Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 33

Rondibilis the physician’s cure of cuckoldry.

At that time, quoth Rondibilis, when Jupiter took a view of the state of his Olympic house and family, and that he had made the calendar of all the gods and goddesses, appointing unto the festival of every one of them its proper day and season, establishing certain fixed places and stations for the pronouncing of oracles and relief of travelling pilgrims, and ordaining victims, immolations, and sacrifices suitable and correspondent to the dignity and nature of the worshipped and adored deity — Did not he do, asked Panurge, therein as Tintouille, the Bishop of Auxerre, is said once to have done? This noble prelate loved entirely the pure liquor of the grape, as every honest and judicious man doth; therefore was it that he had an especial care and regard to the bud of the vine-tree as to the great-grandfather of Bacchus. But so it is, that for sundry years together he saw a most pitiful havoc, desolation, and destruction made amongst the sprouts, shootings, buds, blossoms, and scions of the vines by hoary frost, dank fogs, hot mists, unseasonable colds, chill blasts, thick hail, and other calamitous chances of foul weather, happening, as he thought, by the dismal inauspiciousness of the holy days of St. George, St. Mary, St. Paul, St. Eutrope, Holy Rood, the Ascension, and other festivals, in that time when the sun passeth under the sign of Taurus; and thereupon harboured in his mind this opinion, that the afore-named saints were Saint Hail-flingers, Saint Frost-senders, Saint Fog-mongers, and Saint Spoilers of the Vine-buds. For which cause he went about to have transmitted their feasts from the spring to the winter, to be celebrated between Christmas and Epiphany, so the mother of the three kings called it, allowing them with all honour and reverence the liberty then to freeze, hail, and rain as much as they would; for that he knew that at such a time frost was rather profitable than hurtful to the vine-buds, and in their steads to have placed the festivals of St. Christopher, St. John the Baptist, St. Magdalene, St. Anne, St. Domingo, and St. Lawrence; yea, and to have gone so far as to collocate and transpose the middle of August in and to the beginning of May, because during the whole space of their solemnity there was so little danger of hoary frosts and cold mists, that no artificers are then held in greater request than the afforders of refrigerating inventions, makers of junkets, fit disposers of cooling shades, composers of green arbours, and refreshers of wine.

Jupiter, said Rondibilis, forgot the poor devil Cuckoldry, who was then in the court at Paris very eagerly soliciting a peddling suit at law for one of his vassals and tenants. Within some few days thereafter, I have forgot how many, when he got full notice of the trick which in his absence was done unto him, he instantly desisted from prosecuting legal processes in the behalf of others, full of solicitude to pursue after his own business, lest he should be foreclosed, and thereupon he appeared personally at the tribunal of the great Jupiter, displayed before him the importance of his preceding merits, together with the acceptable services which in obedience to his commandments he had formerly performed; and therefore in all humility begged of him that he would be pleased not to leave him alone amongst all the sacred potentates, destitute and void of honour, reverence, sacrifices, and festival ceremonies. To this petition Jupiter’s answer was excusatory, that all the places and offices of his house were bestowed. Nevertheless, so importuned was he by the continual supplications of Monsieur Cuckoldry, that he, in fine, placed him in the rank, list, roll, rubric, and catalogue, and appointed honours, sacrifices, and festival rites to be observed on earth in great devotion, and tendered to him with solemnity. The feast, because there was no void, empty, nor vacant place in all the calendar, was to be celebrated jointly with, and on the same day that had been consecrated to the goddess Jealousy. His power and dominion should be over married folks, especially such as had handsome wives. His sacrifices were to be suspicion, diffidence, mistrust, a lowering pouting sullenness, watchings, wardings, researchings, plyings, explorations, together with the waylayings, ambushes, narrow observations, and malicious doggings of the husband’s scouts and espials of the most privy actions of their wives. Herewithal every married man was expressly and rigorously commanded to reverence, honour, and worship him, to celebrate and solemnize his festival with twice more respect than that of any other saint or deity, and to immolate unto him with all sincerity and alacrity of heart the above-mentioned sacrifices and oblations, under pain of severe censures, threatenings, and comminations of these subsequent fines, mulcts, amerciaments, penalties, and punishments to be inflicted on the delinquents: that Monsieur Cuckoldry should never be favourable nor propitious to them; that he should never help, aid, supply, succour, nor grant them any subventitious furtherance, auxiliary suffrage, or adminiculary assistance; that he should never hold them in any reckoning, account, or estimation; that he should never deign to enter within their houses, neither at the doors, windows, nor any other place thereof; that he should never haunt nor frequent their companies or conversations, how frequently soever they should invocate him and call upon his name; and that not only he should leave and abandon them to rot alone with their wives in a sempiternal solitariness, without the benefit of the diversion of any copes-mate or corrival at all, but should withal shun and eschew them, fly from them, and eternally forsake and reject them as impious heretics and sacrilegious persons, according to the accustomed manner of other gods towards such as are too slack in offering up the duties and reverences which ought to be performed respectively to their divinities — as is evidently apparent in Bacchus towards negligent vine-dressers; in Ceres, against idle ploughmen and tillers of the ground; in Pomona, to unworthy fruiterers and costard-mongers; in Neptune, towards dissolute mariners and seafaring men, in Vulcan, towards loitering smiths and forgemen; and so throughout the rest. Now, on the contrary, this infallible promise was added, that unto all those who should make a holy day of the above-recited festival, and cease from all manner of worldly work and negotiation, lay aside all their own most important occasions, and to be so retchless, heedless, and careless of what might concern the management of their proper affairs as to mind nothing else but a suspicious espying and prying into the secret deportments of their wives, and how to coop, shut up, hold at under, and deal cruelly and austerely with them by all the harshness and hardships that an implacable and every way inexorable jealousy can devise and suggest, conform to the sacred ordinances of the afore-mentioned sacrifices and oblations, he should be continually favourable to them, should love them, sociably converse with them, should be day and night in their houses, and never leave them destitute of his presence. Now I have said, and you have heard my cure.

Ha, ha, ha! quoth Carpalin, laughing; this is a remedy yet more apt and proper than Hans Carvel’s ring. The devil take me if I do not believe it! The humour, inclination, and nature of women is like the thunder, whose force in its bolt or otherwise burneth, bruiseth, and breaketh only hard, massive, and resisting objects, without staying or stopping at soft, empty, and yielding matters. For it pasheth into pieces the steel sword without doing any hurt to the velvet scabbard which ensheatheth it. It chrusheth also and consumeth the bones without wounding or endamaging the flesh wherewith they are veiled and covered. Just so it is that women for the greater part never bend the contention, subtlety, and contradictory disposition of their spirits unless it be to do what is prohibited and forbidden.

Verily, quoth Hippothadee, some of our doctors aver for a truth that the first woman of the world, whom the Hebrews call Eve, had hardly been induced or allured into the temptation of eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life if it had not been forbidden her so to do. And that you may give the more credit to the validity of this opinion, consider how the cautelous and wily tempter did commemorate unto her, for an antecedent to his enthymeme, the prohibition which was made to taste it, as being desirous to infer from thence, It is forbidden thee; therefore thou shouldst eat of it, else thou canst not be a woman.

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