Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
 
A Rebel
By Samuel Butler (1612–1680)
 
From the Remains

A REBEL is a voluntary bandit, a civil renegade, that renounces his obedience to his prince, to raise himself upon the public ruin. He is of great antiquity, perhaps before the creation, at least a preadamite; for Lucifer was the first of his family, and from him he derives himself in an indirect line. He finds fault with the government, that he may get it the easier into his own hands, as men use to undervalue what they have a desire to purchase. He is a botcher of politics, and a state-tinker, that makes flaws in the government, only to mend them again. He goes for a public-spirited man, and his pretences are for the public good, that is, for the good of his own public spirit. He pretends to be a great lover of his country, as if it had given him love powder, but it is merely out of natural affection to himself. He has a great itch to be handling of authority, though he cut his fingers with it; and is resolved to raise himself, though it be but upon the gallows. He is all for peace and truth, but not without lying and fighting. He plays a game with the hangman for the clothes on his back, and when he throws out, he strips him to the skin. He dies in hempen sheets, and his body is hanged, like his ancestor Mahomet’s, in the air. He might have lived longer, if the destinies had not spun his thread of life too strong. He is sure never to come to an untimely end; for by the course of law his glass was out long before. He calls rebellion and treason laying out of himself for the public; but being found to be false unlawful coin, he was seized upon, and cut to pieces, and hanged for falsifying himself. His espousing of quarrels proves as fatal to his country as the Parisian wedding did to France. He is like a bell, that is made on purpose to be hanged. He is a diseased part of the body politic, to which all the bad humours gather. He picks straws out of the government like a madman, and startles at them when he has done. He endeavours to raise himself, like a boy’s kite, by being pulled against the wind. After all his endeavours and designs he is at length promoted to the gallows, which is performed with a cavalcade suitable to his dignity; and after much ceremony he is installed by the hangman, with the general applause of all men, and dies singing like a swan.
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