Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 32

How Rondibilis declareth cuckoldry to be naturally one of the appendances of marriage.

There remaineth as yet, quoth Panurge, going on in his discourse, one small scruple to be cleared. You have seen heretofore, I doubt not, in the Roman standards, S.P.Q.R., Si, Peu, Que, Rien. Shall not I be a cuckold? By the haven of safety, cried out Rondibilis, what is this you ask of me? If you shall be a cuckold? My noble friend, I am married, and you are like to be so very speedily; therefore be pleased, from my experiment in the matter, to write in your brain with a steel pen this subsequent ditton, There is no married man who doth not run the hazard of being made a cuckold. Cuckoldry naturally attendeth marriage. The shadow doth not more naturally follow the body, than cuckoldry ensueth after marriage to place fair horns upon the husbands’ heads.

And when you shall happen to hear any man pronounce these three words, He is married; if you then say he is, hath been, shall be, or may be a cuckold, you will not be accounted an unskilful artist in framing of true consequences. Tripes and bowels of all the devils, cries Panurge, what do you tell me? My dear friend, answered Rondibilis, as Hippocrates on a time was in the very nick of setting forwards from Lango to Polystilo to visit the philosopher Democritus, he wrote a familiar letter to his friend Dionysius, wherein he desired him that he would, during the interval of his absence, carry his wife to the house of her father and mother, who were an honourable couple and of good repute; because I would not have her at my home, said he, to make abode in solitude. Yet, notwithstanding this her residence beside her parents, do not fail, quoth he, with a most heedful care and circumspection to pry into her ways, and to espy what places she shall go to with her mother, and who those be that shall repair unto her. Not, quoth he, that I do mistrust her virtue, or that I seem to have any diffidence of her pudicity and chaste behaviour — for of that I have frequently had good and real proofs — but I must freely tell you, She is a woman. There lies the suspicion.

My worthy friend, the nature of women is set forth before our eyes and represented to us by the moon, in divers other things as well as in this, that they squat, skulk, constrain their own inclinations, and, with all the cunning they can, dissemble and play the hypocrite in the sight and presence of their husbands; who come no sooner to be out of the way, but that forthwith they take their advantage, pass the time merrily, desist from all labour, frolic it, gad abroad, lay aside their counterfeit garb, and openly declare and manifest the interior of their dispositions, even as the moon, when she is in conjunction with the sun, is neither seen in the heavens nor on the earth, but in her opposition, when remotest from him, shineth in her greatest fulness, and wholly appeareth in her brightest splendour whilst it is night. Thus women are but women.

When I say womankind, I speak of a sex so frail, so variable, so changeable, so fickle, inconstant, and imperfect, that in my opinion Nature, under favour, nevertheless, of the prime honour and reverence which is due unto her, did in a manner mistake the road which she had traced formerly, and stray exceedingly from that excellence of providential judgment by the which she had created and formed all other things, when she built, framed, and made up the woman. And having thought upon it a hundred and five times, I know not what else to determine therein, save only that in the devising, hammering, forging, and composing of the woman she hath had a much tenderer regard, and by a great deal more respectful heed to the delightful consortship and sociable delectation of the man, than to the perfection and accomplishment of the individual womanishness or muliebrity. The divine philosopher Plato was doubtful in what rank of living creatures to place and collocate them, whether amongst the rational animals, by elevating them to an upper seat in the specifical classis of humanity, or with the irrational, by degrading them to a lower bench on the opposite side, of a brutal kind, and mere bestiality. For nature hath posited in a privy, secret, and intestine place of their bodies, a sort of member, by some not impertinently termed an animal, which is not to be found in men. Therein sometimes are engendered certain humours so saltish, brackish, clammy, sharp, nipping, tearing, prickling, and most eagerly tickling, that by their stinging acrimony, rending nitrosity, figging itch, wriggling mordicancy, and smarting salsitude (for the said member is altogether sinewy and of a most quick and lively feeling), their whole body is shaken and ebrangled, their senses totally ravished and transported, the operations of their judgment and understanding utterly confounded, and all disordinate passions and perturbations of the mind thoroughly and absolutely allowed, admitted, and approved of; yea, in such sort that if nature had not been so favourable unto them as to have sprinkled their forehead with a little tincture of bashfulness and modesty, you should see them in a so frantic mood run mad after lechery, and hie apace up and down with haste and lust, in quest of and to fix some chamber-standard in their Paphian ground, that never did the Proetides, Mimallonides, nor Lyaean Thyades deport themselves in the time of their bacchanalian festivals more shamelessly, or with a so affronted and brazen-faced impudency; because this terrible animal is knit unto, and hath an union with all the chief and most principal parts of the body, as to anatomists is evident. Let it not here be thought strange that I should call it an animal, seeing therein I do no otherwise than follow and adhere to the doctrine of the academic and peripatetic philosophers. For if a proper motion be a certain mark and infallible token of the life and animation of the mover, as Aristotle writeth, and that any such thing as moveth of itself ought to be held animated and of a living nature, then assuredly Plato with very good reason did give it the denomination of an animal, for that he perceived and observed in it the proper and self-stirring motions of suffocation, precipitation, corrugation, and of indignation so extremely violent, that oftentimes by them is taken and removed from the woman all other sense and moving whatsoever, as if she were in a swounding lipothymy, benumbing syncope, epileptic, apoplectic palsy, and true resemblance of a pale-faced death.

