Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 45

How Panurge taketh advice of Triboulet.

On the sixth day thereafter Pantagruel was returned home at the very same hour that Triboulet was by water come from Blois. Panurge, at his arrival, gave him a hog’s bladder puffed up with wind, and resounding because of the hard peas that were within it. Moreover he did present him with a gilt wooden sword, a hollow budget made of a tortoise shell, an osier-wattled wicker-bottle full of Breton wine, and five-and-twenty apples of the orchard of Blandureau.

If he be such a fool, quoth Carpalin, as to be won with apples, there is no more wit in his pate than in the head of an ordinary cabbage. Triboulet girded the sword and scrip to his side, took the bladder in his hand, ate some few of the apples, and drunk up all the wine. Panurge very wistly and heedfully looking upon him said, I never yet saw a fool, and I have seen ten thousand francs worth of that kind of cattle, who did not love to drink heartily, and by good long draughts. When Triboulet had done with his drinking, Panurge laid out before him and exposed the sum of the business wherein he was to require his advice, in eloquent and choicely-sorted terms, adorned with flourishes of rhetoric. But, before he had altogether done, Triboulet with his fist gave him a bouncing whirret between the shoulders, rendered back into his hand again the empty bottle, fillipped and flirted him in the nose with the hog’s bladder, and lastly, for a final resolution, shaking and wagging his head strongly and disorderly, he answered nothing else but this, By God, God, mad fool, beware the monk, Buzansay hornpipe! These words thus finished, he slipped himself out of the company, went aside, and, rattling the bladder, took a huge delight in the melody of the rickling crackling noise of the peas. After which time it lay not in the power of them all to draw out of his chaps the articulate sound of one syllable, insomuch that, when Panurge went about to interrogate him further, Triboulet drew his wooden sword, and would have stuck him therewith. I have fished fair now, quoth Panurge, and brought my pigs to a fine market. Have I not got a brave determination of all my doubts, and a response in all things agreeable to the oracle that gave it? He is a great fool, that is not to be denied, yet is he a greater fool who brought him hither to me — That bolt, quoth Carpalin, levels point-blank at me — but of the three I am the greatest fool, who did impart the secret of my thoughts to such an idiot ass and native ninny.

Without putting ourselves to any stir or trouble in the least, quoth Pantagruel, let us maturely and seriously consider and perpend the gestures and speech which he hath made and uttered. In them, veritably, quoth he, have I remarked and observed some excellent and notable mysteries; yea, of such important worth and weight, that I shall never henceforth be astonished, nor think strange, why the Turks with a great deal of worship and reverence honour and respect natural fools equally with their primest doctors, muftis, divines, and prophets. Did not you take heed, quoth he, a little before he opened his mouth to speak, what a shogging, shaking, and wagging his head did keep? By the approved doctrine of the ancient philosophers, the customary ceremonies of the most expert magicians, and the received opinions of the learnedest lawyers, such a brangling agitation and moving should by us all be judged to proceed from, and be quickened and suscitated by the coming and inspiration of the prophetizing and fatidical spirit, which, entering briskly and on a sudden into a shallow receptacle of a debile substance (for, as you know, and as the proverb shows it, a little head containeth not much brains), was the cause of that commotion. This is conform to what is avouched by the most skilful physicians, when they affirm that shakings and tremblings fall upon the members of a human body, partly because of the heaviness and violent impetuosity of the burden and load that is carried, and, other part, by reason of the weakness and imbecility that is in the virtue of the bearing organ. A manifest example whereof appeareth in those who, fasting, are not able to carry to their head a great goblet full of wine without a trembling and a shaking in the hand that holds it. This of old was accounted a prefiguration and mystical pointing out of the Pythian divineress, who used always, before the uttering of a response from the oracle, to shake a branch of her domestic laurel. Lampridius also testifieth that the Emperor Heliogabalus, to acquire unto himself the reputation of a soothsayer, did, on several holy days of prime solemnnity, in the presence of the fanatic rabble, make the head of his idol by some slight within the body thereof publicly to shake. Plautus, in his Asinaria, declareth likewise, that Saurias, whithersoever he walked, like one quite distracted of his wits kept such a furious lolling and mad-like shaking of his head, that he commonly affrighted those who casually met with him in his way. The said author in another place, showing a reason why Charmides shook and brangled his head, assevered that he was transported and in an ecstasy. Catullus after the same manner maketh mention, in his Berecynthia and Atys, of the place wherein the Menades, Bacchical women, she-priests of the Lyaean god, and demented prophetesses, carrying ivy boughs in their hands, did shake their heads. As in the like case, amongst the Galli, the gelded priests of Cybele were wont to do in the celebrating of their festivals. Whence, too, according to the sense of the ancient theologues, she herself has her denomination, for (Greek) signifieth to turn round, whirl about, shake the head, and play the part of one that is wry-necked.

Semblably Titus Livius writeth that, in the solemnization time of the Bacchanalian holidays at Rome, both men and women seemed to prophetize and vaticinate, because of an affected kind of wagging of the head, shrugging of the shoulders, and jectigation of the whole body, which they used then most punctually. For the common voice of the philosophers, together with the opinion of the people, asserteth for an irrefragable truth that vaticination is seldom by the heavens bestowed on any without the concomitancy of a little frenzy and a head-shaking, not only when the said presaging virtue is infused, but when the person also therewith inspired declareth and manifesteth it unto others. The learned lawyer Julian, being asked on a time if that slave might be truly esteemed to be healthful and in a good plight who had not only conversed with some furious, maniac, and enraged people, but in their company had also prophesied, yet without a noddle-shaking concussion, answered that, seeing there was no head-wagging at the time of his predictions, he might be held for sound and compotent enough. Is it not daily seen how schoolmasters, teachers, tutors, and instructors of children shake the heads of their disciples, as one would do a pot in holding it by the lugs, that by this erection, vellication, stretching, and pulling their ears, which, according to the doctrine of the sage Egyptians, is a member consecrated to the memory, they may stir them up to recollect their scattered thoughts, bring home those fancies of theirs which perhaps have been extravagantly roaming abroad upon strange and uncouth objects, and totally range their judgments, which possibly by disordinate affections have been made wild, to the rule and pattern of a wise, discreet, virtuous, and philosophical discipline. All which Virgil acknowledgeth to be true, in the branglement of Apollo Cynthius.

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