Pantagruel/Chapter XXX

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Pantagruel by François Rabelais, translated by Thomas Urquhart and Peter Antony Motteux
~ How Epistemon, who had his head cut off, was finely healed by Panurge, and of the news which he brought from the devils, and of the damned people in hell


How Epistemon, who had his head cut off, was finely healed by Panurge, and of the news which he brought from the devils, and of the damned people in hell

This gigantal victory being ended, Pantagruel withdrew himself to the place of the flagons, and called for Panurge and the rest, who came unto him safe and sound, except Eusthenes, whom one of the giants had scratched a little in the face whilst he was about the cutting of his throat, and Epistemon, who appeared not at all. Whereat Pantagruel was so aggrieved that he would have killed himself. But Panurge said unto him, Nay, sir, stay a while, and we will search for him amongst the dead, and find out the truth of all. Thus as they went seeking after him, they found him stark dead, with his head between his arms all bloody. Then Eusthenes cried out, Ah, cruel death! hast thou taken from me the perfectest amongst men? At which words Pantagruel rose up with the greatest grief that ever any man did see, and said to Panurge, Ha, my friend! the prophecy of your two glasses and the javelin staff was a great deal too deceitful. But Panurge answered, My dear bullies all, weep not one drop more, for, he being yet all hot, I will make him as sound as ever he was. In saying this, he took the head and held it warm foregainst his codpiece, that the wind might not enter into it. Eusthenes and Carpalin carried the body to the place where they had banqueted, not out of any hope that ever he would recover, but that Pantagruel might see it.

Nevertheless Panurge gave him very good comfort, saying, If I do not heal him, I will be content to lose my head, which is a fool's wager. Leave off, therefore, crying, and help me. Then cleansed he his neck very well with pure white wine, and, after that, took his head, and into it synapised some powder of diamerdis, which he always carried about him in one of his bags. Afterwards he anointed it with I know not what ointment, and set it on very just, vein against vein, sinew against sinew, and spondyle against spondyle, that he might not be wry-necked--for such people he mortally hated. This done, he gave it round about some fifteen or sixteen stitches with a needle that it might not fall off again; then, on all sides and everywhere, he put a little ointment on it, which he called resuscitative.

Suddenly Epistemon began to breathe, then opened his eyes, yawned, sneezed, and afterwards let a great household fart. Whereupon Panurge said, Now, certainly, he is healed,--and therefore gave him to drink a large full glass of strong white wine, with a sugared toast. In this fashion was Epistemon finely healed, only that he was somewhat hoarse for above three weeks together, and had a dry cough of which he could not be rid but by the force of continual drinking. And now he began to speak, and said that he had seen the devil, had spoken with Lucifer familiarly, and had been very merry in hell and in the Elysian fields, affirming very seriously before them all that the devils were boon companions and merry fellows. But, in respect of the damned, he said he was very sorry that Panurge had so soon called him back into this world again; for, said he, I took wonderful delight to see them. How so? said Pantagruel. Because they do not use them there, said Epistemon, so badly as you think they do. Their estate and condition of living is but only changed after a very strange manner; for I saw Alexander the Great there amending and patching on clouts upon old breeches and stockings, whereby he got but a very poor living.

Xerxes was a crier of mustard.
Romulus, a salter and patcher of pattens.
Numa, a nailsmith.
Tarquin, a porter.
Piso, a clownish swain.
Sylla, a ferryman.
Cyrus, a cowherd.
Themistocles, a glass-maker.
Epaminondas, a maker of mirrors or looking-glasses.
Brutus and Cassius, surveyors or measurers of land.
Demosthenes, a vine-dresser.
Cicero, a fire-kindler.
Fabius, a threader of beads.
Artaxerxes, a rope-maker.
Aeneas, a miller.
Achilles was a scaldpated maker of hay-bundles.
Agamemnon, a lick-box.
Ulysses, a hay-mower.
Nestor, a door-keeper or forester.
Darius, a gold-finder or jakes-farmer.
Ancus Martius, a ship-trimmer.
Camillus, a foot-post.
Marcellus, a sheller of beans.
Drusus, a taker of money at the doors of playhouses.
Scipio Africanus, a crier of lee in a wooden slipper.
Asdrubal, a lantern-maker.
Hannibal, a kettlemaker and seller of eggshells.
Priamus, a seller of old clouts.
Lancelot of the Lake was a flayer of dead horses.

