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Francis RABELAIS

Pantagruel

Book III, Chapters 49-52, re: Pantagruelion (Cannabis Hemp)

Translated by Thomas Urquhart and Peter Motteux








Book III

Chapter XLIX

How Pantagruel Did Put Himself in a Readiness to Go to Sea; and of the Herb Named Pantagruelion.

Within very few days after that Pantagruel had taken his leave of the good Gargantua, who devoutly prayed for his son's happy voyage, he arrived at the seaport, near to Sammalo, accompanied with Panurge, Epistemon, Friar John of the Funnels, Abbot of Theleme, and others of the royal house, especially with Xenomanes the great traveller and thwarter of dangerous ways, who was come at the bidding and appointment of Panurge, of whose castlewick of Salmigondin he did hold some petty inheritance by the tenure of a mesne fee. Pantagruel, being come thither, prepared and made ready for launching a fleet of ships, to the number of those which Ajax of Salamine had of old equipped in convoy of the Grecian soldiery against the Trojan state. He likewise picked out for his use so many mariners, pilots, sailors, interpreters, artificers, officers, and soldiers, as he thought fitting, and therewithal made provision of so much victuals of all sorts, artillery, munition of divers kinds, clothes, moneys, and other such luggage, stuff, baggage, chaffer, and furniture, as he deemed needful for carrying on the design of a so tedious, long, and perilous voyage. Amongst other things, it was observed how he caused some of his vessels to be fraught and loaded with a great quantity of an herb of his called Pantagruelion, not only of the green and raw sort of it, but of the confected also, and of that which was notably well befitted for present use after the fashion of conserves. The herb Pantagruelion hath a little root somewhat hard and rough, roundish, terminating in an obtuse and very blunt point, and having some of its veins, strings, or filaments coloured with some spots of white, never fixeth itself into the ground above the profoundness almost of a cubit, or foot and a half. From the root thereof proceedeth the only stalk, orbicular, cane-like, green without, whitish within, and hollow like the stem of smyrnium, olus atrum, beans, and gentian, full of long threads, straight, easy to be broken, jagged, snipped, nicked, and notched a little after the manner of pillars and columns, slightly furrowed, chamfered, guttered, and channelled, and full of fibres, or hairs like strings, in which consisteth the chief value and dignity of the herb, especially in that part thereof which is termed mesa, as he would say the mean, and in that other, which hath got the denomination of milasea. Its height is commonly of five or six foot. Yet sometimes it is of such a tall growth as doth surpass the length of a lance, but that is only when it meeteth with a sweet, easy, warm, wet, and well-soaked soil -- as is the ground of the territory of Olone, and that of Rasea, near to Preneste in Sabinia--and that it want not for rain enough about the season of the fishers' holidays and the estival solstice. There are many trees whose height is by it very far exceeded, and you might call it dendromalache by the authority of Theophrastus. The plant every year perisheth,--the tree neither in the trunk, root, bark, or boughs being durable.

From the stalk of this Pantagruelian plant there issue forth several large and great branches, whose leaves have thrice as much length as breadth, always green, roughish, and rugged like the orcanet, or Spanish bugloss, hardish, slit round about like unto a sickle, or as the saxifragum, betony, and finally ending as it were in the points of a Macedonian spear, or of such a lancet as surgeons commonly make use of in their phlebotomizing tiltings. The figure and shape of the leaves thereof is not much different from that of those of the ash-tree, or of agrimony; the herb itself being so like the Eupatorian plant that many skilful herbalists have called it the Domestic Eupator, and the Eupator the Wild Pantagruelion. These leaves are in equal and parallel distances spread around the stalk by the number in every rank either of five or seven, nature having so highly favoured and cherished this plant that she hath richly adorned it with these two odd, divine, and mysterious numbers. The smell thereof is somewhat strong, and not very pleasing to nice, tender, and delicate noses. The seed enclosed therein mounteth up to the very top of its stalk, and a little above it.

