Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 35

How the philosopher Trouillogan handleth the difficulty of marriage.

As this discourse was ended, Pantagruel said to the philosopher Trouillogan, Our loyal, honest, true, and trusty friend, the lamp from hand to hand is come to you. It falleth to your turn to give an answer: Should Panurge, pray you, marry, yea or no? He should do both, quoth Trouillogan. What say you? asked Panurge. That which you have heard, answered Trouillogan. What have I heard? replied Panurge. That which I have said, replied Trouillogan. Ha, ha, ha! are we come to that pass? quoth Panurge. Let it go nevertheless, I do not value it at a rush, seeing we can make no better of the game. But howsoever tell me, Should I marry or no? Neither the one nor the other, answered Trouillogan. The devil take me, quoth Panurge, if these odd answers do not make me dote, and may he snatch me presently away if I do understand you. Stay awhile until I fasten these spectacles of mine on this left ear, that I may hear you better. With this Pantagruel perceived at the door of the great hall, which was that day their dining-room, Gargantua’s little dog, whose name was Kyne; for so was Toby’s dog called, as is recorded. Then did he say to these who were there present, Our king is not far off — let us all rise.

That word was scarcely sooner uttered, than that Gargantua with his royal presence graced that banqueting and stately hall. Each of the guests arose to do their king that reverence and duty which became them. After that Gargantua had most affably saluted all the gentlemen there present, he said, Good friends, I beg this favour of you, and therein you will very much oblige me, that you leave not the places where you sate nor quit the discourse you were upon. Let a chair be brought hither unto this end of the table, and reach me a cupful of the strongest and best wine you have, that I may drink to all the company. You are, in faith, all welcome, gentlemen. Now let me know what talk you were about. To this Pantagruel answered that at the beginning of the second service Panurge had proposed a problematic theme, to wit, whether he should marry, or not marry? that Father Hippothadee and Doctor Rondibilis had already despatched their resolutions thereupon; and that, just as his majesty was coming in, the faithful Trouillogan in the delivery of his opinion hath thus far proceeded, that when Panurge asked whether he ought to marry, yea or no? at first he made this answer, Both together. When this same question was again propounded, his second answer was, Neither the one nor the other. Panurge exclaimeth that those answers are full of repugnancies and contradictions, protesting that he understands them not, nor what it is that can be meant by them. If I be not mistaken, quoth Gargantua, I understand it very well. The answer is not unlike to that which was once made by a philosopher in ancient times, who being interrogated if he had a woman whom they named him to his wife? I have her, quoth he, but she hath not me — possessing her, by her I am not possessed. Such another answer, quoth Pantagruel, was once made by a certain bouncing wench of Sparta, who being asked if at any time she had had to do with a man? No, quoth she, but sometimes men have had to do with me. Well then, quoth Rondibilis, let it be a neuter in physic, as when we say a body is neuter, when it is neither sick nor healthful, and a mean in philosophy; that, by an abnegation of both extremes, and this by the participation of the one and of the other. Even as when lukewarm water is said to be both hot and cold; or rather, as when time makes the partition, and equally divides betwixt the two, a while in the one, another while as long in the other opposite extremity. The holy Apostle, quoth Hippothadee, seemeth, as I conceive, to have more clearly explained this point when he said, Those that are married, let them be as if they were not married; and those that have wives, let them be as if they had no wives at all. I thus interpret, quoth Pantagruel, the having and not having of a wife. To have a wife is to have the use of her in such a way as nature hath ordained, which is for the aid, society, and solace of man, and propagating of his race. To have no wife is not to be uxorious, play the coward, and be lazy about her, and not for her sake to distain the lustre of that affection which man owes to God, or yet for her to leave those offices and duties which he owes unto his country, unto his friends and kindred, or for her to abandon and forsake his precious studies, and other businesses of account, to wait still on her will, her beck, and her buttocks. If we be pleased in this sense to take having and not having of a wife, we shall indeed find no repugnancy nor contradiction in the terms at all.

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