From Gargantua and Pantagruel
Francois Rabelais, 1532
How a great Scholar of England road have argued against Pantagruel,
IN that same time, a certain learned man, named Thaumast, hearing the fame and renown of Pantagruels incomparable knowledge, came out of his own countrey of England, with an intent only to see him, to try thereby, and prove, whether his knowledge in effect was so great as it was reported to be. In this restolution, being arrived at Paris, he went forthwith unto the house of the said Pantagruel, who was lodged in the Palace of St.Denys, and was then walking in the garden thereof with Panurge, philosophizing after the fashion of the Peripateticks. At his first entrance he startled, and was almost out of his wits for fears, seeing him so great and so tall, then did he salute him courteously as the manner is, and said unto him, Very true it is, (saith Plato the Prince of Philosophers,) that if the image and knowledge of wisdom were corporeal and visible to the eyes of mortals, it would stirre up all the world to admire her: which we may the rather beleeve, that the very bare report thereof, scattered in the air, if it happen to be received into the cares of men, who for being studious, and lovers of vertuous things, are called Philosophers, doth not suffer them to sleep nor rest in quiet, but so pricketh them up, and sets them on fire, to run unto the place where the person is, in whom the said knowledge is said to have built her Temple, and uttered her Oracles, as it was manifestly shown unto us in the Queen of Sheba, who came from the utmost borders of the East and Persian sea, to see the order of Solomons house, and to heart his wisdom; in Anacharsis, who came out of Scythia, even unto Athens, to see Solon; in Pythagoras, who travailed farre to visit the Memphitical Vaticinators; in Platon, who went a great way off to see the Magicians of Egypt, and Architas of Tarentum; in Apollonius Tianeus, who went as farre as unto Mount Caucasus, passed along the Scythians, the Massagetes, the Indians, and sailed over the great river Phison, even to the Brachmans to see Hiarchas; as likewise unto Babylon, Chaldea, Media, Assyria, Parthia, Syria, Phoenicia, Arabia, Palestina and Alexandria, even unto Æthiopia, to see the Cymnosophists: the like example have we of Titus Livius, whom to see and heard divers studious persons came to Rome, from the Confines of France and Spaine; l dare not reckon my self in the number of those so excellent persons, but well would be called studious, and a lover, not only of learning, but of learned men also: and indeed, having heard the report of your so inestimable knowledge, I have left my country my friends, my kindred and my house, and am come thus farre, valuing at nothing the length of the way, the tediousnesse of the sea, nor strangenesse of the land, and that only to see you, and to conferre with you about some passages in Philosophy, of Geomancie, and of the Cabalistick Art; whereof I am doubtful, and cannot satisfie my minds; which if you can resolve, I yield my self unto you for a slave henceforward, together with all my posterity; for other gift have I none, that I can esteem a recompense sufficient for so great a favour: I will reduce them into writing, and to morrow publish them to all the learned men in the City, that we may dispute publickly before them.
But see in what manner, I mean that we shall dispute: I will not argue pro d contra, as do the sottish Sophisters of this town, and other places: likewise I will not dispute after the manner of the Academicks by declamation: nor yet by numbers, as Pythagoras was wont to do, and as Picas de la Mirandula did of late at Rome: but I will dispute by signes only without speaking, for the matters are so abstruse, hard and arduous, that words proceedng from the mouth of man, will never be sufficient for unfolding of them to my liking. May it therefore please your Magnificence to be there, it shall be at the great Hall of Jlavarre at seven a clock in the morning. When he had spoke these words, Pantagruel very honourably said unto him, Sir, of the graces that God hath bestowed upon me, I would not deny to communicate unto any man to my power; for whatever comes from him is good, and his pleasure is, that it should be increased, when we come amongst men worthy and fit to receive this celestial Manna of honest literature: in which number, because that in this time (as I do already very plainly perceive,) thou holdest the first rank, I give thee notice, that at all houres thou shalt finde me ready to condescend to every one of thy requests, according to my poor ability: although I ought rather to learn of thee, then thou of me, but, as thou hast protested, we will conferre of these doubts together, and will seek out the resolution, even unto the bottom of that undrainable Well, where Heraclitus sayes the truth lies hidden: and I do highly commend the manner of arguing which thou hast proposed, to wit, by signes without speaking; for by this means thou and I shall understand one another well enough, and yet shall be free from this clapping of hands, which these blockish Sophisters make, when any of the Arguers hath gotten the better of the Argument: Now to morrow I will not faile to meet thee at the place and houre that thou hast appointed, but