Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 22

How Queen Whims’ officers were employed; and how the said lady retained us among her abstractors.

I then saw a great number of the queen’s officers, who made blackamoors white as fast as hops, just rubbing their bellies with the bottom of a pannier.

Others, with three couples of foxes in one yoke, ploughed a sandy shore, and did not lose their seed.

Others washed burnt tiles, and made them lose their colour.

Others extracted water out of pumice-stones, braying them a good while in a mortar, and changed their substance.

Others sheared asses, and thus got long fleece wool.

Others gathered barberries and figs off of thistles.

Others stroked he-goats by the dugs, and saved their milk in a sieve; and much they got by it.

(Others washed asses’ heads without losing their soap.)

Others taught cows to dance, and did not lose their fiddling.

Others pitched nets to catch the wind, and took cock-lobsters in them.

I saw a spodizator, who very artificially got farts out of a dead ass, and sold ‘em for fivepence an ell.

Another did putrefy beetles. O the dainty food!

Poor Panurge fairly cast up his accounts, and gave up his halfpenny (i.e. vomited), seeing an archasdarpenin who laid a huge plenty of chamber lye to putrefy in horsedung, mishmashed with abundance of Christian sir-reverence. Pugh, fie upon him, nasty dog! However, he told us that with this sacred distillation he watered kings and princes, and made their sweet lives a fathom or two the longer.

Others built churches to jump over the steeples.

Others set carts before the horses, and began to flay eels at the tail; neither did the eels cry before they were hurt, like those of Melun.

Others out of nothing made great things, and made great things return to nothing.

Others cut fire into steaks with a knife, and drew water with a fish-net.

Others made chalk of cheese, and honey of a dog’s t — d.

We saw a knot of others, about a baker’s dozen in number, tippling under an arbour. They toped out of jolly bottomless cups four sorts of cool, sparkling, pure, delicious, vine-tree sirup, which went down like mother’s milk; and healths and bumpers flew about like lightning. We were told that these true philosophers were fairly multiplying the stars by drinking till the seven were fourteen, as brawny Hercules did with Atlas.

Others made a virtue of necessity, and the best of a bad market, which seemed to me a very good piece of work.

Others made alchemy (i.e. sir-reverence) with their teeth, and clapping their hind retort to the recipient, made scurvy faces, and then squeezed.

Others, in a large grass plot, exactly measured how far the fleas could go at a hop, a step, and jump; and told us that this was exceedingly useful for the ruling of kingdoms, the conduct of armies, and the administration of commonwealths; and that Socrates, who first got philosophy out of heaven, and from idling and trifling made it profitable and of moment, used to spend half his philosophizing time in measuring the leaps of fleas, as Aristophanes the quintessential affirms.

I saw two gibroins by themselves keeping watch on the top of a tower, and we were told they guarded the moon from the wolves.

In a blind corner I met four more very hot at it, and ready to go to loggerheads. I asked what was the cause of the stir and ado, the mighty coil and pother they made. And I heard that for four livelong days those overwise roisters had been at it ding-dong, disputing on three high, more than metaphysical propositions, promising themselves mountains of gold by solving them. The first was concerning a he-ass’s shadow; the second, of the smoke of a lantern; and the third of goat’s hair, whether it were wool or no. We heard that they did not think it a bit strange that two contradictions in mode, form, figure, and time should be true; though I will warrant the sophists of Paris had rather be unchristened than own so much.

While we were admiring all those men’s wonderful doings, the evening star already twinkling, the queen (God bless her!) appeared, attended with her court, and again amazed and dazzled us. She perceived it, and said to us:

What occasions the aberrations of human cogitations through the perplexing labyrinths and abysses of admiration, is not the source of the effects, which sagacious mortals visibly experience to be the consequential result of natural causes. ’Tis the novelty of the experiment which makes impressions on their conceptive, cogitative faculties; that do not previse the facility of the operation adequately, with a subact and sedate intellection, associated with diligent and congruous study. Consequently let all manner of perturbation abdicate the ventricles of your brains, if anyone has invaded them while they were contemplating what is transacted by my domestic ministers. Be spectators and auditors of every particular phenomenon and every individual proposition within the extent of my mansion; satiate yourselves with all that can fall here under the consideration of your visual or auscultating powers, and thus emancipate yourselves from the servitude of crassous ignorance. And that you may be induced to apprehend how sincerely I desire this in consideration of the studious cupidity that so demonstratively emicates at your external organs, from this present particle of time I retain you as my abstractors. Geber, my principal Tabachin, shall register and initiate you at your departing.

We humbly thanked her queenship without saying a word, accepting of the noble office she conferred on us.

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