Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

The Author’s Prologue.

Good people, most illustrious drinkers, and you, thrice precious gouty gentlemen, did you ever see Diogenes, and cynic philosopher? If you have seen him, you then had your eyes in your head, or I am very much out of my understanding and logical sense. It is a gallant thing to see the clearness of (wine, gold,) the sun. I’ll be judged by the blind born so renowned in the sacred Scriptures, who, having at his choice to ask whatever he would from him who is Almighty, and whose word in an instant is effectually performed, asked nothing else but that he might see. Item, you are not young, which is a competent quality for you to philosophate more than physically in wine, not in vain, and henceforwards to be of the Bacchic Council; to the end that, opining there, you may give your opinion faithfully of the substance, colour, excellent odour, eminency, propriety, faculty, virtue, and effectual dignity of the said blessed and desired liquor.

If you have not seen him, as I am easily induced to believe that you have not, at least you have heard some talk of him. For through the air, and the whole extent of this hemisphere of the heavens, hath his report and fame, even until this present time, remained very memorable and renowned. Then all of you are derived from the Phrygian blood, if I be not deceived. If you have not so many crowns as Midas had, yet have you something, I know not what, of him, which the Persians of old esteemed more of in all their otacusts, and which was more desired by the Emperor Antonine, and gave occasion thereafter to the Basilico at Rohan to be surnamed Goodly Ears. If you have not heard of him, I will presently tell you a story to make your wine relish. Drink then — so, to the purpose. Hearken now whilst I give you notice, to the end that you may not, like infidels, be by your simplicity abused, that in his time he was a rare philosopher and the cheerfullest of a thousand. If he had some imperfection, so have you, so have we; for there is nothing, but God, that is perfect. Yet so it was, that by Alexander the Great, although he had Aristotle for his instructor and domestic, was he held in such estimation, that he wished, if he had not been Alexander, to have been Diogenes the Sinopian.

When Philip, King of Macedon, enterprised the siege and ruin of Corinth, the Corinthians having received certain intelligence by their spies that he with a numerous army in battle-rank was coming against them, were all of them, not without cause, most terribly afraid; and therefore were not neglective of their duty in doing their best endeavours to put themselves in a fit posture to resist his hostile approach and defend their own city.

Some from the fields brought into the fortified places their movables, bestial, corn, wine, fruit, victuals, and other necessary provision.

Others did fortify and rampire their walls, set up little fortresses, bastions, squared ravelins, digged trenches, cleansed countermines, fenced themselves with gabions, contrived platforms, emptied casemates, barricaded the false brays, erected the cavaliers, repaired the counterscarps, plastered the curtains, lengthened ravelins, stopped parapets, morticed barbacans, assured the portcullises, fastened the herses, sarasinesques, and cataracts, placed their sentries, and doubled their patrol. Everyone did watch and ward, and not one was exempted from carrying the basket. Some polished corslets, varnished backs and breasts, cleaned the headpieces, mail-coats, brigandines, salads, helmets, morions, jacks, gushets, gorgets, hoguines, brassars, and cuissars, corslets, haubergeons, shields, bucklers, targets, greaves, gauntlets, and spurs. Others made ready bows, slings, crossbows, pellets, catapults, migrains or fire-balls, firebrands, balists, scorpions, and other such warlike engines expugnatory and destructive to the Hellepolides. They sharpened and prepared spears, staves, pikes, brown bills, halberds, long hooks, lances, zagayes, quarterstaves, eelspears, partisans, troutstaves, clubs, battle-axes, maces, darts, dartlets, glaives, javelins, javelots, and truncheons. They set edges upon scimitars, cutlasses, badelairs, backswords, tucks, rapiers, bayonets, arrow-heads, dags, daggers, mandousians, poniards, whinyards, knives, skeans, shables, chipping knives, and raillons.

Every man exercised his weapon, every man scoured off the rust from his natural hanger; nor was there a woman amongst them, though never so reserved or old, who made not her harness to be well furbished; as you know the Corinthian women of old were reputed very courageous combatants.

