Introduction. This and the previous poem in the collections of 1645 and 1673 ("On the University Carrier") are Milton's contributions to the Hobson jest poems popular on campus at Cambridge University after the death of Thomas Hobson on January 1, 1631. Hobson was eighty-six when he died and he had served the university for over sixty years by driving a regular coach between The Bull, a London inn, and the University, carrying students, guests, letters, and sometimes parents. He also hired out horses. The expression "Hobson's choice" originated as a sarcastic reference to Hobson's insistence that anyone hiring a horse must "choose" the one closest to the stable door.
Milton's second Hobson poem, "Another on the same," appeared with another Hobson poem, called "Hobsons Epitaph," in a collection called A Banquet of Jests. Or A Collection of Court. Camp. Colledge. Citie, Country Iests (London 1640) pages 129-132. A 1657 edition of much the same book, now called A Banquet of Jests New and Old Or Change of Cheare (London, 1657) printed both poems again with some changes on pages 82-84. Milton's first Hobson poem was republished along with the others as "Another" in Wit Restor'd In severall Select Poems Not formerly publish't (London 1658) pages 83-84. These are all collections of jokes, ribald stories, and satires based on stereotypes of women, servingmen, lawyers, clerics, and others. The unattributed Hobson poem that appears in all the collections mentioned above may also, suggested W. R. Parker (Modern Language Review 31 : 395-402), be Milton's, though Milton never chose to include it in either the 1645 or 1673 collections. The copytext for the present edition is 1645.
Engin. That is, like a machine; in this case "wheel and waight" suggest a clock, especially the large engine of a tower clock. The poem also wishes to convey the sense of a perpetual motion machine.
principles. Puns between the motive forces of a machine and the rules that guide action and behavior.
his term. His term of life, and puns with the sense of university term.
quickn'd. Brought back to life.
carry. A pun on the expression "fetch and carry" and the sense of "fetch" as "restore to consciousness."
cross Doctors. Those university doctors (presumably of divinity) who have stopped Hobson's rounds.
bearers. That is, pall bearers.
prest to death. A not uncommon form of tortuous execution wherby weighty stones were gradually added to a board laid atop the convict in a prone (or supine) position until he or she was pressed to death.
Obedient to the Moon. That is, as regular and predictable as the tides.
wain. A pun on the two senses of wagon and retreating tide or decline in life.
superscription. Both an address on a letter or parcel and an inscription on a tomb.