This is a numerous herb; for there is no less abundance of it than of any other whatsoever. Some of these plants are spherical, some rhomboid, and some of an oblong shape, and all of those either black, bright-coloured, or tawny, rude to the touch, and mantled with a quickly-blasted-away coat, yet such a one as is of a delicious taste and savour to all shrill and sweetly-singing birds, such as linnets, goldfinches, larks, canary birds, yellow- hammers, and others of that airy chirping choir; but it would quite extinguish the natural heat and procreative virtue of the semence of any man who would eat much and often of it. And although that of old amongst the Greeks there was certain kinds of fritters and pancakes, buns and tarts, made thereof, which commonly for a liquorish daintiness were presented on the table after supper to delight the palate and make the wine relish the better; yet is it of a difficult concoction, and offensive to the stomach. For it engendereth bad and unwholesome blood, and with its exorbitant heat woundeth them with grievous, hurtful, smart, and noisome vapours. And, as in divers plants and trees there are two sexes, male and female, which is perceptible in laurels, palms, cypresses, oaks, holms, the daffodil, mandrake, fern, the agaric, mushroom, birthwort, turpentine, pennyroyal, peony, rose of the mount, and many other such like, even so in this herb there is a male which beareth no flower at all, yet it is very copious of and abundant in seed. There is likewise in it a female, which hath great store and plenty of whitish flowers, serviceable to little or no purpose, nor doth it carry in it seed of any worth at all, at least comparable to that of the male. It hath also a larger leaf, and much softer than that of the male, nor doth it altogether grow to so great a height. This Pantagruelion is to be sown at the first coming of the swallows, and is to be plucked out of the ground when the grasshoppers begin to be a little hoarse.


Book III
Chapter L

How the Famous Pantagruelion Ought to Be Prepared and Wrought.

The herb Pantagruelion, in September, under the autumnal equinox, is dressed and prepared several ways, according to the various fancies of the people and diversity of the climates wherein it groweth. The first instruction which Pantagruel gave concerning it was to divest and despoil the stalk and stem thereof of all its flowers and seeds, to macerate and mortify it in pond, pool, or lake water, which is to be made run a little for five days together if the season be dry and the water hot, or for full nine or twelve days if the weather be cloudish and the water cold. Then must it be parched before the sun till it be drained of its moisture. After this it is in the shadow, where the sun shines not, to be peeled and its rind pulled off. Then are the fibres and strings thereof to be parted, wherein, as we have already said, consisteth its prime virtue, price, and efficacy, and severed from the woody part thereof, which is unprofitable, and serveth hardly to any other use than to make a clear and glistering blaze, to kindle the fire, and for the play, pastime, and disport of little children, to blow up hogs' bladders and make them rattle. Many times some use is made thereof by tippling sweet-lipped bibbers, who out of it frame quills and pipes, through which they with their liquor-attractive breath suck up the new dainty wine from the bung of the barrel. Some modern Pantagruelists, to shun and avoid that manual labour which such a separating and partitional work would of necessity require, employ certain cataractic instruments, composed and formed after the same manner that the froward, pettish, and angry Juno did hold the fingers of both her hands interwovenly clenched together when she would have hindered the childbirth delivery of Alcmena at the nativity of Hercules; and athwart those cataracts they break and bruise to very trash the woody parcels, thereby to preserve the better the fibres, which are the precious and excellent parts. In and with this sole operation do these acquiesce and are contented, who, contrary to the received opinion of the whole earth, and in a manner paradoxical to all philosophers, gain their livelihoods backwards, and by recoiling. But those that love to hold it at a higher rate, and prize it according to its value, for their own greater profit do the very same which is told us of the recreation of the three fatal sister Parcae, or of the nocturnal exercise of the noble Circe, or yet of the excuse which Penelope made to her fond wooing youngsters and effeminate courtiers during the long absence of her husband Ulysses.

