Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 46

How a junior devil was fooled by a husbandman of Pope-Figland.

In the middle of July the devil came to the place aforesaid with all his crew at his heels, a whole choir of the younger fry of hell; and having met the farmer, said to him, Well, clodpate, how hast thou done since I went? Thou and I must share the concern. Ay, master devil, quoth the clown; it is but reason we should. Then he and his men began to cut and reap the corn; and, on the other side, the devil’s imps fell to work, grubbing up and pulling out the stubble by the root.

In the middle of July the devil came to the place aforesaid with all his crew at his heels.

The countryman had his corn thrashed, winnowed it, put in into sacks, and went with it to market. The same did the devil’s servants, and sat them down there by the man to sell their straw. The countryman sold off his corn at a good rate, and with the money filled an old kind of a demi-buskin which was fastened to his girdle. But the devil a sou the devils took; far from taking handsel, they were flouted and jeered by the country louts.

Market being over, quoth the devil to the farmer, Well, clown, thou hast choused me once, it is thy fault; chouse me twice, ’twill be mine. Nay, good sir devil, replied the farmer; how can I be said to have choused you, since it was your worship that chose first? The truth is, that by this trick you thought to cheat me, hoping that nothing would spring out of the earth for my share, and that you should find whole underground the corn which I had sowed, and with it tempt the poor and needy, the close hypocrite, or the covetous griper; thus making them fall into your snares. But troth, you must e’en go to school yet; you are no conjurer, for aught I see; for the corn that was sow’d is dead and rotten, its corruption having caused the generation of that which you saw me sell. So you chose the worst, and therefore are cursed in the gospel. Well, talk no more of it, quoth the devil; what canst thou sow our field with for next year? If a man would make the best of it, answered the ploughman, ’twere fit he sow it with radish. Now, cried the devil, thou talkest like an honest fellow, bumpkin. Well, sow me good store of radish, I’ll see and keep them safe from storms, and will not hail a bit on them. But hark ye me, this time I bespeak for my share what shall be above ground; what’s under shall be thine. Drudge on, looby, drudge on. I am going to tempt heretics; their souls are dainty victuals when broiled in rashers and well powdered. My Lord Lucifer has the griping in the guts; they’ll make a dainty warm dish for his honour’s maw.

When the season of radishes was come, our devil failed not to meet in the field, with a train of rascally underlings, all waiting devils, and finding there the farmer and his men, he began to cut and gather the leaves of the radishes. After him the farmer with his spade dug up the radishes, and clapped them up into pouches. This done, the devil, the farmer, and their gangs, hied them to market, and there the farmer presently made good money of his radishes; but the poor devil took nothing; nay, what was worse, he was made a common laughing-stock by the gaping hoidens. I see thou hast played me a scurvy trick, thou villainous fellow, cried the angry devil; at last I am fully resolved even to make an end of the business betwixt thee and myself about the ground, and these shall be the terms: we will clapperclaw each other, and whoever of us two shall first cry Hold, shall quit his share of the field, which shall wholly belong to the conqueror. I fix the time for this trial of skill on this day seven-night; assure thyself that I’ll claw thee off like a devil. I was going to tempt your fornicators, bailiffs, perplexers of causes, scriveners, forgers of deeds, two-handed counsellors, prevaricating solicitors, and other such vermin; but they were so civil as to send me word by an interpreter that they are all mine already. Besides, our master Lucifer is so cloyed with their souls that he often sends them back to the smutty scullions and slovenly devils of his kitchen, and they scarce go down with them, unless now and then, when they are high-seasoned.

Some say there is no breakfast like a student’s, no dinner like a lawyer’s, no afternoon’s nunchion like a vine-dresser’s, no supper like a tradesman’s, no second supper like a serving-wench’s, and none of these meals equal to a frockified hobgoblin’s. All this is true enough. Accordingly, at my Lord Lucifer’s first course, hobgoblins, alias imps in cowls, are a standing dish. He willingly used to breakfast on students; but, alas! I do not know by what ill luck they have of late years joined the Holy Bible to their studies; so the devil a one we can get down among us; and I verily believe that unless the hypocrites of the tribe of Levi help us in it, taking from the enlightened book-mongers their St. Paul, either by threats, revilings, force, violence, fire, and faggot, we shall not be able to hook in any more of them to nibble at below. He dines commonly on counsellors, mischief-mongers, multipliers of lawsuits, such as wrest and pervert right and law and grind and fleece the poor; he never fears to want any of these. But who can endure to be wedded to a dish?

He said t’other day, at a full chapter, that he had a great mind to eat the soul of one of the fraternity of the cowl that had forgot to speak for himself in his sermon, and he promised double pay and a large pension to anyone that should bring him such a titbit piping hot. We all went a-hunting after such a rarity, but came home without the prey; for they all admonish the good women to remember their convent. As for afternoon nunchions, he has left them off since he was so woefully griped with the colic; his fosterers, sutlers, charcoal-men, and boiling cooks having been sadly mauled and peppered off in the northern countries.

His high devilship sups very well on tradesmen, usurers, apothecaries, cheats, coiners, and adulterers of wares. Now and then, when he is on the merry pin, his second supper is of serving-wenches who, after they have by stealth soaked their faces with their master’s good liquor, fill up the vessel with it at second hand, or with other stinking water.

Well, drudge on, boor, drudge on; I am going to tempt the students of Trebisonde to leave father and mother, forego for ever the established and common rule of living, disclaim and free themselves from obeying their lawful sovereign’s edicts, live in absolute liberty, proudly despise everyone, laugh at all mankind, and taking the fine jovial little cap of poetic licence, become so many pretty hobgoblins.

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