[Back]          [Blueprint]         [Next]


From The World’s Wit and Humor, Volume X, French — Rutebœuf to Balzac; The Review of Reviews Company; New York; 1906; pp. 1-1.


François Rabelais [1483-1553]

The Lost Hatchet

THERE once lived a poor honest country fellow of Gravot, Tom Wellhung by name, a wood-cleaver by trade, who in that low drudgery made shift so to pick up a sorry livelihood. It happened that he lost his hatchet. Now tell me who ever had more cause to be vexed than poor Tom? Alas, his whole estate and life depended on his hatchet; by his hatchet he earned many a fair penny of the best wood-mongers or log-merchants, among whom he went a-jobbing; for want of his hatchet he was like to starve; and had Death but met him six days after without a hatchet, the grim fiend would have mowed him down in the twinkling of a bed-staff. In this sad case he began to be in a heavy taking, and called upon Jupiter with most eloquent prayers (for, you know, necessity was the mother of eloquence), with the whites of his eyes turned up towards heaven, down on his marrow-bones, his arms reared high, his fingers stretched wide, and his head bare, the poor wretch without ceasing was roaring out by way of Litany at every repetition of his supplications, “My hatchet, Lord Jupiter, my hatchet, my hatchet, only my hatchet, oh, Jupiter, or money to buy another, and nothing else; alas, my poor hatchet!”

Jupiter happened then to be holding a grand council about certain urgent affairs, and old Gammer Cybele was just giving her opinion, or, if you had rather have it so, it was young Phœbus the Beau; but, in short, Tom’s outcry and 34 lamentations were so loud that they were heard with no small amazement at the council-board by the whole consistory of the gods. “What a devil have we below,” quoth Jupiter, “that howls so horridly? By the mud of Styx, haven’t we had all along, and haven’t we here still, enough to do to set to rights a world of puzzling businesses of consequence? Let us, however, despatch this howling fellow below; you, Mercury, go see who it is, and discover what he wants.” Mercury looked out at heaven’s trapdoor, through which, as I am told, they hear what’s said here below. By the way, one might well enough mistake it for the scuttle of a ship; though Icaromenippus said it was like the mouth of a well. The light-heeled deity saw that it was honest Tom, who asked for his lost hatchet; and, accordingly, he made his report to the Synod. “Marry,” said Jupiter, “we are finely holped up, as if we had now nothing else to do here but to restore lost hatchets. Well, he must have it for all that, for so ’tis written in the Book of Fate, as well as if it was worth the whole Duchy of Milan. The truth is, the fellow’s hatchet is as much to him as a kingdom to a king. Come, come, let no more words be scattered about it; let him have his hatchet again. Run down immediately, and cast at the poor fellow’s feet three hatchets! his own, another of gold, and a third of massy silver, all of one size; then, having left it to his will to take his choice, if he take his own, and be satisfied with it, give him t’other two. If he take another, chop his head off with his own; and henceforth serve me all those losers of hatchets after that manner.”

Having said this, Jupiter, with an awkward turn of his head, like a jackanapes swallowing pills, made so dreadful a phiz that all the vast Olympus quaked again. Heaven’s 36 foot-messenger, thanks to his low-crowned, narrow-brimmed hat, and plume of feathers, heel-pieces, and running-stick with pigeon wings, flings himself out at heaven’s wicket, through the empty deserts of the air, and in a trice nimbly alights on the earth, and throws at friend Tom’s feet the three hatchets, saying to him: “Thou hast bawled long enough to be a-dry; thy prayers and requests are granted by Jupiter; see which of these three is thy hatchet, and take it away with thee.”

Wellhung lifts up the golden hatchet, peeps upon it, and finds it very heavy; then, staring on Mercury, cries, “Gadzooks, this is none of mine; I won’t ha’t!” The same he did with the silver one, and said, “’Tis not this either; you may e’en take them again.” At last, he takes up his own hatchet, examines the end of the helve, and finds his mark there; then, ravished with joy, like a fox that meets some straggling poultry, and sneering from the top of his nose, he cries, “By the Mass, this is my hatchet; Master God, if you will leave it me, I will sacrifice to you a very good and huge pot of milk, brim full, covered with fine strawberries, next Ides, i.e., the 15th of May.”

“Honest fellow,” said Mercury, “I leave it thee; take it; and because thou hast wished and chosen moderately, in point of hatchet, by Jupiter’s command I give thee these two others; thou hast now wherewith to make thyself rich: be honest.”

Honest Tom gave Mercury a whole cart-load of thanks, and paid reverence to the most great Jupiter. His old hatchet he fastened close to his leathern girdle, and girds it about his breech like Martin of Cambray; the two others, being more heavy, he lays on his shoulder. Thus he plods on, trudging over the fields, keeping a good countenance 37 among his neighbors and fellow-parishioners with one merry saying or other, after Patelin’s way.

