Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 8

How they apparelled Gargantua.

Being of this age, his father ordained to have clothes made to him in his own livery, which was white and blue. To work then went the tailors, and with great expedition were those clothes made, cut, and sewed, according to the fashion that was then in request. I find by the ancient records or pancarts, to be seen in the chamber of accounts, or court of the exchequer at Montsoreau, that he was accoutred in manner as followeth. To make him every shirt of his were taken up nine hundred ells of Chasteleraud linen, and two hundred for the gussets, in manner of cushions, which they put under his armpits. His shirt was not gathered nor plaited, for the plaiting of shirts was not found out till the seamstresses (when the point of their needle (Besongner du cul, Englished The eye of the needle.) was broken) began to work and occupy with the tail. There were taken up for his doublet, eight hundred and thirteen ells of white satin, and for his points fifteen hundred and nine dogs’ skins and a half. Then was it that men began to tie their breeches to their doublets, and not their doublets to their breeches: for it is against nature, as hath most amply been showed by Ockham upon the exponibles of Master Haultechaussade.

For his breeches were taken up eleven hundred and five ells and a third of white broadcloth. They were cut in the form of pillars, chamfered, channelled and pinked behind that they might not over-heat his reins: and were, within the panes, puffed out with the lining of as much blue damask as was needful: and remark, that he had very good leg-harness, proportionable to the rest of his stature.

For his codpiece were used sixteen ells and a quarter of the same cloth, and it was fashioned on the top like unto a triumphant arch, most gallantly fastened with two enamelled clasps, in each of which was set a great emerald, as big as an orange; for, as says Orpheus, lib. de lapidibus, and Plinius, libro ultimo, it hath an erective virtue and comfortative of the natural member. The exiture, outjecting or outstanding, of his codpiece was of the length of a yard, jagged and pinked, and withal bagging, and strutting out with the blue damask lining, after the manner of his breeches. But had you seen the fair embroidery of the small needlework purl, and the curiously interlaced knots, by the goldsmith’s art set out and trimmed with rich diamonds, precious rubies, fine turquoises, costly emeralds, and Persian pearls, you would have compared it to a fair cornucopia, or horn of abundance, such as you see in antiques, or as Rhea gave to the two nymphs, Amalthea and Ida, the nurses of Jupiter.

And, like to that horn of abundance, it was still gallant, succulent, droppy, sappy, pithy, lively, always flourishing, always fructifying, full of juice, full of flower, full of fruit, and all manner of delight. I avow God, it would have done one good to have seen him, but I will tell you more of him in the book which I have made of the dignity of codpieces. One thing I will tell you, that as it was both long and large, so was it well furnished and victualled within, nothing like unto the hypocritical codpieces of some fond wooers and wench-courtiers, which are stuffed only with wind, to the great prejudice of the female sex.

For his shoes were taken up four hundred and six ells of blue crimson-velvet, and were very nearly cut by parallel lines, joined in uniform cylinders. For the soling of them were made use of eleven hundred hides of brown cows, shapen like the tail of a keeling.

For his coat were taken up eighteen hundred ells of blue velvet, dyed in grain, embroidered in its borders with fair gilliflowers, in the middle decked with silver purl, intermixed with plates of gold and store of pearls, hereby showing that in his time he would prove an especial good fellow and singular whipcan.

His girdle was made of three hundred ells and a half of silken serge, half white and half blue, if I mistake it not. His sword was not of Valentia, nor his dagger of Saragossa, for his father could not endure these hidalgos borrachos maranisados como diablos: but he had a fair sword made of wood, and the dagger of boiled leather, as well painted and gilded as any man could wish.

His purse was made of the cod of an elephant, which was given him by Herr Pracontal, proconsul of Lybia.

For his gown were employed nine thousand six hundred ells, wanting two-thirds, of blue velvet, as before, all so diagonally purled, that by true perspective issued thence an unnamed colour, like that you see in the necks of turtle-doves or turkey-cocks, which wonderfully rejoiced the eyes of the beholders. For his bonnet or cap were taken up three hundred, two ells and a quarter of white velvet, and the form thereof was wide and round, of the bigness of his head; for his father said that the caps of the Marrabaise fashion, made like the cover of a pasty, would one time or other bring a mischief on those that wore them. For his plume, he wore a fair great blue feather, plucked from an onocrotal of the country of Hircania the wild, very prettily hanging down over his right ear. For the jewel or brooch which in his cap he carried, he had in a cake of gold, weighing three score and eight marks, a fair piece enamelled, wherein was portrayed a man’s body with two heads, looking towards one another, four arms, four feet, two arses, such as Plato, in Symposio, says was the mystical beginning of man’s nature; and about it was written in Ionic letters, Greek, or rather, Greek, that is, Vir et mulier junctim propriissime homo. To wear about his neck, he had a golden chain, weighing twenty-five thousand and sixty-three marks of gold, the links thereof being made after the manner of great berries, amongst which were set in work green jaspers engraven and cut dragon-like, all environed with beams and sparks, as king Nicepsos of old was wont to wear them: and it reached down to the very bust of the rising of his belly, whereby he reaped great benefit all his life long, as the Greek physicians know well enough. For his gloves were put in work sixteen otters’ skins, and three of the loupgarous, or men-eating wolves, for the bordering of them: and of this stuff were they made, by the appointment of the Cabalists of Sanlouand. As for the rings which his father would have him to wear, to renew the ancient mark of nobility, he had on the forefinger of his left hand a carbuncle as big as an ostrich’s egg, enchased very daintily in gold of the fineness of a Turkey seraph. Upon the middle finger of the same hand he had a ring made of four metals together, of the strangest fashion that ever was seen; so that the steel did not crash against the gold, nor the silver crush the copper. All this was made by Captain Chappuys, and Alcofribas his good agent. On the medical finger of his right hand he had a ring made spire-wise, wherein was set a perfect Balas ruby, a pointed diamond, and a Physon emerald, of an inestimable value. For Hans Carvel, the king of Melinda’s jeweller, esteemed them at the rate of threescore nine millions, eight hundred ninety-four thousand, and eighteen French crowns of Berry, and at so much did the Foucres of Augsburg prize them.

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