The Fifth Book/Chapter XXI

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How the Queen passed her time after dinner

When we had dined, a chachanin led us into the queen's hall, and there we saw how, after dinner, with the ladies and the princes of her court, she used to sift, searce, bolt, range, and pass away time with a fine large white and blue silk sieve. We also perceived how they revived ancient sports, diverting themselves together at--

1. Cordax. 6. Phrygia. 11. Monogas.
2. Emmelia. 7. Thracia. 12. Terminalia.
3. Sicinnia. 8. Calabrisme. 13. Floralia.
4. Jambics. 9. Molossia. 14. Pyrrhice.
5. Persica. 10. Cernophorum. 15. (Nicatism.)
            And a thousand other dances.

Afterwards she gave orders that they should show us the apartments and curiosities in her palace. Accordingly we saw there such new, strange, and wonderful things, that I am still ravished in admiration every time I think of't. However, nothing surprised us more than what was done by the gentlemen of her household, abstractors, parazons, nebidins, spodizators, and others, who freely and without the least dissembling told us that the queen their mistress did all impossible things, and cured men of incurable diseases; and they, her officers, used to do the rest.

I saw there a young parazon cure many of the new consumption, I mean the pox, though they were never so peppered. Had it been the rankest Roan ague (Anglice, the Covent-garden gout), 'twas all one to him; touching only their dentiform vertebrae thrice with a piece of a wooden shoe, he made them as wholesome as so many sucking-pigs.

Another did thoroughly cure folks of dropsies, tympanies, ascites, and hyposarcides, striking them on the belly nine times with a Tenedian hatchet, without any solution of the continuum.

Another cured all manner of fevers and agues on the spot, only with hanging a fox-tail on the left side of the patient's girdle.

One removed the toothache only with washing thrice the root of the aching tooth with elder-vinegar, and letting it dry half-an-hour in the sun.

Another the gout, whether hot or cold, natural or accidental, by barely making the gouty person shut his mouth and open his eyes.

I saw another ease nine gentlemen of St. Francis's distemper ('A consumption in the pocket, or want of money; those of St. Francis's order must carry none about 'em.'--Motteux.) in a very short space of time, having clapped a rope about their necks, at the end of which hung a box with ten thousand gold crowns in't.

One with a wonderful engine threw the houses out at the windows, by which means they were purged of all pestilential air.

Another cured all the three kinds of hectics, the tabid, atrophes, and emaciated, without bathing, Tabian milk, dropax, alias depilatory, or other such medicaments, only turning the consumptive for three months into monks; and he assured me that if they did not grow fat and plump in a monastic way of living, they never would be fattened in this world, either by nature or by art.

I saw another surrounded with a crowd of two sorts of women. Some were young, quaint, clever, neat, pretty, juicy, tight, brisk, buxom, proper, kind-hearted, and as right as my leg, to any man's thinking. The rest were old, weather-beaten, over-ridden, toothless, blear-eyed, tough, wrinkled, shrivelled, tawny, mouldy, phthisicky, decrepit hags, beldams, and walking carcasses. We were told that his office was to cast anew those she-pieces of antiquity, and make them such as the pretty creatures whom we saw, who had been made young again that day, recovering at once the beauty, shape, size, and disposition which they enjoyed at sixteen; except their heels, that were now much shorter than in their former youth.

This made them yet more apt to fall backwards whenever any man happened to touch 'em, than they had been before. As for their counterparts, the old mother-scratch-tobies, they most devoutly waited for the blessed hour when the batch that was in the oven was to be drawn, that they might have their turns, and in a mighty haste they were pulling and hauling the man like mad, telling him that 'tis the most grievous and intolerable thing in nature for the tail to be on fire and the head to scare away those who should quench it.

The officer had his hands full, never wanting patients; neither did his place bring him in little, you may swear. Pantagruel asked him whether he could also make old men young again. He said he could not. But the way to make them new men was to get 'em to cohabit with a new-cast female; for this they caught that fifth kind of crinckams, which some call pellade, in Greek, ophiasis, that makes them cast off their old hair and skin, just as the serpents do, and thus their youth is renewed like the Arabian phoenix's. This is the true fountain of youth, for there the old and decrepit become young, active, and lusty.

Just so, as Euripides tells us, Iolaus was transmogrified; and thus Phaon, for whom kind-hearted Sappho run wild, grew young again, for Venus's use; so Tithon by Aurora's means; so Aeson by Medea, and Jason also, who, if you'll believe Pherecides and Simonides, was new-vamped and dyed by that witch; and so were the nurses of jolly Bacchus, and their husbands, as Aeschylus relates.