The next day, having put on a clean white jacket, he takes on his back the two precious hatchets, and comes to Chinon, the famous city, noble city, ancient city, yea, the first city in the world, according to the judgment and assertion of the most learned Massoreths. In Chinon he turned his silver hatchet into fine testons, crown-pieces, and other white cash; his golden hatchet into fine angels, curious ducats, substantial ridders, spankers, and rose nobles. Then with them he purchases a good number of farms, barns, houses, outhouses, thatch-houses, stables, meadows, orchards, fields, vineyards, woods, arable lands, pastures, ponds, mills, gardens, nurseries, oxen, cows sheep, goats, swine, hogs, asses, horses, hens, cocks, capons, chickens, geese, ganders, ducks, drakes, and a world of other necessaries, and in a short time became the richest man in all the country. His brother bumpkins, and the yeomen and other country-puts thereabout, perceiving his good fortune, were not a little amazed, insomuch that their former pity of poor Tom was soon changed into an envy of his so great and unexpected rise; and, as they could not for their souls devise how this came about, they made it their business to pry up and down, and lay their heads together, to inquire, seek, and inform themselves by what means, in what place, on what day, what hour, how, why, and wherefore, he had come by this great treasure.

At last, hearing it was by losing his hatchet, “Ha! ha!” said they, “was there no more to do, but to lose a hatchet, to make us rich?” With this they all fairly lost their hatchets out of hand. The devil a one that had a hatchet left; he was not his mother’s son, that did not lose his hatchet. No more was wood felled or cleared in that country through want of hatchets. Nay, the Æsopian apologue even saith, that certain petty country gents, of the lower class, who had sold Wellhung their little mill and little field, to have wherewithal to make a figure at the next muster, having been told that this treasure was come to him by that means only, sold the only badge of their gentility, their swords, to purchase hatchets to go to lose them, as the silly clodpates did, in hopes to gain store of coin by that loss.

You would have truly sworn they had been a parcel of your petty spiritual usurers, Rome-bound, selling their all, and borrowing of others to buy store of mandates, a pennyworth of a new-made pope.

Now they cried and brayed, and prayed and bawled, and lamented and invoked Jupiter: “My hatchet! My hatchet! Jupiter, my hatchet!” On this side, “My hatchet!” On that side, “My hatchet! Ho, ho, ho, ho, Jupiter, my hatchet!” The air round about rung again with the cries and howlings of these rascally losers of hatchets.

Mercury was nimble in bringing them hatchets, — to each offering that which he had lost, as also another of gold, and a third of silver.

Everywhere he still was for that of gold, giving thanks in abundance to the great giver Jupiter; but in the very nick of time, that they bowed and stooped to take it from the ground, whip in a trice, Mercury lopped off their heads, as Jupiter had commanded. And of heads thus cut off, the number was just equal to that of the lost hatchets.

— “Gargantua and Pantagruel.



’TIS the oddest whimsy in the world to fancy there are stars for kings, popes, and great dons, any more than for the poor and needy. As if, forsooth, some new stars were made since the flood, or since Romulus or Pharamond, at the making somebody king; a thing that Triboulet or Caillette would have been ashamed to have said, and yet they were men of no common learning or fame; and for aught you or I know, this same Triboulet may have been of the kings of Castile’s blood in Noah’s ark, and Caillette of that of King Priam. Now, mark ye me, those odd notions come from nothing in the world but want of faith: I say, the true Catholic faith. Therefore, resting fully satisfied that the stars care not a fig more for kings than for beggars, nor a jot more for your rich, topping fellows than for the most sorry, mangy, lousy rascal, I’ll e’en leave other addle-pated fortune-tellers to speak of the great folks, and I will only talk of the little ones.

And, in the first place, of those who are subject to Saturn; as, for example, such as lack the ready, jealous, or horn-mad, self-tormenting prigs, dreaming fops, crabbed eavesdroppers, raving, doting churls, hatchers and brooders of mischief, suspicious, distrustful slouches, mole-catchers, close-fisted, griping misers, usurers and pawnbrokers, Christian-Jews, pinch-crusts, hold-fasts, michers and penny-fathers; redeemers of dipped, mortgaged, and bleeding copy-holds and messuages, fleecers of sheared asses, shoe-makers and translators, tanners, bricklayers, bell-founders, compounders of loans, patchers, clouters, and botchers of old 40 trumpery stuff, and all moping melancholic folks, shall not have this year whatever they’d have; and will think more than once how they may get good stores of the king’s pictures into their clutches; in the mean time they’ll hardly throw shoulders of mutton out at the windows, and will often scratch their working noddles where they do not itch.

