Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 33

How we landed at the port of the Lychnobii, and came to Lantern-land.

Soon after we arrived at the port of Lantern-land, where Pantagruel discovered on a high tower the lantern of Rochelle, that stood us in good stead, for it cast a great light. We also saw the lantern of Pharos, that of Nauplion, and that of Acropolis at Athens, sacred to Pallas.

Near the port there’s a little hamlet inhabited by the Lychnobii, that live by lanterns, as the gulligutted friars in our country live by nuns; they are studious people, and as honest men as ever shit in a trumpet. Demosthenes had formerly lanternized there.

We were conducted from that place to the palace by three obeliscolichnys [’A kind of beacons.’— Motteux.], military guards of the port, with high-crowned hats, whom we acquainted with the cause of our voyage, and our design, which was to desire the queen of the country to grant us a lantern to light and conduct us during our voyage to the Oracle of the Holy Bottle.

They promised to assist us in this, and added that we could never have come in a better time, for then the lanterns held their provincial chapter.

When we came to the royal palace we had audience of her highness the Queen of Lantern-land, being introduced by two lanterns of honour, that of Aristophanes and that of Cleanthes [Motteux adds here —’Mistresses of the ceremonies.’]. Panurge in a few words acquainted her with the causes of our voyage, and she received us with great demonstrations of friendship, desiring us to come to her at supper-time that we might more easily make choice of one to be our guide; which pleased us extremely. We did not fail to observe intensely everything we could see, as the garbs, motions, and deportment of the queen’s subjects, principally the manner after which she was served.

The bright queen was dressed in virgin crystal of Tutia wrought damaskwise, and beset with large diamonds.

The lanterns of the royal blood were clad partly with bastard-diamonds, partly with diaphanous stones; the rest with horn, paper, and oiled cloth.

The cresset-lights took place according to the antiquity and lustre of their families.

An earthen dark-lantern, shaped like a pot, notwithstanding this took place of some of the first quality; at which I wondered much, till I was told it was that of Epictetus, for which three thousand drachmas had been formerly refused.

Martial’s polymix lantern [Motteux gives a footnote:—’A lamp with many wicks, or a branch’d candlestick with many springs coming out of it, that supply all the branches with oil.’] made a very good figure there. I took particular notice of its dress, and more yet of the lychnosimity formerly consecrated by Canopa, the daughter of Tisias.

I saw the lantern pensile formerly taken out of the temple of Apollo Palatinus at Thebes, and afterwards by Alexander the Great (carried to the town of Cymos). [The words in brackets have been omitted by Motteux.]

I saw another that distinguished itself from the rest by a bushy tuft of crimson silk on its head. I was told ’twas that of Bartolus, the lantern of the civilians.

Two others were very remarkable for glister-pouches that dangled at their waist. We were told that one was the greater light and the other the lesser light of the apothecaries.

When ’twas supper-time, the queen’s highness first sat down, and then the lady lanterns, according to their rank and dignity. For the first course they were all served with large Christmas candles, except the queen, who was served with a hugeous, thick, stiff, flaming taper of white wax, somewhat red towards the tip; and the royal family, as also the provincial lantern of Mirebalais, who were served with nutlights; and the provincial of Lower Poitou, with an armed candle.

After that, God wot, what a glorious light they gave with their wicks! I do not say all, for you must except a parcel of junior lanterns, under the government of a high and mighty one. These did not cast a light like the rest, but seemed to me dimmer than any long-snuff farthing candle whose tallow has been half melted away in a hothouse.

After supper we withdrew to take some rest, and the next day the queen made us choose one of the most illustrious lanterns to guide us; after which we took our leave.

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