The Fourth Book/The Author's Prologue

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The Author's Prologue

Good people, God save and keep you! Where are you? I can't see you: stay--I'll saddle my nose with spectacles--oh, oh! 'twill be fair anon: I see you. Well, you have had a good vintage, they say: this is no bad news to Frank, you may swear. You have got an infallible cure against thirst: rarely performed of you, my friends! You, your wives, children, friends, and families are in as good case as hearts can wish; it is well, it is as I would have it: God be praised for it, and if such be his will, may you long be so. For my part, I am thereabouts, thanks to his blessed goodness; and by the means of a little Pantagruelism (which you know is a certain jollity of mind, pickled in the scorn of fortune), you see me now hale and cheery, as sound as a bell, and ready to drink, if you will. Would you know why I'm thus, good people? I will even give you a positive answer --Such is the Lord's will, which I obey and revere; it being said in his word, in great derision to the physician neglectful of his own health, Physician, heal thyself.

Galen had some knowledge of the Bible, and had conversed with the Christians of his time, as appears lib. 11. De Usu Partium; lib. 2. De Differentiis Pulsuum, cap. 3, and ibid. lib. 3. cap. 2. and lib. De Rerum Affectibus (if it be Galen's). Yet 'twas not for any such veneration of holy writ that he took care of his own health. No, it was for fear of being twitted with the saying so well known among physicians:

  Iatros allon autos elkesi bruon.

  He boasts of healing poor and rich,
  Yet is himself all over itch.

This made him boldly say, that he did not desire to be esteemed a physician, if from his twenty-eighth year to his old age he had not lived in perfect health, except some ephemerous fevers, of which he soon rid himself; yet he was not naturally of the soundest temper, his stomach being evidently bad. Indeed, as he saith, lib. 5, De Sanitate tuenda, that physician will hardly be thought very careful of the health of others who neglects his own. Asclepiades boasted yet more than this; for he said that he had articled with fortune not to be reputed a physician if he could be said to have been sick since he began to practise physic to his latter age, which he reached, lusty in all his members and victorious over fortune; till at last the old gentleman unluckily tumbled down from the top of a certain ill-propped and rotten staircase, and so there was an end of him.

If by some disaster health is fled from your worships to the right or to the left, above or below, before or behind, within or without, far or near, on this side or the other side, wheresoever it be, may you presently, with the help of the Lord, meet with it. Having found it, may you immediately claim it, seize it, and secure it. The law allows it; the king would have it so; nay, you have my advice for it. Neither more nor less than the law-makers of old did fully empower a master to claim and seize his runaway servant wherever he might be found. Odds-bodikins, is it not written and warranted by the ancient customs of this noble, so rich, so flourishing realm of France, that the dead seizes the quick? See what has been declared very lately in that point by that learned, wise, courteous, humane and just civilian, Andrew Tiraqueau, one of the judges in the most honourable court of Parliament at Paris. Health is our life, as Ariphron the Sicyonian wisely has it; without health life is not life, it is not living life: abios bios, bios abiotos. Without health life is only a languishment and an image of death. Therefore, you that want your health, that is to say, that are dead, seize the quick; secure life to yourselves, that is to say, health.

I have this hope in the Lord, that he will hear our supplications, considering with what faith and zeal we pray, and that he will grant this our wish because it is moderate and mean. Mediocrity was held by the ancient sages to be golden, that is to say, precious, praised by all men, and pleasing in all places. Read the sacred Bible, you will find the prayers of those who asked moderately were never unanswered. For example, little dapper Zaccheus, whose body and relics the monks of St. Garlick, near Orleans, boast of having, and nickname him St. Sylvanus; he only wished to see our blessed Saviour near Jerusalem. It was but a small request, and no more than anybody then might pretend to. But alas! he was but low-built; and one of so diminutive a size, among the crowd, could not so much as get a glimpse of him. Well then he struts, stands on tiptoes, bustles, and bestirs his stumps, shoves and makes way, and with much ado clambers up a sycamore. Upon this, the Lord, who knew his sincere affection, presented himself to his sight, and was not only seen by him, but heard also; nay, what is more, he came to his house and blessed his family.

