Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 5

How Pantagruel altogether abhorreth the debtors and borrowers.

I understand you very well, quoth Pantagruel, and take you to be very good at topics, and thoroughly affectioned to your own cause. But preach it up, and patrocinate it, prattle on it, and defend it as much as you will, even from hence to the next Whitsuntide, if you please so to do, yet in the end you will be astonished to find how you shall have gained no ground at all upon me, nor persuaded me by your fair speeches and smooth talk to enter never so little into the thraldom of debt. You shall owe to none, saith the holy Apostle, anything save love, friendship, and a mutual benevolence.

You serve me here, I confess, with fine graphides and diatyposes, descriptions and figures, which truly please me very well. But let me tell you, if you will represent unto your fancy an impudent blustering bully and an importunate borrower, entering afresh and newly into a town already advertised of his manners, you shall find that at his ingress the citizens will be more hideously affrighted and amazed, and in a greater terror and fear, dread, and trembling, than if the pest itself should step into it in the very same garb and accoutrement wherein the Tyanean philosopher found it within the city of Ephesus. And I am fully confirmed in the opinion, that the Persians erred not when they said that the second vice was to lie, the first being that of owing money. For, in very truth, debts and lying are ordinarily joined together. I will nevertheless not from hence infer that none must owe anything or lend anything. For who so rich can be that sometimes may not owe, or who can be so poor that sometimes may not lend?

Let the occasion, notwithstanding, in that case, as Plato very wisely sayeth and ordaineth in his laws, be such that none be permitted to draw any water out of his neighbour’s well until first they by continual digging and delving into their own proper ground shall have hit upon a kind of potter’s earth, which is called ceramite, and there had found no source or drop of water; for that sort of earth, by reason of its substance, which is fat, strong, firm, and close, so retaineth its humidity, that it doth not easily evaporate it by any outward excursion or evaporation.

In good sooth, it is a great shame to choose rather to be still borrowing in all places from everyone, than to work and win. Then only in my judgment should one lend, when the diligent, toiling, and industrious person is no longer able by his labour to make any purchase unto himself, or otherwise, when by mischance he hath suddenly fallen into an unexpected loss of his goods.

Howsoever, let us leave this discourse, and from henceforwards do not hang upon creditors, nor tie yourself to them. I make account for the time past to rid you freely of them, and from their bondage to deliver you. The least I should in this point, quoth Panurge, is to thank you, though it be the most I can do. And if gratitude and thanksgiving be to be estimated and prized by the affection of the benefactor, that is to be done infinitely and sempiternally; for the love which you bear me of your own accord and free grace, without any merit of mine, goeth far beyond the reach of any price or value. It transcends all weight, all number, all measure; it is endless and everlasting; therefore, should I offer to commensurate and adjust it, either to the size and proportion of your own noble and gracious deeds, or yet to the contentment and delight of the obliged receivers, I would come off but very faintly and flaggingly. You have verily done me a great deal of good, and multiplied your favours on me more frequently than was fitting to one of my condition. You have been more bountiful towards me than I have deserved, and your courtesies have by far surpassed the extent of my merits, I must needs confess it. But it is not, as you suppose, in the proposed matter. For there it is not where I itch, it is not there where it fretteth, hurts, or vexeth me; for, henceforth being quit and out of debt, what countenance will I be able to keep? You may imagine that it will become me very ill for the first month, because I have never hitherto been brought up or accustomed to it. I am very much afraid of it. Furthermore, there shall not one hereafter, native of the country of Salmigondy, but he shall level the shot towards my nose. All the back-cracking fellows of the world, in discharging of their postern petarades, use commonly to say, Voila pour les quittes, that is, For the quit. My life will be of very short continuance, I do foresee it. I recommend to you the making of my epitaph; for I perceive I will die confected in the very stench of farts. If, at any time to come, by way of restorative to such good women as shall happen to be troubled with the grievous pain of the wind-colic, the ordinary medicaments prove nothing effectual, the mummy of all my befarted body will straight be as a present remedy appointed by the physicians; whereof they, taking any small modicum, it will incontinently for their ease afford them a rattle of bumshot, like a sal of muskets.

Therefore would I beseech you to leave me some few centuries of debts; as King Louis the Eleventh, exempting from suits in law the Reverend Miles d’Illiers, Bishop of Chartres, was by the said bishop most earnestly solicited to leave him some few for the exercise of his mind. I had rather give them all my revenue of the periwinkles, together with the other incomes of the locusts, albeit I should not thereby have any parcel abated from off the principal sums which I owe. Let us waive this matter, quoth Pantagruel, I have told it you over again.

Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12