Diogenes seeing them all so warm at work, and himself not employed by the magistrates in any business whatsoever, he did very seriously, for many days together, without speaking one word, consider and contemplate the countenance of his fellow-citizens.

Then on a sudden, as if he had been roused up and inspired by a martial spirit, he girded his cloak scarfwise about his left arm, tucked up his sleeves to the elbow, trussed himself like a clown gathering apples, and, giving to one of his old acquaintance his wallet, books, and opistographs, away went he out of town towards a little hill or promontory of Corinth called (the) Cranie; and there on the strand, a pretty level place, did he roll his jolly tub, which served him for a house to shelter him from the injuries of the weather: there, I say, in a great vehemency of spirit, did he turn it, veer it, wheel it, whirl it, frisk it, jumble it, shuffle it, huddle it, tumble it, hurry it, jolt it, justle it, overthrow it, evert it, invert it, subvert it, overturn it, beat it, thwack it, bump it, batter it, knock it, thrust it, push it, jerk it, shock it, shake it, toss it, throw it, overthrow it, upside down, topsy-turvy, arsiturvy, tread it, trample it, stamp it, tap it, ting it, ring it, tingle it, towl it, sound it, resound it, stop it, shut it, unbung it, close it, unstopple it. And then again in a mighty bustle he bandied it, slubbered it, hacked it, whittled it, wayed it, darted it, hurled it, staggered it, reeled it, swinged it, brangled it, tottered it, lifted it, heaved it, transformed it, transfigured it, transposed it, transplaced it, reared it, raised it, hoised it, washed it, dighted it, cleansed it, rinsed it, nailed it, settled it, fastened it, shackled it, fettered it, levelled it, blocked it, tugged it, tewed it, carried it, bedashed it, bewrayed it, parched it, mounted it, broached it, nicked it, notched it, bespattered it, decked it, adorned it, trimmed it, garnished it, gauged it, furnished it, bored it, pierced it, trapped it, rumbled it, slid it down the hill, and precipitated it from the very height of the Cranie; then from the foot to the top (like another Sisyphus with his stone) bore it up again, and every way so banged it and belaboured it that it was ten thousand to one he had not struck the bottom of it out.

Which when one of his friends had seen, and asked him why he did so toil his body, perplex his spirit, and torment his tub, the philosopher’s answer was that, not being employed in any other charge by the Republic, he thought it expedient to thunder and storm it so tempestuously upon his tub, that amongst a people so fervently busy and earnest at work he alone might not seem a loitering slug and lazy fellow. To the same purpose may I say of myself,

Though I be rid from fear,

I am not void of care.

For, perceiving no account to be made of me towards the discharge of a trust of any great concernment, and considering that through all the parts of this noble kingdom of France, both on this and on the other side of the mountains, everyone is most diligently exercised and busied, some in the fortifying of their own native country for its defence, others in the repulsing of their enemies by an offensive war; and all this with a policy so excellent and such admirable order, so manifestly profitable for the future, whereby France shall have its frontiers most magnifically enlarged, and the French assured of a long and well-grounded peace, that very little withholds me from the opinion of good Heraclitus, which affirmeth war to be the father of all good things; and therefore do I believe that war is in Latin called bellum, not by antiphrasis, as some patchers of old rusty Latin would have us to think, because in war there is little beauty to be seen, but absolutely and simply; for that in war appeareth all that is good and graceful, and that by the wars is purged out all manner of wickedness and deformity. For proof whereof the wise and pacific Solomon could no better represent the unspeakable perfection of the divine wisdom, than by comparing it to the due disposure and ranking of an army in battle array, well provided and ordered.

