Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 66

How, by Pantagruel’s order, the Muses were saluted near the isle of Ganabim.

This fair wind and as fine talk brought us in sight of a high land, which Pantagruel discovering afar off, showed it Xenomanes, and asked him, Do you see yonder to the leeward a high rock with two tops, much like Mount Parnassus in Phocis? I do plainly, answered Xenomanes; ’tis the isle of Ganabim. Have you a mind to go ashore there? No, returned Pantagruel. You do well, indeed, said Xenomanes; for there is nothing worth seeing in the place. The people are all thieves; yet there is the finest fountain in the world, and a very large forest towards the right top of the mountain. Your fleet may take in wood and water there.

He that spoke last, spoke well, quoth Panurge; let us not by any means be so mad as to go among a parcel of thieves and sharpers. You may take my word for’t, this place is just such another as, to my knowledge, formerly were the islands of Sark and Herm, between the smaller and the greater Britain; such as was the Poneropolis of Philip in Thrace; islands of thieves, banditti, picaroons, robbers, ruffians, and murderers, worse than raw-head and bloody-bones, and full as honest as the senior fellows of the college of iniquity, the very outcasts of the county gaol’s common-side. As you love yourself, do not go among ‘em. If you go you’ll come off but bluely, if you come off at all. If you will not believe me, at least believe what the good and wise Xenomanes tells you; for may I never stir if they are not worse than the very cannibals; they would certainly eat us alive. Do not go among ‘em, I pray you; it were safer to take a journey to hell. Hark! by Cod’s body, I hear ‘em ringing the alarm-bell most dreadfully, as the Gascons about Bordeaux used formerly to do against the commissaries and officers for the tax on salt, or my ears tingle. Let’s sheer off.

Believe me, sir, said Friar John, let’s rather land; we will rid the world of that vermin, and inn there for nothing. Old Nick go with thee for me, quoth Panurge. This rash hairbrained devil of a friar fears nothing, but ventures and runs on like a mad devil as he is, and cares not a rush what becomes of others; as if everyone was a monk, like his friarship. A pox on grinning honour, say I. Go to, returned the friar, thou mangy noddy-peak! thou forlorn druggle-headed sneaksby! and may a million of black devils anatomize thy cockle brain. The hen-hearted rascal is so cowardly that he berays himself for fear every day. If thou art so afraid, dunghill, do not go; stay here and be hanged; or go and hide thy loggerhead under Madam Proserpine’s petticoat.

Panurge hearing this, his breech began to make buttons; so he slunk in in an instant, and went to hide his head down in the bread-room among the musty biscuits and the orts and scraps of broken bread.

Pantagruel in the meantime said to the rest: I feel a pressing retraction in my soul, which like a voice admonishes me not to land there. Whenever I have felt such a motion within me I have found myself happy in avoiding what it directed me to shun, or in undertaking what it prompted me to do; and I never had occasion to repent following its dictates.

As much, said Epistemon, is related of the daemon of Socrates, so celebrated among the Academics. Well then, sir, said Friar John, while the ship’s crew water have you a mind to have good sport? Panurge is got down somewhere in the hold, where he is crept into some corner, and lurks like a mouse in a cranny. Let ‘em give the word for the gunner to fire yon gun over the round-house on the poop; this will serve to salute the Muses of this Anti-parnassus; besides, the powder does but decay in it. You are in the right, said Pantagruel; here, give the word for the gunner.

The gunner immediately came, and was ordered by Pantagruel to fire that gun, and then charge it with fresh powder, which was soon done. The gunners of the other ships, frigates, galleons, and galleys of the fleet, hearing us fire, gave every one a gun to the island; which made such a horrid noise that you would have sworn heaven had been tumbling about out ears.

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