Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 43

How the Priestess Bacbuc equipped Panurge in order to have the word of the Bottle.

When we had thus chatted and tippled, Bacbuc asked, Who of you here would have the word of the Bottle? I, your most humble little funnel, an’t please you, quoth Panurge. Friend, saith she, I have but one thing to tell you, which is, that when you come to the Oracle, you take care to hearken and hear the word only with one ear. This, cried Friar John, is wine of one ear, as Frenchmen call it.

She then wrapped him up in a gaberdine, bound his noddle with a goodly clean biggin, clapped over it a felt such as those through which hippocras is distilled, at the bottom of which, instead of a cowl, she put three obelisks, made him draw on a pair of old-fashioned codpieces instead of mittens, girded him about with three bagpipes bound together, bathed his jobbernowl thrice in the fountain; then threw a handful of meal on his phiz, fixed three cock’s feathers on the right side of the hippocratical felt, made him take a jaunt nine times round the fountain, caused him to take three little leaps and to bump his a — seven times against the ground, repeating I don’t know what kind of conjurations all the while in the Tuscan tongue, and ever and anon reading in a ritual or book of ceremonies, carried after her by one of her mystagogues.

For my part, may I never stir if I don’t really believe that neither Numa Pompilius, the second King of the Romans, nor the Cerites of Tuscia, and the old Hebrew captain ever instituted so many ceremonies as I then saw performed; nor were ever half so many religious forms used by the soothsayers of Memphis in Egypt to Apis, or by the Euboeans, at Rhamnus [Motteux gives ‘or by the Embrians, or at Rhamnus.’], to Rhamnusia, or to Jupiter Ammon, or to Feronia.

When she had thus accoutred my gentleman, she took him out of our company, and led him out of the temple, through a golden gate on the right, into a round chapel made of transparent speculary stones, by whose solid clearness the sun’s light shined there through the precipice of the rock without any windows or other entrance, and so easily and fully dispersed itself through the greater temple that the light seemed rather to spring out of it than to flow into it.

The workmanship was not less rare than that of the sacred temple at Ravenna, or that in the island of Chemnis in Egypt. Nor must I forget to tell you that the work of that round chapel was contrived with such a symmetry that its diameter was just the height of the vault.

In the middle of it was an heptagonal fountain of fine alabaster most artfully wrought, full of water, which was so clear that it might have passed for element in its purity and singleness. The sacred Bottle was in it to the middle, clad in pure fine crystal of an oval shape, except its muzzle, which was somewhat wider than was consistent with that figure.

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