Therefore, by reason of my weakness and inability, being reputed by my compatriots unfit for the offensive part of warfare; and on the other side, being no way employed in matter of the defensive, although it had been but to carry burthens, fill ditches, or break clods, either whereof had been to me indifferent, I held it not a little disgraceful to be only an idle spectator of so many valorous, eloquent, and warlike persons, who in the view and sight of all Europe act this notable interlude or tragi-comedy, and not make some effort towards the performance of this, nothing at all remains for me to be done [’And not exert myself, and contribute thereto this nothing, my all, which remained for me to do.’— Ozell.]. In my opinion, little honour is due to such as are mere lookers-on, liberal of their eyes, and of their crowns, and hide their silver; scratching their head with one finger like grumbling puppies, gaping at the flies like tithe calves; clapping down their ears like Arcadian asses at the melody of musicians, who with their very countenances in the depth of silence express their consent to the prosopopoeia. Having made this choice and election, it seemed to me that my exercise therein would be neither unprofitable nor troublesome to any, whilst I should thus set a-going my Diogenical tub, which is all that is left me safe from the shipwreck of my former misfortunes.

At this dingle dangle wagging of my tub, what would you have me to do? By the Virgin that tucks up her sleeve, I know not as yet. Stay a little, till I suck up a draught of this bottle; it is my true and only Helicon; it is my Caballine fountain; it is my sole enthusiasm. Drinking thus, I meditate, discourse, resolve, and conclude. After that the epilogue is made, I laugh, I write, I compose, and drink again. Ennius drinking wrote, and writing drank. Aeschylus, if Plutarch in his Symposiacs merit any faith, drank composing, and drinking composed. Homer never wrote fasting, and Cato never wrote till after he had drunk. These passages I have brought before you to the end you may not say that I lived without the example of men well praised and better prized. It is good and fresh enough, even as if you would say it is entering upon the second degree. God, the good God Sabaoth, that is to say, the God of armies, be praised for it eternally! If you after the same manner would take one great draught, or two little ones, whilst you have your gown about you, I truly find no kind of inconveniency in it, provided you send up to God for all some small scantling of thanks.

Since then my luck or destiny is such as you have heard — for it is not for everybody to go to Corinth — I am fully resolved to be so little idle and unprofitable, that I will set myself to serve the one and the other sort of people. Amongst the diggers, pioneers, and rampire-builders, I will do as did Neptune and Apollo at Troy under Laomedon, or as did Renault of Montauban in his latter days: I will serve the masons, I’ll set on the pot to boil for the bricklayers; and, whilst the minced meat is making ready at the sound of my small pipe, I’ll measure the muzzle of the musing dotards. Thus did Amphion with the melody of his harp found, build, and finish the great and renowned city of Thebes.

For the use of the warriors I am about to broach of new my barrel to give them a taste (which by two former volumes of mine, if by the deceitfulness and falsehood of printers they had not been jumbled, marred, and spoiled, you would have very well relished), and draw unto them, of the growth of our own trippery pastimes, a gallant third part of a gallon, and consequently a jolly cheerful quart of Pantagruelic sentences, which you may lawfully call, if you please, Diogenical: and shall have me, seeing I cannot be their fellow-soldier, for their faithful butler, refreshing and cheering, according to my little power, their return from the alarms of the enemy; as also for an indefatigable extoller of their martial exploits and glorious achievements. I shall not fail therein, par lapathium acutum de dieu; if Mars fail not in Lent, which the cunning lecher, I warrant you, will be loth to do.

I remember nevertheless to have read, that Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, one day, amongst the many spoils and booties which by his victories he had acquired, presenting to the Egyptians, in the open view of the people, a Bactrian camel all black, and a party-coloured slave, in such sort as that the one half of his body was black and the other white, not in partition of breadth by the diaphragma, as was that woman consecrated to the Indian Venus whom the Tyanean philosopher did see between the river Hydaspes and Mount Caucasus, but in a perpendicular dimension of altitude; which were things never before that seen in Egypt. He expected by the show of these novelties to win the love of the people. But what happened thereupon? At the production of the camel they were all affrighted, and offended at the sight of the party-coloured man — some scoffed at him as a detestable monster brought forth by the error of nature; in a word, of the hope which he had to please these Egyptians, and by such means to increase the affection which they naturally bore him, he was altogether frustrate and disappointed; understanding fully by their deportments that they took more pleasure and delight in things that were proper, handsome, and perfect, than in misshapen, monstrous, and ridiculous creatures. Since which time he had both the slave and the camel in such dislike, that very shortly thereafter, either through negligence, or for want of ordinary sustenance, they did exchange their life with death.

