Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 48

How Gargantua showeth that the children ought not to marry without the special knowledge and advice of their fathers and mothers.

No sooner had Pantagruel entered in at the door of the great hall of the castle, than that he encountered full butt with the good honest Gargantua coming forth from the council board, unto whom he made a succinct and summary narrative of what had passed and occurred, worthy of his observation, in his travels abroad, since their last interview; then, acquainting him with the design he had in hand, besought him that it might stand with his goodwill and pleasure to grant him leave to prosecute and go through-stitch with the enterprise which he had undertaken. The good man Gargantua, having in one hand two great bundles of petitions endorsed and answered, and in the other some remembrancing notes and bills, to put him in mind of such other requests of supplicants, which, albeit presented, had nevertheless been neither read nor heard, he gave both to Ulric Gallet, his ancient and faithful Master of Requests; then drew aside Pantagruel, and, with a countenance more serene and jovial than customary, spoke to him thus: I praise God, and have great reason so to do, my most dear son, that he hath been pleased to entertain in you a constant inclination to virtuous actions. I am well content that the voyage which you have motioned to me be by you accomplished, but withal I could wish you would have a mind and desire to marry, for that I see you are of competent years. Panurge in the meanwhile was in a readiness of preparing and providing for remedies, salves, and cures against all such lets, obstacles, and impediments as he could in the height of his fancy conceive might by Gargantua be cast in the way of their itinerary design. Is it your pleasure, most dear father, that you speak? answered Pantagruel. For my part, I have not yet thought upon it. In all this affair I wholly submit and rest in your good liking and paternal authority. For I shall rather pray unto God that he would throw me down stark dead at your feet, in your pleasure, than that against your pleasure I should be found married alive. I never yet heard that by any law, whether sacred or profane, yea, amongst the rudest and most barbarous nations in the world, it was allowed and approved of that children may be suffered and tolerated to marry at their own goodwill and pleasure, without the knowledge, advice, or consent asked and had thereto of their fathers, mothers, and nearest kindred. All legislators, everywhere upon the face of the whole earth, have taken away and removed this licentious liberty from children, and totally reserved it to the discretion of the parents.

My dearly beloved son, quoth Gargantua, I believe you, and from my heart thank God for having endowed you with the grace of having both a perfect notice of and entire liking to laudable and praiseworthy things; and that through the windows of your exterior senses he hath vouchsafed to transmit unto the interior faculties of your mind nothing but what is good and virtuous. For in my time there hath been found on the continent a certain country, wherein are I know not what kind of Pastophorian mole-catching priests, who, albeit averse from engaging their proper persons into a matrimonial duty, like the pontifical flamens of Cybele in Phrygia, as if they were capons, and not cocks full of lasciviousness, salacity, and wantonness, who yet have, nevertheless, in the matter of conjugal affairs, taken upon them to prescribe laws and ordinances to married folks. I cannot goodly determine what I should most abhor, detest, loathe, and abominate — whether the tyrannical presumption of those dreaded sacerdotal mole-catchers, who, not being willing to contain and coop up themselves within the grates and trellises of their own mysterious temples, do deal in, meddle with, obtrude upon, and thrust their sickles into harvests of secular businesses quite contrary and diametrically opposite to the quality, state, and condition of their callings, professions, and vocations; or the superstitious stupidity and senseless scrupulousness of married folks, who have yielded obedience, and submitted their bodies, fortunes, and estates to the discretion and authority of such odious, perverse, barbarous, and unreasonable laws. Nor do they see that which is clearer than the light and splendour of the morning star — how all these nuptial and connubial sanctions, statutes, and ordinances have been decreed, made, and instituted for the sole benefit, profit, and advantage of the flaminal mysts and mysterious flamens, and nothing at all for the good, utility, or emolument of the silly hoodwinked married people. Which administereth unto others a sufficient cause for rendering these churchmen suspicious of iniquity, and of an unjust and fraudulent manner of dealing, no more to be connived at nor countenanced, after that it be well weighed in the scales of reason, than if with a reciprocal temerity the laics, by way of compensation, would impose laws to be followed and observed by those mysts and flamens, how they should behave themselves in the making and performance of their rites and ceremonies, and after what manner they ought to proceed in the offering up and immolating of their various oblations, victims, and sacrifices; seeing that, besides the decimation and tithe-haling of their goods, they cut off and take parings, shreddings, and clippings of the gain proceeding from the labour of their hands and sweat of their brows, therewith to entertain themselves the better. Upon which consideration, in my opinion, their injunctions and commands would not prove so pernicious and impertinent as those of the ecclesiastic power unto which they had tendered their blind obedience. For, as you have very well said, there is no place in the world where, legally, a licence is granted to the children to marry without the advice and consent of their parents and kindred. Nevertheless, by those wicked laws and mole-catching customs, whereat there is a little hinted in what I have already spoken to you, there is no scurvy, measly, leprous, or pocky ruffian, pander, knave, rogue, skellum, robber, or thief, pilloried, whipped, and burn-marked in his own country for his crimes and felonies, who may not violently snatch away and ravish what maid soever he had a mind to pitch upon, how noble, how fair, how rich, honest, and chaste soever she be, and that out of the house of her own father, in his own presence, from the bosom of her mother, and in the sight and despite of her friends and kindred looking on a so woeful spectacle, provided that the rascal villain be so cunning as to associate unto himself some mystical flamen, who, according to the covenant made betwixt them two, shall be in hope some day to participate of the prey.

