Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 12

How Pantagruel doth explore by the Virgilian lottery what fortune Panurge shall have in his marriage.

Then at the opening of the book in the sixteenth row of the lines of the disclosed page did Panurge encounter upon this following verse:

Nec Deus hunc mensa, Dea nec dignata cubili est.

The god him from his table banished,

Nor would the goddess have him in her bed.

This response, quoth Pantagruel, maketh not very much for your benefit or advantage; for it plainly signifies and denoteth that your wife shall be a strumpet, and yourself by consequence a cuckold. The goddess, whom you shall not find propitious nor favourable unto you, is Minerva, a most redoubtable and dreadful virgin, a powerful and fulminating goddess, an enemy to cuckolds and effeminate youngsters, to cuckold-makers and adulterers. The god is Jupiter, a terrible and thunder-striking god from heaven. And withal it is to be remarked, that, conform to the doctrine of the ancient Etrurians, the manubes, for so did they call the darting hurls or slinging casts of the Vulcanian thunderbolts, did only appertain to her and to Jupiter her father capital. This was verified in the conflagration of the ships of Ajax Oileus, nor doth this fulminating power belong to any other of the Olympic gods. Men, therefore, stand not in such fear of them. Moreover, I will tell you, and you may take it as extracted out of the profoundest mysteries of mythology, that, when the giants had enterprised the waging of a war against the power of the celestial orbs, the gods at first did laugh at those attempts, and scorned such despicable enemies, who were, in their conceit, not strong enough to cope in feats of warfare with their pages; but when they saw by the gigantine labour the high hill Pelion set on lofty Ossa, and that the mount Olympus was made shake to be erected on the top of both, then was it that Jupiter held a parliament, or general convention, wherein it was unanimously resolved upon and condescended to by all the gods, that they should worthily and valiantly stand to their defence. And because they had often seen battles lost by the cumbersome lets and disturbing encumbrances of women confusedly huddled in amongst armies, it was at that time decreed and enacted that they should expel and drive out of heaven into Egypt and the confines of Nile that whole crew of goddesses, disguised in the shapes of weasels, polecats, bats, shrew-mice, ferrets, fulmarts, and other such like odd transformations; only Minerva was reserved to participate with Jupiter in the horrific fulminating power, as being the goddess both of war and learning, of arts and arms, of counsel and despatch — a goddess armed from her birth, a goddess dreaded in heaven, in the air, by sea and land. By the belly of Saint Buff, quoth Panurge, should I be Vulcan, whom the poet blazons? Nay, I am neither a cripple, coiner of false money, nor smith, as he was. My wife possibly will be as comely and handsome as ever was his Venus, but not a whore like her, nor I a cuckold like him. The crook-legged slovenly slave made himself to be declared a cuckold by a definite sentence and judgment, in the open view of all the gods. For this cause ought you to interpret the afore-mentioned verse quite contrary to what you have said. This lot importeth that my wife will be honest, virtuous, chaste, loyal, and faithful; not armed, surly, wayward, cross, giddy, humorous, heady, hairbrained, or extracted out of the brains, as was the goddess Pallas; nor shall this fair jolly Jupiter be my co-rival. He shall never dip his bread in my broth, though we should sit together at one table.

