Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 53

How by the virtue of the decretals, gold is subtilely drawn out of France to Rome.

I would, said Epistemon, it had cost me a pint of the best tripe that ever can enter into gut, so we had but compared with the original the dreadful chapters, Execrabilis, De multa, Si plures; De annatis per totum; Nisi essent; Cum ad monasterium; Quod delectio; Mandatum; and certain others, that draw every year out of France to Rome four hundred thousand ducats and more.

Do you make nothing of this? asked Homenas. Though, methinks, after all, it is but little, if we consider that France, the most Christian, is the only nurse the see of Rome has. However, find me in the whole world a book, whether of philosophy, physic, law, mathematics, or other humane learning, nay, even, by my God, of the Holy Scripture itself, will draw as much money thence? None, none, psha, tush, blurt, pish; none can. You may look till your eyes drop out of your head, nay, till doomsday in the afternoon, before you can find another of that energy; I’ll pass my word for that.

Yet these devilish heretics refuse to learn and know it. Burn ‘em, tear ‘em, nip ‘em with hot pincers, drown ‘em, hang ‘em, spit ‘em at the bunghole, pelt ‘em, paut ‘em, bruise ‘em, beat ‘em, cripple ‘em, dismember ‘em, cut ‘em, gut ‘em, bowel ‘em, paunch ‘em, thrash ‘em, slash ‘em, gash ‘em, chop ‘em, slice ‘em, slit ‘em, carve ‘em, saw ‘em, bethwack ‘em, pare ‘em, hack ‘em, hew ‘em, mince ‘em, flay ‘em, boil ‘em, broil ‘em, roast ‘em, toast ‘em, bake ‘em, fry ‘em, crucify ‘em, crush ‘em, squeeze ‘em, grind ‘em, batter ‘em, burst ‘em, quarter ‘em, unlimb ‘em, behump ‘em, bethump ‘em, belam ‘em, belabour ‘em, pepper ‘em, spitchcock ‘em, and carbonade ‘em on gridirons, these wicked heretics! decretalifuges, decretalicides, worse than homicides, worse than patricides, decretalictones of the devil of hell.

As for you other good people, I must earnestly pray and beseech you to believe no other thing, to think on, say, undertake, or do no other thing, than what’s contained in our sacred decretals and their corollaries, this fine Sextum, these fine Clementinae, these fine Extravagantes. O deific books! So shall you enjoy glory, honour, exaltation, wealth, dignities, and preferments in this world; be revered and dreaded by all, preferred, elected, and chosen above all men.

For there is not under the cope of heaven a condition of men out of which you’ll find persons fitter to do and handle all things than those who by divine prescience, eternal predestination, have applied themselves to the study of the holy decretals.

Would you choose a worthy emperor, a good captain, a fit general in time of war, one that can well foresee all inconveniences, avoid all dangers, briskly and bravely bring his men on to a breach or attack, still be on sure grounds, always overcome without loss of his men, and know how to make a good use of his victory? Take me a decretist. No, no, I mean a decretalist. Ho, the foul blunder, whispered Epistemon.

Would you, in time of peace, find a man capable of wisely governing the state of a commonwealth, of a kingdom, of an empire, of a monarchy; sufficient to maintain the clergy, nobility, senate, and commons in wealth, friendship, unity, obedience, virtue, and honesty? Take a decretalist.

Would you find a man who, by his exemplary life, eloquence, and pious admonitions, may in a short time, without effusion of human blood, conquer the Holy Land, and bring over to the holy Church the misbelieving Turks, Jews, Tartars, Muscovites, Mamelukes, and Sarrabonites? Take me a decretalist.

What makes, in many countries, the people rebellious and depraved, pages saucy and mischievous, students sottish and duncical? Nothing but that their governors and tutors were not decretalists.

But what, on your conscience, was it, do you think, that established, confirmed, and authorized those fine religious orders with whom you see the Christian world everywhere adorned, graced, and illustrated, as the firmament is with its glorious stars? The holy decretals.

What was it that founded, underpropped, and fixed, and now maintains, nourishes, and feeds the devout monks and friars in convents, monasteries, and abbeys; so that did they not daily and mightily pray without ceasing, the world would be in evident danger of returning to its primitive chaos? The sacred decretals.

What makes and daily increases the famous and celebrated patrimony of St. Peter in plenty of all temporal, corporeal, and spiritual blessings? The holy decretals.

What made the holy apostolic see and pope of Rome, in all times, and at this present, so dreadful in the universe, that all kings, emperors, potentates, and lords, willing, nilling, must depend upon him, hold of him, be crowned, confirmed, and authorized by him, come thither to strike sail, buckle, and fall down before his holy slipper, whose picture you have seen? The mighty decretals of God.

I will discover you a great secret. The universities of your world have commonly a book, either open or shut, in their arms and devices; what book do you think it is? Truly, I do not know, answered Pantagruel; I never read it. It is the decretals, said Homenas, without which the privileges of all universities would soon be lost. You must own that I have taught you this; ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Here Homenas began to belch, to fart, to funk, to laugh, to slaver, and to sweat; and then he gave his huge greasy four-cornered cap to one of the lasses, who clapped it on her pretty head with a great deal of joy, after she had lovingly bussed it, as a sure token that she should be first married. Vivat, cried Epistemon, fifat, bibat, pipat.

O apocalyptic secret! continued Homenas; light, light, Clerica; light here with double lanterns. Now for the fruit, virgins.

I was saying, then, that giving yourselves thus wholly to the study of the holy decretals, you will gain wealth and honour in this world. I add, that in the next you will infallibly be saved in the blessed kingdom of heaven, whose keys are given to our good god and decretaliarch. O my good god, whom I adore and never saw, by thy special grace open unto us, at the point of death at least, this most sacred treasure of our holy Mother Church, whose protector, preserver, butler, chief-larder, administrator, and disposer thou art; and take care, I beseech thee, O lord, that the precious works of supererogation, the goodly pardons, do not fail us in time of need; so that the devils may not find an opportunity to gripe our precious souls, and the dreadful jaws of hell may not swallow us. If we must pass through purgatory thy will be done. It is in thy power to draw us out of it when thou pleasest. Here Homenas began to shed huge hot briny tears, to beat his breast, and kiss his thumbs in the shape of a cross.

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