One of the sons of the prophets in Israel felling would near the river Jordan, his hatchet forsook the helve and fell to the bottom of the river; so he prayed to have it again ('twas but a small request, mark ye me), and having a strong faith, he did not throw the hatchet after the helve, as some spirits of contradiction say by way of scandalous blunder, but the helve after the hatchet, as you all properly have it. Presently two great miracles were seen: up springs the hatchet from the bottom of the water, and fixes itself to its old acquaintance the helve. Now had he wished to coach it to heaven in a fiery chariot like Elias, to multiply in seed like Abraham, be as rich as Job, strong as Samson, and beautiful as Absalom, would he have obtained it, d'ye think? I' troth, my friends, I question it very much.

Now I talk of moderate wishes in point of hatchet (but harkee me, be sure you don't forget when we ought to drink), I will tell you what is written among the apologues of wise Aesop the Frenchman. I mean the Phrygian and Trojan, as Max. Planudes makes him; from which people, according to the most faithful chroniclers, the noble French are descended. Aelian writes that he was of Thrace and Agathias, after Herodotus, that he was of Samos; 'tis all one to Frank.

In his time lived a poor honest country fellow of Gravot, Tom Wellhung by name, a wood-cleaver by trade, who in that low drudgery made shift so to pick up a sorry livelihood. It happened that he lost his hatchet. Now tell me who ever had more cause to be vexed than poor Tom? Alas, his whole estate and life depended on his hatchet; by his hatchet he earned many a fair penny of the best woodmongers or log-merchants among whom he went a-jobbing; for want of his hatchet he was like to starve; and had death but met with him six days after without a hatchet, the grim fiend would have mowed him down in the twinkling of a bedstaff. In this sad case he began to be in a heavy taking, and called upon Jupiter with the most eloquent prayers--for you know necessity was the mother of eloquence. With the whites of his eyes turned up towards heaven, down on his marrow-bones, his arms reared high, his fingers stretched wide, and his head bare, the poor wretch without ceasing was roaring out, by way of litany, at every repetition of his supplications, My hatchet, Lord Jupiter, my hatchet! my hatchet! only my hatchet, O Jupiter, or money to buy another, and nothing else! alas, my poor hatchet!

Jupiter happened then to be holding a grand council about certain urgent affairs, and old gammer Cybele was just giving her opinion, or, if you would rather have it so, it was young Phoebus the beau; but, in short, Tom's outcries and lamentations were so loud that they were heard with no small amazement at the council-board, by the whole consistory of the gods. What a devil have we below, quoth Jupiter, that howls so horridly? By the mud of Styx, have not we had all along, and have not we here still enough to do, to set to rights a world of damned puzzling businesses of consequence? We made an end of the fray between Presthan, King of Persia, and Soliman the Turkish emperor, we have stopped up the passages between the Tartars and the Muscovites; answered the Xeriff's petition; done the same to that of Golgots Rays; the state of Parma's despatched; so is that of Maidenburg, that of Mirandola, and that of Africa, that town on the Mediterranean which we call Aphrodisium; Tripoli by carelessness has got a new master; her hour was come.

Here are the Gascons cursing and damning, demanding the restitution of their bells.

In yonder corner are the Saxons, Easterlings, Ostrogoths, and Germans, nations formerly invincible, but now aberkeids, bridled, curbed, and brought under a paltry diminutive crippled fellow; they ask us revenge, relief, restitution of their former good sense and ancient liberty.

But what shall we do with this same Ramus and this Galland, with a pox to them, who, surrounded with a swarm of their scullions, blackguard ragamuffins, sizars, vouchers, and stipulators, set together by the ears the whole university of Paris? I am in a sad quandary about it, and for the heart's blood of me cannot tell yet with whom of the two to side.

Both seem to me notable fellows, and as true cods as ever pissed. The one has rose-nobles, I say fine and weighty ones; the other would gladly have some too. The one knows something; the other's no dunce. The one loves the better sort of men; the other's beloved by 'em. The one is an old cunning fox; the other with tongue and pen, tooth and nail, falls foul on the ancient orators and philosophers, and barks at them like a cur.