let me intreat thee that there be not any strife or uproare between us, and that we seek not the honour and applause of men, but the truth only: to which Thaumast answered, The Lord God maintain you in his favour and grace, and instead of my thankfulnesse to you, poure down his blessings upon you, for that your Highnesse and magnificent greatnesse, hath not disdained to descend to the grant of the request of my poor basenesse, so farewel till to-morrow! Farewel, said Pantagruel. Gentlemen, you that read this present discourse, think not that ever men were more elevated and transported in their thoughts, then all this night were both Thaumast and Pantagruel; for the said Thaumast said to the Keeper of the house of Cluny, where he was lodged, that in all his life he had never known himself so dry, as he was that night. I think (said he) that Pantagruel held me by the throat; Give order, I pray you, that we may have some drink, and see that some fresh water be brought to us, to gargle my palat: on the other side, Pantagruel stretched his wits as high as he could, entring into very deep and serious meditations, and did nothing all that night but dote upon, and turn over the book of Beda, de numeris & signis: Plotins book, de inenarrabilibus; the book of Proclus, de magia; and a rabble of others, so long, that Panurge said unto him,
My Lord, leave all these thoughts and go to bed; for I perceive your spirits to be so troubled by a too intensive bending of them, that you may easily fall into some Quotidian fever with this so excessive thinking and plodding: but, having first drunk five and twenty or thirty good draughts, retire your self and sleep your fill: for in the morning I will argue against, and answer my master the Englishman; and if I drive him not ad metam non loqui, then call me Knave: Yea, but (said he) my friend Panurge, he is marvellously learned, how wilt thou be able to answer him? Very well, (answered Panurge) I pray you talk no more of it, but let me alone; is any man so learned as the devils are? No, indeed (said Pantagruel,) without Gods especial grace: Yet for all that (said Panurge) I have argued against them, gravelled and blanked them in disputation, and laid them so squat upon their tailes, that I have made them look like Monkies; therefore be assured, that to morrow I will make this vain-glorious Englishman to skite vineger before all the world. So Panurge spent the night with tipling amongst the Pages, and played away all the points of his breeches at primes secundus, and at peck point, in French called Lavergette. Yet when the condescended on time was come, he failed not to conduct his Master Pantagruel to the appointed place, unto which (beleeve me) there was neither great nor small in Paris but came, thinking with themselves that this devilfish Pantagruel, who had overthrown and vanquished in dispute all these doting fresh-water Sophisters, would now get full payment and be tickled to some purpose; for this Englishman is a terrible bustler and horrible coyle-keeper, we will see who will be Conquerour, for he never met with his match before.
Thus all being assembled, Thaumast stayed for them, and then when Pantagruel and Panurge came into the Hall, all the Schoolboyes, Professors of Arts, Senior-Sophisters, and Batchelors began to clap their hands, as their scurvie custome is. But Pantagruel cried out with a loud voice, as if it had been the sound of a double cannon, saying, Peace, with a devil to you, peace: by Gyou rogues, if you trouble me here, I will cut off the heads of every one of you: at which words they remained all daunted and astonished, like so many ducks, and durst not do so much as cough, although they had swallowed fifteen pounds of feathers: withal they grew so dry with this only voice, that they laid out their tongues a full half foot beyond their mouthed as if Pantagruel had salted all their throats. Then began Panurge to speak, saying to the Englishman, Sir, are you come hither to dispute contentiously in those Propositions you have set down, or, otherwayes but to learn and know the truth? To which answered Thaumast, Sir, no other thing brought me hither but the great desire I had to learn, and to know that of which I have doubted all my life long, and have neither found book nor man able to content me in the resolution of those doubts which I have proposed: and as for disputing contentiously, I will not do it, for it is too base a thing, and therefore leave it to those sottish Sophisters, who in their disputes do not search for the truth, but for contradiction only and debate. Then said Panurge, if I who am but a mean and inconsiderable disciple of my Master my Lord Pantagruel, content and satisfie you in all and every thing, it were a thing below my said Master, wherewith to trouble him: therefore is it fitter that he be Chair-man, and sit as a Judge and Moderator of our discourse and purpose, and give you satisfaction in many things, wherein perhaps I shall be wanting to your expectation. Truly (said Thaumast) it is very well said: begin then. Now you must note that Panurge had set at the end of his long Codpiece a pretty tuft of red silk, as also of white, green and blew, and within it had put a faire orange.
Host Panurge put to a Non-plus the Englishman, that argued by signes.