By these means is this herb put into a way to display its inestimable virtues, whereof I will discover a part; for to relate all is a thing impossible to do. I have already interpreted and exposed before you the denomination thereof. I find that plants have their names given and bestowed upon them after several ways. Some got the name of him who first found them out, knew them, sowed them, improved them by culture, qualified them to tractability, and appropriated them to the uses and subserviences they were fit for, as the Mercuriale from Mercury; Panacea from Panace, the daughter of Aesculapius; Armois from Artemis, who is Diana; Eupatoria from the king Eupator; Telephion from Telephus; Euphorbium from Euphorbus, King Juba's physician; Clymenos from Clymenus; Alcibiadium from Alcibiades; Gentiane from Gentius, King of Sclavonia, and so forth, through a great many other herbs or plants. Truly, in ancient times this prerogative of imposing the inventor's name upon an herb found out by him was held in a so great account and estimation, that, as a controversy arose betwixt Neptune and Pallas from which of them two that land should receive its denomination which had been equally found out by them both together -- though thereafter it was called and had the appellation of Athens, from Athene, which is Minerva -- just so would Lynceus, King of Scythia, have treacherously slain the young Triptolemus, whom Ceres had sent to show unto mankind the invention of corn, which until then had been utterly unknown, to the end that, after the murder of the messenger, whose death he made account to have kept secret, he might, by imposing, with the less suspicion of false dealing, his own name upon the said found out seed, acquire unto himself an immortal honour and glory for having been the inventor of a grain so profitable and necessary to and for the use of human life. For the wickedness of which treasonable attempt he was by Ceres transformed into that wild beast which by some is called a lynx and by others an ounce. Such also was the ambition of others upon the like occasion, as appeareth by that very sharp wars and of a long continuance have been made of old betwixt some residentiary kings in Cappadocia upon this only debate, of whose name a certain herb should have the appellation; by reason of which difference, so troublesome and expensive to them all, it was by them called Polemonion, and by us for the same cause termed Make-bate.

Other herbs and plants there are which retain the names of the countries from whence they were transported, as the Median apples from Media, where they first grew; Punic apples from Punicia, that is to say, Carthage; Ligusticum, which we call lovage, from Liguria, the coast of Genoa; Rhubarb from a flood in Barbary, as Ammianus attesteth, called Ru; Santonica from a region of that name; Fenugreek from Greece; Gastanes from a country so called; Persicaria from Persia; Sabine from a territory of that appellation; Staechas from the Staechad Islands; Spica Celtica from the land of the Celtic Gauls, and so throughout a great many other, which were tedious to enumerate. Some others, again, have obtained their denominations by way of antiphrasis, or contrariety; as Absinth, because it is contrary to (Greek), for it is bitter to the taste in drinking; Holosteon, as if it were all bones, whilst, on the contrary, there is no frailer, tenderer, nor brittler herb in the whole production of nature than it.

There are some other sorts of herbs which have got their names from their virtues and operations, as Aristolochia, because it helpeth women in childbirth; Lichen, for that it cureth the disease of that name; Mallow, because it mollifieth; Callithricum, because it maketh the hair of a bright colour; Alyssum, Ephemerum, Bechium, Nasturtium, Aneban (Henbane), and so forth through many more.

Other some there are which have obtained their names from the admirable qualities that are found to be in them, as Heliotropium, which is the marigold, because it followeth the sun, so that at the sun rising it displayeth and spreads itself out, at his ascending it mounteth, at his declining it waneth, and when he is set it is close shut; Adianton, because, although it grow near unto watery places, and albeit you should let it lie in water a long time, it will nevertheless retain no moisture nor humidity; Hierachia, Eringium, and so throughout a great many more. There are also a great many herbs and plants which have retained the very same names of the men and women who have been metamorphosed and transformed in them, as from Daphne the laurel is called also Daphne; Myrrh from Myrrha, the daughter of Cinarus; Pythis from Pythis; Cinara, which is the artichoke, from one of that name; Narcissus, with Saffron, Smilax, and divers others.