All the Knights of the Round Table were poor day-labourers, employed to row over the rivers of Cocytus, Phlegeton, Styx, Acheron, and Lethe, when my lords the devils had a mind to recreate themselves upon the water, as in the like occasion are hired the boatmen at Lyons, the gondoliers of Venice, and oars at London. But with this difference, that these poor knights have only for their fare a bob or flirt on the nose, and in the evening a morsel of coarse mouldy bread.

Trajan was a fisher of frogs.
Antoninus, a lackey.
Commodus, a jet-maker.
Pertinax, a peeler of walnuts.
Lucullus, a maker of rattles and hawks'-bells.
Justinian, a pedlar.
Hector, a snap-sauce scullion.
Paris was a poor beggar.
Cambyses, a mule-driver.

Nero, a base blind fiddler, or player on that instrument which is called a windbroach. Fierabras was his serving-man, who did him a thousand mischievous tricks, and would make him eat of the brown bread and drink of the turned wine when himself did both eat and drink of the best.

Julius Caesar and Pompey were boat-wrights and tighters of ships.

Valentine and Orson did serve in the stoves of hell, and were sweat-rubbers in hot houses.

Giglan and Govian (Gauvin) were poor swineherds.

Geoffrey with the great tooth was a tinder-maker and seller of matches.

Godfrey de Bouillon, a hood-maker.
Jason was a bracelet-maker.
Don Pietro de Castille, a carrier of indulgences.
Morgan, a beer-brewer.
Huon of Bordeaux, a hooper of barrels.
Pyrrhus, a kitchen-scullion.
Antiochus, a chimney-sweeper.
Octavian, a scraper of parchment.
Nerva, a mariner.

Pope Julius was a crier of pudding-pies, but he left off wearing there his
great buggerly beard.

John of Paris was a greaser of boots.
Arthur of Britain, an ungreaser of caps.
Perce-Forest, a carrier of faggots.
Pope Boniface the Eighth, a scummer of pots.
Pope Nicholas the Third, a maker of paper.
Pope Alexander, a ratcatcher.
Pope Sixtus, an anointer of those that have the pox.

What, said Pantagruel, have they the pox there too? Surely, said Epistemon, I never saw so many: there are there, I think, above a hundred millions; for believe, that those who have not had the pox in this world must have it in the other.

Cotsbody, said Panurge, then I am free; for I have been as far as the hole of Gibraltar, reached unto the outmost bounds of Hercules, and gathered of the ripest.

Ogier the Dane was a furbisher of armour.
The King Tigranes, a mender of thatched houses.
Galien Restored, a taker of moldwarps.
The four sons of Aymon were all toothdrawers.
Pope Calixtus was a barber of a woman's sine qua non.
Pope Urban, a bacon-picker.
Melusina was a kitchen drudge-wench.
Matabrune, a laundress.
Cleopatra, a crier of onions.
Helen, a broker for chambermaids.
Semiramis, the beggars' lice-killer.
Dido did sell mushrooms.
Penthesilea sold cresses.
Lucretia was an alehouse-keeper.
Hortensia, a spinstress.
Livia, a grater of verdigris.