Could the Goths, the Scyths, or Massagets do a worse or more cruel act to any of the inhabitants of a hostile city, when, after the loss of many of their most considerable commanders, the expense of a great deal of money, and a long siege, they shall have stormed and taken it by a violent and impetuous assault? May not these fathers and mothers, think you, be sorrowful and heavy-hearted when they see an unknown fellow, a vagabond stranger, a barbarous lout, a rude cur, rotten, fleshless, putrified, scraggy, boily, botchy, poor, a forlorn caitiff and miserable sneak, by an open rapt snatch away before their own eyes their so fair, delicate, neat, well-behavioured, richly-provided-for and healthful daughters, on whose breeding and education they had spared no cost nor charges, by bringing them up in an honest discipline to all the honourable and virtuous employments becoming one of their sex descended of a noble parentage, hoping by those commendable and industrious means in an opportune and convenient time to bestow them on the worthy sons of their well-deserving neighbours and ancient friends, who had nourished, entertained, taught, instructed, and schooled their children with the same care and solicitude, to make them matches fit to attain to the felicity of a so happy marriage, that from them might issue an offspring and progeny no less heirs to the laudable endowments and exquisite qualifications of their parents, whom they every way resemble, than to their personal and real estates, movables, and inheritances? How doleful, trist, and plangorous would such a sight and pageantry prove unto them? You shall not need to think that the collachrymation of the Romans and their confederates at the decease of Germanicus Drusus was comparable to this lamentation of theirs? Neither would I have you to believe that the discomfort and anxiety of the Lacedaemonians, when the Greek Helen, by the perfidiousness of the adulterous Trojan, Paris, was privily stolen away out of their country, was greater or more pitiful than this ruthful and deplorable collugency of theirs? You may very well imagine that Ceres at the ravishment of her daughter Proserpina was not more attristed, sad, nor mournful than they. Trust me, and your own reason, that the loss of Osiris was not so regrettable to Isis, nor did Venus so deplore the death of Adonis, nor yet did Hercules so bewail the straying of Hylas, nor was the rapt of Polyxena more throbbingly resented and condoled by Priamus and Hecuba, than this aforesaid accident would be sympathetically bemoaned, grievous, ruthful, and anxious to the woefully desolate and disconsolate parents.

