Pantagruel/Chapter XII

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How the Lord of Suckfist pleaded before Pantagruel

Then began the Lord Suckfist in manner as followeth. My lord, and you my masters, if the iniquity of men were as easily seen in categorical judgment as we can discern flies in a milkpot, the world's four oxen had not been so eaten up with rats, nor had so many ears upon the earth been nibbled away so scurvily. For although all that my adversary hath spoken be of a very soft and downy truth, in so much as concerns the letter and history of the factum, yet nevertheless the crafty slights, cunning subtleties, sly cozenages, and little troubling entanglements are hid under the rosepot, the common cloak and cover of all fraudulent deceits.

Should I endure that, when I am eating my pottage equal with the best, and that without either thinking or speaking any manner of ill, they rudely come to vex, trouble, and perplex my brains with that antique proverb which saith,

  Who in his pottage-eating drinks will not,
  When he is dead and buried, see one jot.

And, good lady, how many great captains have we seen in the day of battle, when in open field the sacrament was distributed in luncheons of the sanctified bread of the confraternity, the more honestly to nod their heads, play on the lute, and crack with their tails, to make pretty little platform leaps in keeping level by the ground? But now the world is unshackled from the corners of the packs of Leicester. One flies out lewdly and becomes debauched; another, likewise, five, four, and two, and that at such random that, if the court take not some course therein, it will make as bad a season in matter of gleaning this year as ever it made, or it will make goblets. If any poor creature go to the stoves to illuminate his muzzle with a cowsherd or to buy winter-boots, and that the sergeants passing by, or those of the watch, happen to receive the decoction of a clyster or the fecal matter of a close-stool upon their rustling-wrangling-clutter-keeping masterships, should any because of that make bold to clip the shillings and testers and fry the wooden dishes? Sometimes, when we think one thing, God does another; and when the sun is wholly set all beasts are in the shade. Let me never be believed again, if I do not gallantly prove it by several people who have seen the light of the day.

In the year thirty and six, buying a Dutch curtail, which was a middle-sized horse, both high and short, of a wool good enough and dyed in grain, as the goldsmiths assured me, although the notary put an &c. in it, I told really that I was not a clerk of so much learning as to snatch at the moon with my teeth; but, as for the butter-firkin where Vulcanian deeds and evidences were sealed, the rumour was, and the report thereof went current, that salt-beef will make one find the way to the wine without a candle, though it were hid in the bottom of a collier's sack, and that with his drawers on he were mounted on a barbed horse furnished with a fronstal, and such arms, thighs, and leg-pieces as are requisite for the well frying and broiling of a swaggering sauciness. Here is a sheep's head, and it is well they make a proverb of this, that it is good to see black cows in burnt wood when one attains to the enjoyment of his love. I had a consultation upon this point with my masters the clerks, who for resolution concluded in frisesomorum that there is nothing like to mowing in the summer, and sweeping clean away in water, well garnished with paper, ink, pens, and penknives, of Lyons upon the river of Rhone, dolopym dolopof, tarabin tarabas, tut, prut, pish; for, incontinently after that armour begins to smell of garlic, the rust will go near to eat the liver, not of him that wears it, and then do they nothing else but withstand others' courses, and wryneckedly set up their bristles 'gainst one another, in lightly passing over their afternoon's sleep, and this is that which maketh salt so dear. My lords, believe not when the said good woman had with birdlime caught the shoveler fowl, the better before a sergeant's witness to deliver the younger son's portion to him, that the sheep's pluck or hog's haslet did dodge and shrink back in the usurers' purses, or that there could be anything better to preserve one from the cannibals than to take a rope of onions, knit with three hundred turnips, and a little of a calf's chaldern of the best allay that the alchemists have provided, (and) that they daub and do over with clay, as also calcinate and burn to dust these pantoufles, muff in muff out, mouflin mouflard, with the fine sauce of the juice of the rabble rout, whilst they hide themselves in some petty mouldwarphole, saving always the little slices of bacon. Now, if the dice will not favour you with any other throw but ambes-ace and the chance of three at the great end, mark well the ace, then take me your dame, settle her in a corner of the bed, and whisk me her up drilletrille, there, there, toureloura la la; which when you have done, take a hearty draught of the best, despicando grenovillibus, in despite of the frogs, whose fair coarse bebuskined stockings shall be set apart for the little green geese or mewed goslings, which, fattened in a coop, take delight to sport themselves at the wagtail game, waiting for the beating of the metal and heating of the wax by the slavering drivellers of consolation.

Very true it is, that the four oxen which are in debate, and whereof mention was made, were somewhat short in memory. Nevertheless, to understand the game aright, they feared neither the cormorant nor mallard of Savoy, which put the good people of my country in great hope that their children some time should become very skilful in algorism. Therefore is it, that by a law rubric and special sentence thereof, that we cannot fail to take the wolf if we make our hedges higher than the windmill, whereof somewhat was spoken by the plaintiff. But the great devil did envy it, and by that means put the High Dutches far behind, who played the devils in swilling down and tippling at the good liquor, trink, mein herr, trink, trink, by two of my table-men in the corner-point I have gained the lurch. For it is not probable, nor is there any appearance of truth in this saying, that at Paris upon a little bridge the hen is proportionable, and were they as copped and high-crested as marsh whoops, if veritably they did not sacrifice the printer's pumpet-balls at Moreb, with a new edge set upon them by text letters or those of a swift-writing hand, it is all one to me, so that the headband of the book breed not moths or worms in it. And put the case that, at the coupling together of the buckhounds, the little puppies shall have waxed proud before the notary could have given an account of the serving of his writ by the cabalistic art, it will necessarily follow, under correction of the better judgment of the court, that six acres of meadow ground of the greatest breadth will make three butts of fine ink, without paying ready money; considering that, at the funeral of King Charles, we might have had the fathom in open market for one and two, that is, deuce ace. This I may affirm with a safe conscience, upon my oath of wool.

And I see ordinarily in all good bagpipes, that, when they go to the counterfeiting of the chirping of small birds, by swinging a broom three times about a chimney, and putting his name upon record, they do nothing but bend a crossbow backwards, and wind a horn, if perhaps it be too hot, and that, by making it fast to a rope he was to draw, immediately after the sight of the letters, the cows were restored to him. Such another sentence after the homeliest manner was pronounced in the seventeenth year, because of the bad government of Louzefougarouse, whereunto it may please the court to have regard. I desire to be rightly understood; for truly, I say not but that in all equity, and with an upright conscience, those may very well be dispossessed who drink holy water as one would do a weaver's shuttle, whereof suppositories are made to those that will not resign, but on the terms of ell and tell and giving of one thing for another. Tunc, my lords, quid juris pro minoribus? For the common custom of the Salic law is such, that the first incendiary or firebrand of sedition that flays the cow and wipes his nose in a full concert of music without blowing in the cobbler's stitches, should in the time of the nightmare sublimate the penury of his member by moss gathered when people are like to founder themselves at the mess at midnight, to give the estrapade to these white wines of Anjou that do the fear of the leg in lifting it by horsemen called the gambetta, and that neck to neck after the fashion of Brittany, concluding as before with costs, damages, and interests.

After that the Lord of Suckfist had ended, Pantagruel said to the Lord of Kissbreech, My friend, have you a mind to make any reply to what is said? No, my lord, answered Kissbreech; for I have spoke all I intended, and nothing but the truth. Therefore, put an end for God's sake to our difference, for we are here at great charge.