Many herbs likewise have got their names of those things which they seem to have some resemblance to; as Hippuris, because it hath the likeness of a horse's tail; Alopecuris, because it representeth in similitude the tail of a fox; Psyllion, from a flea which it resembleth; Delphinium, for that it is like a dolphin fish; Bugloss is so called because it is an herb like an ox's tongue; Iris, so called because in its flowers it hath some resemblance of the rainbow; Myosota, because it is like the ear of a mouse; Coronopus, for that it is of the likeness of a crow's foot. A great many other such there are, which here to recite were needless. Furthermore, as there are herbs and plants which have had their names from those of men, so by a reciprocal denomination have the surnames of many families taken their origin from them, as the Fabii, a fabis, beans; the Pisons, a pisis, peas; the Lentuli from lentils; the Cicerons; a ciceribus, vel ciceris, a sort of pulse called chickpease, and so forth. In some plants and herbs the resemblance or likeness hath been taken from a higher mark or object, as when we say Venus' navel, Venus' hair, Venus' tub, Jupiter's beard, Jupiter's eye, Mars' blood, the Hermodactyl or Mercury's fingers, which are all of them names of herbs, as there are a great many more of the like appellation. Others, again, have received their denomination from their forms, such as the Trefoil, because it is three-leaved; Pentaphylon, for having five leaves; Serpolet, because it creepeth along the ground; Helxine, Petast, Myrobalon, which the Arabians called Been, as if you would say an acorn, for it hath a kind of resemblance thereto, and withal is very oily.


Book III
Chapter LI

Why It Is Called Pantagruelion, and of the Admirable Virtues Thereof.

By such-like means of attaining to a denomination -- the fabulous ways being only from thence excepted, for the Lord forbid that we should make use of any fables in this a so veritable history--is this herb called Pantagruelion, for Pantagruel was the inventor thereof. I do not say of the plant itself, but of a certain use which it serves for, exceeding odious and hateful to thieves and robbers, unto whom it is more contrarious and hurtful than the strangle-weed and chokefitch is to the flax, the cats- tail to the brakes, the sheave-grass to the mowers of hay, the fitches to the chickney-pease, the darnel to barley, the hatchet-fitch to the lentil pulse, the antramium to the beans, tares to wheat, ivy to walls, the water-lily to lecherous monks, the birchen rod to the scholars of the college of Navarre in Paris, colewort to the vine-tree, garlic to the loadstone, onions to the sight, fern-seed to women with child, willow-grain to vicious nuns, the yew-tree shade to those that sleep under it, wolfsbane to wolves and libbards, and smell of fig-tree to mad bulls, hemlock to goslings, purslane to the teeth, or oil to trees. For we have seen many of those rogues, by virtue and right application of this herb, finish their lives short and long, after the manner of Phyllis, Queen of Thracia, of Bonosus, Emperor of Rome, of Amata, King Latinus's wife, of Iphis, Autolycus, Lycambe, Arachne, Paedra, Leda, Achius, King of Lydia, and many thousands more, who were chiefly angry and vexed at this disaster therein, that, without being otherwise sick or evil-disposed in their bodies, by a touch only of the Pantagruelion they came on a sudden to have the passage obstructed, and their pipes, through which were wont to bolt so many jolly sayings and to enter so many luscious morsels, stopped, more cleverly than ever could have done the squinancy.

Others have been heard most woefully to lament, at the very instant when Atropos was about to cut the thread of their life, that Pantagruel held them by the gorge. But, well-a-day, it was not Pantagruel; he never was an executioner. It was the Pantagruelion, manufactured and fashioned into an halter; and serving in the place and office of a cravat. In that, verily, they solecized and spoke improperly, unless you would excuse them by a trope, which alloweth us to posit the inventor in the place of the thing invented, as when Ceres is taken for bread, and Bacchus put instead of wine. I swear to you here, by the good and frolic words which are to issue out of that wine-bottle which is a-cooling below in the copper vessel full of fountain water, that the noble Pantagruel never snatched any man by the throat, unless it was such a one as was altogether careless and neglective of those obviating remedies which were preventive of the thirst to come.

