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With eyes all white, and many a groan, . With neck aside to draw in tone,
And harp in's nose, or he is none.” V.520. But spiritual eaves-droppers can hear.] Perhaps it would be an emendation to this passage to read can bear: i. e, they speak in a language so harsh, dissonant, and uncouth, that none but spiritual eaves-droppers, gifted brethren like themselves, can listen to them with patience! or, our poet may have meant by hear to understand, i.e. that the preachers spoke so unintelligibly that none but the sanctified like themselves could possibly understand them. Eaves-droppers are reputed in law, malicious persons who listen to the discourses of the unwary, in order to inform against them; but Butler probably intended no more by the words, than listeners of the worst class. V. 525-6-7. Thus Ralph became infallible,
As three or fouer legg'd oracle,
Or ancient cup, or modern chair.] Among the numerous sects of fanatics into which the nation was split in Cromwell's time, there was not one, perhaps, which did not think itself the only true, infallible church. The squire belonged to the most sour and austere sect of fanatics, and therefore was the more likely to be presuming in his spiritual gifts and graces. He looked upon himself as no ordinary man; but as one whom pious exercises and meditations had made perfect. In a word, he was one of those hot-headed enthusiasts who can persuade themselves into the belief of any thing, and have so superior an opinion of their own judgment, that they can never allow themselves to be in the wrong. Hence Butler says, in a fine strain of humour, Ralph became infallible, as three or four legg'd oracle, the ancient cup, or modern chair. The three legged oracle refers to the tripos, or three footed stool, upon which the priestess of Delphos sat, when she delivered her oracles: the four legged oracles may probably allude to the elephants which the kings of Siam, and other eastern potentates, kept for the purpose of divination, and which they believed in as implicitly as the ancients did in the oracles of Apollo. The ancient cup has reference to Joseph's divination cup, mentioned in the book of Genesis ; and the modern chair implies the papal throne, (which the Popes in their affected humility call our chair,) from which all the infallible bulls and decretals of the see of Rome, in the technical language of those instruments, are said to proceed.
V. 529. Spoke truth point-blank, tho' unaware.] The ancient oracles were supposed to be unacquainted with the real meaning of the responses they delivered, which were left to the sagacity of those who consulted them to interpret, or for time to discover. Hence, when they stumbled upon truth point-blank, they might well be said to speak unawares. When Alexander, previous to his Persian expedition, went to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, the priestess refused to ascend the tripos, till Alexander obliged her by force, when, unable to resist any longer, she cried out, “ thou art invincible," and these words were accepted by the hero without any further oracle.
V. 530. In magic talisman and cabal.] Magic talismans were anciently of various kinds, and for various uses. The charms used by the common people in the days of fanaticism, were similar in every point, except identity of substance, to the talismans which the ancient Persian magi fabricated. They were to preserve the wearers or owners of them against particular dangers ; as, according to a vulgar notion, that skinny membrane, called a cawl, with which some children are born, is thought to be an infallible preservative against drowning, though the opinion is justly exploded by all persons of sense. The orientalists of the present day are still famous for their talismans, but in modern Europe, if we except the Turkish provinces in Europe, some parts of Poland, and the Russian empire, this superstitious delusion is nearly extinct. The cabal is a superstition of Hebrew origin, which consisted in a fantastic interpretation of the Old Testament, according to the dreams of the rabbins, by giving every text a triple meaning: 1. The simple or literal meaning; 2. The abstruse or allegorical meaning ; 3. The numeric meaning, taking the letters of each word for cyphers or arithmetical numbers. This folly prevailed throughout Christendom to a wonderful extent at one period, and they are still to be found interpreters of the Apocalypse, who deal in such reveries.
V.532. As far as Adam's first green breeches.] Butler, in this passage, probably meant to ridicule the Calvinistic, or Geneva
translation of the Bible, published in English with notes, in 4to. and 8vo. in the year 1557, and in folio in 1615, in which, in Ger nesis iii. 7. are the following words: “ And they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves breeches," instead of aprons, as in the authorised translation.
V. 533. Deep sighted in intelligences.] Intelligences were those spirits or angels, which were supposed to regulate the motions of the heavenly bodies; for as the squire to his theological acquirements added that of being well versed in astrology, he was able to predict future events from the aspect of the stars.
V. 535-6. And much of terra incognita, .. .. . Th’ intelligible world could say.] This passage is intended to ridicule those who argue upon subjects of which it is impossible for them to have any knowledge. The squire was a man of such universal knowledge, that he could say much even of those parts of the world that were unknown and undiscovered.