This example putteth me in a suspense between hope and fear, misdoubting that, for the contentment which I aim at, I will but reap what shall be most distasteful to me: my cake will be dough, and for my Venus I shall have but some deformed puppy: instead of serving them, I shall but vex them, and offend them whom I purpose to exhilarate; resembling in this dubious adventure Euclion’s cook, so renowned by Plautus in his Pot, and by Ausonius in his Griphon, and by divers others; which cook, for having by his scraping discovered a treasure, had his hide well curried. Put the case I get no anger by it, though formerly such things fell out, and the like may occur again. Yet, by Hercules! it will not. So I perceive in them all one and the same specifical form, and the like individual properties, which our ancestors called Pantagruelism; by virtue whereof they will bear with anything that floweth from a good, free, and loyal heart. I have seen them ordinarily take goodwill in part of payment, and remain satisfied therewith when one was not able to do better. Having despatched this point, I return to my barrel.

Up, my lads, to this wine, spare it not! Drink, boys, and trowl it off at full bowls! If you do not think it good, let it alone. I am not like those officious and importunate sots, who by force, outrage, and violence, constrain an easy good-natured fellow to whiffle, quaff, carouse, and what is worse. All honest tipplers, all honest gouty men, all such as are a-dry, coming to this little barrel of mine, need not drink thereof if it please them not; but if they have a mind to it, and that the wine prove agreeable to the tastes of their worshipful worships, let them drink, frankly, freely, and boldly, without paying anything, and welcome. This is my decree, my statute and ordinance.

And let none fear there shall be any want of wine, as at the marriage of Cana in Galilee; for how much soever you shall draw forth at the faucet, so much shall I tun in at the bung. Thus shall the barrel remain inexhaustible; it hath a lively spring and perpetual current. Such was the beverage contained within the cup of Tantalus, which was figuratively represented amongst the Brachman sages. Such was in Iberia the mountain of salt so highly written of by Cato. Such was the branch of gold consecrated to the subterranean goddess, which Virgil treats of so sublimely. It is a true cornucopia of merriment and raillery. If at any time it seem to you to be emptied to the very lees, yet shall it not for all that be drawn wholly dry. Good hope remains there at the bottom, as in Pandora’s bottle; and not despair, as in the puncheon of the Danaids. Remark well what I have said, and what manner of people they be whom I do invite; for, to the end that none be deceived, I, in imitation of Lucilius, who did protest that he wrote only to his own Tarentines and Consentines, have not pierced this vessel for any else but you honest men, who are drinkers of the first edition, and gouty blades of the highest degree. The great dorophages, bribe-mongers, have on their hands occupation enough, and enough on the hooks for their venison. There may they follow their prey; here is no garbage for them. You pettifoggers, garblers, and masters of chicanery, speak not to me, I beseech you, in the name of, and for the reverence you bear to the four hips that engendered you and to the quickening peg which at that time conjoined them. As for hypocrites, much less; although they were all of them unsound in body, pockified, scurvy, furnished with unquenchable thirst and insatiable eating. (And wherefore?) Because indeed they are not of good but of evil, and of that evil from which we daily pray to God to deliver us. And albeit we see them sometimes counterfeit devotion, yet never did old ape make pretty moppet. Hence, mastiffs; dogs in a doublet, get you behind; aloof, villains, out of my sunshine; curs, to the devil! Do you jog hither, wagging your tails, to pant at my wine, and bepiss my barrel? Look, here is the cudgel which Diogenes, in his last will, ordained to be set by him after his death, for beating away, crushing the reins, and breaking the backs of these bustuary hobgoblins and Cerberian hellhounds. Pack you hence, therefore, you hypocrites, to your sheep-dogs; get you gone, you dissemblers, to the devil! Hay! What, are you there yet? I renounce my part of Papimanie, if I snatch you, Grr, Grrr, Grrrrrr. Avaunt, avaunt! Will you not be gone? May you never shit till you be soundly lashed with stirrup leather, never piss but by the strapado, nor be otherwise warmed than by the bastinado.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/r/rabelais/francois/r11g/prologue3.html

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