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The Knight, with various doubts possest,
DOUBTLESS the pleasure is as great,
5 The more th' admire his slight of hand.
Some with a noise, and greasy light, : Are snapt, as men catch larks by night,
! As the subject of this canto is the dispute between Hudibras and an astrologer, it is prefaced by some reflections on the credulity of
This exposes them to the artifices of cheats and impostors, not only when disguised under the characters of lawyers, physicians, and divines, but even in the questionable garb of wizards and fortune tellers. ? Doubtless the pleasure is as great
Of being cheated, as to cheat;] Swift, in the Tale of a Tub, (digression on madness) places happiness in the condition of being well deceived, and pursues the thought through several pages. Aristippus being desired to resolve a riddle, replied, that it would be absurd to resolve that which unresolved afforded so much pleasure.
cui sic extorta voluptas,
Hor. lib. ii. epist. ii. 140. 3 Some with a noise, and greasy light,
Are snapt, as men catch larks by night,] The first line alludes to the morning and evening lectures, which, in those times of pretended reformation and godliness, were delivered by candle-light, in many churches, for a great part of the year. To maintain, and frequent these, was deemed the greatest evidence of religion and sanctity. The gifted preachers were very loud. The simile, in the
Ensnar'd and hamper'd by the soul,
Others believe no voice t' an organ
second line, is taken from the method of catching larks at night, in some countries, by means of a low-bell and a light.
* As nooses by the legs catch fowl.] Woodcocks, and some other birds, are caught in springes. 3 Some, with a medcine, and receipt,
Are drawn to nibble at the bait ;] Are cheated of their money by quacks and mountebanks, who boast of nostrums, and infallible recipes. Even persons who ought to have more discernment are sometimes taken in by these cozeners. In later times, the admirers of animal magnetism would perhaps have ranked with this order of wiseacres, and been proper objects of Mr. Butler's satire. 6 And tho' it be a two-foot trout,
'Tis with a single hair pulld out.] That is, though it be a sensible man, and one as unlikely to be catched by a medicine an ceipt, as a trout two feet long to be pulled out by a single hair. 7 Others believe no voice ť an organ
So sweet as lawyer's in a bar-gown,] In the hope of promised success many are led into broils and suits, from which they are not able to extricate themselves till they are quite ruined. See Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xxx. cap. 4. where the evil practices of the lawyers under Valens and Valentinian, are strongly and inimitably painted : happy would it be for the world, if the picture had not its likeness in modern times, but was confined to the decline of the Roman empire.
And while their purses can dispute,
Others still gape t’anticipate
30 That out of garbages of cattle Presag'd th' events of truce or battle ; • Others still gape t' anticipate
The cabinet designs of fate,] A natural desire; but if too much indulged, a notable instance of human weakness. . Apply to wizards, to foresee What shall, and what shall never be ;
O Läertiade, quicquid dicam aut erit, aut non.
Horat. Sat. lib. ii. Sat. v. v. 59. "And as those vultures do forebode,] Vultures are birds of prey; and here put figuratively for astrologers : or the word may be used equivocally, as soothsayers took their omens from eagles, vultures, ravens, and such birds. ? A fiam more senseless than the roguery
Of old aruspicy and aug’ry,] Aruspicy was a kind of divination by sacrifice; by the behaviour of the beast before it was slain; by entrails after it was opened; or by the flames while it was burning. Augury was a divination from appearances in the heavens, from thunder, lightning, &c. but more commonly from birds, their flight, chattering, manner of feeding, &c. Thus Ovid :
Hæc mihi non ovium fibræ, tonitrusve sinistri,
Ovid. Trist. lib. i. eleg. viii. 49. Mirari se ajebat M. Cato, quod non rideret haruspex, haruspicem cum vidisset. Tullius de Divinat. ii. 24. et de Natura Deorum, i. 26.
From flight of birds, or chickens pecking,
Quoth he, In all my past adventures