As for those who are under Jupiter, as canting vermin, bigots, pardon-pedlers, voluminous abbreviators, scribblers of briefs, copyists, pope’s bull-makers, dataries, pettifoggers, Capuchins, monks, hermits, hypocrites, cushion-thumping mountebanks, spiritual comedians, forms of holiness, paternoster faces, wheedling gabblers, wry-necked scoundrels, spoilers of paper, stately gulls, notched, crop-eared meacocks, public register’s clerks, wafer-makers, rosary-makers, engrossers of deeds, notaries, grave-bubbles, protecoles, and prompters to speakers, deceitful makers of promises, shall fare according as they have money. So many clergymen will die, that there will not be enough found on whom their benefices may be conferred, so that many will hold two, three, four, or more. The tribe of hypocrites shall lose a good deal of its ancient fame, since the world is grown a rake, and will not be fooled much longer, as Avenzagel saith.

Those who are under Mars, as hangmen, cut-throats, dead-doing fellows, free-booters, hedge-birds, footpads, and highwaymen, catch-poles, bum-bailiffs, beadles and watchmen, reformadoes, tooth-drawers and corn-cutters, pintile-smiths, shavers and frig-beards, butchers, coiners, paltry quacks and mountebanks, renegadoes, apostates and marranized miscreants, incendiaries, chimney-sweepers, boorish cluster-fists, charcoal-men, alchemists, merchants of eel-skins and egg-shells, gridirion and rattle-makers, cooks, 41 paltry pedlers, trash-mongers and spangle-makers, bracelet-makers, lantern-makers and tinkers, this year will do fine things; but some of them will be somewhat subject to be rib-roasted, and have a St. Andrew’s cross scored over their jobbernols at unawares. This year one of those worthy persons will go nigh to be made a field-bishop, and, mounted on a horse that was foaled of an acorn, give the passengers a blessing with his legs.

Those who belong to Sol, as topers, quaffers, whipcans, tosspots, whittled, mellow, cup-shotten swillers, merry-Greeks with crimson snouts of their own dyeing; fat, pursy gorbellies, brewers of wine and of beer, bottlers of hay, porters, mowers, menders of tiled, slated, and thatched houses, burden-bearers, patchers, shepherds, ox-keepers, and cow-herds, swine-herds, and hog-drivers, fowlers and bird-catchers, gardeners, barn-keepers, hedgers, common mumpers and vagabonds, day-laborers, scourers of greasy thrum-caps, stuffers and bum-basters of pack-saddles, rag-merchants, idle lusks, and drowsy loiterers, smell-feasts, and snap-gobbets, gentlemen generally wearing shirts with neckbands, or heartily desiring to wear such; all these will be hale and sharp-set, and not troubled with the gout at the grinders, or a stoppage at the gullet, when at a feast on free-cost.

Those whom Venus is said to rule will be famous this year. But when the sun enters Cancer and other signs, let them beware.

As for those who come under Mercury, as sharpers, rooks, cozeners, setters, as sharks, cheats, pickpockets, divers, thieves, millers, night-walkers, masters of arts, decretists, picklocks, deer-stealers, hedge-rimers, composers of serious doggerel meter, merry-andrews, jack-puddings, tumblers, 42 masters in the art of hocus-pocus, legerdemain, and powder of prelinpinpin; such as break Priscian’s head, quibblers and punsters, stationers, paper-makers, card-makers, and pirates, will strive to appear more merry than they’ll often be; sometimes they’ll laugh without any cause, and will be pretty apt to be blown up and march off, if they find themselves better stored with chink than they should be.

Those who belong to Madam Luna, as hawkers of almanacs and pamphlets, huntsmen, ostrich-catchers, falconers, couriers, salt-carriers, lunatics, maggotty fools, crack-brained coxcombs, addle-pated frantic wights, giddy, whimsical foplings, exchange-brokers, post-boys, foot-boys, tennis-court-keepers’ boys, glass-mongers, light-horse, watermen, mariners, messengers, rakers, and gleaners will not long stay in a place this year. However, so many swag-bellies and puff-bags will hardly go to St. Hiacco as there did in the year 524. Great numbers of pilgrims will come down from the mountains of Savoy and Auvergne, but Sagittarius sorely threatens them with kibed heels.

