Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 13

How Pantagruel adviseth Panurge to try the future good or bad luck of his marriage by dreams.

Now, seeing we cannot agree together in the manner of expounding or interpreting the sense of the Virgilian lots, let us bend our course another way, and try a new sort of divination. Of what kind? asked Panurge. Of a good ancient and authentic fashion, answered Pantagruel; it is by dreams. For in dreaming, such circumstances and conditions being thereto adhibited, as are clearly enough described by Hippocrates, in Lib. (Greek), by Plato, Plotin, Iamblicus, Sinesius, Aristotle, Xenophon, Galen, Plutarch, Artemidorus, Daldianus, Herophilus, Q. Calaber, Theocritus, Pliny, Athenaeus, and others, the soul doth oftentimes foresee what is to come. How true this is, you may conceive by a very vulgar and familiar example; as when you see that at such a time as suckling babes, well nourished, fed, and fostered with good milk, sleep soundly and profoundly, the nurses in the interim get leave to sport themselves, and are licentiated to recreate their fancies at what range to them shall seem most fitting and expedient, their presence, sedulity, and attendance on the cradle being, during all that space, held unnecessary. Even just so, when our body is at rest, that the concoction is everywhere accomplished, and that, till it awake, it lacks for nothing, our soul delighteth to disport itself and is well pleased in that frolic to take a review of its native country, which is the heavens, where it receiveth a most notable participation of its first beginning with an imbuement from its divine source, and in contemplation of that infinite and intellectual sphere, whereof the centre is everywhere, and the circumference in no place of the universal world, to wit, God, according to the doctrine of Hermes Trismegistus, to whom no new thing happeneth, whom nothing that is past escapeth, and unto whom all things are alike present, remarketh not only what is preterit and gone in the inferior course and agitation of sublunary matters, but withal taketh notice what is to come; then bringing a relation of those future events unto the body of the outward senses and exterior organs, it is divulged abroad unto the hearing of others. Whereupon the owner of that soul deserveth to be termed a vaticinator, or prophet. Nevertheless, the truth is, that the soul is seldom able to report those things in such sincerity as it hath seen them, by reason of the imperfection and frailty of the corporeal senses, which obstruct the effectuating of that office; even as the moon doth not communicate unto this earth of ours that light which she receiveth from the sun with so much splendour, heat, vigour, purity, and liveliness as it was given her. Hence it is requisite for the better reading, explaining, and unfolding of these somniatory vaticinations and predictions of that nature, that a dexterous, learned, skilful, wise, industrious, expert, rational, and peremptory expounder or interpreter be pitched upon, such a one as by the Greeks is called onirocrit, or oniropolist. For this cause Heraclitus was wont to say that nothing is by dreams revealed to us, that nothing is by dreams concealed from us, and that only we thereby have a mystical signification and secret evidence of things to come, either for our own prosperous or unlucky fortune, or for the favourable or disastrous success of another. The sacred Scriptures testify no less, and profane histories assure us of it, in both which are exposed to our view a thousand several kinds of strange adventures, which have befallen pat according to the nature of the dream, and that as well to the party dreamer as to others. The Atlantic people, and those that inhabit the (is)land of Thasos, one of the Cyclades, are of this grand commodity deprived; for in their countries none yet ever dreamed. Of this sort (were) Cleon of Daulia, Thrasymedes, and in our days the learned Frenchman Villanovanus, neither of all which knew what dreaming was.

Fail not therefore to-morrow, when the jolly and fair Aurora with her rosy fingers draweth aside the curtains of the night to drive away the sable shades of darkness, to bend your spirits wholly to the task of sleeping sound, and thereto apply yourself. In the meanwhile you must denude your mind of every human passion or affection, such as are love and hatred, fear and hope, for as of old the great vaticinator, most famous and renowned prophet Proteus, was not able in his disguise or transformation into fire, water, a tiger, a dragon, and other such like uncouth shapes and visors, to presage anything that was to come till he was restored to his own first natural and kindly form; just so doth man; for, at his reception of the art of divination and faculty of prognosticating future things, that part in him which is the most divine, to wit, the Nous, or Mens, must be calm, peaceable, untroubled, quiet, still, hushed, and not embusied or distracted with foreign, soul-disturbing perturbations. I am content, quoth Panurge. But, I pray you, sir, must I this evening, ere I go to bed, eat much or little? I do not ask this without cause. For if I sup not well, large, round, and amply, my sleeping is not worth a forked turnip. All the night long I then but doze and rave, and in my slumbering fits talk idle nonsense, my thoughts being in a dull brown study, and as deep in their dumps as is my belly hollow.

