sin. For 'tis but just that I should pay Th' accruing penance for delay, Which shall be done, until it move 335 Your equal pity and your love. The Knight, perusing this Epistle, Believ'd h' had brought her to his whistle; And read it like a jocund lover, With great applause t' himself, twice over; 340 Subscrib'd his name, but at a fit And humble distance to his wit; And dated it with wond'rous art, Giv'n from the bottom of his heart; Then seal'd it with his Coat of Love, 345 A smoaking faggot -- and above, Upon a scroll -- I burn, and weep; And near it -- For her Ladyship; Of all her sex most excellent, These to her gentle hands present. 350 Then gave it to his faithful Squire, With lessons how t' observe and eye her. She first consider'd which was better, To send it back, or burn the letter. But guessing that it might import, 355 Though nothing else, at least her sport, She open'd it, and read it out, With many a smile and leering flout: Resolv'd to answer it in kind, And thus perform'd what she design'd. 360