Paladin is moved to quote the poem when Jack Burnaby, proprietor of a travelling Punch and Judy show (and the provider of some convenient transport after Paladin is forced to shoot his own own horse) delivers them both to Fort Pawnee. The Fort is commanded by one General "Pawnee" Croft whose celebrated but somewhat controversial victory over Native Americans 16 years previously has led him to consider running for the Presidency.
Paladin watches Burnaby prime his audience for an evening puppet show, suspecting that the traditional script will be pointedly "doctored" by Burnaby. Attempting to acquire a horse and ride away before all hell breaks loose during the "performance", Paladin runs afoul of General Croft's famous temper and is forced to stay while Burnaby puts his puppets through their paces.
Additional quotes from Virgil's "Aeneid", Shakespeare's Hamlet, the English essayist Thomas DeQuincy, and even a verse from the children's nursery rhyme "The Grand Old Duke of York" add a bit of literary flair to this episode. But Burnaby's carefully-staged revelations, and the fiery denouement they provoke, leave practically everyone -- Paladin included -- completely speechless.