Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 48

How Pantagruel went ashore at the island of Papimany.

Having left the desolate island of the Pope-figs, we sailed for the space of a day very fairly and merrily, and made the blessed island of Papimany. As soon as we had dropt anchor in the road, before we had well moored our ship with ground-tackle, four persons in different garbs rowed towards us in a skiff. One of them was dressed like a monk in his frock, draggle-tailed, and booted; the other like a falconer, with a lure, and a long-winged hawk on his fist; the third like a solicitor, with a large bag, full of informations, subpoenas, breviates, bills, writs, cases, and other implements of pettifogging; the fourth looked like one of your vine-barbers about Ocleans, with a jaunty pair of canvas trousers, a dosser, and a pruning knife at his girdle.

As soon as the boat had clapped them on board, they all with one voice asked, Have you seen him, good passengers, have you seen him? Who? asked Pantagruel. You know who, answered they. Who is it? asked Friar John. ‘Sblood and ‘ounds, I’ll thrash him thick and threefold. This he said thinking that they inquired after some robber, murderer, or church-breaker. Oh, wonderful! cried the four; do not you foreign people know the one? Sirs, replied Epistemon, we do not understand those terms; but if you will be pleased to let us know who you mean, we will tell you the truth of the matter without any more ado. We mean, said they, he that is. Did you ever see him? He that is, returned Pantagruel, according to our theological doctrine, is God, who said to Moses, I am that I am. We never saw him, nor can he be beheld by mortal eyes. We mean nothing less than that supreme God who rules in heaven, replied they; we mean the god on earth. Did you ever see him? Upon my honour, replied Carpalin, they mean the pope. Ay, ay, answered Panurge; yea, verily, gentlemen, I have seen three of them, whose sight has not much bettered me. How! cried they, our sacred decretals inform us that there never is more than one living. I mean successively, one after the other, returned Panurge; otherwise I never saw more than one at a time.

O thrice and four times happy people! cried they; you are welcome, and more than double welcome! They then kneeled down before us and would have kissed our feet, but we would not suffer it, telling them that should the pope come thither in his own person, ’tis all they could do to him. No, certainly, answered they, for we have already resolved upon the matter. We would kiss his bare arse without boggling at it, and eke his two pounders; for he has a pair of them, the holy father, that he has; we find it so by our fine decretals, otherwise he could not be pope. So that, according to our subtle decretaline philosophy, this is a necessary consequence: he is pope; therefore he has genitories, and should genitories no more be found in the world, the world could no more have a pope.

While they were talking thus, Pantagruel inquired of one of the coxswain’s crew who those persons were. He answered that they were the four estates of the island, and added that we should be made as welcome as princes, since we had seen the pope. Panurge having been acquainted with this by Pantagruel, said to him in his ear, I swear and vow, sir, ’tis even so; he that has patience may compass anything. Seeing the pope had done us no good; now, in the devil’s name, ’twill do us a great deal. We then went ashore, and the whole country, men, women, and children, came to meet us as in a solemn procession. Our four estates cried out to them with a loud voice, They have seen him! they have seen him! they have seen him! That proclamation being made, all the mob kneeled before us, lifting up their hands towards heaven, and crying, O happy men! O most happy! and this acclamation lasted above a quarter of an hour.

Then came the Busby (!) of the place, with all his pedagogues, ushers, and schoolboys, whom he magisterially flogged, as they used to whip children in our country formerly when some criminal was hanged, that they might remember it. This displeased Pantagruel, who said to them, Gentlemen, if you do not leave off whipping these poor children, I am gone. The people were amazed, hearing his stentorian voice; and I saw a little hump with long fingers say to the hypodidascal, What, in the name of wonder! do all those that see the pope grow as tall as yon huge fellow that threatens us? Ah! how I shall think time long till I have seen him too, that I may grow and look as big. In short, the acclamations were so great that Homenas (so they called their bishop) hastened thither on an unbridled mule with green trappings, attended by his apposts (as they said) and his supposts, or officers bearing crosses, banners, standards, canopies, torches, holy-water pots, &c. He too wanted to kiss our feet (as the good Christian Valfinier did to Pope Clement), saying that one of their hypothetes, that’s one of the scavengers, scourers, and commentators of their holy decretals, had written that, in the same manner as the Messiah, so long and so much expected by the Jews, at last appeared among them; so, on some happy day of God, the pope would come into that island; and that, while they waited for that blessed time, if any who had seen him at Rome or elsewhere chanced to come among them, they should be sure to make much of them, feast them plentifully, and treat them with a great deal of reverence. However, we civilly desired to be excused.

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