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Gargantua and Pantagruel

Francois Rabelais


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Description

Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais, was first published in the mid sixteenth century. A work of satirical and fantasy fiction, it tells the story, over 5 books, of two giants; Gargantua and his son Pantagruel as they travel through various lands. On their travels, they meet people on Tool Island, who are so fat, they slit their skin to let the fat puff out; the sexually prolific Semiquavers; the Furred Law-Cats, who imprison them; and, the Chitterlings, who attack them. Containing much vulgarity and wordplay, it was viewed as obscene by some, and treated with suspicion during a social age of religious oppression.

Part of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World set.

This book has 690 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published 1532-1564. This translation by Thomas Urquhart and Peter Antony Motteux, was originally published in around 1653.

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Excerpt from Gargantua and Pantagruel

I must refer you to the great chronicle of Pantagruel for the knowledge of that genealogy and antiquity of race by which Gargantua is come unto us. In it you may understand more at large how the giants were born in this world, and how from them by a direct line issued Gargantua, the father of Pantagruel: and do not take it ill, if for this time I pass by it, although the subject be such, that the oftener it were remembered, the more it would please your worshipful Seniorias; according to which you have the authority of Plato in Philebo and Gorgias; and of Flaccus, who says that there are some kinds of purposes (such as these are without doubt), which, the frequentlier they be repeated, still prove the more delectable.

Would to God everyone had as certain knowledge of his genealogy since the time of the ark of Noah until this age. I think many are at this day emperors, kings, dukes, princes, and popes on the earth, whose extraction is from some porters and pardon-pedlars; as, on the contrary, many are now poor wandering beggars, wretched and miserable, who are descended of the blood and lineage of great kings and emperors, occasioned, as I conceive it, by the transport and revolution of kingdoms and empires, from the Assyrians to the Medes, from the Medes to the Persians, from the Persians to the Macedonians, from the Macedonians to the Romans, from the Romans to the Greeks, from the Greeks to the French.

And to give you some hint concerning myself, who speaks unto you, I cannot think but I am come of the race of some rich king or prince in former times; for never yet saw you any man that had a greater desire to be a king, and to be rich, than I have, and that only that I may make good cheer, do nothing, nor care for anything, and plentifully enrich my friends, and all honest and learned men. But herein do I comfort myself, that in the other world I shall be so, yea and greater too than at this present I dare wish. As for you, with the same or a better conceit consolate yourselves in your distresses, and drink fresh if you can come by it.

To return to our wethers, I say that by the sovereign gift of heaven, the antiquity and genealogy of Gargantua hath been reserved for our use more full and perfect than any other except that of the Messias, whereof I mean not to speak; for it belongs not unto my purpose, and the devils, that is to say, the false accusers and dissembled gospellers, will therein oppose me. This genealogy was found by John Andrew in a meadow, which he had near the pole-arch, under the olive-tree, as you go to Narsay: where, as he was making cast up some ditches, the diggers with their mattocks struck against a great brazen tomb, and unmeasurably long, for they could never find the end thereof, by reason that it entered too far within the sluices of Vienne. Opening this tomb in a certain place thereof, sealed on the top with the mark of a goblet, about which was written in Etrurian letters Hic Bibitur, they found nine flagons set in such order as they use to rank their kyles in Gascony, of which that which was placed in the middle had under it a big, fat, great, grey, pretty, small, mouldy, little pamphlet, smelling stronger, but no better than roses. In that book the said genealogy was found written all at length, in a chancery hand, not in paper, not in parchment, nor in wax, but in the bark of an elm-tree, yet so worn with the long tract of time, that hardly could three letters together be there perfectly discerned.

I (though unworthy) was sent for thither, and with much help of those spectacles, whereby the art of reading dim writings, and letters that do not clearly appear to the sight, is practised, as Aristotle teacheth it, did translate the book as you may see in your Pantagruelizing, that is to say, in drinking stiffly to your own heart's desire, and reading the dreadful and horrific acts of Pantagruel. At the end of the book there was a little treatise entitled the Antidoted Fanfreluches, or a Galimatia of extravagant conceits. The rats and moths, or (that I may not lie) other wicked beasts, had nibbled off the beginning: the rest I have hereto subjoined, for the reverence I bear to antiquity.

No sooner did the Cymbrians' overcomer Pass through the air to shun the dew of summer, But at his coming straight great tubs were fill'd, With pure fresh butter down in showers distill'd: Wherewith when water'd was his grandam, Hey, Aloud he cried, Fish it, sir, I pray y'; Because his beard is almost all beray'd; Or, that he would hold to 'm a scale, he pray'd.

To lick his slipper, some told was much better, Than to gain pardons, and the merit greater. In th' interim a crafty chuff approaches, From the depth issued, where they fish for roaches; Who said, Good sirs, some of them let us save, The eel is here, and in this hollow cave You'll find, if that our looks on it demur, A great waste in the bottom of his fur.

To read this chapter when he did begin, Nothing but a calf's horns were found therein; I feel, quoth he, the mitre which doth hold My head so chill, it makes my brains take cold. Being with the perfume of a turnip warm'd, To stay by chimney hearths himself he arm'd, Provided that a new thill-horse they made Of every person of a hair-brain'd head.

They talked of the bunghole of Saint Knowles, Of Gilbathar and thousand other holes, If they might be reduced t' a scarry stuff, Such as might not be subject to the cough: Since ev'ry man unseemly did it find, To see them gaping thus at ev'ry wind: For, if perhaps they handsomely were closed, For pledges they to men might be exposed.

End of excerpt.

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