It is also termed Pantagruelion by a similitude. For Pantagruel, at the very first minute of his birth, was no less tall than this herb is long whereof I speak unto you, his measure having been then taken the more easy that he was born in the season of the great drought, when they were busiest in the gathering of the said herb, to wit, at that time when Icarus's dog, with his fiery bawling and barking at the sun, maketh the whole world Troglodytic, and enforceth people everywhere to hide themselves in dens and subterranean caves. It is likewise called Pantagruelion because of the notable and singular qualities, virtues, and properties thereof. For as Pantagruel hath been the idea, pattern, prototype, and exemplary of all jovial perfection and accomplishment -- in the truth whereof I believe there is none of you gentlemen drinkers that putteth any question -- so in this Pantagruelion have I found so much efficacy and energy, so much completeness and excellency, so much exquisiteness and rarity, and so many admirable effects and operations of a transcendent nature, that if worth and virtue thereof had been known when those trees, by the relation of the prophet, made election of a wooden king to rule and govern over them, it without all doubt would have carried away from all the rest the plurality of votes and suffrages.

Shall I yet say more? If Oxylus, the son of Orius, had begotten this plant upon his sister Hamadryas, he had taken more delight in the value and perfection of it alone than in all his eight children, so highly renowned by our ablest mythologians that they have sedulously recommended their names to the never-failing tuition of an eternal remembrance. The eldest child was a daughter, whose name was Vine; the next born was a boy, and his name was Fig-tree; the third was called Walnut-tree; the fourth Oak; the fifth Sorbapple-tree; the sixth Ash; the seventh Poplar, and the last had the name of Elm, who was the greatest surgeon in his time. I shall forbear to tell you how the juice or sap thereof, being poured and distilled within the ears, killeth every kind of vermin that by any manner of putrefaction cometh to be bred and engendered there, and destroyeth also any whatsoever other animal that shall have entered in thereat. If, likewise, you put a little of the said juice within a pail or bucket full of water, you shall see the water instantly turn and grow thick therewith as if it were milk-curds, whereof the virtue is so great that the water thus curded is a present remedy for horses subject to the colic, and such as strike at their own flanks. The root thereof well boiled mollifieth the joints, softeneth the hardness of shrunk-in sinews, is every way comfortable to the nerves, and good against all cramps and convulsions, as likewise all cold and knotty gouts. If you would speedily heal a burning, whether occasioned by water or fire, apply thereto a little raw Pantagruelion, that is to say, take it so as it cometh out of the ground, without bestowing any other preparation or composition upon it; but have a special care to change it for some fresher in lieu thereof as soon as you shall find it waxing dry upon the sore.

Without this herb kitchens would be detested, the tables of dining-rooms abhorred, although there were great plenty and variety of most dainty and sumptuous dishes of meat set down upon them, and the choicest beds also, how richly soever adorned with gold, silver, amber, ivory, porphyry, and the mixture of most precious metals, would without it yield no delight or pleasure to the reposers in them. Without it millers could neither carry wheat, nor any other kind of corn to the mill, nor would they be able to bring back from thence flour, or any other sort of meal whatsoever. Without it, how could the papers and writs of lawyers' clients be brought to the bar? Solemn is the mortar, lime, or plaster brought to the workhouse without it. Without it, how should the water be got out of a draw-well? In what case would tabellions, notaries, copists, makers of counterpanes, writers, clerks, secretaries, scriveners, and such-like persons be without it? Were it not for it, what would become of the toll- rates and rent-rolls? Would not the noble art of printing perish without it? Whereof could the chassis or paper-windows be made? How should the bells be rung? The altars of Isis are adorned therewith, the Pastophorian priests are therewith clad and accoutred, and whole human nature covered and wrapped therein at its first position and production in and into this world. All the lanific trees of Seres, the bumbast and cotton bushes in the territories near the Persian Sea and Gulf of Bengala, the Arabian swans, together with the plants of Malta, do not all the them clothe, attire, and apparel so many persons as this one herb alone. Soldiers are nowadays much better sheltered under it than they were in former times, when they lay in tents covered with skins. It overshadows the theatres and amphitheatres from the heat of a scorching sun. It begirdeth and encompasseth forests, chases, parks, copses, and groves, for the pleasure of hunters. It descendeth into the salt and fresh of both sea and river- waters for the profit of fishers. By it are boots of all sizes, buskins, gamashes, brodkins, gambadoes, shoes, pumps, slippers, and every cobbled ware wrought and made steadable for the use of man. By it the butt and rover-bows are strung, the crossbows bended, and the slings made fixed. And, as if it were an herb every whit as holy as the vervain, and reverenced by ghosts, spirits, hobgoblins, fiends, and phantoms, the bodies of deceased men are never buried without it.