Not to sup, answered Pantagruel, were best for you, considering the state of your complexion and healthy constitution of your body. A certain very ancient prophet, named Amphiaraus, wished such as had a mind by dreams to be imbued with any oracle, for four-and-twenty hours to taste no victuals, and to abstain from wine three days together. Yet shall not you be put to such a sharp, hard, rigorous, and extreme sparing diet. I am truly right apt to believe that a man whose stomach is replete with various cheer, and in a manner surfeited with drinking, is hardly able to conceive aright of spiritual things; yet am not I of the opinion of those who, after long and pertinacious fastings, think by such means to enter more profoundly into the speculation of celestial mysteries. You may very well remember how my father Gargantua (whom here for honour sake I name) hath often told us that the writings of abstinent, abstemious, and long-fasting hermits were every whit as saltless, dry, jejune, and insipid as were their bodies when they did compose them. It is a most difficult thing for the spirits to be in a good plight, serene and lively, when there is nothing in the body but a kind of voidness and inanity; seeing the philosophers with the physicians jointly affirm that the spirits which are styled animal spring from, and have their constant practice in and through the arterial blood, refined and purified to the life within the admirable net which, wonderfully framed, lieth under the ventricles and tunnels of the brain. He gave us also the example of the philosopher who, when he thought most seriously to have withdrawn himself unto a solitary privacy, for from the rustling clutterments of the tumultuous and confused world, the better to improve his theory, to contrive, comment, and ratiocinate, was, notwithstanding his uttermost endeavours to free himself from all untoward noises, surrounded and environed about so with the barking of curs, bawling of mastiffs, bleating of sheep, prating of parrots, tattling of jackdaws, grunting of swine, girning of boars, yelping of foxes, mewing of cats, cheeping of mice, squeaking of weasels, croaking of frogs, crowing of cocks, cackling of hens, calling of partridges, chanting of swans, chattering of jays, peeping of chickens, singing of larks, creaking of geese, chirping of swallows, clucking of moorfowls, cucking of cuckoos, bumbling of bees, rammage of hawks, chirming of linnets, croaking of ravens, screeching of owls, whicking of pigs, gushing of hogs, curring of pigeons, grumbling of cushat-doves, howling of panthers, curkling of quails, chirping of sparrows, crackling of crows, nuzzing of camels, wheening of whelps, buzzing of dromedaries, mumbling of rabbits, cricking of ferrets, humming of wasps, mioling of tigers, bruzzing of bears, sussing of kitlings, clamouring of scarfs, whimpering of fulmarts, booing of buffaloes, warbling of nightingales, quavering of mavises, drintling of turkeys, coniating of storks, frantling of peacocks, clattering of magpies, murmuring of stock-doves, crouting of cormorants, cigling of locusts, charming of beagles, guarring of puppies, snarling of messens, rantling of rats, guerieting of apes, snuttering of monkeys, pioling of pelicans, quacking of ducks, yelling of wolves, roaring of lions, neighing of horses, crying of elephants, hissing of serpents, and wailing of turtles, that he was much more troubled than if he had been in the middle of the crowd at the fair of Fontenay or Niort. Just so is it with those who are tormented with the grievous pangs of hunger. The stomach begins to gnaw, and bark, as it were, the eyes to look dim, and the veins, by greedily sucking some refection to themselves from the proper substance of all the members of a fleshy consistence, violently pull down and draw back that vagrant, roaming spirit, careless and neglecting of his nurse and natural host, which is the body; as when a hawk upon the fist, willing to take her flight by a soaring aloft in the open spacious air, is on a sudden drawn back by a leash tied to her feet.

To this purpose also did he allege unto us the authority of Homer, the father of all philosophy, who said that the Grecians did not put an end to their mournful mood for the death of Patroclus, the most intimate friend of Achilles, till hunger in a rage declared herself, and their bellies protested to furnish no more tears unto their grief. For from bodies emptied and macerated by long fasting there could not be such supply of moisture and brackish drops as might be proper on that occasion.