— “Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Lending and Borrowing

BE ever indebted to somebody or other, that there may be somebody always to pray for you, that the Giver of all good things may grant unto you a blessed, long, and prosperous life; fearing if Fortune should deal crossly with you, that it might be his chance to come short of being paid by you; he will always speak good of you in every company, ever and anon purchase new creditors unto you; to the end 43 that through their means you may make a shift by borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, and with other folks’ earth fill up his ditch. When of old, in the region of the Gauls, by the institution of the Druids, the servants, slaves, and bondmen were burnt alive at the funerals and obsequies of their lords and masters, had not they fear enough, think you, that their lords and masters should die? For, perforce, they were to die with them for company. Did not they incessantly send up their supplications to their great god Mercury, as likewise unto Dis, the father of wealth, to lengthen out their days, and preserve them long in health? Were not they very careful to entertain them well, punctually to look unto them, and to attend them faithfully and circumspectly? For by those means were they to live together, at least until the hour of death. Believe me, your creditors with a more fervent devotion will beseech Almighty God to prolong your life, they being of nothing more afraid than that you should die; for that they are more concerned for the sleeve than the arm, and love the penny better than their own lives; as it evidently appeareth by the usurers of Landerousse, who not long since hanged themselves because the price of the corn and wines was fallen, by the return of a gracious season.

Truly, and in good sooth, when I ponder my destiny aright, and think well upon it, you put me shrewdly to my plunges, and have me at a bay in twitting me with the reproach of my debts, and creditors; and yet did I, in this only respect and consideration of being a debtor, esteem myself worshipful, reverend, and formidable. For, against the opinion of most philosophers, that of nothing ariseth nothing; yet without having bottomed on so much as that which is called the first matter, did I out of nothing become such a maker and creator, that I have created, what? a gay number of fair and 44 jolly creditors. Nay, creditors (I will maintain it, even to the very fire itself exclusively) are fair and goodly creatures. Who lendeth nothing is an ugly and wicked creature, and an accursed imp of the infernal Old Nick. And there is made, what? Debts: a thing most precious and dainty, of great use and antiquity. Debts, I say, surmounting the number of syllables which may result from the combination of all the consonants with each of the vowels heretofore projected, reckoned and calculated by the noble Xenocrates. To judge of the perfection of debtors by the numerosity of their creditors is the readiest way for entering into the mysteries of practical arithmetic.

You can hardly imagine how glad I am when, every morning, I perceive myself environed and surrounded with brigades of creditors, humble, fawning, and full of their reverences. And while I remark that as I look more favorably upon, and give a cheerful countenance to one than another, the fellow thereupon buildeth a conceit that he shall be the first despatched, and the foremost in the date of payment; and he valueth my smiles at the rate of ready money. It seemeth unto me that I then act and personate the God of the Passion of Saumure, accompanied with his angels and cherubim.

These are my flatterers, my soothers, my clawbacks, my smoothers, my parasites, my saluters, my givers of good-morrows, and perpetual orators, which makes me verily think that the supremest height of heroic virtue, described by Hesiod, consisteth in being a debtor, wherein I held the first degree in my commencement. Which dignity, though all human creatures seem to aim at, and aspire thereto, few, nevertheless, because of the difficulties in the way, and encumbrances of hard passages, are able to reach it, as is easily perceivable by the ardent desire and vehement longing, harbored in the 45 breast of every one, to be still creating more debts and new creditors.

Yet doth it not lie in the power of every one to be a debtor. To acquire creditors is not at the disposure of each man’s arbitrament. You nevertheless would deprive me of this sublime felicity. You ask me when I shall be out of debt.

Well, to go yet farther on, and possibly worse in your conceit, may St. Bablin, the good saint, snatch me, if I have not, all my lifetime, held debt to be as an union or conjunction of the heavens with the earth, and the whole cement whereby the race of mankind is kept together; yea, of such virtue and efficacy that, I say, the whole progeny of Adam would very suddenly perish without it. Therefore, perhaps, I do not think amiss when I repute it to be the great Soul of the Universe, which (according to the opinion of the Academics) vivified all manner of things. In confirmation whereof, that you may the better believe it to be so, represent unto yourself, without any prejudice of spirit, in a clear and serene fancy, the idea and form of some other world than this; take, if you please, and lay hold on the thirtieth of those which the philosopher Metrodorus did enumerate, wherein it is to be supposed there is no debtor or creditor, that is to say, a world without debts. There among the planets will be no regular course. All will be in disorder. Jupiter, reckoning himself to be nothing indebted unto Saturn, will go near to detrude him out of his sphere, and with the Homeric chain will be like to hang up all the intelligences, gods, heavens, demons, heroes, devils, earth, and sea, together with the other elements. Saturn, no doubt, combining with Mars, will reduce the world into a chaos of confusion.

