Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 5

How Pantagruel met a ship with passengers returning from Lanternland.

On the fifth day we began already to wind by little and little about the pole; going still farther from the equinoctial line, we discovered a merchant-man to the windward of us. The joy for this was not small on both sides; we in hopes to hear news from sea, and those in the merchant-man from land. So we bore upon ‘em, and coming up with them we hailed them; and finding them to be Frenchmen of Xaintonge, backed our sails and lay by to talk to them. Pantagruel heard that they came from Lanternland; which added to his joy, and that of the whole fleet. We inquired about the state of that country, and the way of living of the Lanterns; and were told that about the latter end of the following July was the time prefixed for the meeting of the general chapter of the Lanterns; and that if we arrived there at that time, as we might easily, we should see a handsome, honourable, and jolly company of Lanterns; and that great preparations were making, as if they intended to lanternize there to the purpose. We were told also that if we touched at the great kingdom of Gebarim, we should be honourably received and treated by the sovereign of that country, King Ohabe, who, as well as all his subjects, speaks Touraine French.

While we were listening to these news, Panurge fell out with one Dingdong, a drover or sheep-merchant of Taillebourg. The occasion of the fray was thus:

This same Dingdong, seeing Panurge without a codpiece, with his spectacles fastened to his cap, said to one of his comrades, Prithee, look, is there not a fine medal of a cuckold? Panurge, by reason of his spectacles, as you may well think, heard more plainly by half with his ears than usually; which caused him (hearing this) to say to the saucy dealer in mutton, in a kind of a pet:

How the devil should I be one of the hornified fraternity, since I am not yet a brother of the marriage-noose, as thou art; as I guess by thy ill-favoured phiz?

Yea, verily, quoth the grazier, I am married, and would not be otherwise for all the pairs of spectacles in Europe; nay, not for all the magnifying gimcracks in Africa; for I have got me the cleverest, prettiest, handsomest, properest, neatest, tightest, honestest, and soberest piece of woman’s flesh for my wife that is in all the whole country of Xaintonge; I’ll say that for her, and a fart for all the rest. I bring her home a fine eleven-inch-long branch of red coral for her Christmas-box. What hast thou to do with it? what’s that to thee? who art thou? whence comest thou, O dark lantern of Antichrist? Answer, if thou art of God. I ask thee, by the way of question, said Panurge to him very seriously, if with the consent and countenance of all the elements, I had gingumbobbed, codpieced, and thumpthumpriggledtickledtwiddled thy so clever, so pretty, so handsome, so proper, so neat, so tight, so honest, and so sober female importance, insomuch that the stiff deity that has no forecast, Priapus (who dwells here at liberty, all subjection of fastened codpieces, or bolts, bars, and locks, abdicated), remained sticking in her natural Christmas-box in such a lamentable manner that it were never to come out, but eternally should stick there unless thou didst pull it out with thy teeth; what wouldst thou do? Wouldst thou everlastingly leave it there, or wouldst thou pluck it out with thy grinders? Answer me, O thou ram of Mahomet, since thou art one of the devil’s gang. I would, replied the sheepmonger, take thee such a woundy cut on this spectacle-bearing lug of thine with my trusty bilbo as would smite thee dead as a herring. Thus, having taken pepper in the nose, he was lugging out his sword, but, alas! — cursed cows have short horns — it stuck in the scabbard; as you know that at sea cold iron will easily take rust by reason of the excessive and nitrous moisture. Panurge, so smitten with terror that his heart sunk down to his midriff, scoured off to Pantagruel for help; but Friar John laid hand on his flashing scimitar that was new ground, and would certainly have despatched Dingdong to rights, had not the skipper and some of his passengers beseeched Pantagruel not to suffer such an outrage to be committed on board his ship. So the matter was made up, and Panurge and his antagonist shaked fists, and drank in course to one another in token of a perfect reconciliation.

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