Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 11

How Pantagruel showeth the trial of one’s fortune by the throwing of dice to be unlawful.

It would be sooner done, quoth Panurge, and more expeditely, if we should try the matter at the chance of three fair dice. Quoth Pantagruel, That sort of lottery is deceitful, abusive, illicitous, and exceedingly scandalous. Never trust in it. The accursed book of the Recreation of Dice was a great while ago excogitated in Achaia, near Bourre, by that ancient enemy of mankind, the infernal calumniator, who, before the statue or massive image of the Bourraic Hercules, did of old, and doth in several places of the world as yet, make many simple souls to err and fall into his snares. You know how my father Gargantua hath forbidden it over all his kingdoms and dominions; how he hath caused burn the moulds and draughts thereof, and altogether suppressed, abolished, driven forth, and cast it out of the land, as a most dangerous plague and infection to any well-polished state or commonwealth. What I have told you of dice, I say the same of the play at cockall. It is a lottery of the like guile and deceitfulness; and therefore do not for convincing of me allege in opposition to this my opinion, or bring in the example of the fortunate cast of Tiberius, within the fountain of Aponus, at the oracle of Gerion. These are the baited hooks by which the devil attracts and draweth unto him the foolish souls of silly people into eternal perdition.

Nevertheless, to satisfy your humour in some measure, I am content you throw three dice upon this table, that, according to the number of the blots which shall happen to be cast up, we may hit upon a verse of that page which in the setting open of the book you shall have pitched upon.

Have you any dice in your pocket? A whole bagful, answered Panurge. That is provision against the devil, as is expounded by Merlin Coccaius, Lib. 2. De Patria Diabolorum. The devil would be sure to take me napping, and very much at unawares, if he should find me without dice. With this, the three dice being taken out, produced, and thrown, they fell so pat upon the lower points that the cast was five, six, and five. These are, quoth Panurge, sixteen in all. Let us take the sixteenth line of the page. The number pleaseth me very well; I hope we shall have a prosperous and happy chance. May I be thrown amidst all the devils of hell, even as a great bowl cast athwart at a set of ninepins, or cannon-ball shot among a battalion of foot, in case so many times I do not boult my future wife the first night of our marriage! Of that, forsooth, I make no doubt at all, quoth Pantagruel. You needed not to have rapped forth such a horrid imprecation, the sooner to procure credit for the performance of so small a business, seeing possibly the first bout will be amiss, and that you know is usually at tennis called fifteen. At the next justling turn you may readily amend that fault, and so complete your reckoning of sixteen. Is it so, quoth Panurge, that you understand the matter? And must my words be thus interpreted? Nay, believe me never yet was any solecism committed by that valiant champion who often hath for me in Belly-dale stood sentry at the hypogastrian cranny. Did you ever hitherto find me in the confraternity of the faulty? Never, I trow; never, nor ever shall, for ever and a day. I do the feat like a goodly friar or father confessor, without default. And therein am I willing to be judged by the players. He had no sooner spoke these words than the works of Virgil were brought in. But before the book was laid open, Panurge said to Pantagruel, My heart, like the furch of a hart in a rut, doth beat within my breast. Be pleased to feel and grope my pulse a little on this artery of my left arm. At its frequent rise and fall you would say that they swinge and belabour me after the manner of a probationer, posed and put to a peremptory trial in the examination of his sufficiency for the discharge of the learned duty of a graduate in some eminent degree in the college of the Sorbonists.

But would you not hold it expedient, before we proceed any further, that we should invocate Hercules and the Tenetian goddesses who in the chamber of lots are said to rule, sit in judgment, and bear a presidential sway? Neither him nor them, answered Pantagruel; only open up the leaves of the book with your fingers, and set your nails awork.

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