Mercury then would be no more subjected to the other 46 planets; he would scorn to be any longer their Camillus, as he was of old termed in the Hetrurian tongue; for it is to be imagined that he is no way a debtor to them. Venus will no more be venerable, because she shall have lent nothing. The moon will remain bloody and obscure: For to what end should the sun impart unto her any of his light? He owed her nothing. Nor yet will the sun shine upon the earth, nor the stars send down any good influence, because the terrestrial globe hath desisted from sending up their wonted nourishment by vapors and exhalations, wherewith Heraclitus maintained they were cherished and alimented. There would likewise be in such a world no manner of symbolization, alternation, nor transmutation among the elements; for the one will not esteem itself obliged to the other, as having borrowed nothing at all from it. Earth then will not become water, water will not be changed into air, of air will be made no fire, and fire will afford no heat unto the earth; the earth will produce nothing but monsters, Titans, giants; no rain will descend upon it, nor light shine thereon; no wind will blow there, nor will there be in it any summer or autumn. Lucifer will break loose, and issuing forth of the depth of hell, accompanied with his furies, fiends, and horned devils, will go about to unnestle and drive out of heaven all the gods, as well of the greater as of the lesser nations. Such a world without lending will be no better than a dog-kennel, a place of contention and wrangling, more unruly and irregular than that of the Rector of Paris; a devil of an hurly-burly, and more disordered confusion than that of the plays of Douay. Men will not then salute one another; it will be lost labor to expect aid or succor from any, or to cry fire, water, murder, for none will put to their helping hand. Why? He lent no money; there is nothing due to him. 47 Nobody is concerned in his burning, in his shipwreck, in his ruin, or in his death; and that because he hitherto had lent nothing, and would never thereafter have lent anything. In short, Faith, Hope, and Charity would be quite banished from such a world; for men are born to relieve and assist from one another; and in their stead would succeed and be introduced defiance, disdain, and rancor, with the most execrable troop of all evils, all imprecations, and all miseries. Whereupon you will think, and that not amiss, that Pandora had there split her unlucky box. Men unto men will be wolves, hob-thrushers, and goblins (as were Lycaon, Bellerophon, Nebuchadnezzar), plunderers, highway-robbers, cut-throats, rapparees, murderers, poisoners, assassinators, lewd, wicked, malevolent, pernicious haters, set against everybody, like to Ismael, Metabus, or Timon the Athenian, who for that cause was named Misanthropos; in such sort, that it would prove much more easy in nature of have fish entertained in the air, and bullocks fed in the bottom of the ocean, than to support or tolerate a rascally rabble of people that will not lend. These fellows (I vow) do I hate with a perfect hatred; and if conformable to the pattern of this grievous, peevish, and perverse world which lendeth nothing, you figure and liken the little world, which is man, you will find in him a terrible jostling coyle and clutter: The head will not lend the sight of his eyes to guide the feet and hands; the legs will refuse to bear up the body; the hands will leave off working any more for the rest of the members; the heart will be weary of its continual motion for the beating of the pulse, and will no longer lend his assistance; the lungs will withdraw the use of their bellows; the liver will desist from conveying any more blood through the veins for the good of the whole; the bladder will not be indebted to the kidneys. The brains, in 48 the interim, considering this unnatural course, will fall into a raving dotage, and withhold all feeling from the sinews, and motion from the muscles. Briefly, in such a world, without order and array, owing nothing, lending nothing, and borrowing nothing, you would see a more dangerous conspiration than that which Æsop exposed in his apologue. Such a world will perish undoubtedly; and not only perish, but perish very quickly. Were it Æsculapius himself, his body would immediately rot, and the chafing soul, full of indignation, take its flight to all the devils of hell after my money.

On the contrary, be pleased to represent unto your fancy another world, wherein every one lendeth, and every one oweth, all are debtors, and all creditors. Oh, how great will that harmony be, which shall thereby result from the regular motions of the heavens! Methinks I hear it every whit as well as Plato did. What sympathy there will be among the elements! Oh, how delectable then unto nature will be our own works and productions! While Ceres appeareth laden with corn, Bacchus with wines, Flora with flowers, Pomona with fruits, and Juno fair in a clear air, wholesome and pleasant  — I lose myself in this high contemplation.

Then will among the race of mankind, peace, love benevolence, fidelity, tranquillity, rest, banquets, feastings, joy, gladness, gold, silver, single money, chains, rings, with other ware, and chaffer of that nature be found to trot from hand to hand; no suits at law, no wars, no strife, debate, nor wrangling; none will be there an usurer, none will be there a pinch-penny, a scrape-good wretch, or churlish, hard-hearted refuser. Good God! Will this not be the golden age in the reign of Saturn? The true idea of the Olympic regions wherein, all other virtues ceasing, Charity alone ruleth, governeth, 49 domineereth, and triumpheth? All will be fair and goodly people there, all just and virtuous.

Happy world! Oh, people of that world most happy! Yea, thrice and four times blessed is that people! I think in very deed that I am among them, and swear to you, by my good, forsooth, that if this glorious aforesaid world had a pope, abounding with cardinals, that so he might have the association of a sacred college, in the space of a very few years you should be sure to see the saints much thicker in the roll, more numerous wonder-working and mirific, more services, more vows, more staff-bearers, more wax candles than are all those in the nine bishoprics of Brittany, St. Yves only excepted.

