Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

Chapter 65

How Pantagruel passed the time with his servants.

In what hierarchy of such venomous creatures do you place Panurge’s future spouse? asked Friar John. Art thou speaking ill of women, cried Panurge, thou mangy scoundrel, thou sorry, noddy-peaked shaveling monk? By the cenomanic paunch and gixy, said Epistemon, Euripides has written, and makes Andromache say it, that by industry, and the help of the gods, men had found remedies against all poisonous creatures; but none was yet found against a bad wife.

This flaunting Euripides, cried Panurge, was gabbling against women every foot, and therefore was devoured by dogs, as a judgment from above; as Aristophanes observes. Let’s go on. Let him speak that is next. I can leak now like any stone-horse, said then Epistemon. I am, said Xenomanes, full as an egg and round as a hoop; my ship’s hold can hold no more, and will now make shift to bear a steady sail. Said Carpalin, A truce with thirst, a truce with hunger; they are strong, but wine and meat are stronger. I’m no more in the dumps cried Panurge; my heart’s a pound lighter. I’m in the right cue now, as brisk as a body-louse, and as merry as a beggar. For my part, I know what I do when I drink; and it is a true thing (though ’tis in your Euripides) that is said by that jolly toper Silenus of blessed memory, that —

The man’s emphatically mad,

Who drinks the best, yet can be sad.

We must not fail to return our humble and hearty thanks to the Being who, with this good bread, this cool delicious wine, these good meats and rare dainties, removes from our bodies and minds these pains and perturbations, and at the same time fills us with pleasure and with food.

But methinks, sir, you did not give an answer to Friar John’s question; which, as I take it, was how to raise good weather. Since you ask no more than this easy question, answered Pantagruel, I’ll strive to give you satisfaction; and some other time we’ll talk of the rest of the problems, if you will.

Well then, Friar John asked how good weather might be raised. Have we not raised it? Look up and see our full topsails. Hark how the wind whistles through the shrouds, what a stiff gale it blows. Observe the rattling of the tacklings, and see the sheets that fasten the mainsail behind; the force of the wind puts them upon the stretch. While we passed our time merrily, the dull weather also passed away; and while we raised the glasses to our mouths, we also raised the wind by a secret sympathy in nature.

Thus Atlas and Hercules clubbed to raise and underprop the falling sky, if you’ll believe the wise mythologists, but they raised it some half an inch too high, Atlas to entertain his guest Hercules more pleasantly, and Hercules to make himself amends for the thirst which some time before had tormented him in the deserts of Africa. Your good father, said Friar John, interrupting him, takes care to free many people from such an inconveniency; for I have been told by many venerable doctors that his chief-butler, Turelupin, saves above eighteen hundred pipes of wine yearly to make servants, and all comers and goers, drink before they are a-dry. As the camels and dromedaries of a caravan, continued Pantagruel, use to drink for the thirst that’s past, for the present, and for that to come, so did Hercules; and being thus excessively raised, this gave new motion to the sky, which is that of titubation and trepidation, about which our crackbrained astrologers make such a pother. This, said Panurge, makes the saying good:

While jolly companions carouse it together,

A fig for the storm, it gives way to good weather.

Nay, continued Pantagruel, some will tell you that we have not only shortened the time of the calm, but also much disburthened the ship; not like Aesop’s basket, by easing it of the provision, but by breaking our fasts; and that a man is more terrestrial and heavy when fasting than when he has eaten and drank, even as they pretend that he weighs more dead than living. However it is, you will grant they are in the right who take their morning’s draught and breakfast before a long journey; then say that the horses will perform the better, and that a spur in the head is worth two in the flank; or, in the same horse dialect —

That a cup in the pate

Is a mile in the gate.

Don’t you know that formerly the Amycleans worshipped the noble Bacchus above all other gods, and gave him the name of Psila, which in the Doric dialect signifies wings; for, as the birds raise themselves by a towering flight with their wings above the clouds, so, with the help of soaring Bacchus, the powerful juice of the grape, our spirits are exalted to a pitch above themselves, our bodies are more sprightly, and their earthly parts become soft and pliant.

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