Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 49

How Homenas, Bishop of Papimany, showed us the Uranopet decretals.

Homenas then said to us: ’Tis enjoined us by our holy decretals to visit churches first and taverns after. Therefore, not to decline that fine institution, let us go to church; we will afterwards go and feast ourselves. Man of God, quoth Friar John, do you go before, we’ll follow you. You spoke in the matter properly, and like a good Christian; ’tis long since we saw any such. For my part, this rejoices my mind very much, and I verily believe that I shall have the better stomach after it. Well, ’tis a happy thing to meet with good men! Being come near the gate of the church, we spied a huge thick book, gilt, and covered all over with precious stones, as rubies, emeralds, (diamonds,) and pearls, more, or at least as valuable as those which Augustus consecrated to Jupiter Capitolinus. This book hanged in the air, being fastened with two thick chains of gold to the zoophore of the porch. We looked on it and admired it. As for Pantagruel, he handled it and dandled it and turned it as he pleased, for he could reach it without straining; and he protested that whenever he touched it, he was seized with a pleasant tickling at his fingers’ end, new life and activity in his arms, and a violent temptation in his mind to beat one or two sergeants, or such officers, provided they were not of the shaveling kind. Homenas then said to us, The law was formerly given to the Jews by Moses, written by God himself. At Delphos, before the portal of Apollo’s temple, this sentence, (Greek), was found written with a divine hand. And some time after it, EI was also seen, and as divinely written and transmitted from heaven. Cybele’s image was brought out of heaven, into a field called Pessinunt, in Phrygia; so was that of Diana to Tauris, if you will believe Euripides; the oriflamme, or holy standard, was transmitted out of heaven to the noble and most Christian kings of France, to fight against the unbelievers. In the reign of Numa Pompilius, second King of the Romans, the famous copper buckler called Ancile was seen to descend from heaven. At Acropolis, near Athens, Minerva’s statue formerly fell from the empyreal heaven. In like manner the sacred decretals which you see were written with the hand of an angel of the cherubim kind. You outlandish people will hardly believe this, I fear. Little enough, of conscience, said Panurge. And then, continued Homenas, they were miraculously transmitted to us here from the very heaven of heavens; in the same manner as the river Nile is called Diipetes by Homer, the father of all philosophy — the holy decretals always excepted. Now, because you have seen the pope, their evangelist and everlasting protector, we will give you leave to see and kiss them on the inside, if you think meet. But then you must fast three days before, and canonically confess; nicely and strictly mustering up and inventorizing your sins, great and small, so thick that one single circumstance of them may not escape you; as our holy decretals, which you see, direct. This will take up some time. Man of God, answered Panurge, we have seen and descried decrees, and eke decretals enough o’ conscience; some on paper, other on parchment, fine and gay like any painted paper lantern, some on vellum, some in manuscript, and others in print; so you need not take half these pains to show us these. We’ll take the goodwill for the deed, and thank you as much as if we had. Ay, marry, said Homenas, but you never saw these that are angelically written. Those in your country are only transcripts from ours; as we find it written by one of our old decretaline scholiasts. For me, do not spare me; I do not value the labour, so I may serve you. Do but tell me whether you will be confessed and fast only three short little days of God? As for shriving, answered Panurge, there can be no great harm in’t; but this same fasting, master of mine, will hardly down with us at this time, for we have so very much overfasted ourselves at sea that the spiders have spun their cobwebs over our grinders. Do but look on this good Friar John des Entomeures (Homenas then courteously demi-clipped him about the neck), some moss is growing in his throat for want of bestirring and exercising his chaps. He speaks the truth, vouched Friar John; I have so much fasted that I’m almost grown hump-shouldered. Come, then, let’s go into the church, said Homenas; and pray forgive us if for the present we do not sing you a fine high mass. The hour of midday is past, and after it our sacred decretals forbid us to sing mass, I mean your high and lawful mass. But I’ll say a low and dry one for you. I had rather have one moistened with some good Anjou wine, cried Panurge; fall to, fall to your low mass, and despatch. Ods-bodikins, quoth Friar John, it frets me to the guts that I must have an empty stomach at this time of day; for, had I eaten a good breakfast and fed like a monk, if he should chance to sing us the Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, I had then brought thither bread and wine for the traits passes (those that are gone before). Well, patience; pull away, and save tide; short and sweet, I pray you, and this for a cause.

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