Samuel Butler Poetry: British Analysis
Samuel Butler’s stature as a poet is founded on one work: Hudibras. In it, he demonstrates considerable skill in prosody, yet many critics are uncertain about the work’s status as poetry, describing it as doggerel. One of Butler’s objectives in Hudibras is the debasement of heroic verse; thus, although he is undoubtedly a poet, his verse is not what is commonly thought of as poetry. This contradiction is one of many inherent in Butler’s great work. He displays a broad knowledge of literature and philosophy—a knowledge which is the product of an inquisitive and thoughtful mind—yet he presents his knowledge only to portray it as foolish. Although Hudibras became famous as a political satire and remains best known for its portrayal of seventeenth century English politics, two of its three parts are devoted to social satire. It is above all distinguished by its verse, which spawned a school of imitations called Hudibrastic, and its wit and vigor, which make for a lively narrative. Its satire is unusually sophisticated and wide-ranging, attacking a poetic genre, a style of verse, and the politics, theology, and manners of Butler’s society.
Meter and versification
Hudibras is written in rhyming tetrameter couplets, a verse form that in Butler’s day was associated with heroic poetry. Philosophically a rationalist, Butler objected to poetry which defied probability by describing magic,...
(The entire section is 1660 words.)
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