Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 33

How some statesmen of Picrochole, by hairbrained counsel, put him in extreme danger.

The carts being unloaded, and the money and cakes secured, there came before Picrochole the Duke of Smalltrash, the Earl Swashbuckler, and Captain Dirt-tail (Menuail, Spadassin, Merdaille.), who said unto him, Sir, this day we make you the happiest, the most warlike and chivalrous prince that ever was since the death of Alexander of Macedonia. Be covered, be covered, said Picrochole. Gramercy, said they, we do but our duty. The manner is thus. You shall leave some captain here to have the charge of this garrison, with a party competent for keeping of the place, which, besides its natural strength, is made stronger by the rampiers and fortresses of your devising. Your army you are to divide into two parts, as you know very well how to do. One part thereof shall fall upon Grangousier and his forces. By it shall he be easily at the very first shock routed, and then shall you get money by heaps, for the clown hath store of ready coin. Clown we call him, because a noble and generous prince hath never a penny, and that to hoard up treasure is but a clownish trick. The other part of the army, in the meantime, shall draw towards Onys, Xaintonge, Angomois, and Gascony. Then march to Perigot, Medoc, and Elanes, taking wherever you come, without resistance, towns, castles, and forts; afterwards to Bayonne, St. John de Luc, to Fontarabia, where you shall seize upon all the ships, and coasting along Galicia and Portugal, shall pillage all the maritime places, even unto Lisbon, where you shall be supplied with all necessaries befitting a conqueror. By copsody, Spain will yield, for they are but a race of loobies. Then are you to pass by the Straits of Gibraltar, where you shall erect two pillars more stately than those of Hercules, to the perpetual memory of your name, and the narrow entrance there shall be called the Picrocholinal sea.

Having passed the Picrocholinal sea, behold, Barbarossa yields himself your slave. I will, said Picrochole, give him fair quarter and spare his life. Yea, said they, so that he be content to be christened. And you shall conquer the kingdoms of Tunis, of Hippo, Argier, Bomine (Bona), Corone, yea, all Barbary. Furthermore, you shall take into your hands Majorca, Minorca, Sardinia, Corsica, with the other islands of the Ligustic and Balearian seas. Going alongst on the left hand, you shall rule all Gallia Narbonensis, Provence, the Allobrogians, Genoa, Florence, Lucca, and then God b’w’ye, Rome. (Our poor Monsieur the Pope dies now for fear.) By my faith, said Picrochole, I will not then kiss his pantoufle.

Italy being thus taken, behold Naples, Calabria, Apulia, and Sicily, all ransacked, and Malta too. I wish the pleasant Knights of the Rhodes heretofore would but come to resist you, that we might see their urine. I would, said Picrochole, very willingly go to Loretto. No, no, said they, that shall be at our return. From thence we will sail eastwards, and take Candia, Cyprus, Rhodes, and the Cyclade Islands, and set upon (the) Morea. It is ours, by St. Trenian. The Lord preserve Jerusalem; for the great Soldan is not comparable to you in power. I will then, said he, cause Solomon’s temple to be built. No, said they, not yet, have a little patience, stay awhile, be never too sudden in your enterprises. Can you tell what Octavian Augustus said? Festina lente. It is requisite that you first have the Lesser Asia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphilia, Cilicia, Lydia, Phrygia, Mysia, Bithynia, Carazia, Satalia, Samagaria, Castamena, Luga, Savasta, even unto Euphrates. Shall we see, said Picrochole, Babylon and Mount Sinai? There is no need, said they, at this time. Have we not hurried up and down, travelled and toiled enough, in having transfretted and passed over the Hircanian sea, marched alongst the two Armenias and the three Arabias? Ay, by my faith, said he, we have played the fools, and are undone. Ha, poor souls! What’s the matter? said they. What shall we have, said he, to drink in these deserts? For Julian Augustus with his whole army died there for thirst, as they say. We have already, said they, given order for that. In the Syriac sea you have nine thousand and fourteen great ships laden with the best wines in the world. They arrived at Port Joppa. There they found two-and-twenty thousand camels and sixteen hundred elephants, which you shall have taken at one hunting about Sigelmes, when you entered into Lybia; and, besides this, you had all the Mecca caravan. Did not they furnish you sufficiently with wine? Yes, but, said he, we did not drink it fresh. By the virtue, said they, not of a fish, a valiant man, a conqueror, who pretends and aspires to the monarchy of the world, cannot always have his ease. God be thanked that you and your men are come safe and sound unto the banks of the river Tigris. But, said he, what doth that part of our army in the meantime which overthrows that unworthy swillpot Grangousier? They are not idle, said they. We shall meet with them by-and-by. They shall have won you Brittany, Normandy, Flanders, Hainault, Brabant, Artois, Holland, Zealand; they have passed the Rhine over the bellies of the Switzers and lansquenets, and a party of these hath subdued Luxembourg, Lorraine, Champagne, and Savoy, even to Lyons, in which place they have met with your forces returning from the naval conquests of the Mediterranean sea; and have rallied again in Bohemia, after they had plundered and sacked Suevia, Wittemberg, Bavaria, Austria, Moravia, and Styria. Then they set fiercely together upon Lubeck, Norway, Swedeland, Rie, Denmark, Gitland, Greenland, the Sterlins, even unto the frozen sea. This done, they conquered the Isles of Orkney and subdued Scotland, England, and Ireland. From thence sailing through the sandy sea and by the Sarmates, they have vanquished and overcome Prussia, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Wallachia, Transylvania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkeyland, and are now at Constantinople. Come, said Picrochole, let us go join with them quickly, for I will be Emperor of Trebizond also. Shall we not kill all these dogs, Turks and Mahometans? What a devil should we do else? said they. And you shall give their goods and lands to such as shall have served you honestly. Reason, said he, will have it so, that is but just. I give unto you the Caramania, Suria, and all the Palestine. Ha, sir, said they, it is out of your goodness; gramercy, we thank you. God grant you may always prosper. There was there present at that time an old gentleman well experienced in the wars, a stern soldier, and who had been in many great hazards, named Echephron, who, hearing this discourse, said, I do greatly doubt that all this enterprise will be like the tale or interlude of the pitcher full of milk wherewith a shoemaker made himself rich in conceit; but, when the pitcher was broken, he had not whereupon to dine. What do you pretend by these large conquests? What shall be the end of so many labours and crosses? Thus it shall be, said Picrochole, that when we are returned we shall sit down, rest, and be merry. But, said Echephron, if by chance you should never come back, for the voyage is long and dangerous, were it not better for us to take our rest now, than unnecessarily to expose ourselves to so many dangers? O, said Swashbuckler, by G — here is a good dotard; come, let us go hide ourselves in the corner of a chimney, and there spend the whole time of our life amongst ladies, in threading of pearls, or spinning, like Sardanapalus. He that nothing ventures hath neither horse nor mule, says Solomon. He who adventureth too much, said Echephron, loseth both horse and mule, answered Malchon. Enough, said Picrochole, go forward. I fear nothing but that these devilish legions of Grangousier, whilst we are in Mesopotamia, will come on our backs and charge up our rear. What course shall we then take? What shall be our remedy? A very good one, said Dirt-tail; a pretty little commission, which you must send unto the Muscovites, shall bring you into the field in an instant four hundred and fifty thousand choice men of war. Oh that you would but make me your lieutenant-general, I should for the lightest faults of any inflict great punishments. I fret, I charge, I strike, I take, I kill, I slay, I play the devil. On, on, said Picrochole, make haste, my lads, and let him that loves me follow me.

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