Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 21

A continuation of the storm, with a short discourse on the subject of making testaments at sea.

To make one’s last will, said Epistemon, at this time that we ought to bestir ourselves and help our seamen, on the penalty of being drowned, seems to me as idle and ridiculous a maggot as that of some of Caesar’s men, who, at their coming into the Gauls, were mightily busied in making wills and codicils; bemoaned their fortune and the absence of their spouses and friends at Rome, when it was absolutely necessary for them to run to their arms and use their utmost strength against Ariovistus their enemy.

This also is to be as silly as that jolt-headed loblolly of a carter, who, having laid this waggon fast in a slough, down on his marrow-bones was calling on the strong-backed deity, Hercules, might and main, to help him at a dead lift, but all the while forgot to goad on his oxen and lay his shoulder to the wheels, as it behoved him; as if a Lord have mercy upon us alone would have got his cart out of the mire.

What will it signify to make your will now? for either we shall come off or drown for it. If we ‘scape, it will not signify a straw to us; for testaments are of no value or authority but by the death of the testators. If we are drowned, will it not be drowned too? Prithee, who will transmit it to the executors? Some kind wave will throw it ashore, like Ulysses, replied Panurge; and some king’s daughter, going to fetch a walk in the fresco, on the evening will find it, and take care to have it proved and fulfilled; nay, and have some stately cenotaph erected to my memory, as Dido had to that of her goodman Sichaeus; Aeneas to Deiphobus, upon the Trojan shore, near Rhoete; Andromache to Hector, in the city of Buthrot; Aristotle to Hermias and Eubulus; the Athenians to the poet Euripides; the Romans to Drusus in Germany, and to Alexander Severus, their emperor, in the Gauls; Argentier to Callaischre; Xenocrates to Lysidices; Timares to his son Teleutagoras; Eupolis and Aristodice to their son Theotimus; Onestus to Timocles; Callimachus to Sopolis, the son of Dioclides; Catullus to his brother; Statius to his father; Germain of Brie to Herve, the Breton tarpaulin. Art thou mad, said Friar John, to run on at this rate? Help, here, in the name of five hundred thousand millions of cartloads of devils, help! may a shanker gnaw thy moustachios, and the three rows of pock-royals and cauliflowers cover thy bum and turd-barrel instead of breeches and codpiece. Codsooks, our ship is almost overset. Ods-death, how shall we clear her? it is well if she do not founder. What a devilish sea there runs! She’ll neither try nor hull; the sea will overtake her, so we shall never ‘scape; the devil ‘scape me. Then Pantagruel was heard to make a sad exclamation, saying, with a loud voice, Lord save us, we perish; yet not as we would have it, but thy holy will be done. The Lord and the blessed Virgin be with us, said Panurge. Holos, alas, I drown; be be be bous, be bous, bous; in manus. Good heavens, send me some dolphin to carry me safe on shore, like a pretty little Arion. I shall make shift to sound the harp, if it be not unstrung. Let nineteen legions of black devils seize me, said Friar John. (The Lord be with us! whispered Panurge, between his chattering teeth.) If I come down to thee, I’ll show thee to some purpose that the badge of thy humanity dangles at a calf’s breech, thou ragged, horned, cuckoldy booby — mgna, mgnan, mgnan — come hither and help us, thou great weeping calf, or may thirty millions of devils leap on thee. Wilt thou come, sea-calf? Fie; how ugly the howling whelp looks. What, always the same ditty? Come on now, my bonny drawer. This he said, opening his breviary. Come forward, thou and I must be somewhat serious for a while; let me peruse thee stiffly. Beatus vir qui non abiit. Pshaw, I know all this by heart; let us see the legend of Mons. St. Nicholas.

Horrida tempestas montem turbavit acutum.

Tempest was a mighty flogger of lads at Mountagu College. If pedants be damned for whipping poor little innocent wretches their scholars, he is, upon my honour, by this time fixed within Ixion’s wheel, lashing the crop-eared, bobtailed cur that gives it motion. If they are saved for having whipped innocent lads, he ought to be above the —

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