Outlaws and Highwaymen

‘To the Happy Memory of the Most Renowned Du-Val’
The Poetical Works of Samuel Butler, ed. John Mitford, 2 vols, (London, Bell and Daldy, [1835]), II, pp. 252–258


To the Happy Memory of the Most Renowned Du-Val.

 A Pindaric Ode.


’Tis true, to compliment the dead
Is as impertinent and vain
As ’twas of old to call them back again,
Or, like the Tartars, give them wives,
With settlements for after-lives;
For all that can be done or said,
Though e’er so noble, great, and good,
By them is neither heard nor understood.
All our fine sleights and tricks of art,
First to create, and then adore desert,
And those romances which we frame
To raise ourselves, not them, a name,
In vain are stuff’d with ranting flatteries,
And such as, if they knew, they would despise.
For as those times the Golden Age we call1 
In which there was no gold in use at all,
So we plant glory and renown
Where it was ne’er deserv’d nor known,
But to worse purpose, many times,
To flourish o’er nefarious crimes,
And cheat the world, that never seems to mind
How good or bad men die, but what they leave behind.


And yet the brave Du-Val, whose name
Can never be worn out by Fame,
That liv’d and died to leave behind
A great example to mankind;
That fell a public sacrifice,
From ruin to preserve those few
Who, though born false, may be made true,
And teach the world to be more just and wise;
Ought not, like vulgar ashes, rest
Unmention’d in his silent chest,
Not for his own, but public interest.
He, like a pious man, some years before
The arrival of his fatal hour,
Made ev’ry day he had to live
To his last minute a preparative;
Taught the wild Arabs on the road
To act in a more gentle mode;
Take prizes more obligingly than those
Who never had been bred filous;2
And how to hang in a more graceful fashion
Then e’er was known before to the dull English nation.

In France, the staple of new modes,
Where garbs and miens are current goods,
That serves the ruder northern nations
With methods of address and treat;
Prescribes new garnitures and fashions,
And how to drink and how to eat
No out-of-fashion wine or meat;
To understand cravats and plumes,
And the most modish from the old perfumes;
To know the age and pedigrees
Of points of Flanders or Venice;3
Cast their nativities, and, to a day,4
Foretell how long they’ll hold, and when decay;
T’ affect the purest negligences
In gestures, gaits, and miens,
And speak by repartee-routines
One of the most authentic of romances,
And to demonstrate, with substantial reason,
What ribands, all the year, are in or out of season.


In this great academy of mankind
He had his birth and education,
Where all men are s’ ingeniously inclin’d
They understand by imitation,
Improve untaught, before they are aware,
As if they suck’d their breeding from the air,
That naturally does dispense
To all a deep and solid confidence;
A virtue of that precious use,
That he, whom bounteous Heav’n endues
But with a mod’rate share of it,
Can want no worth, abilities, or wit,
In all the deep Hermetic arts,
(For so of late the learned call
All tricks, if strange and mystical).
He had improv’d his nat’ral parts,
And with his magic rod could sound5
Where hidden treasure might be found:
He, like a lord o’ th’ manor, seiz’d upon
Whatever happen’d in his way
As lawful weft and stray,6
And after, by the custom, kept it as his own.

From these first rudiments he grew
To nobler feats, and try’d his force
Upon whole troops of foot and horse,
Whom he as bravely did subdue;
Declar’d all caravans, that go
Upon the king’s highway, the foe;
Made many desperate attacks
Upon itinerant brigades
Of all professions, ranks, and trades,
On carriers’ loads, and pedlars’ packs;
Made them lay down their arms, and yield,
And, to the smallest piece, restore
All that by cheating they had gain’d before,
And after plunder’d all the baggage of the field,
In every bold affair of war
He had the chief command, and led them on;
For no man is judg’d fit to have the care
Of others’ lives, until h’ has made known
How much he does despise and scorn his own.

Whole provinces, ’twixt sun and sun,
Have by his conqu’ring sword been won;
And mighty sums of money laid,
For ransom, upon every man,
And hostages deliver’d till ’twas paid.
Th’ excise and chimney-publican,7
The Jew forestaller and enhancer,8
To him for all their crimes did answer.
He vanquish’d the most fierce and fell
Of all his foes, the Constable;
And oft had beat his quarters up,9
And routed him and all his troop.
He took the dreadful lawyer’s fees,
That in his own allow’d highway
Does feats of arms as great as his,
And, when they’ encounter in it, wins the day:
Safe in his garrison, the Court,
Where meaner criminals are sentenc’d for’t,
To this stern foe he oft gave quarter,
But as the Scotchman did t’ a Tartar,
That he, in time to come,
Might in return from him receive his fatal doom.

He would have starv’d this mighty Town,
And brought its haughty spirit down;
Have cut it off from all relief,
And, like a wise and valiant chief,
Made many a fierce assault
Upon all ammunition carts,10
And those that bring up cheese, or malt,
Or bacon, from remoter parts:
No convoy e’er so strong with food
Durst venture on the desp’rate road;
He made th’ undaunted waggoner obey,
And the fierce higgler contribution pay;11
The savage butcher and stout drover
Durst not to him their feeble troops discover;
And, if he had but kept the field,
In time had made the city yield;
For great towns, like to crocodiles, are found
I’ th’ belly aptest to receive a mortal wound.

But when the fatal hour arriv’d
In which his stars began to frown,
And had in close cabals contriv’d
To pull him from his height of glory down,
And he, by num’rous foes opprest,
Was in th’enchanted dungeon cast,
Secur’d with mighty guards,
Lest he by force or stratagem
Might prove too cunning for their chains and them,
And break through all their locks, and bolts, and wards;
Had both his legs by charms committed
To one another’s charge,
That neither might be set at large,
And all their fury and revenge outwitted.
As jewels of high value are
Kept under locks with greater care
Than those of meaner rates,
So he was in stone walls, and chains, and iron grates.

Thither came ladies from all parts,
To offer up close prisoners their hearts,
Which he receiv’d as tribute due,
And made them yield up love and honour too,
But in more brave heroic ways
Than e’er were practis’d yet in plays:
For those two spiteful foes, who never meet
But full of hot contests and piques
About punctilios and mere tricks,
Did all their quarrels to his doom submit,
And, far more generous and free,
In contemplation only of him did agree:
Both fully satisfy’d; the one
With those fresh laurels he had won,
And all the brave renowned feats
He had perform’d in arms;
The other with his person and his charms:
For, just as larks are catch’d in nets
By gazing on a piece of glass,
So while the ladies view’d his brighter eyes,
And smoother polish’d face,
Their gentle hearts, alas! were taken by surprise.

Never did bold knight, to relieve
Distressed dames, such dreadful feats achieve
As feeble damsels, for his sake,
Would have been proud to undertake;
And, bravely ambitious to redeem
The world’s loss and their own,
Strove who should have the honour to lay down
And change a life with him;
But, finding all their hopes in vain
To move his fixt determin’d fate,
Their life itself began to hate,
As if it were an infamy
To live, when he was doom’d to die;
Made loud appeals and moans,
To less hard-hearted grates and stones;
Came, swell’d with sighs, and drown’d in tears,
To yield themselves his fellow-sufferers,
And follow’d him, like prisoners of war,
Chain’d to the lofty wheels of his triumphant car. 

Samuel Butler


Notes and page design © Gillian Spraggs 2001, 2002, 2007
Text added to site on 21 November 2002 | Page last modified on 28 August 2007

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