Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 3

How there is but one pope-hawk in the Ringing Island.

We then asked Master Aedituus why there was but one pope-hawk among such venerable birds multiplied in all their species. He answered that such was the first institution and fatal destiny of the stars that the clerg-hawks begot the priest-hawks and monk-hawks without carnal copulation, as some bees are born of a young bull; the priest-hawks begat the bish-hawks, the bish-hawks the stately cardin-hawks, and the stately cardin-hawks, if they live long enough, at last come to be pope-hawk.

Of this last kind there never is more than one at a time, as in a beehive there is but one king, and in the world is but one sun.

The Master of Ringing Island.

When the pope-hawk dies, another arises in his stead out of the whole brood of cardin-hawks, that is, as you must understand it all along, without carnal copulation. So that there is in that species an individual unity, with a perpetuity of succession, neither more or less than in the Arabian phoenix.

’Tis true that, about two thousand seven hundred and sixty moons ago, two pope-hawks were seen upon the face of the earth; but then you never saw in your lives such a woeful rout and hurly-burly as was all over this island. For all these same birds did so peck, clapperclaw, and maul one another all that time, that there was the devil and all to do, and the island was in a fair way of being left without inhabitants. Some stood up for this pope-hawk, some for t’other. Some, struck with a dumbness, were as mute as so many fishes; the devil a note was to be got out of them; part of the merry bells here were as silent as if they had lost their tongues, I mean their clappers.

During these troublesome times they called to their assistance the emperors, kings, dukes, earls, barons, and commonwealths of the world that live on t’other side the water; nor was this schism and sedition at an end till one of them died, and the plurality was reduced to a unity.

We then asked what moved those birds to be thus continually chanting and singing. He answered that it was the bells that hung on the top of their cages. Then he said to us, Will you have me make these monk-hawks whom you see bardocuculated with a bag such as you use to still brandy, sing like any woodlarks? Pray do, said we. He then gave half-a-dozen pulls to a little rope, which caused a diminutive bell to give so many ting-tangs; and presently a parcel of monk-hawks ran to him as if the devil had drove ‘em, and fell a-singing like mad.

Pray, master, cried Panurge, if I also rang this bell could I make those other birds yonder, with red-herring-coloured feathers, sing? Ay, marry would you, returned Aedituus. With this Panurge hanged himself (by the hands, I mean) at the bell-rope’s end, and no sooner made it speak but those smoked birds hied them thither and began to lift up their voices and make a sort of untowardly hoarse noise, which I grudge to call singing. Aedituus indeed told us that they fed on nothing but fish, like the herns and cormorants of the world, and that they were a fifth kind of cucullati newly stamped.

He added that he had been told by Robert Valbringue, who lately passed that way in his return from Africa, that a sixth kind was to fly hither out of hand, which he called capus-hawks, more grum, vinegar-faced, brain-sick, froward, and loathsome than any kind whatsoever in the whole island. Africa, said Pantagruel, still uses to produce some new and monstrous thing.

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