Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 30

How the theologue, Hippothadee, giveth counsel to Panurge in the matter and business of his nuptial enterprise.

The dinner on the subsequent Sunday was no sooner made ready than that the afore-named invited guests gave thereto their appearance, all of them, Bridlegoose only excepted, who was the deputy-governor of Fonsbeton. At the ushering in of the second service Panurge, making a low reverence, spake thus: Gentlemen, the question I am to propound unto you shall be uttered in very few words — Should I marry or no? If my doubt herein be not resolved by you, I shall hold it altogether insolvable, as are the Insolubilia de Aliaco; for all of you are elected, chosen, and culled out from amongst others, everyone in his own condition and quality, like so many picked peas on a carpet.

The Father Hippothadee, in obedience to the bidding of Pantagruel, and with much courtesy to the company, answered exceeding modestly after this manner: My friend, you are pleased to ask counsel of us; but first you must consult with yourself. Do you find any trouble or disquiet in your body by the importunate stings and pricklings of the flesh? That I do, quoth Panurge, in a hugely strong and almost irresistible measure. Be not offended, I beseech you, good father, at the freedom of my expression. No truly, friend, not I, quoth Hippothadee, there is no reason why I should be displeased therewith. But in this carnal strife and debate of yours have you obtained from God the gift and special grace of continency? In good faith, not, quoth Panurge. My counsel to you in that case, my friend, is that you marry, quoth Hippothadee; for you should rather choose to marry once than to burn still in fires of concupiscence. Then Panurge, with a jovial heart and a loud voice, cried out, That is spoke gallantly, without circumbilivaginating about and about, and never hitting it in its centred point. Gramercy, my good father! In truth I am resolved now to marry, and without fail I shall do it quickly. I invite you to my wedding. By the body of a hen, we shall make good cheer, and be as merry as crickets. You shall wear the bridegroom’s colours, and, if we eat a goose, my wife shall not roast it for me. I will entreat you to lead up the first dance of the bridesmaids, if it may please you to do me so much favour and honour. There resteth yet a small difficulty, a little scruple, yea, even less than nothing, whereof I humbly crave your resolution. Shall I be a cuckold, father, yea or no? By no means, answered Hippothadee, will you be cuckolded, if it please God. O the Lord help us now, quoth Panurge; whither are we driven to, good folks? To the conditionals, which, according to the rules and precepts of the dialectic faculty, admit of all contradictions and impossibilities. If my Transalpine mule had wings, my Transalpine mule would fly, if it please God, I shall not be a cuckold; but I shall be a cuckold, if it please him. Good God, if this were a condition which I knew how to prevent, my hopes should be as high as ever, nor would I despair. But you here send me to God’s privy council, to the closet of his little pleasures. You, my French countrymen, which is the way you take to go thither?

My honest father, I believe I will be your best not to come to my wedding. The clutter and dingle-dangle noise of marriage guests will but disturb you, and break the serious fancies of your brain. You love repose, with solitude and silence; I really believe you will not come. And then you dance but indifferently, and would be out of countenance at the first entry. I will send you some good things to your chamber, together with the bride’s favour, and there you may drink our health, if it may stand with your good liking. My friend, quoth Hippothadee, take my words in the sense wherein I meant them, and do not misinterpret me. When I tell you — If it please God — do I to you any wrong therein? Is it an ill expression? Is it a blaspheming clause or reserve any way scandalous unto the world? Do not we thereby honour the Lord God Almighty, Creator, Protector, and Conserver of all things? Is not that a mean whereby we do acknowledge him to be the sole giver of all whatsoever is good? Do not we in that manifest our faith that we believe all things to depend upon his infinite and incomprehensible bounty, and that without him nothing can be produced, nor after its production be of any value, force, or power, without the concurring aid and favour of his assisting grace? Is it not a canonical and authentic exception, worthy to be premised to all our undertakings? Is it not expedient that what we propose unto ourselves be still referred to what shall be disposed of by the sacred will of God, unto which all things must acquiesce in the heavens as well as on the earth? Is not that verily a sanctifying of his holy name? My friend, you shall not be a cuckold, if it please God, nor shall we need to despair of the knowledge of his good will and pleasure herein, as if it were such an abstruse and mysteriously hidden secret that for the clear understanding thereof it were necessary to consult with those of his celestial privy council, or expressly make a voyage unto the empyrean chamber where order is given for the effectuating of his most holy pleasures. The great God hath done us this good, that he hath declared and revealed them to us openly and plainly, and described them in the Holy Bible. There will you find that you shall never be a cuckold, that is to say, your wife shall never be a strumpet, if you make choice of one of a commendable extraction, descended of honest parents, and instructed in all piety and virtue — such a one as hath not at any time haunted or frequented the company or conversation of those that are of corrupt and depraved manners, one loving and fearing God, who taketh a singular delight in drawing near to him by faith and the cordial observing of his sacred commandments — and finally, one who, standing in awe of the Divine Majesty of the Most High, will be loth to offend him and lose the favourable kindness of his grace through any defect of faith or transgression against the ordinances of his holy law, wherein adultery is most rigorously forbidden and a close adherence to her husband alone most strictly and severely enjoined; yea, in such sort that she is to cherish, serve, and love him above anything, next to God, that meriteth to be beloved. In the interim, for the better schooling of her in these instructions, and that the wholesome doctrine of a matrimonial duty may take the deeper root in her mind, you must needs carry yourself so on your part, and your behaviour is to be such, that you are to go before her in a good example, by entertaining her unfeignedly with a conjugal amity, by continually approving yourself in all your words and actions a faithful and discreet husband; and by living, not only at home and privately with your own household and family, but in the face also of all men and open view of the world, devoutly, virtuously, and chastely, as you would have her on her side to deport and to demean herself towards you, as becomes a godly, loyal, and respectful wife, who maketh conscience to keep inviolable the tie of a matrimonial oath. For as that looking-glass is not the best which is most decked with gold and precious stones, but that which representeth to the eye the liveliest shapes of objects set before it, even so that wife should not be most esteemed who richest is and of the noblest race, but she who, fearing God, conforms herself nearest unto the humour of her husband.

Consider how the moon doth not borrow her light from Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, or any other of the planets, nor yet from any of those splendid stars which are set in the spangled firmament, but from her husband only, the bright sun, which she receiveth from him more or less, according to the manner of his aspect and variously bestowed eradiations. Just so should you be a pattern to your wife in virtue, goodly zeal, and true devotion, that by your radiance in darting on her the aspect of an exemplary goodness, she, in your imitation, may outshine the luminaries of all other women. To this effect you daily must implore God’s grace to the protection of you both. You would have me then, quoth Panurge, twisting the whiskers of his beard on either side with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, to espouse and take to wife the prudent frugal woman described by Solomon. Without all doubt she is dead, and truly to my best remembrance I never saw her; the Lord forgive me! Nevertheless, I thank you, father. Eat this slice of marchpane, it will help your digestion; then shall you be presented with a cup of claret hippocras, which is right healthful and stomachal. Let us proceed.

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