Now let our microcosm be fancied conformable to this model in all its members: lending, borrowing, and owing (that is to say), according to its own nature. For Nature hath not to any other end created man, but to borrow and lend.

— “Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Concerning Diogenes and Drink

GOOD people, most illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious gouty gentlemen — did you ever see Diogenes the cynic philosopher? If you have seen him, you then had your eyes in your head, or I am very much out of my understanding and logical sense. It is a gallant thing to see the clearness of wine, of gold, of the sun. I’ll be judged by the blind-born, so renowned in the sacred Scriptures, who, having at his choice to ask whatever he would from Him Who is Almighty, 50 and Whose word in an instant is effectually performed, asked nothing else but that he might see.

If you have not seen him — as I am easily induced to believe that you have not — at least you have heard some talk of him. If you have not heard of him, I will presently tell you a story to make your wine relish. Drink, then; and so to the purpose. Harken, now, while I give you notice — to the end that you may not, like infidels, be by your simplicity abused — that in his time he was a rare philosopher, and the cheerfullest of a thousand. If he had some imperfection, so have you, so have we; for there is nothing but God that is perfect. Yet so it was, that by Alexander the Great, although he had Aristotle for his instructor and domestic, was he held in such estimation, that he wished, if he had not been Alexander, to have been Diogenes the Sinopian.

When Philip, King of Macedon, enterprised the siege and ruin of Corinth, the Corinthians, having received certain intelligence by their spies that he with a numerous army in battle array was coming against them, were all of them, not without cause, most terribly afraid; and therefore were not neglective of their duty in doing their best endeavors to put themselves in a fit posture to resist his hostile approach and defend their own city.

Some from the fields brought into the fortified places their movables, cattle, corn, wine, fruit, victuals, and other necessary provision.

Others did fortify and rampart their walls, set up little fortresses, bastions, squared ravelins, digged trenches, cleansed countermines, fenced themselves with gabions, contrived platforms, emptied casemates, barricaded the false brays, erected the cavaliers, repaired the counterscarps, plastered the curtains lengthened ravelins, stopped parapets, 51 mortised barbicans, new-pointed the portcullises, fastened the herses, sarasinesks, and cataracts, placed their sentries, and doubled their patrol. Every one did watch and ward, and none was exempted from carrying the basket. Some polished corslets, varnished backs and breasts, cleaned the head-pieces, mail-coats, brigandines, sallets, helmets, morions, jacks, gushets, gorgets, hoguines, brassards, and cuissards, corslets, haubergeons, shields, bucklers, targets, greves, gantlets, and spurs. Others made ready bows, slings, crossbows, pellets, catapults, migraines or fire-balls, firebrands, balists, scorpions, and other such warlike engines, expugnatory, and destructive to the helepolides. They sharpened and prepared spears, staves, pikes, brown bills, halberds, long hooks, lances, zagayes, quarterstaves, eel-spears, partizans, troutstaves, clubs, battle-axes, maces, darts, dartlets, glaves, javelins, javelots, and truncheons. They set edges upon simitars, cutlases, badelaire, back-swords, tucks, rapiers, bayonets, arrow-heads, dags, daggers, mandousians, poniards, whynyards, knives, skeans, sables, chippin knives, and raillons.

Every man exercised his weapon, every man scoured off the rust from his natural hanger. Nor was there a woman among them, though never so reserved, or old, who made not her harness to be well furbished. As you know, the Corinthian women of old were reputed very courageous combatants.

Diogenes, seeing them all so warm at work, and himself not employed by the magistrates in any business whatsoever, he did very seriously, for many days together, without speaking one word, consider, and contemplate the countenances of his fellow citizens.

Then, on a sudden, as if he had been roused up and 52 inspired by a martial spirit, he girded his cloak, scarf-wise, about his left arm, tucked up his sleeves to the elbow, trussed himself like a clown gathering apples, and, giving to one of his old acquaintance his wallet, books, and opistographs, away went he out of town toward a little hill or promontory of Corinth, called Craneum, and there on the strand, a pretty level place, did he roll his jolly tub, which served him for a house to shelter him from the injuries of the weather. There, I say, in great vehemency of spirit, did he turn it, veer it, wheel it, frisk it, jumble it, shuffle it, huddle it, tumble it, hurry it, jolt it, jostle it, overthrow it, evert it, invert it, subvert it, overturn it, beat it, thwack it, bump it, batter it, knock it, thrust it, push it, jerk it, shock it, shake it, toss it, throw it, overthrow it, upside down, topsyturvy, tread it, trample it, stamp it, tap it, ting it, ring it, tingle it, towl it, sound it, resound it, stop it, shut it, unbung it, close it, unstopple it, And then again in a mighty bustle he mounted it, broached it, nicked it, notched it, bespattered it, decked it, adorned it, trimmed it, garnished it, gaged it, furnished it, bored it, pierced it, trapped it, rumbled it, laid it down the hill, and precipitated it from the very height of the Craneum. Then from the foot to the top (like another Sisyphus with his stone), he bore it up again and every way so banged it and belabored it, that it was ten thousand to one he had not struck the bottom of it out.

