Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 2

How Panurge was made Laird of Salmigondin in Dipsody, and did waste his revenue before it came in.

Whilst Pantagruel was giving order for the government of all Dipsody, he assigned to Panurge the lairdship of Salmigondin, which was yearly worth 6,789,106,789 reals of certain rent, besides the uncertain revenue of the locusts and periwinkles, amounting, one year with another, to the value of 435,768, or 2,435,769 French crowns of Berry. Sometimes it did amount to 1,230,554,321 seraphs, when it was a good year, and that locusts and periwinkles were in request; but that was not every year.

Now his worship, the new laird, husbanded this his estate so providently well and prudently, that in less than fourteen days he wasted and dilapidated all the certain and uncertain revenue of his lairdship for three whole years. Yet did not he properly dilapidate it, as you might say, in founding of monasteries, building of churches, erecting of colleges, and setting up of hospitals, or casting his bacon-flitches to the dogs; but spent it in a thousand little banquets and jolly collations, keeping open house for all comers and goers; yea, to all good fellows, young girls, and pretty wenches; felling timber, burning great logs for the sale of the ashes, borrowing money beforehand, buying dear, selling cheap, and eating his corn, as it were, whilst it was but grass.

Pantagruel, being advertised of this his lavishness, was in good sooth no way offended at the matter, angry nor sorry; for I once told you, and again tell it you, that he was the best, little, great goodman that ever girded a sword to his side. He took all things in good part, and interpreted every action to the best sense. He never vexed nor disquieted himself with the least pretence of dislike to anything, because he knew that he must have most grossly abandoned the divine mansion of reason if he had permitted his mind to be never so little grieved, afflicted, or altered at any occasion whatsoever. For all the goods that the heaven covereth, and that the earth containeth, in all their dimensions of height, depth, breadth, and length, are not of so much worth as that we should for them disturb or disorder our affections, trouble or perplex our senses or spirits.

He drew only Panurge aside, and then, making to him a sweet remonstrance and mild admonition, very gently represented before him in strong arguments, that, if he should continue in such an unthrifty course of living, and not become a better mesnagier, it would prove altogether impossible for him, or at least hugely difficult, at any time to make him rich. Rich! answered Panurge; have you fixed your thoughts there? Have you undertaken the task to enrich me in this world? Set your mind to live merrily, in the name of God and good folks; let no other cark nor care be harboured within the sacrosanctified domicile of your celestial brain. May the calmness and tranquillity thereof be never incommodated with, or overshadowed by any frowning clouds of sullen imaginations and displeasing annoyance! For if you live joyful, merry, jocund, and glad, I cannot be but rich enough. Everybody cries up thrift, thrift, and good husbandry. But many speak of Robin Hood that never shot in his bow, and talk of that virtue of mesnagery who know not what belongs to it. It is by me that they must be advised. From me, therefore, take this advertisement and information, that what is imputed to me for a vice hath been done in imitation of the university and parliament of Paris, places in which is to be found the true spring and source of the lively idea of Pantheology and all manner of justice. Let him be counted a heretic that doubteth thereof, and doth not firmly believe it. Yet they in one day eat up their bishop, or the revenue of the bishopric — is it not all one? — for a whole year, yea, sometimes for two. This is done on the day he makes his entry, and is installed. Nor is there any place for an excuse; for he cannot avoid it, unless he would be hooted at and stoned for his parsimony.

It hath been also esteemed an act flowing from the habit of the four cardinal virtues. Of prudence in borrowing money beforehand; for none knows what may fall out. Who is able to tell if the world shall last yet three years? But although it should continue longer, is there any man so foolish as to have the confidence to promise himself three years?

What fool so confident to say,

That he shall live one other day?

Of commutative justice, in buying dear, I say, upon trust, and selling goods cheap, that is, for ready money. What says Cato in his Body of Husbandry to this purpose? The father of a family, says he, must be a perpetual seller; by which means it is impossible but that at last he shall become rich, if he have of vendible ware enough still ready for sale.

