Hudibrastic verse

The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018

Hudibrastic verse

Hudibrastic verse: A humorous, typically satiric form of verse modeled on seventeenth-century English satirist Samuel Butler’s mock heroic poem Hudibras (1662—77), which ridiculed the Puritans. Following Butler, Hudibrastic verse takes the form of octosyllabic couplets composed in iambic tetrameter and is deliberately awkward or even cacophonous. As intentional doggerel, it pushes the boundaries of rhyme for comic effect, deploying an arsenal of unlikely and even absurd half, double, and triple rhymes.

EXAMPLES: The following passage from Butler’s Hudibras:

Beside, ’tis known he could speak Greek,

As naturally as Pigs squeek:

That Latin was no more difficile,

Then to a Blackbird ’tis to whistle… .

For Hebrew Roots, although th’ are found

To flourish most in barren Ground,

He had such Plenty, as suffic’d

To make some think him circumcis’d… .

In “The Sot-weed Factor” (1708), Ebenezer Cook used an unreliable narrator, a tobacco agent, to satirize English elitism vis-à-vis American colonists; visiting Maryland, the agent finds:

These Sot-weed Planters Crowd the Shoar,

In Hue as Tawny as a Moor:

Figures so strange, no God design’d,

To be a part of Humane Kind:

But wanton Nature, void of Rest.

Moulded the brittle Clay in Jest.