Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 28

How Pantagruel got the victory very strangely over the Dipsodes and the Giants.

After all this talk, Pantagruel took the prisoner to him and sent him away, saying, Go thou unto thy king in his camp, and tell him tidings of what thou hast seen, and let him resolve to feast me to-morrow about noon; for, as soon as my galleys shall come, which will be to-morrow at furthest, I will prove unto him by eighteen hundred thousand fighting-men and seven thousand giants, all of them greater than I am, that he hath done foolishly and against reason thus to invade my country. Wherein Pantagruel feigned that he had an army at sea. But the prisoner answered that he would yield himself to be his slave, and that he was content never to return to his own people, but rather with Pantagruel to fight against them, and for God’s sake besought him that he might be permitted so to do. Whereunto Pantagruel would not give consent, but commanded him to depart thence speedily and begone as he had told him, and to that effect gave him a boxful of euphorbium, together with some grains of the black chameleon thistle, steeped into aqua vitae, and made up into the condiment of a wet sucket, commanding him to carry it to his king, and to say unto him, that if he were able to eat one ounce of that without drinking after it, he might then be able to resist him without any fear or apprehension of danger.

The prisoner then besought him with joined hands that in the hour of the battle he would have compassion upon him. Whereat Pantagruel said unto him, After that thou hast delivered all unto the king, put thy whole confidence in God, and he will not forsake thee; because, although for my part I be mighty, as thou mayst see, and have an infinite number of men in arms, I do nevertheless trust neither in my force nor in mine industry, but all my confidence is in God my protector, who doth never forsake those that in him do put their trust and confidence. This done, the prisoner requested him that he would afford him some reasonable composition for his ransom. To which Pantagruel answered, that his end was not to rob nor ransom men, but to enrich them and reduce them to total liberty. Go thy way, said he, in the peace of the living God, and never follow evil company, lest some mischief befall thee. The prisoner being gone, Pantagruel said to his men, Gentlemen, I have made this prisoner believe that we have an army at sea; as also that we will not assault them till to-morrow at noon, to the end that they, doubting of the great arrival of our men, may spend this night in providing and strengthening themselves, but in the meantime my intention is that we charge them about the hour of the first sleep.

Let us leave Pantagruel here with his apostles, and speak of King Anarchus and his army. When the prisoner was come he went unto the king and told him how there was a great giant come, called Pantagruel, who had overthrown and made to be cruelly roasted all the six hundred and nine and fifty horsemen, and he alone escaped to bring the news. Besides that, he was charged by the said giant to tell him that the next day, about noon, he must make a dinner ready for him, for at that hour he was resolved to set upon him. Then did he give him that box wherein were those confitures. But as soon as he had swallowed down one spoonful of them, he was taken with such a heat in the throat, together with an ulceration in the flap of the top of the windpipe, that his tongue peeled with it in such sort that, for all they could do unto him, he found no ease at all but by drinking only without cessation; for as soon as ever he took the goblet from his head, his tongue was on a fire, and therefore they did nothing but still pour in wine into his throat with a funnel. Which when his captains, bashaws, and guard of his body did see, they tasted of the same drugs to try whether they were so thirst-procuring and alterative or no. But it so befell them as it had done their king, and they plied the flagon so well that the noise ran throughout all the camp, how the prisoner was returned; that the next day they were to have an assault; that the king and his captains did already prepare themselves for it, together with his guards, and that with carousing lustily and quaffing as hard as they could. Every man, therefore, in the army began to tipple, ply the pot, swill and guzzle it as fast as they could. In sum, they drunk so much, and so long, that they fell asleep like pigs, all out of order throughout the whole camp.

Let us now return to the good Pantagruel, and relate how he carried himself in this business. Departing from the place of the trophies, he took the mast of their ship in his hand like a pilgrim’s staff, and put within the top of it two hundred and seven and thirty puncheons of white wine of Anjou, the rest was of Rouen, and tied up to his girdle the bark all full of salt, as easily as the lansquenets carry their little panniers, and so set onward on his way with his fellow-soldiers. When he was come near to the enemy’s camp, Panurge said unto him, Sir, if you would do well, let down this white wine of Anjou from the scuttle of the mast of the ship, that we may all drink thereof, like Bretons.

