Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 14

Panurge’s dream, with the interpretation thereof.

At seven o’clock of the next following morning Panurge did not fail to present himself before Pantagruel, in whose chamber were at that time Epistemon, Friar John of the Funnels, Ponocrates, Eudemon, Carpalin, and others, to whom, at the entry of Panurge, Pantagruel said, Lo! here cometh our dreamer. That word, quoth Epistemon, in ancient times cost very much, and was dearly sold to the children of Jacob. Then said Panurge, I have been plunged into my dumps so deeply, as if I had been lodged with Gaffer Noddy-cap. Dreamed indeed I have, and that right lustily; but I could take along with me no more thereof that I did goodly understand save only that I in my vision had a pretty, fair, young, gallant, handsome woman, who no less lovingly and kindly treated and entertained me, hugged, cherished, cockered, dandled, and made much of me, as if I had been another neat dilly-darling minion, like Adonis. Never was man more glad than I was then; my joy at that time was incomparable. She flattered me, tickled me, stroked me, groped me, frizzled me, curled me, kissed me, embraced me, laid her hands about my neck, and now and then made jestingly pretty little horns above my forehead. I told her in the like disport, as I did play the fool with her, that she should rather place and fix them in a little below mine eyes, that I might see the better what I should stick at with them; for, being so situated, Momus then would find no fault therewith, as he did once with the position of the horns of bulls. The wanton, toying girl, notwithstanding any remonstrance of mine to the contrary, did always drive and thrust them further in; yet thereby, which to me seemed wonderful, she did not do me any hurt at all. A little after, though I know not how, I thought I was transformed into a tabor, and she into a chough.

My sleeping there being interrupted, I awaked in a start, angry, displeased, perplexed, chafing, and very wroth. There have you a large platterful of dreams, make thereupon good cheer, and, if you please, spare not to interpret them according to the understanding which you may have in them. Come, Carpalin, let us to breakfast. To my sense and meaning, quoth Pantagruel, if I have skill or knowledge in the art of divination by dreams, your wife will not really, and to the outward appearance of the world, plant or set horns, and stick them fast in your forehead, after a visible manner, as satyrs use to wear and carry them; but she will be so far from preserving herself loyal in the discharge and observance of a conjugal duty, that, on the contrary, she will violate her plighted faith, break her marriage-oath, infringe all matrimonial ties, prostitute her body to the dalliance of other men, and so make you a cuckold. This point is clearly and manifestly explained and expounded by Artemidorus just as I have related it. Nor will there be any metamorphosis or transmutation made of you into a drum or tabor, but you will surely be as soundly beaten as ever was tabor at a merry wedding. Nor yet will she be changed into a chough, but will steal from you, chiefly in the night, as is the nature of that thievish bird. Hereby may you perceive your dreams to be in every jot conform and agreeable to the Virgilian lots. A cuckold you will be, beaten and robbed. Then cried out Father John with a loud voice, He tells the truth; upon my conscience, thou wilt be a cuckold — an honest one, I warrant thee. O the brave horns that will be borne by thee! Ha, ha, ha! Our good Master de Cornibus. God save thee, and shield thee! Wilt thou be pleased to preach but two words of a sermon to us, and I will go through the parish church to gather up alms for the poor.

You are, quoth Panurge, very far mistaken in your interpretation; for the matter is quite contrary to your sense thereof. My dream presageth that I shall by marriage be stored with plenty of all manner of goods — the hornifying of me showing that I will possess a cornucopia, that Amalthaean horn which is called the horn of abundance, whereof the fruition did still portend the wealth of the enjoyer. You possibly will say that they are rather like to be satyr’s horns; for you of these did make some mention. Amen, Amen, Fiat, fiatur, ad differentiam papae. Thus shall I have my touch-her-home still ready. My staff of love, sempiternally in a good case, will, satyr-like, be never toiled out — a thing which all men wish for, and send up their prayers to that purpose, but such a thing as nevertheless is granted but to a few. Hence doth it follow by a consequence as clear as the sunbeams that I will never be in the danger of being made a cuckold, for the defect hereof is Causa sine qua non; yea, the sole cause, as many think, of making husbands cuckolds. What makes poor scoundrel rogues to beg, I pray you? Is it not because they have not enough at home wherewith to fill their bellies and their pokes? What is it makes the wolves to leave the woods? Is it not the want of flesh meat? What maketh women whores? You understand me well enough. And herein may I very well submit my opinion to the judgment of learned lawyers, presidents, counsellors, advocates, procurers, attorneys, and other glossers and commentators on the venerable rubric, De frigidis et maleficiatis. You are, in truth, sir, as it seems to me (excuse my boldness if I have transgressed), in a most palpable and absurd error to attribute my horns to cuckoldry. Diana wears them on her head after the manner of a crescent. Is she a cucquean for that? How the devil can she be cuckolded who never yet was married? Speak somewhat more correctly, I beseech you, lest she, being offended, furnish you with a pair of horns shapen by the pattern of those which she made for Actaeon. The goodly Bacchus also carries horns — Pan, Jupiter Ammon, with a great many others. Are they all cuckolds? If Jove be a cuckold, Juno is a whore. This follows by the figure metalepsis: as to call a child, in the presence of his father and mother, a bastard, or whore’s son, is tacitly and underboard no less than if he had said openly the father is a cuckold and his wife a punk. Let our discourse come nearer to the purpose. The horns that my wife did make me are horns of abundance, planted and grafted in my head for the increase and shooting up of all good things. This will I affirm for truth, upon my word, and pawn my faith and credit both upon it. As for the rest, I will be no less joyful, frolic, glad, cheerful, merry, jolly, and gamesome, than a well-bended tabor in the hands of a good drummer at a nuptial feast, still making a noise, still rolling, still buzzing and cracking. Believe me, sir, in that consisteth none of my least good fortunes. And my wife will be jocund, feat, compt, neat, quaint, dainty, trim, tricked up, brisk, smirk, and smug, even as a pretty little Cornish chough. Who will not believe this, let hell or the gallows be the burden of his Christmas carol.

