Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 21

The study of Gargantua, according to the discipline of his schoolmasters the Sophisters.

The first day being thus spent, and the bells put up again in their own place, the citizens of Paris, in acknowledgment of this courtesy, offered to maintain and feed his mare as long as he pleased, which Gargantua took in good part, and they sent her to graze in the forest of Biere. I think she is not there now. This done, he with all his heart submitted his study to the discretion of Ponocrates; who for the beginning appointed that he should do as he was accustomed, to the end he might understand by what means, in so long time, his old masters had made him so sottish and ignorant. He disposed therefore of his time in such fashion, that ordinarily he did awake betwixt eight and nine o’clock, whether it was day or not, for so had his ancient governors ordained, alleging that which David saith, Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere. Then did he tumble and toss, wag his legs, and wallow in the bed some time, the better to stir up and rouse his vital spirits, and apparelled himself according to the season: but willingly he would wear a great long gown of thick frieze, furred with fox-skins. Afterwards he combed his head with an Almain comb, which is the four fingers and the thumb. For his preceptor said that to comb himself otherwise, to wash and make himself neat, was to lose time in this world. Then he dunged, pissed, spewed, belched, cracked, yawned, spitted, coughed, yexed, sneezed and snotted himself like an archdeacon, and, to suppress the dew and bad air, went to breakfast, having some good fried tripes, fair rashers on the coals, excellent gammons of bacon, store of fine minced meat, and a great deal of sippet brewis, made up of the fat of the beef-pot, laid upon bread, cheese, and chopped parsley strewed together. Ponocrates showed him that he ought not to eat so soon after rising out of his bed, unless he had performed some exercise beforehand. Gargantua answered, What! have not I sufficiently well exercised myself? I have wallowed and rolled myself six or seven turns in my bed before I rose. Is not that enough? Pope Alexander did so, by the advice of a Jew his physician, and lived till his dying day in despite of his enemies. My first masters have used me to it, saying that to breakfast made a good memory, and therefore they drank first. I am very well after it, and dine but the better. And Master Tubal, who was the first licenciate at Paris, told me that it was not enough to run apace, but to set forth betimes: so doth not the total welfare of our humanity depend upon perpetual drinking in a ribble rabble, like ducks, but on drinking early in the morning; unde versus,

To rise betimes is no good hour,

To drink betimes is better sure.

After that he had thoroughly broke his fast, he went to church, and they carried to him, in a great basket, a huge impantoufled or thick-covered breviary, weighing, what in grease, clasps, parchment and cover, little more or less than eleven hundred and six pounds. There he heard six-and-twenty or thirty masses. This while, to the same place came his orison-mutterer impaletocked, or lapped up about the chin like a tufted whoop, and his breath pretty well antidoted with store of the vine-tree-syrup. With him he mumbled all his kiriels and dunsical breborions, which he so curiously thumbed and fingered, that there fell not so much as one grain to the ground. As he went from the church, they brought him, upon a dray drawn with oxen, a confused heap of paternosters and aves of St. Claude, every one of them being of the bigness of a hat-block; and thus walking through the cloisters, galleries, or garden, he said more in turning them over than sixteen hermits would have done. Then did he study some paltry half-hour with his eyes fixed upon his book; but, as the comic saith, his mind was in the kitchen. Pissing then a full urinal, he sat down at table; and because he was naturally phlegmatic, he began his meal with some dozens of gammons, dried neat’s tongues, hard roes of mullet, called botargos, andouilles or sausages, and such other forerunners of wine. In the meanwhile, four of his folks did cast into his mouth one after another continually mustard by whole shovelfuls. Immediately after that, he drank a horrible draught of white wine for the ease of his kidneys. When that was done, he ate according to the season meat agreeable to his appetite, and then left off eating when his belly began to strout, and was like to crack for fulness. As for his drinking, he had in that neither end nor rule. For he was wont to say, That the limits and bounds of drinking were, when the cork of the shoes of him that drinketh swelleth up half a foot high.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33