Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 15

How the ancient custom at nuptials is renewed by the catchpole.

The catchpole, having made shift to get down a swingeing sneaker of Breton wine, said to Basche, Pray, sir, what do you mean? You do not give one another the memento of the wedding. By St. Joseph’s wooden shoe, all good customs are forgot. We find the form, but the hare is scampered; and the nest, but the birds are flown. There are no true friends nowadays. You see how, in several churches, the ancient laudable custom of tippling on account of the blessed saints O O, at Christmas, is come to nothing. The world is in its dotage, and doomsday is certainly coming all so fast. Now come on; the wedding, the wedding, the wedding; remember it by this. This he said, striking Basche and his lady; then her women and the levite. Then the tabor beat a point of war, and the gauntlets began to do their duty; insomuch that the catchpole had his crown cracked in no less than nine places. One of the bums had his right arm put out of joint, and the other his upper jaw-bone or mandibule dislocated so that it hid half his chin, with a denudation of the uvula, and sad loss of the molar, masticatory, and canine teeth. Then the tabor beat a retreat; the gauntlets were carefully hid in a trice, and sweetmeats afresh distributed to renew the mirth of the company. So they all drank to one another, and especially to the catchpole and his bums. But Oudart cursed and damned the wedding to the pit of hell, complaining that one of the bums had utterly disincornifistibulated his nether shoulder-blade. Nevertheless, he scorned to be thought a flincher, and made shift to tope to him on the square.

The jawless bum shrugged up his shoulders, joined his hands, and by signs begged his pardon; for speak he could not. The sham bridegroom made his moan, that the crippled bum had struck him such a horrid thump with his shoulder-of-mutton fist on the nether elbow that he was grown quite esperruquanchuzelubelouzerireliced down to his very heel, to the no small loss of mistress bride.

But what harm had poor I done? cried Trudon, hiding his left eye with his kerchief, and showing his tabor cracked on one side; they were not satisfied with thus poaching, black and bluing, and morrambouzevezengouzequoquemorgasacbaquevezinemaffreliding my poor eyes, but they have also broke my harmless drum. Drums indeed are commonly beaten at weddings, and it is fit they should; but drummers are well entertained and never beaten. Now let Beelzebub e’en take the drum, to make his devilship a nightcap. Brother, said the lame catchpole, never fret thyself; I will make thee a present of a fine, large, old patent, which I have here in my bag, to patch up thy drum, and for Madame St. Ann’s sake I pray thee forgive us. By Our Lady of Riviere, the blessed dame, I meant no more harm than the child unborn. One of the equerries, who, hopping and halting like a mumping cripple, mimicked the good limping Lord de la Roche Posay, directed his discourse to the bum with the pouting jaw, and told him: What, Mr. Manhound, was it not enough thus to have morcrocastebezasteverestegrigeligoscopapopondrillated us all in our upper members with your botched mittens, but you must also apply such morderegripippiatabirofreluchamburelurecaquelurintimpaniments on our shinbones with the hard tops and extremities of your cobbled shoes. Do you call this children’s play? By the mass, ’tis no jest. The bum, wringing his hands, seemed to beg his pardon, muttering with his tongue, Mon, mon, mon, vrelon, von, von, like a dumb man. The bride crying laughed, and laughing cried, because the catchpole was not satisfied with drubbing her without choice or distinction of members, but had also rudely roused and toused her, pulled off her topping, and not having the fear of her husband before his eyes, treacherously trepignemanpenillorifrizonoufresterfumbledtumbled and squeezed her lower parts. The devil go with it, said Basche; there was much need indeed that this same Master King (this was the catchpole’s name) should thus break my wife’s back; however, I forgive him now; these are little nuptial caresses. But this I plainly perceive, that he cited me like an angel, and drubbed me like a devil. He had something in him of Friar Thumpwell. Come, for all this, I must drink to him, and to you likewise, his trusty esquires. But, said his lady, why hath he been so very liberal of his manual kindness to me, without the least provocation? I assure you, I by no means like it; but this I dare say for him, that he hath the hardest knuckles that ever I felt on my shoulders. The steward held his left arm in a scarf, as if it had been rent and torn in twain. I think it was the devil, said he, that moved me to assist at these nuptials; shame on ill luck; I must needs be meddling with a pox, and now see what I have got by the bargain, both my arms are wretchedly engoulevezinemassed and bruised. Do you call this a wedding? By St. Bridget’s tooth, I had rather be at that of a Tom T— d-man. This is, o’ my word, even just such another feast as was that of the Lapithae, described by the philosopher of Samosata. One of the bums had lost his tongue. The other two, tho’ they had more need to complain, made their excuse as well as they could, protesting that they had no ill design in this dumbfounding; begging that, for goodness sake, they would forgive them; and so, tho’ they could hardly budge a foot, or wag along, away they crawled. About a mile from Basche’s seat, the catchpole found himself somewhat out of sorts. The bums got to L’Isle Bouchart, publicly saying that since they were born they had never seen an honester gentleman than the Lord of Basche, or civiller people than his, and that they had never been at the like wedding (which I verily believe); but that it was their own faults if they had been tickled off, and tossed about from post to pillar, since themselves had began the beating. So they lived I cannot exactly tell you how many days after this. But from that time to this it was held for a certain truth that Basche’s money was more pestilential, mortal, and pernicious to the catchpoles and bums than were formerly the aurum Tholosanum and the Sejan horse to those that possessed them. Ever since this he lived quietly, and Basche’s wedding grew into a common proverb.

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