EVERY body then taking heed, and hearkening with great silence, the Englishman lift up on high into the aire his two hands severally, Lunching in all the tops of his fingers together after the manner which (a la chinonnese) they call the hens arse, and struck the one hand on the other by the nailes foure several times: then he opening them, struck the one with the flat of the other, till it yielded a clashing noise, and that only once: again in joyning them as before he struck twice, and afterwards foure times in opening them; then did he lay them joyned, and extended the one towards the other, as if he had been devoutly to send up his prayers unto God. Panurge suddenly lifted up in the aire his right hand, and put the thumb thereof into the nostril of the same side, holding his foure fingers straight out, and closed orderly in a parallel line to the point of his nose, shutting the left eye wholly, and making the other wink with a profound depression of the eye-brows and eyelids. Then lifted he up his left hand, with hard wringing and stretching forth his foure fingers, and elevating his thumb, which he held in a line directly correspondent to the situation of his right hand, with the distance of a cubit and a halfe between them. This done, in the same forme he abased towards the ground, both the one and the other hand; Lastly, he held them in the midst, as aiming right at the English mans nose: And if Mercurie, said the English man: there Pan urge interrupted him, and said, You have spoken, Mask.
Then made the English man this signe, his left hand all open he lifted up into the airy then instantly shut into his fist the foure fingers thereof, and his thumb extended at length he placed upon the gristle of his nose; Presently after, he lifted up his right hand all open, and all open abased and bent it downwards, putting the thumb thereof in the very place where the little finger of the left hand did close in the fist, and the foure right hand fingers he softly moved in the aire: then contrarily he did with the right hand what he had done with the left, and with the left what he had done with the right.
Panurge, being not a whit amazed at this, drew out into the aire his Trismegist Codpiece with the left hand, and with his right drew forth a trunchion of a white oxe-rib, and two pieces of wood of a like forme, one of black eben, and the other of incarnation brasil, and put them betwixt the fingers of that hand in good symmetric; then knocking them together, made such a noise as the Lepers of Britanie use to do with their clappering clickets, yet better resounding, and farre more harmonious; and with his tongue contracted in his mouth, did very merrily warble it, alwayes looking fixedly upon the English man. The Divines, Physicians and Chirurgions, that were there, thought that by this signs he would have inferred that the English man was a Leper: the Counsellors, Lawyers and Decretalists conceived, that by doing this he would have concluded some kinds of mortal felicity to consist in Leprosie, as the Lord maintained heretofore.
The English man for all this was nothing daunted, but holding up his two hands in the airy kept them in such forms, that he closed the three master-fingers in his fist, and passing his thumbs through his indical, or foremost and middle fingers, his auricularie or little fingers remained extended and stretched out, and so presented he them to Panurge; then joyned he them so, that the right thumb touched the left, and the left little finger touched the right. Hereat Panache, without speaking one word, lift up his hands and made this signe.
He put the nails of the forefinger of his left hand, to the naile of the thumb of the same, making in the middle of the distance as it were a buckle, and of his right hand shut up all the fingers into his fist, except the forefinger, which he often thrust in and out through the said two others of the left hand: then stretched he out the forefinger, and middle finger or medical of his right hand, holding them asunder as much as he could, and thrusting them towards Thaumast Then did he put the thumb of his b left hand upon the corner of his left eye, stretching out all | his hand like the wing of a bird or the finne of a fish, and moving it very daintily this way and that way, he did as much with his right hand upon the corner of his right eye. Thaumast began then to waxe somewhat pale, and to tremble, and made him this signe.
With the middle finger of his right hand, he struck against the muscle of the palms or pulp, which is under the thumb: then put he the forefinger of the right hand in the like buckle of the left, but he put it under and not over, as Panurge did. Then Panurge knocked one hand against another, and blowed in his palme, and put again the forefinger of his right hand into the overture or mouth of the left, pulling it often in and out; then held he out his chinne, most intentively looking upon Thaumast The people there which understood nothing in the other signes, knew very well what therein he demanded (without speaking a word to Thaumast,) What do you mean by that? In effect, Thaumast then began to sweat great drops, and seemed to all the Spectators a man strangely ravished in high contemplation. Then he bethought himself, and put all the nails of his left hand against those of his right, opening his fingers as if they had been semicircles, and with this sign lift up his hands as high as he could. Whereupon Panurge presently put the thumb of his right hand under his jawes, and the little finger thereof in the mouth of the left hand, and in this posture made his teeth to sound very melodiously, the upper against the lower. With this Thaumast, with great toile and vexation of spirit rose up, but in rising let a great bakers fart, for the bran came after, and, pissing withal very strong vinegar, stunk like all the devils in hell: the company began to stop their noses; for he had conskited himself with meer anguish and perplexity. Then lifted he up his right hand, Lunching it in such sort, that he brought the ends of all his fingers to meet together, and his left hand he laid flat upon his breast: whereat Panurge drew out his long Codpiece with his tuffe, and stretched it forth a cubit and a half, holding it in the aire with his right hand, and with his left took out his orange, and, casting it up into the aire seven times, at the eight he hid it in the fist of his right hand, holding it steadily up on high, and then began to shake his faire Codpiece, showing it to Thaumast
After that Thaumast began to puffe up his two cheeks like a player on a bagpipe, and blew as if he had been to puffe up a pigs bladder; whereupon Panurge put one finger of his left hand in his nockandrow, by some called St. Patricks hole, and with his mouth suck't in the airy in such a manner as when one eats oysters in the shell, or when we sup up our broth; this done, he opened his mouth somewhat, and struck his right hand flat upon it, making therewith a great and a deep sound, as if it came from the superficies of the midriffs through the trachiartere or pipe of the lungs, and this he did for sixteen times; but Thaumast did alwayes keep blowing like a goose. Then Panurge put the forefinger of his right hand into his mouth, pressing it very hard to the muscles thereof; then he drew it out, and withal made a great noise, as when little boyes shoot pellets out of the potcanons made of the hollow sticks of the branch of an auldertree, and he did it nine times.
