Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 23

How Panurge played the good fellow when the storm was over.

What cheer, ho, fore and aft? quoth Panurge. Oh ho! all is well, the storm is over. I beseech ye, be so kind as to let me be the first that is sent on shore; for I would by all means a little untruss a point. Shall I help you still? Here, let me see, I will coil this rope; I have plenty of courage, and of fear as little as may be. Give it me yonder, honest tar. No, no, I have not a bit of fear. Indeed, that same decumane wave that took us fore and aft somewhat altered my pulse. Down with your sails; well said. How now, Friar John? you do nothing. Is it time for us to drink now? Who can tell but St. Martin’s running footman Belzebuth may still be hatching us some further mischief? Shall I come and help you again? Pork and peas choke me, if I do heartily repent, though too late, not having followed the doctrine of the good philosopher who tells us that to walk by the sea and to navigate by the shore are very safe and pleasant things; just as ’tis to go on foot when we hold our horse by the bridle. Ha! ha! ha! by G — all goes well. Shall I help you here too? Let me see, I will do this as it should be, or the devil’s in’t.

Epistemon, who had the inside of one of his hands all flayed and bloody, having held a tackling with might and main, hearing what Pantagruel had said, told him: You may believe, my lord, I had my share of fear as well as Panurge; yet I spared no pains in lending my helping hand. I considered that, since by fatal and unavoidable necessity we must all die, it is the blessed will of God that we die this or that hour, and this or that kind of death. Nevertheless, we ought to implore, invoke, pray, beseech, and supplicate him; but we must not stop there; it behoveth us also to use our endeavours on our side, and, as the holy writ saith, to co-operate with him.

You know what C. Flaminius, the consul, said when by Hannibal’s policy he was penned up near the lake of Peruse, alias Thrasymene. Friends, said he to his soldiers, you must not hope to get out of this place barely by vows or prayers to the gods; no, ’tis by fortitude and strength we must escape and cut ourselves a way with the edge of our swords through the midst of our enemies.

Sallust likewise makes M. Portius Cato say this: The help of the gods is not obtained by idle vows and womanish complaints; ’tis by vigilance, labour, and repeated endeavours that all things succeed according to our wishes and designs. If a man in time of need and danger is negligent, heartless, and lazy, in vain he implores the gods; they are then justly angry and incensed against him. The devil take me, said Friar John — I’ll go his halves, quoth Panurge — if the close of Seville had not been all gathered, vintaged, gleaned, and destroyed, if I had only sung contra hostium insidias (matter of breviary) like all the rest of the monking devils, and had not bestirred myself to save the vineyard as I did, despatching the truant picaroons of Lerne with the staff of the cross.

Let her sink or swim a God’s name, said Panurge, all’s one to Friar John; he doth nothing; his name is Friar John Do-little; for all he sees me here a-sweating and puffing to help with all my might this honest tar, first of the name. — Hark you me, dear soul, a word with you; but pray be not angry. How thick do you judge the planks of our ship to be? Some two good inches and upwards, returned the pilot; don’t fear. Ods-kilderkins, said Panurge, it seems then we are within two fingers’ breadth of damnation.

Is this one of the nine comforts of matrimony? Ah, dear soul, you do well to measure the danger by the yard of fear. For my part, I have none on’t; my name is William Dreadnought. As for heart, I have more than enough on’t. I mean none of your sheep’s heart; but of wolf’s heart — the courage of a bravo. By the pavilion of Mars, I fear nothing but danger.

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