Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 4

How Pantagruel writ to his father Gargantua, and sent him several curiosities.

Pantagruel, having perused the letter, had a long conference with the esquire Malicorne; insomuch that Panurge, at last interrupting them, asked him, Pray, sir, when do you design to drink? When shall we drink? When shall the worshipful esquire drink? What a devil! have you not talked long enough to drink? It is a good motion, answered Pantagruel: go, get us something ready at the next inn; I think ’tis the Centaur. In the meantime he writ to Gargantua as followeth, to be sent by the aforesaid esquire:

Most gracious Father — As our senses and animal faculties are more discomposed at the news of events unexpected, though desired (even to an immediate dissolution of the soul from the body), than if those accidents had been foreseen, so the coming of Malicorne hath much surprised and disordered me. For I had no hopes to see any of your servants, or to hear from you, before I had finished our voyage; and contented myself with the dear remembrance of your august majesty, deeply impressed in the hindmost ventricle of my brain, often representing you to my mind.

But since you have made me happy beyond expectation by the perusal of your gracious letter, and the faith I have in your esquire hath revived my spirits by the news of your welfare, I am as it were compelled to do what formerly I did freely, that is, first to praise the blessed Redeemer, who by his divine goodness preserves you in this long enjoyment of perfect health; then to return you eternal thanks for the fervent affection which you have for me your most humble son and unprofitable servant.

Formerly a Roman, named Furnius, said to Augustus, who had received his father into favour, and pardoned him after he had sided with Antony, that by that action the emperor had reduced him to this extremity, that for want of power to be grateful, both while he lived and after it, he should be obliged to be taxed with ingratitude. So I may say, that the excess of your fatherly affection drives me into such a strait, that I shall be forced to live and die ungrateful; unless that crime be redressed by the sentence of the Stoics, who say that there are three parts in a benefit, the one of the giver, the other of the receiver, the third of the remunerator; and that the receiver rewards the giver when he freely receives the benefit and always remembers it; as, on the contrary, that man is most ungrateful who despises and forgets a benefit. Therefore, being overwhelmed with infinite favours, all proceeding from your extreme goodness, and on the other side wholly incapable of making the smallest return, I hope at least to free myself from the imputation of ingratitude, since they can never be blotted out of my mind; and my tongue shall never cease to own that to thank you as I ought transcends my capacity.

As for us, I have this assurance in the Lord’s mercy and help, that the end of our voyage will be answerable to its beginning, and so it will be entirely performed in health and mirth. I will not fail to set down in a journal a full account of our navigation, that at our return you may have an exact relation of the whole.

I have found here a Scythian tarand, an animal strange and wonderful for the variations of colour on its skin and hair, according to the distinction of neighbouring things; it is as tractable and easily kept as a lamb. Be pleased to accept of it.

I also send you three young unicorns, which are the tamest of creatures.

I have conferred with the esquire, and taught him how they must be fed. These cannot graze on the ground by reason of the long horn on their forehead, but are forced to browse on fruit trees, or on proper racks, or to be fed by hand, with herbs, sheaves, apples, pears, barley, rye, and other fruits and roots, being placed before them.

I am amazed that ancient writers should report them to be so wild, furious, and dangerous, and never seen alive; far from it, you will find that they are the mildest things in the world, provided they are not maliciously offended. Likewise I send you the life and deeds of Achilles in curious tapestry; assuring you whatever rarities of animals, plants, birds, or precious stones, and others, I shall be able to find and purchase in our travels, shall be brought to you, God willing, whom I beseech, by his blessed grace, to preserve you.

From Medamothy, this 15th of June. Panurge, Friar John, Epistemon, Zenomanes, Gymnast, Eusthenes, Rhizotome, and Carpalin, having most humbly kissed your hand, return your salute a thousand times.

Your most dutiful son and servant, Pantagruel.

While Pantagruel was writing this letter, Malicorne was made welcome by all with a thousand goodly good-morrows and how-d’ye’s; they clung about him so that I cannot tell you how much they made of him, how many humble services, how many from my love and to my love were sent with him. Pantagruel, having writ his letters, sat down at table with him, and afterwards presented him with a large chain of gold, weighing eight hundred crowns, between whose septenary links some large diamonds, rubies, emeralds, turquoise stones, and unions were alternately set in. To each of his bark’s crew he ordered to be given five hundred crowns. To Gargantua, his father, he sent the tarand covered with a cloth of satin, brocaded with gold, and the tapestry containing the life and deeds of Achilles, with the three unicorns in friezed cloth of gold trappings; and so they left Medamothy — Malicorne to return to Gargantua, Pantagruel to proceed in his voyage, during which Epistemon read to him the books which the esquire had brought, and because he found them jovial and pleasant, I shall give you an account of them, if you earnestly desire it.

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