Then Thaumast cried out, Ha, my Masters, a great secret; with this he put in his hand up to the elbow; then drew out a dagger that he had, holding it by the point downwards; whereat Panurge took his long Codpiece, and shook it as hard as he could against his thighes; then put his two hands intwined in manner of a combo upon his head, laying out his tongue as farre as he was able, and turning his eyes in his head, like a goat that is ready to die. Ha, I understand (said Thaumast) but what? making such a signe, that he put the haft of his dagger against his breast, and upon the point thereof the flat of his hand, turning in a little the ends of his fingers; whereat Panurge held down his head on the left side, and put his middle finger into his right care, holding up his thumb bolt upright; then he crost his two armes upon his breast, and coughed five times, and at the fifth time he struck his right foot against the ground: then he lift up his left army and closing all his fingers into his fist, held his thumbe against his forehead, striking with his right hand six times against his breast. But Thaumast, as not content therewith, put the thumb of his left hand upon the top of his nose, shutting the rest of his said hand, whereupon Panurge set his two Masterfingers upon each side of his mouth, drawing it as much as he was able, and widening it so, that he showed all his teeth: and with his two thumbs pluck't down his two eye-lids very low, making therewith a very ill-favour'd countenance, as it seemed to the company.
How Thaumast relateth the vertues, and knowledge of Panurge.
THEN Thaumast rose up, and putting off his cap, did very kindly thank the said Pan urge, and with a loud voice said unto all the people that were there, My Lords, Gentlemen and others, at this time may I to some good purpose speak that Evangelical word, Et ecce plus quàm Salomon hîc: You have here in your presence an incomparable treasure, that is, my Lord Pantagruel, whose great renown hath brought me hither, out of the very heart of England, to conferre with him about the insoluble problemes, both in Magick, Alchymie, the Caballe, Geomancie, Astrologie and Philosophic, which I had in my minds: but at present I am angry, even with fame it self, which I think was envious to him, for that it did not declare the thousandth part of the worth that indeed is in him: You have seen how his disciple only hath satisfied me, and hath told me more than I asked of him: besides, he hath opened unto me, and resolved other inestimable doubts, wherein I can assure you he hath to me discovered the very true Well, Fountain, and Abysse of the Encyclopedeia of learning; yea in such a sort, that I did not think I should ever have found a man that could have made his skill appear, in so much as the first elements of that concerning which we disputed by signed without speaking either word or half word. But in fine, I will reduce into writing that which we have said and concluded, that the world may not take them to be fooleries, and will thereafter cause them to be printed, that every one may learne as I have done. Judge then what the Master had been able to say, seeing the disciple hath done so valiantly; for, Non est discipulus super Magistrum. Howsoever God be praised, and I do very humbly thank you, for the honour that you have done us at this Act: God reward you for it eternally: the like thanks gave Pantagruel to all the company, and going from thence, he carried Thaumast to dinner with him, and beleeve that they drank as much as their skins could hold, or, as the phrase is, with unbuttoned bellies, (for in that age they made fast their bellies with buttons, as we do now the colars of our doublets or jerkins,) even till they neither knew where they were, nor whence they came. Blessed Lady, how they did carouse it, and pluck (as we say) at the Kids leather: and flaggons to trot, and they to tooth Draw, give (page) some wine here, reach hither, fill with a devil, so! There was not one but did drink five and twenty or thirty pipes, can you tell how? even Sicut terra sine aqua; for the weather was hot, and besides, that they were very dry. In matter of the exposition of the Propositions set down by Thaumast: and the signification of the signes which they used in their disputation, I would have set them down for you according to their own relation: but I have been told that Thaumast made a great book of it imprinted at London, wherein he hath set down all without omitting any thing, and therefore at this time I do passe by it.