Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 6

Why new married men were privileged from going to the wars.

But, in the interim, asked Panurge, by what law was it constituted, ordained, and established, that such as should plant a new vineyard, those that should build a new house, and the new married men, should be exempted and discharged from the duty of warfare for the first year? By the law, answered Pantagruel, of Moses. Why, replied Panurge, the lately married? As for the vine-planters, I am now too old to reflect on them; my condition, at this present, induceth me to remain satisfied with the care of vintage, finishing and turning the grapes into wine. Nor are these pretty new builders of dead stones written or pricked down in my Book of Life. It is all with live stones that I set up and erect the fabrics of my architecture, to wit, men. It was, according to my opinion, quoth Pantagruel, to the end, first, that the fresh married folks should for the first year reap a full and complete fruition of their pleasures in their mutual exercise of the act of love, in such sort, that in waiting more at leisure on the production of posterity and propagating of their progeny, they might the better increase their race and make provision of new heirs. That if, in the years thereafter, the men should, upon their undergoing of some military adventure, happen to be killed, their names and coats-of-arms might continue with their children in the same families. And next, that, the wives thereby coming to know whether they were barren or fruitful — for one year’s trial, in regard of the maturity of age wherein of old they married, was held sufficient for the discovery — they might pitch the more suitably, in case of their first husband’s decease, upon a second match. The fertile women to be wedded to those who desire to multiply their issue; and the sterile ones to such other mates, as, misregarding the storing of their own lineage, choose them only for their virtues, learning, genteel behaviour, domestic consolation, management of the house, and matrimonial conveniences and comforts, and such like. The preachers of Varennes, saith Panurge, detest and abhor the second marriages, as altogether foolish and dishonest.

Foolish and dishonest? quoth Pantagruel. A plague take such preachers! Yea but, quoth Panurge, the like mischief also befall the Friar Charmer, who, in a full auditory making a sermon at Pereilly, and therein abominating the reiteration of marriage and the entering again in the bonds of a nuptial tie, did swear and heartily give himself to the swiftest devil in hell, if he had not rather choose, and would much more willingly undertake the unmaidening or depucelating of a hundred virgins, than the simple drudgery of one widow. Truly I find your reason in that point right good and strongly grounded.

But what would you think, if the cause why this exemption or immunity was granted had no other foundation but that, during the whole space of the said first year, they so lustily bobbed it with their female consorts, as both reason and equity require they should do, that they had drained and evacuated their spermatic vessels; and were become thereby altogether feeble, weak, emasculated, drooping, and flaggingly pithless; yea, in such sort that they in the day of battle, like ducks which plunge over head and ears, would sooner hide themselves behind the baggage, than, in the company of valiant fighters and daring military combatants, appear where stern Bellona deals her blows and moves a bustling noise of thwacks and thumps? Nor is it to be thought that, under the standard of Mars, they will so much as once strike a fair stroke, because their most considerable knocks have been already jerked and whirrited within the curtains of his sweetheart Venus.

In confirmation whereof, amongst other relics and monuments of antiquity, we now as yet often see, that in all great houses, after the expiring of some few days, these young married blades are readily sent away to visit their uncles, that in the absence of their wives reposing themselves a little they may recover their decayed strength by the recruit of a fresh supply, the more vigorous to return again and face about to renew the duelling shock and conflict of an amorous dalliance, albeit for the greater part they have neither uncle nor aunt to go to.

Just so did the King Crackart, after the battle of the Cornets, not cashier us (speaking properly), I mean me and the Quail-caller, but for our refreshment remanded us to our houses; and he is as yet seeking after his own. My grandfather’s godmother was wont to say to me when I was a boy —

Patenostres et oraisons

Sont pour ceux-la, qui les retiennent.

Ung fiffre en fenaisons

Est plus fort que deux qui en viennent.

Not orisons nor patenotres

Shall ever disorder my brain.

One cadet, to the field as he flutters,

Is worth two, when they end the campaign.

That which prompteth me to that opinion is, that the vine-planters did seldom eat of the grapes, or drink of the wine of their labour, till the first year was wholly elapsed. During all which time also the builders did hardly inhabit their new-structured dwelling-places, for fear of dying suffocated through want of respiration; as Galen hath most learnedly remarked, in the second book of the Difficulty of Breathing. Under favour, sir, I have not asked this question without cause causing and reason truly very ratiocinant. Be not offended, I pray you.

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