Consider his exploits and gallant actions. He was the manifest ruffian, wencher, whoremonger, and most infamous cuckold-maker that ever breathed. He did always lecher it like a boar, and no wonder, for he was fostered by a sow in the Isle of Candia, if Agathocles the Babylonian be not a liar, and more rammishly lascivious than a buck; whence it is that he is said by others to have been suckled and fed with the milk of the Amalthaean goat. By the virtue of Acheron, he justled, bulled, and lastauriated in one day the third part of the world, beasts and people, floods and mountains; that was Europa. For this grand subagitatory achievement the Ammonians caused draw, delineate, and paint him in the figure and shape of a ram ramming, and horned ram. But I know well enough how to shield and preserve myself from that horned champion. He will not, trust me, have to deal in my person with a sottish, dunsical Amphitryon, nor with a silly witless Argus, for all his hundred spectacles, nor yet with the cowardly meacock Acrisius, the simple goose-cap Lycus of Thebes, the doting blockhead Agenor, the phlegmatic pea-goose Aesop, rough-footed Lycaon, the luskish misshapen Corytus of Tuscany, nor with the large-backed and strong-reined Atlas. Let him alter, change, transform, and metamorphose himself into a hundred various shapes and figures, into a swan, a bull, a satyr, a shower of gold, or into a cuckoo, as he did when he unmaidened his sister Juno; into an eagle, ram, or dove, as when he was enamoured of the virgin Phthia, who then dwelt in the Aegean territory; into fire, a serpent, yea, even into a flea; into Epicurean and Democratical atoms, or, more Magistronostralistically, into those sly intentions of the mind, which in the schools are called second notions — I’ll catch him in the nick, and take him napping. And would you know what I would do unto him? Even that which to his father Coelum Saturn did — Seneca foretold it of me, and Lactantius hath confirmed it — what the goddess Rhea did to Athis. I would make him two stone lighter, rid him of his Cyprian cymbals, and cut so close and neatly by the breech, that there shall not remain thereof so much as one — so cleanly would I shave him, and disable him for ever from being Pope, for Testiculos non habet. Hold there, said Pantagruel; ho, soft and fair, my lad! Enough of that — cast up, turn over the leaves, and try your fortune for the second time. Then did he fall upon this ensuing verse:

Membra quatit, gelidusque coit formidine sanguis.

His joints and members quake, he becomes pale,

And sudden fear doth his cold blood congeal.

This importeth, quoth Pantagruel, that she will soundly bang your back and belly. Clean and quite contrary, answered Panurge; it is of me that he prognosticates, in saying that I will beat her like a tiger if she vex me. Sir Martin Wagstaff will perform that office, and in default of a cudgel, the devil gulp him, if I should not eat her up quick, as Candaul the Lydian king did his wife, whom he ravened and devoured.

You are very stout, says Pantagruel, and courageous; Hercules himself durst hardly adventure to scuffle with you in this your raging fury. Nor is it strange; for the Jan is worth two, and two in fight against Hercules are too too strong. Am I a Jan? quoth Panurge. No, no, answered Pantagruel. My mind was only running upon the lurch and tricktrack. Thereafter did he hit, at the third opening of the book, upon this verse:

Foemineo praedae, et spoliorum ardebat amore.

After the spoil and pillage, as in fire,

He burnt with a strong feminine desire.

This portendeth, quoth Pantagruel, that she will steal your goods, and rob you. Hence this, according to these three drawn lots, will be your future destiny, I clearly see it — you will be a cuckold, you will be beaten, and you will be robbed. Nay, it is quite otherwise, quoth Panurge; for it is certain that this verse presageth that she will love me with a perfect liking. Nor did the satyr-writing poet lie in proof hereof, when he affirmed that a woman, burning with extreme affection, takes sometimes pleasure to steal from her sweetheart. And what, I pray you? A glove, a point, or some such trifling toy of no importance, to make him keep a gentle kind of stirring in the research and quest thereof. In like manner, these small scolding debates and petty brabbling contentions, which frequently we see spring up and for a certain space boil very hot betwixt a couple of high-spirited lovers, are nothing else you recreative diversions for their refreshment, spurs to and incentives of a more fervent amity than ever. As, for example, we do sometimes see cutlers with hammers maul their finest whetstones, therewith to sharpen their iron tools the better. And therefore do I think that these three lots make much for my advantage; which, if not, I from their sentence totally appeal. There is no appellation, quoth Pantagruel, from the decrees of fate or destiny, of lot or chance; as is recorded by our ancient lawyers, witness Baldus, Lib. ult. Cap. de Leg. The reason hereof is, Fortune doth not acknowledge a superior, to whom an appeal may be made from her or any of her substitutes. And in this case the pupil cannot be restored to his right in full, as openly by the said author is alleged in L. Ait Praetor, paragr. ult. ff. de minor.

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