Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 17

How we went forwards, and how Panurge had like to have been killed.

We put to sea that very moment, steering our course forwards, and gave Pantagruel a full account of our adventures, which so deeply struck him with compassion that he wrote some elegies on that subject to divert himself during the voyage. When we were safe in the port we took some refreshment, and took in fresh water and wood. The people of the place, who had the countenance of jolly fellows and boon companions, were all of them forward folks, bloated and puffed up with fat. And we saw some who slashed and pinked their skins to open a passage to the fat, that it might swell out at the slits and gashes which they made; neither more nor less than the shit-breech fellows in our country bepink and cut open their breeches that the taffety on the inside may stand out and be puffed up. They said that what they did was not out of pride or ostentation, but because otherwise their skins would not hold them without much pain. Having thus slashed their skin, they used to grow much bigger, like the young trees on whose barks the gardeners make incisions that they may grow the better.

Near the haven there was a tavern, which forwards seemed very fine and stately. We repaired thither, and found it filled with people of the forward nation, of all ages, sexes, and conditions; so that we thought some notable feast or other was getting ready, but we were told that all that throng were invited to the bursting of mine host, which caused all his friends and relations to hasten thither.

We did not understand that jargon, and therefore thought in that country by that bursting they meant some merry meeting or other, as we do in ours by betrothing, wedding, groaning, christening, churching (of women), shearing (of sheep), reaping (of corn, or harvest-home), and many other junketting bouts that end in — ing. But we soon heard that there was no such matter in hand.

The master of the house, you must know, had been a good fellow in his time, loved heartily to wind up his bottom, to bang the pitcher, and lick his dish. He used to be a very fair swallower of gravy soup, a notable accountant in matter of hours, and his whole life was one continual dinner, like mine host at Rouillac (in Perigord). But now, having farted out much fat for ten years together, according to the custom of the country, he was drawing towards his bursting hour; for neither the inner thin kell wherewith the entrails are covered, nor his skin that had been jagged and mangled so many years, were able to hold and enclose his guts any longer, or hinder them from forcing their way out. Pray, quoth Panurge, is there no remedy, no help for the poor man, good people? Why don’t you swaddle him round with good tight girths, or secure his natural tub with a strong sorb-apple-tree hoop? Nay, why don’t you iron-bind him, if needs be? This would keep the man from flying out and bursting. The word was not yet out of his mouth when we heard something give a loud report, as if a huge sturdy oak had been split in two. Then some of the neighbours told us that the bursting was over, and that the clap or crack which we heard was the last fart, and so there was an end of mine host.

This made me call to mind a saying of the venerable abbot of Castilliers, the very same who never cared to hump his chambermaids but when he was in pontificalibus. That pious person, being much dunned, teased, and importuned by his relations to resign his abbey in his old age, said and professed that he would not strip till he was ready to go to bed, and that the last fart which his reverend paternity was to utter should be the fart of an abbot.

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