Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 34

How we arrived at the Oracle of the Bottle.

Our glorious lantern lighting and directing us to heart’s content, we at last arrived at the desired island where was the Oracle of the Bottle. As soon as friend Panurge landed, he nimbly cut a caper with one leg for joy, and cried to Pantagruel, Now we are where we have wished ourselves long ago. This is the place we’ve been seeking with such toil and labour. He then made a compliment to our lantern, who desired us to be of good cheer, and not be daunted or dismayed whatever we might chance to see.

To come to the Temple of the Holy Bottle we were to go through a large vineyard, in which were all sorts of vines, as the Falernian, Malvoisian, the Muscadine, those of Taige, Beaune, Mirevaux, Orleans, Picardent, Arbois, Coussi, Anjou, Grave, Corsica, Vierron, Nerac, and others. This vineyard was formerly planted by the good Bacchus, with so great a blessing that it yields leaves, flowers, and fruit all the year round, like the orange trees at Suraine.

Our magnificent lantern ordered every one of us to eat three grapes, to put some vine-leaves in his shoes, and take a vine-branch in his left hand.

At the end of the close we went under an arch built after the manner of those of the ancients. The trophies of a toper were curiously carved on it.

First, on one side was to be seen a long train of flagons, leathern bottles, flasks, cans, glass bottles, barrels, nipperkins, pint pots, quart pots, pottles, gallons, and old-fashioned semaises (swingeing wooden pots, such as those out of which the Germans fill their glasses); these hung on a shady arbour.

On another side was store of garlic, onions, shallots, hams, botargos, caviare, biscuits, neat’s tongues, old cheese, and such like comfits, very artificially interwoven, and packed together with vine-stocks.

On another were a hundred sorts of drinking glasses, cups, cisterns, ewers, false cups, tumblers, bowls, mazers, mugs, jugs, goblets, talboys, and such other Bacchic artillery.

On the frontispiece of the triumphal arch, under the zoophore, was the following couplet:

You who presume to move this way,

Get a good lantern, lest you stray.

We took special care of that, cried Pantagruel when he had read them; for there is not a better or a more divine lantern than ours in all Lantern-land.

This arch ended at a fine large round alley covered over with the interlaid branches of vines, loaded and adorned with clusters of five hundred different colours, and of as many various shapes, not natural, but due to the skill of agriculture; some were golden, others bluish, tawny, azure, white, black, green, purple, streaked with many colours, long, round, triangular, cod-like, hairy, great-headed, and grassy. That pleasant alley ended at three old ivy-trees, verdant, and all loaden with rings. Our enlightened lantern directed us to make ourselves hats with some of their leaves, and cover our heads wholly with them, which was immediately done.

Jupiter’s priestess, said Pantagruel, in former days would not like us have walked under this arbour. There was a mystical reason, answered our most perspicuous lantern, that would have hindered her; for had she gone under it, the wine, or the grapes of which ’tis made, that’s the same thing, had been over her head, and then she would have seemed overtopped and mastered by wine. Which implies that priests, and all persons who devote themselves to the contemplation of divine things, ought to keep their minds sedate and calm, and avoid whatever might disturb and discompose their tranquillity, which nothing is more apt to do than drunkenness.

You also, continued our lantern, could not come into the Holy Bottle’s presence, after you have gone through this arch, did not that noble priestess Bacbuc first see your shoes full of vine-leaves; which action is diametrically opposite to the other, and signifies that you despise wine, and having mastered it, as it were, tread it under foot.

I am no scholar, quoth Friar John, for which I’m heartily sorry, yet I find by my breviary that in the Revelation a woman was seen with the moon under her feet, which was a most wonderful sight. Now, as Bigot explained it to me, this was to signify that she was not of the nature of other women; for they have all the moon at their heads, and consequently their brains are always troubled with a lunacy. This makes me willing to believe what you said, dear Madam Lantern.

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