The Fourth Book/Chapter II

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How Pantagruel bought many rarities in the island of Medamothy

That day and the two following they neither discovered land nor anything new; for they had formerly sailed that way: but on the fourth they made an island called Medamothy, of a fine and delightful prospect, by reason of the vast number of lighthouses and high marble towers in its circuit, which is not less than that of Canada (sic). Pantagruel, inquiring who governed there, heard that it was King Philophanes, absent at that time upon account of the marriage of his brother Philotheamon with the infanta of the kingdom of Engys.

Hearing this, he went ashore in the harbour, and while every ship's crew watered, passed his time in viewing divers pictures, pieces of tapestry, animals, fishes, birds, and other exotic and foreign merchandises, which were along the walks of the mole and in the markets of the port. For it was the third day of the great and famous fair of the place, to which the chief merchants of Africa and Asia resorted. Out of these Friar John bought him two rare pictures; in one of which the face of a man that brings in an appeal was drawn to the life; and in the other a servant that wants a master, with every needful particular, action, countenance, look, gait, feature, and deportment, being an original by Master Charles Charmois, principal painter to King Megistus; and he paid for them in the court fashion, with conge and grimace. Panurge bought a large picture, copied and done from the needle-work formerly wrought by Philomela, showing to her sister Progne how her brother-in-law Tereus had by force handselled her copyhold, and then cut out her tongue that she might not (as women will) tell tales. I vow and swear by the handle of my paper lantern that it was a gallant, a mirific, nay, a most admirable piece. Nor do you think, I pray you, that in it was the picture of a man playing the beast with two backs with a female; this had been too silly and gross: no, no; it was another-guise thing, and much plainer. You may, if you please, see it at Theleme, on the left hand as you go into the high gallery. Epistemon bought another, wherein were painted to the life the ideas of Plato and the atoms of Epicurus. Rhizotome purchased another, wherein Echo was drawn to the life. Pantagruel caused to be bought, by Gymnast, the life and deeds of Achilles, in seventy-eight pieces of tapestry, four fathom long, and three fathom broad, all of Phrygian silk, embossed with gold and silver; the work beginning at the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis, continuing to the birth of Achilles; his youth, described by Statius Papinius; his warlike achievements, celebrated by Homer; his death and obsequies, written by Ovid and Quintus Calaber; and ending at the appearance of his ghost, and Polyxena's sacrifice, rehearsed by Euripides.

He also caused to be bought three fine young unicorns; one of them a male of a chestnut colour, and two grey dappled females; also a tarand, whom he bought of a Scythian of the Gelones' country.

A tarand is an animal as big as a bullock, having a head like a stag, or a little bigger, two stately horns with large branches, cloven feet, hair long like that of a furred Muscovite, I mean a bear, and a skin almost as hard as steel armour. The Scythian said that there are but few tarands to be found in Scythia, because it varieth its colour according to the diversity of the places where it grazes and abides, and represents the colour of the grass, plants, trees, shrubs, flowers, meadows, rocks, and generally of all things near which it comes. It hath this common with the sea-pulp, or polypus, with the thoes, with the wolves of India, and with the chameleon, which is a kind of a lizard so wonderful that Democritus hath written a whole book of its figure and anatomy, as also of its virtue and propriety in magic. This I can affirm, that I have seen it change its colour, not only at the approach of things that have a colour, but by its own voluntary impulse, according to its fear or other affections; as, for example, upon a green carpet I have certainly seen it become green; but having remained there some time, it turned yellow, blue, tanned, and purple in course, in the same manner as you see a turkey-cock's comb change colour according to its passions. But what we find most surprising in this tarand is, that not only its face and skin, but also its hair could take whatever colour was about it. Near Panurge, with his kersey coat, its hair used to turn grey; near Pantagruel, with his scarlet mantle, its hair and skin grew red; near the pilot, dressed after the fashion of the Isiacs of Anubis in Egypt, its hair seemed all white, which two last colours the chameleons cannot borrow.

When the creature was free from any fear or affection, the colour of its hair was just such as you see that of the asses of Meung.