I will proceed yet further. By the means of this fine herb the invisible substances are visibly stopped, arrested, taken, detained, and prisoner- like committed to their receptive gaols. Heavy and ponderous weights are by it heaved, lifted up, turned, veered, drawn, carried, and every way moved quickly, nimbly, and easily, to the great profit and emolument of humankind. When I perpend with myself these and such-like marvellous effects of this wonderful herb, it seemeth strange unto me how the invention of so useful a practice did escape through so many by-past ages the knowledge of the ancient philosophers, considering the inestimable utility which from thence proceeded, and the immense labour which without it they did undergo in their pristine elucubrations. By virtue thereof, through the retention of some aerial gusts, are the huge rambarges, mighty galleons, the large floats, the Chiliander, the Myriander ships launched from their stations and set a-going at the pleasure and arbitrament of their rulers, conders, and steersmen. By the help thereof those remote nations whom nature seemed so unwilling to have discovered to us, and so desirous to have kept them still in abscondito and hidden from us, that the ways through which their countries were to be reached unto were not only totally unknown, but judged also to be altogether impermeable and inaccessible, are now arrived to us, and we to them.

Those voyages outreached flights of birds and far surpassed the scope of feathered fowls, how swift soever they had been on the wing, and notwithstanding that advantage which they have of us in swimming through the air. Taproban hath seen the heaths of Lapland, and both the Javas and Riphaean mountains; wide distant Phebol shall see Theleme, and the Islanders drink of the flood Euphrates. By it the chill-mouthed Boreas hath surveyed the parched mansions of the torrid Auster, and Eurus visited the regions which Zephyrus hath under his command; yea, in such sort have interviews been made by the assistance of this sacred herb, that, maugre longitudes and latitudes, and all the variations of the zones, the Periaecian people, and Antoecian, Amphiscian, Heteroscian, and Periscian had oft rendered and received mutual visits to and from other, upon all the climates. These strange exploits bred such astonishment to the celestial intelligences, to all the marine and terrestrial gods, that they were on a sudden all afraid. From which amazement, when they saw how, by means of this blest Pantagruelion, the Arctic people looked upon the Antarctic, scoured the Atlantic Ocean, passed the tropics, pushed through the torrid zone, measured all the zodiac, sported under the equinoctial, having both poles level with their horizon, they judged it high time to call a council for their own safety and preservation.