Which, when one of his friends had seen, and asked him why he did so toil his body, perplex his spirit, and torment his tub, the philosopher’s answer was, “That, not being employed in any other charge by the Republic, he thought it expedient to thunder and storm it so tempestuously upon his tub, that, among a people so fervently busy, and earnest 53 at work, he alone might not seem a loitering slug and lazy fellow.” To the same purpose may I say of myself,

“Though I be rid from fear,
   I am not void of care.”

For perceiving no account to be made of me toward the discharge of a trust of any great concernment, and considering that through all the parts of this most noble kingdom of France, both on this and on the other side of the mountains, every one is most diligently exercised and busied, some in the fortifying of their own native country, for its defense, others in the repulsing of their enemies by an offensive war; and all this with a policy so excellent, and such admirable order, so manifestly profitable for the future, whereby France shall have its frontiers most magnificently enlarged, and the French assured of a long and well-grounded peace, that very little withholds me from the opinion of good Heraclitus, which affirmeth war to be the father of all good things. And therefore do I believe that war is in Latin called bellum, and not by antiphrasis, as some patchers of old rusty Latin would have us to think, because in war there is little beauty to be seen; but absolutely and simply, for that in war appeareth all that is good and graceful, and that by the wars is purged out all manner of wickedness and deformity. For proof whereof the wise and pacific Solomon could no better represent the unspeakable perfection of the divine wisdom, than by comparing it to the due disposure and ranking of an army in battle array, well provided and ordered.

Therefore, by reason of my weakness and inability, being reputed by my compatriots unfit for the offensive part of warfare; and, on the other side, being no way employed in matter of the defensive, although it had been but to carry 54 burdens, fill ditches, or break clods, either whereof had been to me indifferent — therefore, I held it not a little disgraceful to be only an idle spectator of so many valorous, eloquent, and warlike persons who, in the view and sight of all Europe, act this notable interlude or tragi-comedy, and not exert myself, and contribute thereto this nothing, my all, which remained for me to do. In my opinion, little honor is due to such as are mere lookers-on, liberal of their eyes, and of their strength parsimonious, who conceal their crowns and hide their silver. Having made this choice and election, it seemed to me that my exercise therein would be neither unprofitable nor troublesome to any, while I should thus set a-going my Diogenical tub, which is all that is left me safe from the shipwreck of my former misfortunes.

At this dingle-dangle wagging of my tub, what would you have me do? I know not as yet. Stay a ltitle, till I suck up a draft of this bottle; it is my true and only Helicon; it is my Caballine Fountain; it is my sole enthusiasm. Drinking thus, I meditate, discourse, resolve, and conclude. After that the epilogue is made, I laugh, I write, I compose, and drink again. Ennius drinking wrote, and writing drank. Æschuylus, if Plutarch in his Symposiacs merit any faith, drank composing, and drinking composed. Homer never wrote fasting, an Cato never wrote till after he had drunk. These passages I have brought before you, to the end you may not say that I live without the example of men well praised and better prized.

Since then my luck or destiny is such as you have heard — for it is not for everybody to go to Corinth — I am fully resolved to be so little idle and unprofitable, that I will set myself to serve the one and the other sort of people. Among the diggers, pioneers, and rampart-builders, I will do as did 55 Neptune and Apollo at Troy, under Laomedon, or as did Renault of Montauban in his latter days. I will serve the masons; I will set on the pot to boil for the bricklayers; and, while the minced meat is making ready at the sound of my small pipe, I will measure the muzzle of the musing dotards. Thus did Amphion with the melody of his harp found, build, and finish the great and renowned city of Thebes.

For the use of the warriors I am about to broach off a new barrel to give them a taste — which by two former volumes of mine, if by the deceitfulness and falsehood of printers they had not been jumbled, marred, and spoiled, you would have very well relished — and draw unto them a jolly, cheerful quart of Pantagruelian sentences, which you may lawfully call, if you please, Diogenical; and shall have me, seeing I cannot be their fellow soldier, for their faithful butler, refreshing and cheering, according to my little power, their return from the alarms of the enemy; as also for an indefatigable extoller of their martial exploits and glorious achievements.

