Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 15

How Panurge showed a very new way to build the walls of Paris.

Pantagruel one day, to refresh himself of his study, went a-walking towards St. Marcel’s suburbs, to see the extravagancy of the Gobeline building, and to taste of their spiced bread. Panurge was with him, having always a flagon under his gown and a good slice of a gammon of bacon; for without this he never went, saying that it was as a yeoman of the guard to him, to preserve his body from harm. Other sword carried he none; and, when Pantagruel would have given him one, he answered that he needed none, for that it would but heat his milt. Yea but, said Epistemon, if thou shouldst be set upon, how wouldst thou defend thyself? With great buskinades or brodkin blows, answered he, provided thrusts were forbidden. At their return, Panurge considered the walls of the city of Paris, and in derision said to Pantagruel, See what fair walls here are! O how strong they are, and well fitted to keep geese in a mew or coop to fatten them! By my beard, they are competently scurvy for such a city as this is; for a cow with one fart would go near to overthrow above six fathoms of them. O my friend, said Pantagruel, dost thou know what Agesilaus said when he was asked why the great city of Lacedaemon was not enclosed with walls? Lo here, said he, the walls of the city! in showing them the inhabitants and citizens thereof, so strong, so well armed, and so expert in military discipline; signifying thereby that there is no wall but of bones, and that towns and cities cannot have a surer wall nor better fortification than the prowess and virtue of the citizens and inhabitants. So is this city so strong, by the great number of warlike people that are in it, that they care not for making any other walls. Besides, whosoever would go about to wall it, as Strasbourg, Orleans, or Ferrara, would find it almost impossible, the cost and charges would be so excessive. Yea but, said Panurge, it is good, nevertheless, to have an outside of stone when we are invaded by our enemies, were it but to ask, Who is below there? As for the enormous expense which you say would be needful for undertaking the great work of walling this city about, if the gentlemen of the town will be pleased to give me a good rough cup of wine, I will show them a pretty, strange, and new way, how they may build them good cheap. How? said Pantagruel. Do not speak of it then, answered Panurge, and I will tell it you. I see that the sine quo nons, kallibistris, or contrapunctums of the women of this country are better cheap than stones. Of them should the walls be built, ranging them in good symmetry by the rules of architecture, and placing the largest in the first ranks, then sloping downwards ridge-wise, like the back of an ass. The middle-sized ones must be ranked next, and last of all the least and smallest. This done, there must be a fine little interlacing of them, like points of diamonds, as is to be seen in the great tower of Bourges, with a like number of the nudinnudos, nilnisistandos, and stiff bracmards, that dwell in amongst the claustral codpieces. What devil were able to overthrow such walls? There is no metal like it to resist blows, in so far that, if culverin-shot should come to graze upon it, you would incontinently see distil from thence the blessed fruit of the great pox as small as rain. Beware, in the name of the devils, and hold off. Furthermore, no thunderbolt or lightning would fall upon it. For why? They are all either blest or consecrated. I see but one inconveniency in it. Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha! said Pantagruel, and what is that? It is, that the flies would be so liquorish of them that you would wonder, and would quickly gather there together, and there leave their ordure and excretions, and so all the work would be spoiled. But see how that might be remedied: they must be wiped and made rid of the flies with fair foxtails, or great good viedazes, which are ass-pizzles, of Provence. And to this purpose I will tell you, as we go to supper, a brave example set down by Frater Lubinus, Libro de compotationibus mendicantium.

