Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 44

How small rain lays a high wind.

Pantagruel commended their government and way of living, and said to their hypenemian mayor: If you approve Epicurus’s opinion, placing the summum bonum in pleasure (I mean pleasure that’s easy and free from toil), I esteem you happy; for your food being wind, costs you little or nothing, since you need but blow. True, sir, returned the mayor; but, alas! nothing is perfect here below; for too often when we are at table, feeding on some good blessed wind of God as on celestial manna, merry as so many friars, down drops on a sudden some small rain, which lays our wind, and so robs us of it. Thus many a meal’s lost for want of meat.

Just so, quoth Panurge, Jenin Toss-pot of Quinquenais, evacuating some wine of his own burning on his wife’s posteriors, laid the ill-fumed wind that blowed out of their centre as out of some magisterial Aeolipile. Here is a kind of a whim on that subject which I made formerly:

One evening when Toss-pot had been at his butts,

And Joan his fat spouse crammed with turnips her guts,

Together they pigged, nor did drink so besot him

But he did what was done when his daddy begot him.

Now when to recruit he’d fain have been snoring,

Joan’s back-door was filthily puffing and roaring;

So for spite he bepissed her, and quickly did find

That a very small rain lays a very high wind.

We are also plagued yearly with a very great calamity, cried the mayor; for a giant called Wide-nostrils, who lives in the island of Tohu, comes hither every spring to purge, by the advice of his physicians, and swallows us, like so many pills, a great number of windmills, and of bellows also, at which his mouth waters exceedingly.

Now this is a sad mortification to us here, who are fain to fast over three or four whole Lents every year for this, besides certain petty Lents, ember weeks, and other orison and starving tides. And have you no remedy for this? asked Pantagruel. By the advice of our Mezarims, replied the mayor, about the time that he uses to give us a visit, we garrison our windmills with good store of cocks and hens. The first time that the greedy thief swallowed them, they had like to have done his business at once; for they crowed and cackled in his maw, and fluttered up and down athwart and along in his stomach, which threw the glutton into a lipothymy cardiac passion and dreadful and dangerous convulsions, as if some serpent, creeping in at his mouth, had been frisking in his stomach.

Here is a comparative as altogether incongruous and impertinent, cried Friar John, interrupting them; for I have formerly heard that if a serpent chance to get into a man’s stomach it will not do him the least hurt, but will immediately get out if you do but hang the patient by the heels and lay a panful of warm milk near his mouth. You were told this, said Pantagruel, and so were those who gave you this account; but none ever saw or read of such a cure. On the contrary, Hippocrates, in his fifth book of Epidem, writes that such a case happening in his time the patient presently died of a spasm and convulsion.

Besides the cocks and hens, said the mayor, continuing his story, all the foxes in the country whipped into Wide-nostril’s mouth, posting after the poultry; which made such a stir with Reynard at their heels, that he grievously fell into fits each minute of an hour.

At last, by the advice of a Baden enchanter, at the time of the paroxysm he used to flay a fox by way of antidote and counter-poison. Since that he took better advice, and eases himself with taking a clyster made with a decoction of wheat and barley corns, and of livers of goslings; to the first of which the poultry run, and the foxes to the latter. Besides, he swallows some of your badgers or fox-dogs by the way of pills and boluses. This is our misfortune.

Cease to fear, good people, cried Pantagruel; this huge Wide-nostrils, this same swallower of windmills, is no more, I will assure you; he died, being stifled and choked with a lump of fresh butter at the mouth of a hot oven, by the advice of his physicians.

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