Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 36

How Gargantua demolished the castle at the ford of Vede, and how they passed the ford.


How Gargantua passed the ford.

As soon as he came, he related the estate and condition wherein they had found the enemy, and the stratagem which he alone had used against all their multitude, affirming that they were but rascally rogues, plunderers, thieves, and robbers, ignorant of all military discipline, and that they might boldly set forward unto the field; it being an easy matter to fell and strike them down like beasts. Then Gargantua mounted his great mare, accompanied as we have said before, and finding in his way a high and great tree, which commonly was called by the name of St. Martin’s tree, because heretofore St. Martin planted a pilgrim’s staff there, which in tract of time grew to that height and greatness, said, This is that which I lacked; this tree shall serve me both for a staff and lance. With that he pulled it up easily, plucked off the boughs, and trimmed it at his pleasure. In the meantime his mare pissed to ease her belly, but it was in such abundance that it did overflow the country seven leagues, and all the piss of that urinal flood ran glib away towards the ford of Vede, wherewith the water was so swollen that all the forces the enemy had there were with great horror drowned, except some who had taken the way on the left hand towards the hills. Gargantua, being come to the place of the wood of Vede, was informed by Eudemon that there was some remainder of the enemy within the castle, which to know, Gargantua cried out as loud as he was able, Are you there, or are you not there? If you be there, be there no more; and if you are not there, I have no more to say. But a ruffian gunner, whose charge was to attend the portcullis over the gate, let fly a cannon-ball at him, and hit him with that shot most furiously on the right temple of his head, yet did him no more hurt than if he had but cast a prune or kernel of a wine-grape at him. What is this? said Gargantua; do you throw at us grape-kernels here? The vintage shall cost you dear; thinking indeed that the bullet had been the kernel of a grape, or raisin-kernel.

Those who were within the castle, being till then busy at the pillage, when they heard this noise ran to the towers and fortresses, from whence they shot at him above nine thousand and five-and-twenty falconshot and arquebusades, aiming all at his head, and so thick did they shoot at him that he cried out, Ponocrates, my friend, these flies here are like to put out mine eyes; give me a branch of those willow-trees to drive them away, thinking that the bullets and stones shot out of the great ordnance had been but dunflies. Ponocrates looked and saw that there were no other flies but great shot which they had shot from the castle. Then was it that he rushed with his great tree against the castle, and with mighty blows overthrew both towers and fortresses, and laid all level with the ground, by which means all that were within were slain and broken in pieces. Going from thence, they came to the bridge at the mill, where they found all the ford covered with dead bodies, so thick that they had choked up the mill and stopped the current of its water, and these were those that were destroyed in the urinal deluge of the mare. There they were at a stand, consulting how they might pass without hindrance by these dead carcasses. But Gymnast said, If the devils have passed there, I will pass well enough. The devils have passed there, said Eudemon, to carry away the damned souls. By St. Treignan! said Ponocrates, then by necessary consequence he shall pass there. Yes, yes, said Gymnastes, or I shall stick in the way. Then setting spurs to his horse, he passed through freely, his horse not fearing nor being anything affrighted at the sight of the dead bodies; for he had accustomed him, according to the doctrine of Aelian, not to fear armour, nor the carcasses of dead men; and that not by killing men as Diomedes did the Thracians, or as Ulysses did in throwing the corpses of his enemies at his horse’s feet, as Homer saith, but by putting a Jack-a-lent amongst his hay, and making him go over it ordinarily when he gave him his oats. The other three followed him very close, except Eudemon only, whose horse’s fore-right or far forefoot sank up to the knee in the paunch of a great fat chuff who lay there upon his back drowned, and could not get it out. There was he pestered, until Gargantua, with the end of his staff, thrust down the rest of the villain’s tripes into the water whilst the horse pulled out his foot; and, which is a wonderful thing in hippiatry, the said horse was thoroughly cured of a ringbone which he had in that foot by this touch of the burst guts of that great looby.

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