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 Rabble
By Samuel Butler (1612–1680)
 
From the Remains

A RABBLE is a congregation or assembly of the states-general sent from their respective shops, stalls, and garrets. They are full of controversy, and every one of a several judgment concerning the business under present consideration, whether it be mountebank, show, hanging, or ballad-singer. They meet, like Democritus’s atoms in vacua, and by a fortuitous justling together produce the greatest and most savage beast in the whole world: for, though the members of it may have something of human nature while they are asunder, when they are put together, they have none at all; as a multitude of several sounds make one great noise unlike all the rest, in which no one particular is distinguished. They are a great dunghill, where all sorts of dirty and nasty humours meet, stink, and ferment; for all the parts are in a perpetual tumult. ’Tis no wonder they make strange churches, for they take naturally to any imposture, and have a great antipathy to truth and order, as being contrary to their original confusion. They are a herd of swine possessed with a dry devil, that run after hanging, instead of drowning. Once a month they go on pilgrimage to the gallows, to visit the sepulchres of their ancestors, as the Turks do once a week. When they come there they sing psalms, quarrel, and return full of satisfaction and narrative. When they break loose they are like a public ruin, in which the highest parts be undermost, and make the noblest fabrics heaps of rubbish. They are like the sea, that is stirred into a tumult with every blast of wind that blows upon it, till it becomes a watery Appennine, and heaps mountain billows upon one another, as once the giants did in the war with heaven. A crowd is their proper element, in which they make their way with their shoulders, as pigs creep through hedges. Nothing in the world delights them so much as the ruin of great persons, or any calamity in which they have no share, though they get nothing by it. They love nothing but themselves in the likeness of one another, and, like sheep, run all that way the first goes, especially if it be against their governors, whom they have a natural disaffection to.
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