What thinkest thou of it, say, thou bawdy Priapus? I have found thy counsel just before now, et habet tua mentula mentem.

King Jupiter, answered Priapus, standing up and taking off his cowl, his snout uncased and reared up, fiery and stiffly propped, since you compare the one to a yelping snarling cur and the other to sly Reynard the fox, my advice is, with submission, that without fretting or puzzling your brains any further about 'em, without any more ado, even serve 'em both as, in the days of yore, you did the dog and the fox. How? asked Jupiter; when? who were they? where was it? You have a rare memory, for aught I see! returned Priapus. This right worshipful father Bacchus, whom we have here nodding with his crimson phiz, to be revenged on the Thebans had got a fairy fox, who, whatever mischief he did, was never to be caught or wronged by any beast that wore a head.

The noble Vulcan here present had framed a dog of Monesian brass, and with long puffing and blowing put the spirit of life into him; he gave it to you, you gave it your Miss Europa, Miss Europa gave it Minos, Minos gave it Procris, Procris gave it Cephalus. He was also of the fairy kind; so that, like the lawyers of our age, he was too hard for all other sorts of creatures; nothing could scape the dog. Now who should happen to meet but these two? What do you think they did? Dog by his destiny was to take fox, and fox by his fate was not to be taken.

The case was brought before your council: you protested that you would not act against the fates; and the fates were contradictory. In short, the end and result of the matter was, that to reconcile two contradictions was an impossibility in nature. The very pang put you into a sweat; some drops of which happening to light on the earth, produced what the mortals call cauliflowers. All our noble consistory, for want of a categorical resolution, were seized with such a horrid thirst, that above seventy-eight hogsheads of nectar were swilled down at that sitting. At last you took my advice, and transmogrified them into stones; and immediately got rid of your perplexity, and a truce with thirst was proclaimed through this vast Olympus. This was the year of flabby cods, near Teumessus, between Thebes and Chalcis.

After this manner, it is my opinion that you should petrify this dog and this fox. The metamorphosis will not be incongruous; for they both bear the name of Peter. And because, according to the Limosin proverb, to make an oven's mouth there must be three stones, you may associate them with Master Peter du Coignet, whom you formerly petrified for the same cause. Then those three dead pieces shall be put in an equilateral trigone somewhere in the great temple at Paris--in the middle of the porch, if you will--there to perform the office of extinguishers, and with their noses put out the lighted candles, torches, tapers, and flambeaux; since, while they lived, they still lighted, ballock-like, the fire of faction, division, ballock sects, and wrangling among those idle bearded boys, the students. And this will be an everlasting monument to show that those puny self-conceited pedants, ballock-framers, were rather contemned than condemned by you. Dixi, I have said my say.

You deal too kindly by them, said Jupiter, for aught I see, Monsieur Priapus. You do not use to be so kind to everybody, let me tell you; for as they seek to eternize their names, it would be much better for them to be thus changed into hard stones than to return to earth and putrefaction. But now to other matters. Yonder behind us, towards the Tuscan sea and the neighbourhood of Mount Apennine, do you see what tragedies are stirred up by certain topping ecclesiastical bullies? This hot fit will last its time, like the Limosins' ovens, and then will be cooled, but not so fast.

We shall have sport enough with it; but I foresee one inconveniency; for methinks we have but little store of thunder ammunition since the time that you, my fellow gods, for your pastime lavished them away to bombard new Antioch, by my particular permission; as since, after your example, the stout champions who had undertaken to hold the fortress of Dindenarois against all comers fairly wasted their powder with shooting at sparrows, and then, not having wherewith to defend themselves in time of need, valiantly surrendered to the enemy, who were already packing up their awls, full of madness and despair, and thought on nothing but a shameful retreat. Take care this be remedied, son Vulcan; rouse up your drowsy Cyclopes, Asteropes, Brontes, Arges, Polyphemus, Steropes, Pyracmon, and so forth, set them at work, and make them drink as they ought.