I remember, nevertheless, to have read that Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, one day among the many spoils and booties which by his victories he had acquired, presented to the Egyptians, in the open view of the people, a Bactrian camel all black, and a party-colored slave, in such sort, as that the one half of his body was black, and the other white, not in partition of breadth by the diaphragm, as was that woman consecrated to the Indian Venus, whom the Thyanean philosopher did see between the river Hydaspes and the Mount Caucasus, but in a perpendicular dimension of altitude; which were things never before that seen in Egypt. He expected by the show of these novelties to win the love of the people But what happened thereupon? At the production 56 of the camel they were all affrighted, and offended at the sight of the party-colored man — some scoffed at him as a detestable monster brought forth by the error of Nature — in a word, of the hope which he had to please theses Egyptians, and by such means to increase their affection which they naturally bore him, he was altogether frustrated and disappointed; understanding fully, by their deportments, that they took more pleasure and delight in things that were proper, handsome, and perfect, than in misshapen, monstrous, and ridiculous creatures. Since which time he had both the slave and the camel in such dislike, that very shortly thereafter, either through negligence or for want of ordinary sustenance, they both tipped over the porch.

This example putteth me in a suspense between hope and fear, misdoubting that, for the contentment which I aim at, I shall but reap what will be most distasteful to me. My cake will be dough; instead of serving them, I shall but vex them, and offend those whom I purpose to exhilarate; resembling, in this dubious adventure, Euclion’s cock, so renowned by Plautus in his Pot, and by Ausonius in his Griphon, and by divers others; which cock, for having by his scraping discovered a treasure, had his hide well curried. Put the case I get no anger by it, though formerly such things fell out, and the like may occur again — yet, by Hercules, it will not. For I perceive in them all, one and the same specifical form, and the like individual proprieties, which our ancestors called Pantagruelism; by virtue whereof they will bear with anything that floweth from a good, free and loyal heart. I have seen them ordinarily take good-will in part of payment, and remain satisfied therewith, when one was not able to do better. Having despatched this point, I return to my barrel.


Up, my lads, to this wine, spare it not! Drink, boys, and troll it off at full bowls! If you do not think it good, let it alone. I am not like those officious and importunate sots, who by force, outrage, and violence, constrain an easy, good-natured fellow to whiffle, quaff, carouse, and what is worse. All honest tipplers, all honest gouty men, all such as are a-dry, coming to this little barrel of mine, need not drink thereof, if it please them not. But if they have a mind to it, and that the wine prove agreeable to the tastes of their worshipful worships, let them drink, frankly, freely, and boldly, without paying anything, and welcome. This is my decree, my statue, and ordinance. And let none fear there shall be any want of wine, for how much soever you shall draw forth at the faucet, so much shall I tun in at the bung. Thus shall the barrel remain inexhaustible; it hath a lively spring and perpetual current. Such was the beverage contained within the cup of Tantalus, which was figuratively represented among the Brachman sages. Such was in Iberia the mountain of salt, so highly written of by Cato. Such was the branch of gold consecrated to the subterranean goddess, which Vergil treats of so sublimely. It is a true cornucopia of merriment and raillery. If at any time it seem to you to be emptied to the very lees, yet shall it not for all that be drawn wholly dry. Good hope remains there at the bottom, as in Pandora’s box; and not despair, as in the leaky tubs of the Danaids. Remark well what I have said, and what manner of people they be whom I do invite; for, to the end that none be deceived, I, in imitation of Lucilius, who did protest that he wrote only to his own Tarentines and Consentines, have not pierced this vessel for any else but you, honest men, who are drinkers of the first edition, and gouty blades of the highest degree. The 58 great dorophages, bribemongers, have on their hands occupation enough, and enough on the hooks for their venison. There may they follow their prey; here is no garbage for them. You pettifoggers, garblers, and masters of chicanery, speak not to me. Hence, mastiffs, dogs in a doublet, get you behind, aloof, villains, out of my sunshine! Curs, to the devil! Do you jog hither, wagging your tails, to pant at my wine? Look, here is the cudgel which Diogenes, in his last will, ordained to be set by him after his death, for beating away, crushing the reins, and breaking the backs of these bustuary hobgoblins and Cerberian hell-hounds. Pack you hence, therefore, you hypocrites, to your sheep, dogs! Get you gone, you dissemblers, to the devil! Eh! What! are you there yet? I renounce my part of Papimanie, if I snap you, Grr, Grrr, Grrrrrr. Avaunt! Avaunt! Will you not be gone?

— “Gargantua and Pantagruel.


ElfEd.  For an anecdote about Rabelais, see The Treasury of Wit, printed for T. Allman, 1836, also on Elfinspell.


[Back]          [Blueprint]         [Next]