Furthermore, in the said member there is a manifest discerning faculty of scents and odours very perceptible to women, who feel it fly from what is rank and unsavoury, and follow fragrant and aromatic smells. It is not unknown to me how Cl. Galen striveth with might and main to prove that these are not proper and particular notions proceeding intrinsically from the thing itself, but accidentally and by chance. Nor hath it escaped my notice how others of that sect have laboured hardly, yea, to the utmost of their abilities, to demonstrate that it is not a sensitive discerning or perception in it of the difference of wafts and smells, but merely a various manner of virtue and efficacy passing forth and flowing from the diversity of odoriferous substances applied near unto it. Nevertheless, if you will studiously examine and seriously ponder and weigh in Critolaus’s balance the strength of their reasons and arguments, you shall find that they, not only in this, but in several other matters also of the like nature, have spoken at random, and rather out of an ambitious envy to check and reprehend their betters than for any design to make inquiry into the solid truth.

I will not launch my little skiff any further into the wide ocean of this dispute, only will I tell you that the praise and commendation is not mean and slender which is due to those honest and good women who, living chastely and without blame, have had the power and virtue to curb, range, and subdue that unbridled, heady, and wild animal to an obedient, submissive, and obsequious yielding unto reason. Therefore here will I make an end of my discourse thereon, when I shall have told you that the said animal being once satiated — if it be possible that it can be contented or satisfied — by that aliment which nature hath provided for it out of the epididymal storehouse of man, all its former and irregular and disordered motions are at an end, laid, and assuaged, all its vehement and unruly longings lulled, pacified, and quieted, and all the furious and raging lusts, appetites, and desires thereof appeased, calmed, and extinguished. For this cause let it seem nothing strange unto you if we be in a perpetual danger of being cuckolds, that is to say, such of us as have not wherewithal fully to satisfy the appetite and expectation of that voracious animal. Odds fish! quoth Panurge, have you no preventive cure in all your medicinal art for hindering one’s head to be horny-graffed at home whilst his feet are plodding abroad? Yes, that I have, my gallant friend, answered Rondibilis, and that which is a sovereign remedy, whereof I frequently make use myself; and, that you may the better relish, it is set down and written in the book of a most famous author, whose renown is of a standing of two thousand years. Hearken and take good heed. You are, quoth Panurge, by cockshobby, a right honest man, and I love you with all my heart. Eat a little of this quince-pie; it is very proper and convenient for the shutting up of the orifice of the ventricle of the stomach, because of a kind of astringent stypticity which is in that sort of fruit, and is helpful to the first concoction. But what? I think I speak Latin before clerks. Stay till I give you somewhat to drink out of this Nestorian goblet. Will you have another draught of white hippocras? Be not afraid of the squinzy, no. There is neither squinant, ginger, nor grains in it; only a little choice cinnamon, and some of the best refined sugar, with the delicious white wine of the growth of that vine which was set in the slips of the great sorbapple above the walnut-tree.

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