In the time that the beasts did speak, which is not yet three days since, a poor lion, walking through the forest of Bieure, and saying his own little private devotions, passed under a tree where there was a roguish collier gotten up to cut down wood, who, seeing the lion, cast his hatchet at him and wounded him enormously in one of his legs; whereupon the lion halting, he so long toiled and turmoiled himself in roaming up and down the forest to find help, that at last he met with a carpenter, who willingly looked upon his wound, cleansed it as well as he could, and filled it with moss, telling him that he must wipe his wound well that the flies might not do their excrements in it, whilst he should go search for some yarrow or millefoil, commonly called the carpenter’s herb. The lion, being thus healed, walked along in the forest at what time a sempiternous crone and old hag was picking up and gathering some sticks in the said forest, who, seeing the lion coming towards her, for fear fell down backwards, in such sort that the wind blew up her gown, coats, and smock, even as far as above her shoulders; which the lion perceiving, for pity ran to see whether she had taken any hurt by the fall, and thereupon considering her how do you call it, said, O poor woman, who hath thus wounded thee? Which words when he had spoken, he espied a fox, whom he called to come to him saying, Gossip Reynard, hau, hither, hither, and for cause! When the fox was come, he said unto him, My gossip and friend, they have hurt this good woman here between the legs most villainously, and there is a manifest solution of continuity. See how great a wound it is, even from the tail up to the navel, in measure four, nay full five handfuls and a half. This is the blow of a hatchet, I doubt me; it is an old wound, and therefore, that the flies may not get into it, wipe it lustily well and hard, I prithee, both within and without; thou hast a good tail, and long. Wipe, my friend, wipe, I beseech thee, and in the meanwhile I will go get some moss to put into it; for thus ought we to succour and help one another. Wipe it hard, thus, my friend; wipe it well, for this wound must be often wiped, otherwise the party cannot be at ease. Go to, wipe well, my little gossip, wipe; God hath furnished thee with a tail; thou hast a long one, and of a bigness proportionable; wipe hard, and be not weary. A good wiper, who, in wiping continually, wipeth with his wipard, by wasps shall never be wounded. Wipe, my pretty minion; wipe, my little bully; I will not stay long. Then went he to get store of moss; and when he was a little way off, he cried out in speaking to the fox thus, Wipe well still, gossip, wipe, and let it never grieve thee to wipe well, my little gossip; I will put thee into service to be wiper to Don Pedro de Castile; wipe, only wipe, and no more. The poor fox wiped as hard as he could, here and there, within and without; but the false old trot did so fizzle and fist that she stunk like a hundred devils, which put the poor fox to a great deal of ill ease, for he knew not to what side to turn himself to escape the unsavoury perfume of this old woman’s postern blasts. And whilst to that effect he was shifting hither and thither, without knowing how to shun the annoyance of those unwholesome gusts, he saw that behind there was yet another hole, not so great as that which he did wipe, out of which came this filthy and infectious air. The lion at last returned, bringing with him of moss more than eighteen packs would hold, and began to put into the wound with a staff which he had provided for that purpose, and had already put in full sixteen packs and a half, at which he was amazed. What a devil! said he, this wound is very deep; it would hold above two cartloads of moss. The fox, perceiving this, said unto the lion, O gossip lion, my friend, I pray thee do not put in all thy moss there; keep somewhat, for there is yet here another little hole, that stinks like five hundred devils; I am almost choked with the smell thereof, it is so pestiferous and empoisoning.

Thus must these walls be kept from the flies, and wages allowed to some for wiping of them. Then said Pantagruel, How dost thou know that the privy parts of women are at such a cheap rate? For in this city there are many virtuous, honest, and chaste women besides the maids. Et ubi prenus? said Panurge. I will give you my opinion of it, and that upon certain and assured knowledge. I do not brag that I have bumbasted four hundred and seventeen since I came into this city, though it be but nine days ago; but this very morning I met with a good fellow, who, in a wallet such as Aesop’s was, carried two little girls of two or three years old at the most, one before and the other behind. He demanded alms of me, but I made him answer that I had more cods than pence. Afterwards I asked him, Good man, these two girls, are they maids? Brother, said he, I have carried them thus these two years, and in regard of her that is before, whom I see continually, in my opinion she is a virgin, nevertheless I will not put my finger in the fire for it; as for her that is behind, doubtless I can say nothing.

Indeed, said Pantagruel, thou art a gentle companion; I will have thee to be apparelled in my livery. And therefore caused him to be clothed most gallantly according to the fashion that then was, only that Panurge would have the codpiece of his breeches three foot long, and in shape square, not round; which was done, and was well worth the seeing. Oftentimes was he wont to say, that the world had not yet known the emolument and utility that is in wearing great codpieces; but time would one day teach it them, as all things have been invented in time. God keep from hurt, said he, the good fellow whose long codpiece or braguet hath saved his life! God keep from hurt him whose long braguet hath been worth to him in one day one hundred threescore thousand and nine crowns! God keep from hurt him who by his long braguet hath saved a whole city from dying by famine! And, by G-, I will make a book of the commodity of long braguets when I shall have more leisure. And indeed he composed a fair great book with figures, but it is not printed as yet that I know of.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/r/rabelais/francois/r11g/book2.15.html

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