The Olympic gods, being all and each of them affrighted at the sight of such achievements, said: Pantagruel hath shapen work enough for us, and put us more to a plunge and nearer our wits' end by this sole herb of his than did of old the Aloidae by overturning mountains. He very speedily is to be married, and shall have many children by his wife. It lies not in our power to oppose this destiny; for it hath passed through the hands and spindles of the Fatal Sisters, necessity's inexorable daughters. Who knows but by his sons may be found out an herb of such another virtue and prodigious energy, as that by the aid thereof, in using it aright according to their father's skill, they may contrive a way for humankind to pierce into the high aerian clouds, get up unto the springhead of the hail, take an inspection of the snowy sources, and shut and open as they please the sluices from whence proceed the floodgates of the rain; then, prosecuting their aethereal voyage, they may step in unto the lightning workhouse and shop, where all the thunderbolts are forged, where, seizing on the magazine of heaven and storehouse of our warlike fire-munition, they may discharge a bouncing peal or two of thundering ordnance for joy of their arrival to these new supernal places, and, charging those tonitrual guns afresh, turn the whole force of that artillery against ourselves wherein we most confided. Then is it like they will set forward to invade the territories of the Moon, whence, passing through both Mercury and Venus, the Sun will serve them for a torch, to show the way from Mars to Jupiter and Saturn. We shall not then be able to resist the impetuosity of their intrusion, nor put a stoppage to their entering in at all, whatever regions, domiciles, or mansions of the spangled firmament they shall have any mind to see, to stay in, to travel through for their recreation. All the celestial signs together, with the constellations of the fixed stars, will jointly be at their devotion then. Some will take up their lodging at the Ram, some at the Bull, and others at the Twins; some at the Crab, some at the Lion Inn, and others at the sign of the Virgin; some at the Balance, others at the Scorpion, and others will be quartered at the Archer; some will be harboured at the Goat, some at the Water-pourer's sign, some at the Fishes; some will lie at the Crown, some at the Harp, some at the Golden Eagle and the Dolphin; some at the Flying Horse, some at the Ship, some at the great, some at the little Bear; and so throughout the glistening hostelries of the whole twinkling asteristic welkin. There will be sojourners come from the earth, who, longing after the taste of the sweet cream, of their own skimming off, from the best milk of all the dairy of the Galaxy, will set themselves at table down with us, drink of our nectar and ambrosia, and take to their own beds at night for wives and concubines our fairest goddesses, the only means whereby they can be deified. A junto hereupon being convocated, the better to consult upon the manner of obviating a so dreadful danger, Jove, sitting in his presidential throne, asked the votes of all the other gods, which, after a profound deliberation amongst themselves on all contingencies, they freely gave at last, and then resolved unanimously to withstand the shocks of all whatsoever sublunary assaults.


Book III
Chapter LII

How a Certain Kind of Pantagruelion Is of That Nature That the Fire Is Not Able to Consume It.

I  have already related to you great and admirable things; but, if you might be induced to adventure upon the hazard of believing some other divinity of this sacred Pantagruelion, I very willingly would tell it you. Believe it, if you will, or otherwise, believe it not, I care not which of them you do, they are both alike to me. It shall be sufficient for my purpose to have told you the truth, and the truth I will tell you. But to enter in thereat, because it is of a knaggy, difficult, and rugged access, this is the question which I ask of you. If I had put within this bottle two pints, the one of wine and the other of water, thoroughly and exactly mingled together, how would you unmix them? After what manner would you go about to sever them, and separate the one liquor from the other, in such sort that you render me the water apart, free from the wine, and the wine also pure, without the intermixture of one drop of water, and both of them in the same measure, quantity, and taste that I had embottled them? Or, to state the question otherwise. If your carmen and mariners, entrusted for the provision of your houses with the bringing of a certain considerable number of tuns, puncheons, pipes, barrels, and hogsheads of Graves wine, or of the wine of Orleans, Beaune, and Mireveaux, should drink out the half, and afterwards with water fill up the other empty halves of the vessels as full as before, as the Limosins use to do in their carriages by wains and carts of the wines of Argenton and Sangaultier; after that, how would you part the water from the wine, and purify them both in such a case? I understand you well enough. Your meaning is, that I must do it with an ivy funnel. That is written, it is true, and the verity thereof explored by a thousand experiments; you have learned to do this feat before, I see it. But those that have never known it, nor at any time have seen the like, would hardly believe that it were possible. Let us nevertheless proceed.