V. 539. Or Sir Agrippa, &c.] Cornelius Agrippa flourished in the fifteenth century. He was a learned, but difficult writer; and died counsellor and historiographer to the Emperor Charles V. . · V. 541. He Anthroposophus and Floud, &c.] Anthroposophia Theomagica, or a Discourse of the Nature of Man in the State after Death, was the title of a book which contained a great deal of unintelligible jargon, such as no one could understand what the author meant, or aimed at.-Floud was an enthusiast in philosophy, of whom little is now kuown further than his name, on which Butler has conferred immortality. . .. 16 · V. 542. And Jacob Behmen understood, &c.] Jacob Behmen was a mystic philosopher, of Germany, who treated of the creation of the world, the nature of God, of man, animals, plants, &c. &c. most voluninously, but in so obscure and difficult a style, that even his own disciples could not understand him. .
. V. 545. In Rosicrucian lore as learned, &c.] The Rosicrucians, or Brothers of the Rosy Cross, were a sect of hermetical philosophers, who appeared, or at least were first taken notice of, in Germany, in the beginning of the sixteenth century. They pretended to be masters of all sciences, and to have many important secrets, particularly that of the philosopher's stone. Swift, in his Tale of a Tub, makes the following observations upon the Rosicrucians : “ Night being the universal mother of things, wise philosophers hold all writings to be fruitful in the proportion they are dark, and therefore the True Illuminated, (a name of the Rosicrucians), that is to say, the darkest of all, have met with such numberless commentators, whose scholastic midwifery hath delivered them of meanings that the authors themselves perhaps never conceived, and yet may be very justly allowed the true parents of them. The words of such writers being just like seeds, however scattered at random, when they light upon such fruitful ground, will multiply far beyond either the hopes or the imagination of the sower.” Sir Roger L'Estrange, in his fable of the Alchymist, tells a pleasant story of one of those philosophers. “A chemical pretender," says he,“ who had written a discourse plausible enough on the transmutation of metals, and turning brass and silver to gold, thought he could not place such a curiosity better than in the hands of Leo X. and so made his holiness a present of it. The Pope received it with great humanity, and with this compliment over and above :—Sir,' said he, 'I should have given you my acknowledgments in your own metal, but gold upon gold would have been false heraldry, so that I shall rather make you a return of a dozen empty purses to put your treasure in; for though you can make gold, I don't find that you can make purses.'"
V. 546. As he that vere adeptus eurned.] Such of the alchymists as pretended to have found out the philosopher's stone, were called Adept Philosophers.
V. 547. He understood the speech of Birds.] We never heard that any of the fanatics pretended to this extraordinary gift, and therefore we suppose that our poet confers it upon Ralpho only to heighten the ridicule of his character. It has been thought that. some of the eastern sages pretended to the miraculous endowment; but this mistake originated in want of knowing that the oriental . jsts were the inventors of those apologues and fables, in which birds and beasts are so often the principal actors, and argue with all the rationality and acuteness of human logicians. V. 549-50. Could tell what subtlest parrots mean,
That speak and think contrary clean.] Butler, in this place, probably alluded to the following popular story. A parrot belonging to King Henry. Vili. happening to fall out of one of
the palace windows into the water, very seasonably remembered some words it had often heard before, whether in earnest or jest, and cried out amain,“ a boat, a boat for twenty pounds.” A boatman presently made to the spot, took up the bird, and restored it to the king, to whom he knew it belonged, hoping for as great a reward as the bird had promised. The king agreed that he should have as the bird should say anew, and immediately the parrot answered, “ give the knave a groat.” V. 551-2. What member 'tis of whom they talk
When they cry Rope, and Walk, knave, walk.] The meaning of this passage is, that the squire was so well acquainted with the secret history of his times, that whenever any member was alluded to on account of some cant name, or particular transaction of his life, he at once knew who was the person designated. --Rope is supposed to have been a bye name given to Baron Tomlinson, on account of a ludicrous speech made and printed on his swearing the sheriffs Warner and Love into their office: part of his charge to them was as follows: “You are the chief executioners of sentences upon malefactors, whether it be whipping, burning, or hanging. Mr. Sheriff, I shall entreat a favour of you; I have a kinsman at your end of the towi), a ropemaker. I know you will have many occasions before this time twelvemonth, and I hope I have spoken in time; pray make use of him, and you will do the poor man a favour, and yourself no prejudice.” Walk, knave, walk, had some allusion to Colonel Hewson, one of the regicides, but what was the particular occasion of it cannot now be traced.
V.560. He had joost matter seen undress’d.] This is matter before, by the fiat of the Almighty, it had been divided into elements, or reduced into form.
V.573. He could foretel, &c.] The fanatic preachers would in their prayers often pretend to foretel events, in order to encourage the people in their rebellion. V. 585-6. As if they were consenting to
All mischiefs in the world men do.] This ridicule of judiciary astrology is extremely happy. “ It is injurious to the stars,” says Gassendi, “to dishonour them with the imputation of such power and efficacy as is incompetent to them, and to make them many times the instruments not only to men's ruins, but even