Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 33

How Pantagruel became sick, and the manner how he was recovered.

A while after this the good Pantagruel fell sick, and had such an obstruction in his stomach that he could neither eat nor drink; and, because mischief seldom comes alone, a hot piss seized on him, which tormented him more than you would believe. His physicians nevertheless helped him very well, and with store of lenitives and diuretic drugs made him piss away his pain. His urine was so hot that since that time it is not yet cold, and you have of it in divers places of France, according to the course that it took, and they are called the hot baths, as —

At Coderets.
At Limous.
At Dast.
At Ballervie (Balleruc).
At Neric.
At Bourbonansie, and elsewhere in Italy.
At Mongros.
At Appone.
At Sancto Petro de Padua.
At St. Helen.
At Casa Nuova.
At St. Bartholomew, in the county of Boulogne.
At the Porrette, and a thousand other places.

And I wonder much at a rabble of foolish philosophers and physicians, who spend their time in disputing whence the heat of the said waters cometh, whether it be by reason of borax, or sulphur, or alum, or saltpetre, that is within the mine. For they do nothing but dote, and better were it for them to rub their arse against a thistle than to waste away their time thus in disputing of that whereof they know not the original; for the resolution is easy, neither need we to inquire any further than that the said baths came by a hot piss of the good Pantagruel.

Now to tell you after what manner he was cured of his principal disease. I let pass how for a minorative or gentle potion he took four hundred pound weight of colophoniac scammony, six score and eighteen cartloads of cassia, an eleven thousand and nine hundred pound weight of rhubarb, besides other confuse jumblings of sundry drugs. You must understand that by the advice of the physicians it was ordained that what did offend his stomach should be taken away; and therefore they made seventeen great balls of copper, each whereof was bigger than that which is to be seen on the top of St. Peter’s needle at Rome, and in such sort that they did open in the midst and shut with a spring. Into one of them entered one of his men carrying a lantern and a torch lighted, and so Pantagruel swallowed him down like a little pill. Into seven others went seven country-fellows, having every one of them a shovel on his neck. Into nine others entered nine wood-carriers, having each of them a basket hung at his neck, and so were they swallowed down like pills. When they were in his stomach, every one undid his spring, and came out of their cabins. The first whereof was he that carried the lantern, and so they fell more than half a league into a most horrible gulf, more stinking and infectious than ever was Mephitis, or the marshes of the Camerina, or the abominably unsavoury lake of Sorbona, whereof Strabo maketh mention. And had it not been that they had very well antidoted their stomach, heart, and wine-pot, which is called the noddle, they had been altogether suffocated and choked with these detestable vapours. O what a perfume! O what an evaporation wherewith to bewray the masks or mufflers of young mangy queans. After that, with groping and smelling they came near to the faecal matter and the corrupted humours. Finally, they found a montjoy or heap of ordure and filth. Then fell the pioneers to work to dig it up, and the rest with their shovels filled the baskets; and when all was cleansed every one retired himself into his ball.

This done, Pantagruel enforcing himself to vomit, very easily brought them out, and they made no more show in his mouth than a fart in yours. But, when they came merrily out of their pills, I thought upon the Grecians coming out of the Trojan horse. By this means was he healed and brought unto his former state and convalescence; and of these brazen pills, or rather copper balls, you have one at Orleans, upon the steeple of the Holy Cross Church.

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