Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 15

Panurge’s excuse and exposition of the monastic mystery concerning powdered beef.

The Lord save those who see, and do not hear! quoth Panurge. I see you well enough, but know not what it is that you have said. The hunger-starved belly wanteth ears. For lack of victuals, before God, I roar, bray, yell, and fume as in a furious madness. I have performed too hard a task to-day, an extraordinary work indeed. He shall be craftier, and do far greater wonders than ever did Mr. Mush, who shall be able any more this year to bring me on the stage of preparation for a dreaming verdict. Fie! not to sup at all, that is the devil. Pox take that fashion! Come, Friar John, let us go break our fast; for, if I hit on such a round refection in the morning as will serve thoroughly to fill the mill-hopper and hogs-hide of my stomach, and furnish it with meat and drink sufficient, then at a pinch, as in the case of some extreme necessity which presseth, I could make a shift that day to forbear dining. But not to sup! A plague rot that base custom, which is an error offensive to Nature! That lady made the day for exercise, to travel, work, wait on and labour in each his negotiation and employment; and that we may with the more fervency and ardour prosecute our business, she sets before us a clear burning candle, to wit, the sun’s resplendency; and at night, when she begins to take the light from us, she thereby tacitly implies no less than if she would have spoken thus unto us: My lads and lasses, all of you are good and honest folks, you have wrought well to-day, toiled and turmoiled enough — the night approacheth — therefore cast off these moiling cares of yours, desist from all your swinking painful labours, and set your minds how to refresh your bodies in the renewing of their vigour with good bread, choice wine, and store of wholesome meats; then may you take some sport and recreation, and after that lie down and rest yourselves, that you may strongly, nimbly, lustily, and with the more alacrity to-morrow attend on your affairs as formerly.

Falconers, in like manner, when they have fed their hawks, will not suffer them to fly on a full gorge, but let them on a perch abide a little, that they may rouse, bait, tower, and soar the better. That good pope who was the first institutor of fasting understood this well enough; for he ordained that our fast should reach but to the hour of noon; all the remainder of that day was at our disposure, freely to eat and feed at any time thereof. In ancient times there were but few that dined, as you would say, some church men, monks and canons; for they have little other occupation. Each day is a festival unto them, who diligently heed the claustral proverb, De missa ad mensam. They do not use to linger and defer their sitting down and placing of themselves at table, only so long as they have a mind in waiting for the coming of the abbot; so they fell to without ceremony, terms, or conditions; and everybody supped, unless it were some vain, conceited, dreaming dotard. Hence was a supper called coena, which showeth that it is common to all sorts of people. Thou knowest it well, Friar John. Come, let us go, my dear friend, in the name of all the devils of the infernal regions, let us go. The gnawings of my stomach in this rage of hunger are so tearing, that they make it bark like a mastiff. Let us throw some bread and beef into his throat to pacify him, as once the sibyl did to Cerberus. Thou likest best monastical brewis, the prime, the flower of the pot. I am for the solid, principal verb that comes after — the good brown loaf, always accompanied with a round slice of the nine-lecture-powdered labourer. I know thy meaning, answered Friar John; this metaphor is extracted out of the claustral kettle. The labourer is the ox that hath wrought and done the labour; after the fashion of nine lectures, that is to say, most exquisitely well and thoroughly boiled. These holy religious fathers, by a certain cabalistic institution of the ancients, not written, but carefully by tradition conveyed from hand to hand, rising betimes to go to morning prayers, were wont to flourish that their matutinal devotion with some certain notable preambles before their entry into the church, viz., they dunged in the dungeries, pissed in the pisseries, spit in the spitteries, melodiously coughed in the cougheries, and doted in their dotaries, that to the divine service they might not bring anything that was unclean or foul. These things thus done, they very zealously made their repair to the Holy Chapel, for so was in their canting language termed the convent kitchen, where they with no small earnestness had care that the beef-pot should be put on the crook for the breakfast of the religious brothers of our Lord and Saviour; and the fire they would kindle under the pot themselves. Now, the matins consisting of nine lessons, (it) it was so incumbent on them, that must have risen the rather for the more expedite despatching of them all. The sooner that they rose, the sharper was their appetite and the barkings of their stomachs, and the gnawings increased in the like proportion, and consequently made these godly men thrice more a-hungered and athirst than when their matins were hemmed over only with three lessons. The more betimes they rose, by the said cabal, the sooner was the beef-pot put on; the longer that the beef was on the fire, the better it was boiled; the more it boiled, it was the tenderer; the tenderer that it was, the less it troubled the teeth, delighted more the palate, less charged the stomach, and nourished our good religious men the more substantially; which is the only end and prime intention of the first founders, as appears by this, that they eat not to live, but live to eat, and in this world have nothing but their life. Let us go, Panurge.

Now have I understood thee, quoth Panurge, my plushcod friar, my caballine and claustral ballock. I freely quit the costs, interest, and charges, seeing you have so egregiously commented upon the most especial chapter of the culinary and monastic cabal. Come along, my Carpalin, and you, Friar John, my leather-dresser. Good morrow to you all, my good lords; I have dreamed too much to have so little. Let us go. Panurge had no sooner done speaking than Epistemon with a loud voice said these words: It is a very ordinary and common thing amongst men to conceive, foresee, know, and presage the misfortune, bad luck, or disaster of another; but to have the understanding, providence, knowledge, and prediction of a man’s own mishap is very scarce and rare to be found anywhere. This is exceeding judiciously and prudently deciphered by Aesop in his Apologues, who there affirmeth that every man in the world carrieth about his neck a wallet, in the fore-bag whereof were contained the faults and mischances of others always exposed to his view and knowledge; and in the other scrip thereof, which hangs behind, are kept the bearer’s proper transgressions and inauspicious adventures, at no time seen by him, nor thought upon, unless he be a person that hath a favourable aspect from the heavens.

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