Hereunto Pantagruel very willingly consented, and they drank so neat that there was not so much as one poor drop left of two hundred and seven and thirty puncheons, except one boracho or leathern bottle of Tours which Panurge filled for himself, for he called that his vademecum, and some scurvy lees of wine in the bottom, which served him instead of vinegar. After they had whittled and curried the can pretty handsomely, Panurge gave Pantagruel to eat some devilish drugs compounded of lithotripton, which is a stone-dissolving ingredient, nephrocatarticon, that purgeth the reins, the marmalade of quinces, called codiniac, a confection of cantharides, which are green flies breeding on the tops of olive-trees, and other kinds of diuretic or piss-procuring simples. This done, Pantagruel said to Carpalin, Go into the city, scrambling like a cat against the wall, as you can well do, and tell them that now presently they come out and charge their enemies as rudely as they can, and having said so, come down, taking a lighted torch with you, wherewith you shall set on fire all the tents and pavilions in the camp; then cry as loud as you are able with your great voice, and then come away from thence. Yea but, said Carpalin, were it not good to cloy all their ordnance? No, no, said Pantagruel, only blow up all their powder. Carpalin, obeying him, departed suddenly and did as he was appointed by Pantagruel, and all the combatants came forth that were in the city, and when he had set fire in the tents and pavilions, he passed so lightly through them, and so highly and profoundly did they snort and sleep, that they never perceived him. He came to the place where their artillery was, and set their munition on fire. But here was the danger. The fire was so sudden that poor Carpalin had almost been burnt. And had it not been for his wonderful agility he had been fried like a roasting pig. But he departed away so speedily that a bolt or arrow out of a crossbow could not have had a swifter motion. When he was clear of their trenches, he shouted aloud, and cried out so dreadfully, and with such amazement to the hearers, that it seemed all the devils of hell had been let loose. At which noise the enemies awaked, but can you tell how? Even no less astonished than are monks at the ringing of the first peal to matins, which in Lusonnois is called rub-ballock.

In the meantime Pantagruel began to sow the salt that he had in his bark, and because they slept with an open gaping mouth, he filled all their throats with it, so that those poor wretches were by it made to cough like foxes. Ha, Pantagruel, how thou addest greater heat to the firebrand that is in us! Suddenly Pantagruel had will to piss, by means of the drugs which Panurge had given him, and pissed amidst the camp so well and so copiously that he drowned them all, and there was a particular deluge ten leagues round about, of such considerable depth that the history saith, if his father’s great mare had been there, and pissed likewise, it would undoubtedly have been a more enormous deluge than that of Deucalion; for she did never piss but she made a river greater than is either the Rhone or the Danube. Which those that were come out of the city seeing, said, They are all cruelly slain; see how the blood runs along. But they were deceived in thinking Pantagruel’s urine had been the blood of their enemies, for they could not see but by the light of the fire of the pavilions and some small light of the moon.

The enemies, after that they were awaked, seeing on one side the fire in the camp, and on the other the inundation of the urinal deluge, could not tell what to say nor what to think. Some said that it was the end of the world and the final judgment, which ought to be by fire. Others again thought that the sea-gods, Neptune, Proteus, Triton, and the rest of them, did persecute them, for that indeed they found it to be like sea-water and salt.

O who were able now condignly to relate how Pantagruel did demean himself against the three hundred giants! O my Muse, my Calliope, my Thalia, inspire me at this time, restore unto me my spirits; for this is the logical bridge of asses! Here is the pitfall, here is the difficulty, to have ability enough to express the horrible battle that was fought. Ah, would to God that I had now a bottle of the best wine that ever those drank who shall read this so veridical history!

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