Never spare liquor to such as are at hot work. Now let us despatch this bawling fellow below. You, Mercury, go see who it is, and know what he wants. Mercury looked out at heaven's trapdoor, through which, as I am told, they hear what is said here below. By the way, one might well enough mistake it for the scuttle of a ship; though Icaromenippus said it was like the mouth of a well. The light-heeled deity saw that it was honest Tom, who asked for his lost hatchet; and accordingly he made his report to the synod. Marry, said Jupiter, we are finely helped up, as if we had now nothing else to do here but to restore lost hatchets. Well, he must have it then for all this, for so 'tis written in the Book of Fate (do you hear?), as well as if it was worth the whole duchy of Milan. The truth is, the fellow's hatchet is as much to him as a kingdom to a king. Come, come, let no more words be scattered about it; let him have his hatchet again.

Now, let us make an end of the difference betwixt the Levites and mole-catchers of Landerousse. Whereabouts were we? Priapus was standing in the chimney-corner, and having heard what Mercury had reported, said in a most courteous and jovial manner: King Jupiter, while by your order and particular favour I was garden-keeper-general on earth, I observed that this word hatchet is equivocal to many things; for it signifies a certain instrument by the means of which men fell and cleave timber. It also signifies (at least I am sure it did formerly) a female soundly and frequently thumpthumpriggletickletwiddletobyed. Thus I perceived that every cock of the game used to call his doxy his hatchet; for with that same tool (this he said lugging out and exhibiting his nine-inch knocker) they so strongly and resolutely shove and drive in their helves, that the females remain free from a fear epidemical amongst their sex, viz., that from the bottom of the male's belly the instrument should dangle at his heel for want of such feminine props. And I remember, for I have a member, and a memory too, ay, and a fine memory, large enough to fill a butter-firkin; I remember, I say, that one day of tubilustre (horn-fair) at the festivals of goodman Vulcan in May, I heard Josquin Des Prez, Olkegan, Hobrecht, Agricola, Brumel, Camelin, Vigoris, De la Fage, Bruyer, Prioris, Seguin, De la Rue, Midy, Moulu, Mouton, Gascogne, Loyset, Compere, Penet, Fevin, Rousee, Richard Fort, Rousseau, Consilion, Constantio Festi, Jacquet Bercan, melodiously singing the following catch on a pleasant green:

  Long John to bed went to his bride,
  And laid a mallet by his side:
  What means this mallet, John? saith she.
  Why! 'tis to wedge thee home, quoth he.
  Alas! cried she, the man's a fool:
  What need you use a wooden tool?
  When lusty John does to me come,
  He never shoves but with his bum.

Nine Olympiads, and an intercalary year after (I have a rare member, I would say memory; but I often make blunders in the symbolization and colligance of those two words), I heard Adrian Villart, Gombert, Janequin, Arcadet, Claudin, Certon, Manchicourt, Auxerre, Villiers, Sandrin, Sohier, Hesdin, Morales, Passereau, Maille, Maillart, Jacotin, Heurteur, Verdelot, Carpentras, L'Heritier, Cadeac, Doublet, Vermont, Bouteiller, Lupi, Pagnier, Millet, Du Moulin, Alaire, Maraut, Morpain, Gendre, and other merry lovers of music, in a private garden, under some fine shady trees, round about a bulwark of flagons, gammons, pasties, with several coated quails, and laced mutton, waggishly singing:

  Since tools without their hafts are useless lumber,
  And hatchets without helves are of that number;
  That one may go in t'other, and may match it,
  I'll be the helve, and thou shalt be the hatchet.