Of distributive justice it doth partake, in giving entertainment to good — remark, good — and gentle fellows, whom fortune had shipwrecked, like Ulysses, upon the rock of a hungry stomach without provision of sustenance; and likewise to the good — remark, the good — and young wenches. For, according to the sentence of Hippocrates, Youth is impatient of hunger, chiefly if it be vigorous, lively, frolic, brisk, stirring, and bouncing. Which wanton lasses willingly and heartily devote themselves to the pleasure of honest men; and are in so far both Platonic and Ciceronian, that they do acknowledge their being born into this world not to be for themselves alone, but that in their proper persons their acquaintance may claim one share, and their friends another.

The virtue of fortitude appears therein by the cutting down and overthrowing of the great trees, like a second Milo making havoc of the dark forest, which did serve only to furnish dens, caves, and shelter to wolves, wild boars, and foxes, and afford receptacles, withdrawing corners, and refuges to robbers, thieves, and murderers, lurking holes and skulking places for cutthroat assassinators, secret obscure shops for coiners of false money, and safe retreats for heretics, laying them even and level with the plain champaign fields and pleasant heathy ground, at the sound of the hautboys and bagpipes playing reeks with the high and stately timber, and preparing seats and benches for the eve of the dreadful day of judgment.

I gave thereby proof of my temperance in eating my corn whilst it was but grass, like a hermit feeding upon salads and roots, that, so affranchising myself from the yoke of sensual appetites to the utter disclaiming of their sovereignty, I might the better reserve somewhat in store for the relief of the lame, blind, crippled, maimed, needy, poor, and wanting wretches.

In taking this course I save the expense of the weed-grubbers, who gain money — of the reapers in harvest-time, who drink lustily, and without water — of gleaners, who will expect their cakes and bannocks — of threshers, who leave no garlic, scallions, leeks, nor onions in our gardens, by the authority of Thestilis in Virgil — and of the millers, who are generally thieves — and of the bakers, who are little better. Is this small saving or frugality? Besides the mischief and damage of the field-mice, the decay of barns, and the destruction usually made by weasels and other vermin.

Of corn in the blade you may make good green sauce of a light concoction and easy digestion, which recreates the brain and exhilarates the animal spirits, rejoiceth the sight, openeth the appetite, delighteth the taste, comforteth the heart, tickleth the tongue, cheereth the countenance, striking a fresh and lively colour, strengthening the muscles, tempers the blood, disburdens the midriff, refresheth the liver, disobstructs the spleen, easeth the kidneys, suppleth the reins, quickens the joints of the back, cleanseth the urine-conduits, dilates the spermatic vessels, shortens the cremasters, purgeth the bladder, puffeth up the genitories, correcteth the prepuce, hardens the nut, and rectifies the member. It will make you have a current belly to trot, fart, dung, piss, sneeze, cough, spit, belch, spew, yawn, snuff, blow, breathe, snort, sweat, and set taut your Robin, with a thousand other rare advantages. I understand you very well, says Pantagruel; you would thereby infer that those of a mean spirit and shallow capacity have not the skill to spend much in a short time. You are not the first in whose conceit that heresy hath entered. Nero maintained it, and above all mortals admired most his uncle Caius Caligula, for having in a few days, by a most wonderfully pregnant invention, totally spent all the goods and patrimony which Tiberius had left him.

But, instead of observing the sumptuous supper-curbing laws of the Romans — to wit, the Orchia, the Fannia, the Didia, the Licinia, the Cornelia, the Lepidiana, the Antia, and of the Corinthians — by the which they were inhibited, under pain of great punishment, not to spend more in one year than their annual revenue did amount to, you have offered up the oblation of Protervia, which was with the Romans such a sacrifice as the paschal lamb was amongst the Jews, wherein all that was eatable was to be eaten, and the remainder to be thrown into the fire, without reserving anything for the next day. I may very justly say of you, as Cato did of Albidius, who after that he had by a most extravagant expense wasted all the means and possessions he had to one only house, he fairly set it on fire, that he might the better say, Consummatum est. Even just as since his time St. Thomas Aquinas did, when he had eaten up the whole lamprey, although there was no necessity in it.

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