Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 42

How the Monk encouraged his fellow-champions, and how he hanged upon a tree.

Thus went out those valiant champions on their adventure, in full resolution to know what enterprise they should undertake, and what to take heed of and look well to in the day of the great and horrible battle. And the monk encouraged them, saying, My children, do not fear nor doubt, I will conduct you safely. God and Sanct Benedict be with us! If I had strength answerable to my courage, by’s death, I would plume them for you like ducks. I fear nothing but the great ordnance; yet I know of a charm by way of prayer, which the subsexton of our abbey taught me, that will preserve a man from the violence of guns and all manner of fire-weapons and engines; but it will do me no good, because I do not believe it. Nevertheless, I hope my staff of the cross shall this day play devilish pranks amongst them. By G — whoever of our party shall offer to play the duck, and shrink when blows are a-dealing, I give myself to the devil, if I do not make a monk of him in my stead, and hamper him within my frock, which is a sovereign cure against cowardice. Did you never hear of my Lord Meurles his greyhound, which was not worth a straw in the fields? He put a frock about his neck: by the body of G — there was neither hare nor fox that could escape him, and, which is more, he lined all the bitches in the country, though before that he was feeble-reined and ex frigidis et maleficiatis.

Thus went out those valiant champions on their adventure.

The monk uttering these words in choler, as he passed under a walnut-tree, in his way towards the causey, he broached the vizor of his helmet on the stump of a great branch of the said tree. Nevertheless, he set his spurs so fiercely to the horse, who was full of mettle and quick on the spur, that he bounded forwards, and the monk going about to ungrapple his vizor, let go his hold of the bridle, and so hanged by his hand upon the bough, whilst his horse stole away from under him. By this means was the monk left hanging on the walnut-tree, and crying for help, murder, murder, swearing also that he was betrayed. Eudemon perceived him first, and calling Gargantua said, Sir, come and see Absalom hanging. Gargantua, being come, considered the countenance of the monk, and in what posture he hanged; wherefore he said to Eudemon, You were mistaken in comparing him to Absalom; for Absalom hung by his hair, but this shaveling monk hangeth by the ears. Help me, said the monk, in the devil’s name; is this a time for you to prate? You seem to me to be like the decretalist preachers, who say that whosoever shall see his neighbour in the danger of death, ought, upon pain of trisulk excommunication, rather choose to admonish him to make his confession to a priest, and put his conscience in the state of peace, than otherwise to help and relieve him.

And therefore when I shall see them fallen into a river, and ready to be drowned, I shall make them a fair long sermon de contemptu mundi, et fuga seculi; and when they are stark dead, shall then go to their aid and succour in fishing after them. Be quiet, said Gymnast, and stir not, my minion. I am now coming to unhang thee and to set thee at freedom, for thou art a pretty little gentle monachus. Monachus in claustro non valet ova duo; sed quando est extra, bene valet triginta. I have seen above five hundred hanged, but I never saw any have a better countenance in his dangling and pendilatory swagging. Truly, if I had so good a one, I would willingly hang thus all my lifetime. What, said the monk, have you almost done preaching? Help me, in the name of God, seeing you will not in the name of the other spirit, or, by the habit which I wear, you shall repent it, tempore et loco praelibatis.

Then Gymnast alighted from his horse, and, climbing up the walnut-tree, lifted up the monk with one hand by the gussets of his armour under the armpits, and with the other undid his vizor from the stump of the broken branch; which done, he let him fall to the ground and himself after. As soon as the monk was down, he put off all his armour, and threw away one piece after another about the field, and, taking to him again his staff of the cross, remounted up to his horse, which Eudemon had caught in his running away. Then went they on merrily, riding along on the highway.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59