Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 43

How Pantagruel went into the island of Ruach.

Two days after we arrived at the island of Ruach; and I swear to you, by the celestial hen and chickens, that I found the way of living of the people so strange and wonderful that I can’t, for the heart’s blood of me, half tell it you. They live on nothing but wind, eat nothing but wind, and drink nothing but wind. They have no other houses but weathercocks. They sow no other seeds but the three sorts of windflowers, rue, and herbs that may make one break wind to the purpose; these scour them off carefully. The common sort of people to feed themselves make use of feather, paper, or linen fans, according to their abilities. As for the rich, they live by the means of windmills.

When they would have some noble treat, the tables are spread under one or two windmills. There they feast as merry as beggars, and during the meal their whole talk is commonly of the goodness, excellency, salubrity, and rarity of winds; as you, jolly topers, in your cups philosophize and argue upon wines. The one praises the south-east, the other the south-west; this the west and by south, and this the east and by north; another the west, and another the east; and so of the rest. As for lovers and amorous sparks, no gale for them like a smock-gale. For the sick they use bellows as we use clysters among us.

Oh! said to me a little diminutive swollen bubble, that I had now but a bladderful of that same Languedoc wind which they call Cierce. The famous physician, Scurron, passing one day by this country, was telling us that it is so strong that it will make nothing of overturning a loaded waggon. Oh! what good would it not do my Oedipodic leg. The biggest are not the best; but, said Panurge, rather would I had here a large butt of that same good Languedoc wine that grows at Mirevaux, Canteperdrix, and Frontignan.

I saw a good likely sort of a man there, much resembling Ventrose, tearing and fuming in a grievous fret with a tall burly groom and a pimping little page of his, laying them on, like the devil, with a buskin. Not knowing the cause of his anger, at first I thought that all this was by the doctor’s advice, as being a thing very healthy to the master to be in a passion and to his man to be banged for it. But at last I heard him taxing his man with stealing from him, like a rogue as he was, the better half of a large leathern bag of an excellent southerly wind, which he had carefully laid up, like a hidden reserve, against the cold weather.

They neither exonerate, dung, piss, nor spit in that island; but, to make amends, they belch, fizzle, funk, and give tail-shots in abundance. They are troubled with all manner of distempers; and, indeed, all distempers are engendered and proceed from ventosities, as Hippocrates demonstrates, lib. De Flatibus. But the most epidemical among them is the wind-cholic. The remedies which they use are large clysters, whereby they void store of windiness. They all die of dropsies and tympanies, the men farting and the women fizzling; so that their soul takes her leave at the back-door.

Some time after, walking in the island, we met three hairbrained airy fellows, who seemed mightily puffed up, and went to take their pastime and view the plovers, who live on the same diet as themselves, and abound in the island. I observed that, as your true topers when they travel carry flasks, leathern bottles, and small runlets along with them, so each of them had at his girdle a pretty little pair of bellows. If they happened to want wind, by the help of those pretty bellows they immediately drew some, fresh and cool, by attraction and reciprocal expulsion; for, as you well know, wind essentially defined is nothing but fluctuating and agitated air.

A while after, we were commanded, in the king’s name, not to receive for three hours any man or woman of the country on board our ships; some having stolen from him a rousing fart, of the very individual wind which old goodman Aeolus the snorer gave Ulysses to conduct his ship whenever it should happen to be becalmed. Which fart the king kept religiously, like another sanc-greal, and performed a world of wonderful cures with it in many dangerous diseases, letting loose and distributing to the patient only as much of it as might frame a virginal fart; which is, if you must know, what our sanctimonials, alias nuns, in their dialect call ringing backwards.

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