Mediocrity at all times is commendable; nor in this case are you to abandon it. You may take a little supper, but thereat must you not eat of a hare, nor of any other flesh. You are likewise to abstain from beans, from the preak, by some called the polyp, as also from coleworts, cabbage, and all other such like windy victuals, which may endanger the troubling of your brains and the dimming or casting a kind of mist over your animal spirits. For, as a looking-glass cannot exhibit the semblance or representation of the object set before it, and exposed to have its image to the life expressed, if that the polished sleekedness thereof be darkened by gross breathings, dampish vapours, and foggy, thick, infectious exhalations, even so the fancy cannot well receive the impression of the likeness of those things which divination doth afford by dreams, if any way the body be annoyed or troubled with the fumish steam of meat which it had taken in a while before; because betwixt these two there still hath been a mutual sympathy and fellow-feeling of an indissolubly knit affection. You shall eat good Eusebian and Bergamot pears, one apple of the short-shank pippin kind, a parcel of the little plums of Tours, and some few cherries of the growth of my orchard. Nor shall you need to fear that thereupon will ensue doubtful dreams, fallacious, uncertain, and not to be trusted to, as by some peripatetic philosophers hath been related; for that, say they, men do more copiously in the season of harvest feed on fruitages than at any other time. The same is mystically taught us by the ancient prophets and poets, who allege that all vain and deceitful dreams lie hid and in covert under the leaves which are spread on the ground — by reason that the leaves fall from the trees in the autumnal quarter. For the natural fervour which, abounding in ripe, fresh, recent fruits, cometh by the quickness of its ebullition to be with ease evaporated into the animal parts of the dreaming person — the experiment is obvious in most — is a pretty while before it be expired, dissolved, and evanished. As for your drink, you are to have it of the fair, pure water of my fountain.

The condition, quoth Panurge, is very hard. Nevertheless, cost what price it will, or whatsoever come of it, I heartily condescend thereto; protesting that I shall to-morrow break my fast betimes after my somniatory exercitations. Furthermore, I recommend myself to Homer’s two gates, to Morpheus, to Iselon, to Phantasus, and unto Phobetor. If they in this my great need succour me and grant me that assistance which is fitting, I will in honour of them all erect a jolly, genteel altar, composed of the softest down. If I were now in Laconia, in the temple of Juno, betwixt Oetile and Thalamis, she suddenly would disentangle my perplexity, resolve me of my doubts, and cheer me up with fair and jovial dreams in a deep sleep.

Then did he say thus unto Pantagruel: Sir, were it not expedient for my purpose to put a branch or two of curious laurel betwixt the quilt and bolster of my bed, under the pillow on which my head must lean? There is no need at all of that, quoth Pantagruel; for, besides that it is a thing very superstitious, the cheat thereof hath been at large discovered unto us in the writings of Serapion, Ascalonites, Antiphon, Philochorus, Artemon, and Fulgentius Planciades. I could say as much to you of the left shoulder of a crocodile, as also of a chameleon, without prejudice be it spoken to the credit which is due to the opinion of old Democritus; and likewise of the stone of the Bactrians, called Eumetrides, and of the Ammonian horn; for so by the Aethiopians is termed a certain precious stone, coloured like gold, and in the fashion, shape, form, and proportion of a ram’s horn, as the horn of Jupiter Ammon is reported to have been: they over and above assuredly affirming that the dreams of those who carry it about them are no less veritable and infallible than the truth of the divine oracles. Nor is this much unlike to what Homer and Virgil wrote of these two gates of sleep, to which you have been pleased to recommend the management of what you have in hand. The one is of ivory, which letteth in confused, doubtful, and uncertain dreams; for through ivory, how small and slender soever it be, we can see nothing, the density, opacity, and close compactedness of its material parts hindering the penetration of the visual rays and the reception of the specieses of such things as are visible. The other is of horn, at which an entry is made to sure and certain dreams, even as through horn, by reason of the diaphanous splendour and bright transparency thereof, the species of all objects of the sight distinctly pass, and so without confusion appear, that they are clearly seen. Your meaning is, and you would thereby infer, quoth Friar John, that the dreams of all horned cuckolds, of which number Panurge, by the help of God and his future wife, is without controversy to be one, are always true and infallible.

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