Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 46

How Pantagruel and Panurge diversely interpret the words of Triboulet.

He says you are a fool. And what kind of fool? A mad fool, who in your old age would enslave yourself to the bondage of matrimony, and shut your pleasures up within a wedlock whose key some ruffian carries in his codpiece. He says furthermore, Beware of the monk. Upon mine honour, it gives me in my mind that you will be cuckolded by a monk. Nay, I will engage mine honour, which is the most precious pawn I could have in my possession although I were sole and peaceable dominator over all Europe, Asia, and Africa, that, if you marry, you will surely be one of the horned brotherhood of Vulcan. Hereby may you perceive how much I do attribute to the wise foolery of our morosoph Triboulet. The other oracles and responses did in the general prognosticate you a cuckold, without descending so near to the point of a particular determination as to pitch upon what vocation amongst the several sorts of men he should profess who is to be the copesmate of your wife and hornifier of your proper self. Thus noble Triboulet tells it us plainly, from whose words we may gather with all ease imaginable that your cuckoldry is to be infamous, and so much the more scandalous that your conjugal bed will be incestuously contaminated with the filthiness of a monkery lecher. Moreover, he says that you will be the hornpipe of Buzansay, that is to say, well-horned, hornified, and cornuted. And, as Triboulet’s uncle asked from Louis the Twelfth, for a younger brother of his own who lived at Blois, the hornpipes of Buzansay, for the organ pipes, through the mistake of one word for another, even so, whilst you think to marry a wise, humble, calm, discreet, and honest wife, you shall unhappily stumble upon one witless, proud, loud, obstreperous, bawling, clamorous, and more unpleasant than any Buzansay hornpipe. Consider withal how he flirted you on the nose with the bladder, and gave you a sound thumping blow with his fist upon the ridge of the back. This denotates and presageth that you shall be banged, beaten, and fillipped by her, and that also she will steal of your goods from you, as you stole the hog’s bladder from the little boys of Vaubreton.

Flat contrary, quoth Panurge; — not that I would impudently exempt myself from being a vassal in the territory of folly. I hold of that jurisdiction, and am subject thereto, I confess it. And why should I not? For the whole world is foolish. In the old Lorraine language, fou for tou, all and fool, were the same thing. Besides, it is avouched by Solomon that infinite is the number of fools. From an infinity nothing can be deducted or abated, nor yet, by the testimony of Aristotle, can anything thereto be added or subjoined. Therefore were I a mad fool if, being a fool, I should not hold myself a fool. After the same manner of speaking, we may aver the number of the mad and enraged folks to be infinite. Avicenna maketh no bones to assert that the several kinds of madness are infinite. Though this much of Triboulet’s words tend little to my advantage, howbeit the prejudice which I sustain thereby be common with me to all other men, yet the rest of his talk and gesture maketh altogether for me. He said to my wife, Be wary of the monkey; that is as much as if she should be cheery, and take as much delight in a monkey as ever did the Lesbia of Catullus in her sparrow; who will for his recreation pass his time no less joyfully at the exercise of snatching flies than heretofore did the merciless fly-catcher Domitian. Withal he meant, by another part of his discourse, that she should be of a jovial country-like humour, as gay and pleasing as a harmonious hornpipe of Saulieau or Buzansay. The veridical Triboulet did therein hint at what I liked well, as perfectly knowing the inclinations and propensions of my mind, my natural disposition, and the bias of my interior passions and affections. For you may be assured that my humour is much better satisfied and contented with the pretty, frolic, rural, dishevelled shepherdesses, whose bums through their coarse canvas smocks smell of the clover grass of the field, than with those great ladies in magnific courts, with their flandan top-knots and sultanas, their polvil, pastillos, and cosmetics. The homely sound, likewise, of a rustical hornpipe is more agreeable to my ears than the curious warbling and musical quavering of lutes, theorbos, viols, rebecs, and violins. He gave me a lusty rapping thwack on my back — what then? Let it pass, in the name and for the love of God, as an abatement of and deduction from so much of my future pains in purgatory. He did it not out of any evil intent. He thought, belike, to have hit some of the pages. He is an honest fool, and an innocent changeling. It is a sin to harbour in the heart any bad conceit of him. As for myself, I heartily pardon him. He flirted me on the nose. In that there is no harm; for it importeth nothing else but that betwixt my wife and me there will occur some toyish wanton tricks which usually happen to all new-married folks.

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