I remark, quoth Pantagruel, the last point or particle which you did speak of, and, having seriously conferred it with the first, find that at the beginning you were delighted with the sweetness of your dream; but in the end and final closure of it you startingly awaked, and on a sudden were forthwith vexed in choler and annoyed. Yea, quoth Panurge, the reason of that was because I had fasted too long. Flatter not yourself, quoth Pantagruel; all will go to ruin. Know for a certain truth, that every sleep that endeth with a starting, and leaves the person irksome, grieved, and fretting, doth either signify a present evil, or otherwise presageth and portendeth a future imminent mishap. To signify an evil, that is to say, to show some sickness hardly curable, a kind of pestilentious or malignant boil, botch, or sore, lying and lurking hid, occult, and latent within the very centre of the body, which many times doth by the means of sleep, whose nature is to reinforce and strengthen the faculty and virtue of concoction, being according to the theorems of physic to declare itself, and moves toward the outward superficies. At this sad stirring is the sleeper’s rest and ease disturbed and broken, whereof the first feeling and stinging smart admonisheth that he must patiently endure great pain and trouble, and thereunto provide some remedy; as when we say proverbially, to incense hornets, to move a stinking puddle, and to awake a sleeping lion, instead of these more usual expressions, and of a more familiar and plain meaning, to provoke angry persons, to make a thing the worse by meddling with it, and to irritate a testy choleric man when he is at quiet. On the other part, to presage or foretell an evil, especially in what concerneth the exploits of the soul in matter of somnial divinations, is as much to say as that it giveth us to understand that some dismal fortune or mischance is destinated and prepared for us, which shortly will not fail to come to pass. A clear and evident example hereof is to be found in the dream and dreadful awaking of Hecuba, as likewise in that of Eurydice, the wife of Orpheus, neither of which was (no) sooner finished, saith Ennius, but that incontinently thereafter they awaked in a start, and were affrighted horribly. Thereupon these accidents ensued: Hecuba had her husband Priamus, together with her children, slain before her eyes, and saw then the destruction of her country; and Eurydice died speedily thereafter in a most miserable manner. Aeneas, dreaming that he spoke to Hector a little after his decease, did on a sudden in a great start awake, and was afraid. Now hereupon did follow this event: Troy that same night was spoiled, sacked, and burnt. At another time the same Aeneas dreaming that he saw his familiar geniuses and penates, in a ghastly fright and astonishment awaked, of which terror and amazement the issue was, that the very next day subsequent, by a most horrible tempest on the sea, he was like to have perished and been cast away. Moreover, Turnus being prompted, instigated, and stirred up by the fantastic vision of an infernal fury to enter into a bloody war against Aeneas, awaked in a start much troubled and disquieted in spirit; in sequel whereof, after many notable and famous routs, defeats, and discomfitures in open field, he came at last to be killed in a single combat by the said Aeneas. A thousand other instances I could afford, if it were needful, of this matter. Whilst I relate these stories of Aeneas, remark the saying of Fabius Pictor, who faithfully averred that nothing had at any time befallen unto, was done, or enterprised by him, whereof he preallably had not notice, and beforehand foreseen it to the full, by sure predictions altogether founded on the oracles of somnial divination. To this there is no want of pregnant reasons, no more than of examples. For if repose and rest in sleeping be a special gift and favour of the gods, as is maintained by the philosophers, and by the poet attested in these lines,

Then sleep, that heavenly gift, came to refresh

Of human labourers the wearied flesh;

such a gift or benefit can never finish or terminate in wrath and indignation without portending some unlucky fate and most disastrous fortune to ensue. Otherwise it were a molestation, and not an ease; a scourge, and not a gift; at least, (not) proceeding from the gods above, but from the infernal devils our enemies, according to the common vulgar saying.

Suppose the lord, father, or master of a family, sitting at a very sumptuous dinner, furnished with all manner of good cheer, and having at his entry to the table his appetite sharp set upon his victuals, whereof there was great plenty, should be seen rise in a start, and on a sudden fling out of his chair, abandoning his meat, frighted, appalled, and in a horrid terror, who should not know the cause hereof would wonder, and be astonished exceedingly. But what? he heard his male servants cry, Fire, fire, fire, fire! his serving-maids and women yell, Stop thief, stop thief! and all his children shout as loud as ever they could, Murder, O murder, murder! Then was it not high time for him to leave his banqueting, for application of a remedy in haste, and to give speedy order for succouring of his distressed household? Truly I remember that the Cabalists and Massorets, interpreters of the sacred Scriptures, in treating how with verity one might judge of evangelical apparitions (because oftentimes the angel of Satan is disguised and transfigured into an angel of light), said that the difference of these two mainly did consist in this: the favourable and comforting angel useth in his appearing unto man at first to terrify and hugely affright him, but in the end he bringeth consolation, leaveth the person who hath seen him joyful, well-pleased, fully content, and satisfied; on the other side, the angel of perdition, that wicked, devilish, and malignant spirit, at his appearance unto any person in the beginning cheereth up the heart of his beholder, but at last forsakes him, and leaves him troubled, angry, and perplexed.

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