Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 6

How the birds are crammed in the Ringing Island.

Pantagruel looked I don’t know howish, and seemed not very well pleased with the four days’ junketting which Aedituus enjoined us. Aedituus, who soon found it out, said to him, You know, sir, that seven days before winter, and seven days after, there is no storm at sea; for then the elements are still out of respect for the halcyons, or king-fishers, birds sacred to Thetis, which then lay their eggs and hatch their young near the shore. Now here the sea makes itself amends for this long calm; and whenever any foreigners come hither it grows boisterous and stormy for four days together. We can give no other reason for it but that it is a piece of its civility, that those who come among us may stay whether they will or no, and be copiously feasted all the while with the incomes of the ringing. Therefore pray don’t think your time lost; for, willing, nilling, you’ll be forced to stay, unless you are resolved to encounter Juno, Neptune, Doris, Aeolus, and his fluster-busters, and, in short, all the pack of ill-natured left-handed godlings and vejoves. Do but resolve to be cheery, and fall-to briskly.

After we had pretty well stayed our stomachs with some tight snatches, Friar John said to Aedituus, For aught I see, you have none but a parcel of birds and cages in this island of yours, and the devil a bit of one of them all that sets his hand to the plough, or tills the land whose fat he devours; their whole business is to be frolic, to chirp it, to whistle it, to warble it, tossing it, and roar it merrily night and day. Pray then, if I may be so bold, whence comes this plenty and overflowing of all dainty bits and good things which we see among you? From all the other world, returned Aedituus, if you except some part of the northern regions, who of late years have stirred up the jakes. Mum! they may chance ere long to rue the day they did so; their cows shall have porridge, and their dogs oats; there will be work made among them, that there will. Come, a fig for’t, let’s drink. But pray what countrymen are you? Touraine is our country, answered Panurge. Cod so, cried Aedituus, you were not then hatched of an ill bird, I will say that for you, since the blessed Touraine is your mother; for from thence there comes hither every year such a vast store of good things, that we were told by some folks of the place that happened to touch at this island, that your Duke of Touraine’s income will not afford him to eat his bellyful of beans and bacon (a good dish spoiled between Moses and Pythagoras) because his predecessors have been more than liberal to these most holy birds of ours, that we might here munch it, twist it, cram it, gorge it, craw it, riot it, junket it, and tickle it off, stuffing our puddings with dainty pheasants, partridges, pullets with eggs, fat capons of Loudunois, and all sorts of venison and wild fowl. Come, box it about; tope on, my friends. Pray do you see yon jolly birds that are perched together, how fat, how plump, and in good case they look, with the income that Touraine yields us! And in faith they sing rarely for their good founders, that is the truth on’t. You never saw any Arcadian birds mumble more fairly than they do over a dish when they see these two gilt batons, or when I ring for them those great bells that you see above their cages. Drink on, sirs, whip it away. Verily, friends, ’tis very fine drinking to-day, and so ’tis every day o’ the week; then drink on, toss it about, here’s to you with all my soul. You are most heartily welcome; never spare it, I pray you; fear not we should ever want good bub and belly-timber; for, look here, though the sky were of brass, and the earth of iron, we should not want wherewithal to stuff the gut, though they were to continue so seven or eight years longer than the famine in Egypt. Let us then, with brotherly love and charity, refresh ourselves here with the creature.

Woons, man, cried Panurge, what a rare time you have on’t in this world! Psha, returned Aedituus, this is nothing to what we shall have in t’other; the Elysian fields will be the least that can fall to our lot. Come, in the meantime let us drink here; come, here’s to thee, old fuddlecap.

Your first Siticines, said I, were superlatively wise in devising thus a means for you to compass whatever all men naturally covet so much, and so few, or, to speak more properly, none can enjoy together — I mean, a paradise in this life, and another in the next. Sure you were born wrapt in your mother’s smickets! O happy creatures! O more than men! Would I had the luck to fare like you!

[Motteux inserts Chapter XVI. after Chapter VI.]

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