After this manner, those that had been great lords and ladies here, got but a poor scurvy wretched living there below. And, on the contrary, the philosophers and others, who in this world had been altogether indigent and wanting, were great lords there in their turn. I saw Diogenes there strut it out most pompously, and in great magnificence, with a rich purple gown on him, and a golden sceptre in his right hand. And, which is more, he would now and then make Alexander the Great mad, so enormously would he abuse him when he had not well patched his breeches; for he used to pay his skin with sound bastinadoes. I saw Epictetus there, most gallantly apparelled after the French fashion, sitting under a pleasant arbour, with store of handsome gentlewomen, frolicking, drinking, dancing, and making good cheer, with abundance of crowns of the sun. Above the lattice were written these verses for his device:

  To leap and dance, to sport and play,
    And drink good wine both white and brown,
  Or nothing else do all the day
    But tell bags full of many a crown.

When he saw me, he invited me to drink with him very courteously, and I being willing to be entreated, we tippled and chopined together most theologically. In the meantime came Cyrus to beg one farthing of him for the honour of Mercury, therewith to buy a few onions for his supper. No, no, said Epictetus, I do not use in my almsgiving to bestow farthings. Hold, thou varlet, there's a crown for thee; be an honest man. Cyrus was exceeding glad to have met with such a booty; but the other poor rogues, the kings that are there below, as Alexander, Darius, and others, stole it away from him by night. I saw Pathelin, the treasurer of Rhadamanthus, who, in cheapening the pudding-pies that Pope Julius cried, asked him how much a dozen. Three blanks, said the Pope. Nay, said Pathelin, three blows with a cudgel. Lay them down here, you rascal, and go fetch more. The poor Pope went away weeping, who, when he came to his master, the pie-maker, told him that they had taken away his pudding-pies. Whereupon his master gave him such a sound lash with an eel-skin, that his own would have been worth nothing to make bag-pipe-bags of. I saw Master John Le Maire there personate the Pope in such fashion that he made all the poor kings and popes of this world kiss his feet, and, taking great state upon him, gave them his benediction, saying, Get the pardons, rogues, get the pardons; they are good cheap. I absolve you of bread and pottage, and dispense with you to be never good for anything. Then, calling Caillet and Triboulet to him, he spoke these words, My lords the cardinals, despatch their bulls, to wit, to each of them a blow with a cudgel upon the reins. Which accordingly was forthwith performed. I heard Master Francis Villon ask Xerxes, How much the mess of mustard? A farthing, said Xerxes. To which the said Villon answered, The pox take thee for a villain! As much of square-eared wheat is not worth half that price, and now thou offerest to enhance the price of victuals. With this he pissed in his pot, as the mustard-makers of Paris used to do. I saw the trained bowman of the bathing tub, known by the name of the Francarcher de Baignolet, who, being one of the trustees of the Inquisition, when he saw Perce-Forest making water against a wall in which was painted the fire of St. Anthony, declared him heretic, and would have caused him to be burnt alive had it not been for Morgant, who, for his proficiat and other small fees, gave him nine tuns of beer.

Well, said Pantagruel, reserve all these fair stories for another time, only tell us how the usurers are there handled. I saw them, said Epistemon, all very busily employed in seeking of rusty pins and old nails in the kennels of the streets, as you see poor wretched rogues do in this world. But the quintal, or hundredweight, of this old ironware is there valued but at the price of a cantle of bread, and yet they have but a very bad despatch and riddance in the sale of it. Thus the poor misers are sometimes three whole weeks without eating one morsel or crumb of bread, and yet work both day and night, looking for the fair to come. Nevertheless, of all this labour, toil, and misery, they reckon nothing, so cursedly active they are in the prosecution of that their base calling, in hopes, at the end of the year, to earn some scurvy penny by it.

Come, said Pantagruel, let us now make ourselves merry one bout, and drink, my lads, I beseech you, for it is very good drinking all this month. Then did they uncase their flagons by heaps and dozens, and with their leaguer-provision made excellent good cheer. But the poor King Anarchus could not all this while settle himself towards any fit of mirth; whereupon Panurge said, Of what trade shall we make my lord the king here, that he may be skilful in the art when he goes thither to sojourn amongst all the devils of hell? Indeed, said Pantagruel, that was well advised of thee. Do with him what thou wilt, I give him to thee. Gramercy, said Panurge, the present is not to be refused, and I love it from you.