Notwithstanding all this, the greater part of so vilely abused parents are so timorous and afraid of devils and hobgoblins, and so deeply plunged in superstition, that they dare not gainsay nor contradict, much less oppose and resist those unnatural and impious actions, when the mole-catcher hath been present at the perpetrating of the fact, and a party contractor and covenanter in that detestable bargain. What do they do then? They wretchedly stay at their own miserable homes, destitute of their well-beloved daughters, the fathers cursing the days and the hours wherein they were married, and the mothers howling and crying that it was not their fortune to have brought forth abortive issues when they happened to be delivered of such unfortunate girls, and in this pitiful plight spend at best the remainder of their time with tears and weeping for those their children, of and from whom they expected, (and, with good reason, should have obtained and reaped,) in these latter days of theirs, joy and comfort. Other parents there have been, so impatient of that affront and indignity put upon them and their families, that, transported with the extremity of passion, in a mad and frantic mood, through the vehemency of a grievous fury and raging sorrow, have drowned, hanged, killed, and otherwise put violent hands on themselves. Others, again, of that parental relation have, upon the reception of the like injury, been of a more magnanimous and heroic spirit, who, in imitation and at the example of the children of Jacob revenging upon the Sichemites the rapt of their sister Dinah, having found the rascally ruffian in the association of his mystical mole-catcher closely and in hugger-mugger conferring, parleying, and coming with their daughters, for the suborning, corrupting, depraving, perverting, and enticing these innocent unexperienced maids unto filthy lewdnesses, have, without any further advisement on the matter, cut them instantly into pieces, and thereupon forthwith thrown out upon the fields their so dismembered bodies, to serve for food unto the wolves and ravens. Upon the chivalrous, bold, and courageous achievement of a so valiant, stout, and manlike act, the other mole-catching symmysts have been so highly incensed, and have so chafed, fretted, and fumed thereat, that, bills of complaint and accusations having been in a most odious and detestable manner put in before the competent judges, the arm of secular authority hath with much importunity and impetuosity been by them implored and required, they proudly contending that the servants of God would become contemptible if exemplary punishment were not speedily taken upon the persons of the perpetrators of such an enormous, horrid, sacrilegious, crying, heinous, and execrable crime.

Yet neither by natural equity, by the law of nations, nor by any imperial law whatsoever, hath there been found so much as one rubric, paragraph, point, or tittle, by the which any kind of chastisement or correction hath been adjudged due to be inflicted upon any for their delinquency in that kind. Reason opposeth, and nature is repugnant. For there is no virtuous man in the world who both naturally and with good reason will not be more hugely troubled in mind, hearing of the news of the rapt, disgrace, ignominy, and dishonour of his daughter, than of her death. Now any man, finding in hot blood one who with a forethought felony hath murdered his daughter, may, without tying himself to the formalities and circumstances of a legal proceeding, kill him on a sudden and out of hand without incurring any hazard of being attainted and apprehended by the officers of justice for so doing. What wonder is it then? Or how little strange should it appear to any rational man, if a lechering rogue, together with his mole-catching abettor, be entrapped in the flagrant act of suborning his daughter, and stealing her out of his house, though herself consent thereto, that the father in such a case of stain and infamy by them brought upon his family, should put them both to a shameful death, and cast their carcasses upon dunghills to be devoured and eaten up by dogs and swine, or otherwise fling them a little further off to the direption, tearing, and rending asunder of their joints and members by the wild beasts of the field (as unworthy to receive the gentle, the desired, the last kind embraces of the great Alma Mater, the earth, commonly called burial).

Dearly beloved son, have an especial care that after my decease none of these laws be received in any of your kingdoms; for whilst I breathe, by the grace and assistance of God, I shall give good order. Seeing, therefore, you have totally referred unto my discretion the disposure of you in marriage, I am fully of an opinion that I shall provide sufficiently well for you in that point. Make ready and prepare yourself for Panurge’s voyage. Take along with you Epistemon, Friar John, and such others as you will choose. Do with my treasures what unto yourself shall seem most expedient. None of your actions, I promise you, can in my manner of way displease me. Take out of my arsenal Thalasse whatsoever equipage, furniture, or provision you please, together with such pilots, mariners, and truchmen as you have a mind to, and with the first fair and favourable wind set sail and make out to sea in the name of God our Saviour. In the meanwhile, during your absence, I shall not be neglective of providing a wife for you, nor of those preparations which are requisite to be made for the more sumptuous solemnizing of your nuptials with a most splendid feast, if ever there was any in the world, since the days of Ahasuerus.

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