Now would I know what kind of hatchet this bawling Tom wants? This threw all the venerable gods and goddesses into a fit of laughter, like any microcosm of flies; and even set limping Vulcan a-hopping and jumping smoothly three or four times for the sake of his dear. Come, come, said Jupiter to Mercury, run down immediately, and cast at the poor fellow's feet three hatchets: his own, another of gold, and a third of massy silver, all of one size; then having left it to his will to take his choice, if he take his own, and be satisfied with it, give him the other two; if he take another, chop his head off with his own; and henceforth serve me all those losers of hatchets after that manner. Having said this, Jupiter, with an awkward turn of his head, like a jackanapes swallowing of pills, made so dreadful a phiz that all the vast Olympus quaked again. Heaven's foot messenger, thanks to his low-crowned narrow-brimmed hat, his plume of feathers, heel-pieces, and running stick with pigeon wings, flings himself out at heaven's wicket, through the idle deserts of the air, and in a trice nimbly alights upon the earth, and throws at friend Tom's feet the three hatchets, saying unto him: Thou hast bawled long enough to be a-dry; thy prayers and request are granted by Jupiter: see which of these three is thy hatchet, and take it away with thee. Wellhung lifts up the golden hatchet, peeps upon it, and finds it very heavy; then staring on Mercury, cries, Codszouks, this is none of mine; I won't ha't: the same he did with the silver one, and said, 'Tis not this neither, you may e'en take them again. At last he takes up his own hatchet, examines the end of the helve, and finds his mark there; then, ravished with joy, like a fox that meets some straggling poultry, and sneering from the tip of the nose, he cried, By the mass, this is my hatchet, master god; if you will leave it me, I will sacrifice to you a very good and huge pot of milk brimful, covered with fine strawberries, next ides of May.

Honest fellow, said Mercury, I leave it thee; take it; and because thou hast wished and chosen moderately in point of hatchet, by Jupiter's command I give thee these two others; thou hast now wherewith to make thyself rich: be honest. Honest Tom gave Mercury a whole cartload of thanks, and revered the most great Jupiter. His old hatchet he fastens close to his leathern girdle, and girds it above his breech like Martin of Cambray; the two others, being more heavy, he lays on his shoulder. Thus he plods on, trudging over the fields, keeping a good countenance amongst his neighbours and fellow-parishioners, with one merry saying or other after Patelin's way. The next day, having put on a clean white jacket, he takes on his back the two precious hatchets and comes to Chinon, the famous city, noble city, ancient city, yea, the first city in the world, according to the judgment and assertion of the most learned Massorets. At Chinon he turned his silver hatchet into fine testons, crown-pieces, and other white cash; his golden hatchet into fine angels, curious ducats, substantial ridders, spankers, and rose-nobles; then with them purchases a good number of farms, barns, houses, out-houses, thatched houses, stables, meadows, orchards, fields, vineyards, woods, arable lands, pastures, ponds, mills, gardens, nurseries, oxen, cows, sheep, goats, swine, hogs, asses, horses, hens, cocks, capons, chickens, geese, ganders, ducks, drakes, and a world of all other necessaries, and in a short time became the richest man in the country, nay, even richer than that limping scrape-good Maulevrier. His brother bumpkins, and the other yeomen and country-puts thereabouts, perceiving his good fortune, were not a little amazed, insomuch that their former pity of poor Tom was soon changed into an envy of his so great and unexpected rise; and as they could not for their souls devise how this came about, they made it their business to pry up and down, and lay their heads together, to inquire, seek, and inform themselves by what means, in what place, on what day, what hour, how, why, and wherefore, he had come by this great treasure.

At last, hearing it was by losing his hatchet, Ha, ha! said they, was there no more to do but to lose a hatchet to make us rich? Mum for that; 'tis as easy as pissing a bed, and will cost but little. Are then at this time the revolutions of the heavens, the constellations of the firmament, and aspects of the planets such, that whosoever shall lose a hatchet shall immediately grow rich? Ha, ha, ha! by Jove, you shall e'en be lost, an't please you, my dear hatchet. With this they all fairly lost their hatchets out of hand. The devil of one that had a hatchet left; he was not his mother's son that did not lose his hatchet. No more was wood felled or cleaved in that country through want of hatchets. Nay, the Aesopian apologue even saith that certain petty country gents of the lower class, who had sold Wellhung their little mill and little field to have wherewithal to make a figure at the next muster, having been told that his treasure was come to him by that only means, sold the only badge of their gentility, their swords, to purchase hatchets to go lose them, as the silly clodpates did, in hopes to gain store of chink by that loss.

You would have truly sworn they had been a parcel of your petty spiritual usurers, Rome-bound, selling their all, and borrowing of others, to buy store of mandates, a pennyworth of a new-made pope.

Now they cried out and brayed, and prayed and bawled, and lamented, and invoked Jupiter: My hatchet! my hatchet! Jupiter, my hatchet! on this side, My hatchet! on that side, My hatchet! Ho, ho, ho, ho, Jupiter, my hatchet! The air round about rung again with the cries and howlings of these rascally losers of hatchets.

Mercury was nimble in bringing them hatchets; to each offering that which he had lost, as also another of gold, and a third of silver.

Every he still was for that of gold, giving thanks in abundance to the great giver, Jupiter; but in the very nick of time that they bowed and stooped to take it from the ground, whip, in a trice, Mercury lopped off their heads, as Jupiter had commanded; and of heads thus cut off the number was just equal to that of the lost hatchets.

You see how it is now; you see how it goes with those who in the simplicity of their hearts wish and desire with moderation. Take warning by this, all you greedy, fresh-water sharks, who scorn to wish for anything under ten thousand pounds; and do not for the future run on impudently, as I have sometimes heard you wishing, Would to God I had now one hundred seventy-eight millions of gold! Oh! how I should tickle it off. The deuce on you, what more might a king, an emperor, or a pope wish for? For that reason, indeed, you see that after you have made such hopeful wishes, all the good that comes to you of it is the itch or the scab, and not a cross in your breeches to scare the devil that tempts you to make these wishes: no more than those two mumpers, wishers after the custom of Paris; one of whom only wished to have in good old gold as much as hath been spent, bought, and sold in Paris, since its first foundations were laid, to this hour; all of it valued at the price, sale, and rate of the dearest year in all that space of time. Do you think the fellow was bashful? Had he eaten sour plums unpeeled? Were his teeth on edge, I pray you? The other wished Our Lady's Church brimful of steel needles, from the floor to the top of the roof, and to have as many ducats as might be crammed into as many bags as might be sewed with each and everyone of those needles, till they were all either broke at the point or eye. This is to wish with a vengeance! What think you of it? What did they get by't, in your opinion? Why at night both my gentlemen had kibed heels, a tetter in the chin, a churchyard cough in the lungs, a catarrh in the throat, a swingeing boil at the rump, and the devil of one musty crust of a brown george the poor dogs had to scour their grinders with. Wish therefore for mediocrity, and it shall be given unto you, and over and above yet; that is to say, provided you bestir yourself manfully, and do your best in the meantime.

Ay, but say you, God might as soon have given me seventy-eight thousand as the thirteenth part of one half; for he is omnipotent, and a million of gold is no more to him than one farthing. Oh, ho! pray tell me who taught you to talk at this rate of the power and predestination of God, poor silly people? Peace, tush, st, st, st! fall down before his sacred face and own the nothingness of your nothing.

Upon this, O ye that labour under the affliction of the gout, I ground my hopes; firmly believing, that if so it pleases the divine goodness, you shall obtain health; since you wish and ask for nothing else, at least for the present. Well, stay yet a little longer with half an ounce of patience.

The Genoese do not use, like you, to be satisfied with wishing health alone, when after they have all the livelong morning been in a brown study, talked, pondered, ruminated, and resolved in the counting-houses of whom and how they may squeeze the ready, and who by their craft must be hooked in, wheedled, bubbled, sharped, overreached, and choused; they go to the exchange, and greet one another with a Sanita e guadagno, Messer! health and gain to you, sir! Health alone will not go down with the greedy curmudgeons; they over and above must wish for gain, with a pox to 'em; ay, and for the fine crowns, or scudi di Guadaigne; whence, heaven be praised! it happens many a time that the silly wishers and woulders are baulked, and get neither.

Now, my lads, as you hope for good health, cough once aloud with lungs of leather; take me off three swingeing bumpers; prick up your ears; and you shall hear me tell wonders of the noble and good Pantagruel.