But put the case, we were now living in the age of Sylla, Marius, Caesar, and other such Roman emperors, or that we were in the time of our ancient Druids, whose custom was to burn and calcine the dead bodies of their parents and lords, and that you had a mind to drink the ashes or cinders of your wives or fathers in the infused liquor of some good white-wine, as Artemisia drunk the dust and ashes of her husband Mausolus; or otherwise, that you did determine to have them reserved in some fine urn or reliquary pot; how would you save the ashes apart, and separate them from those other cinders and ashes into which the fuel of the funeral and bustuary fire hath been converted? Answer, if you can. By my figgins, I believe it will trouble you so to do.

Well, I will despatch, and tell you that, if you take of this celestial Pantagruelion so much as is needful to cover the body of the defunct, and after that you shall have enwrapped and bound therein as hard and closely as you can the corpse of the said deceased persons, and sewed up the folding-sheet with thread of the same stuff, throw it into the fire, how great or ardent soever it be it matters not a straw, the fire through this Pantagruelion will burn the body and reduce to ashes the bones thereof, and the Pantagruelion shall be not only not consumed nor burnt, but also shall neither lose one atom of the ashes enclosed within it, nor receive one atom of the huge bustuary heap of ashes resulting from the blazing conflagration of things combustible laid round about it, but shall at last, when taken out of the fire, be fairer, whiter, and much cleaner than when you did put it in at first. Therefore it is called Asbeston, which is as much to say as incombustible. Great plenty is to be found thereof in Carpasia, as likewise in the climate Dia Sienes, at very easy rates. O how rare and admirable a thing it is, that the fire which devoureth, consumeth, and destroyeth all such things else, should cleanse, purge, and whiten this sole Pantagruelion Carpasian Asbeston! If you mistrust the verity of this relation, and demand for further confirmation of my assertion a visible sign, as the Jews and such incredulous infidels use to do, take a fresh egg, and orbicularly, or rather ovally, enfold it within this divine Pantagruelion. When it is so wrapped up, put it in the hot embers of a fire, how great or ardent soever it be, and having left it there as long as you will, you shall at last, at your taking it out of the fire, find the egg roasted hard, and as it were burnt, without any alteration, change, mutation, or so much as a calefaction of the sacred Pantagruelion. For less than a million of pounds sterling, modified, taken down, and amoderated to the twelfth part of one fourpence halfpenny farthing, you are able to put it to a trial and make proof thereof.

Do not think to overmatch me here, by paragoning with it in the way of a more eminent comparison the Salamander. That is a fib; for, albeit a little ordinary fire, such as is used in dining-rooms and chambers, gladden, cheer up, exhilarate, and quicken it, yet may I warrantably enough assure that in the flaming fire of a furnace it will, like any other animated creature, be quickly suffocated, choked, consumed, and destroyed. We have seen the experiment thereof, and Galen many ages ago hath clearly demonstrated and confirmed it, Lib. 3, De temperamentis, and Dioscorides maintaineth the same doctrine, Lib. 2. Do not here instance in competition with this sacred herb the feather alum or the wooden tower of Pyraeus, which Lucius Sylla was never able to get burnt; for that Archelaus, governor of the town for Mithridates, King of Pontus, had plastered it all over on the outside with the said alum. Nor would I have you to compare therewith the herb which Alexander Cornelius called Eonem, and said that it had some resemblance with that oak which bears the mistletoe, and that it could neither be consumed nor receive any manner of prejudice by fire nor by water, no more than the mistletoe, of which was built, said he, the so renowned ship Argos. Search where you please for those that will believe it. I in that point desire to be excused. Neither would I wish you to parallel therewith -- although I cannot deny but that it is of a very marvellous nature--that sort of tree which groweth alongst the mountains of Brianson and Ambrun, which produceth out of his root the good agaric. From its body it yieldeth unto us a so excellent rosin, that Galen hath been bold to equal it to the turpentine. Upon the delicate leaves thereof it retaineth for our use that sweet heavenly honey which is called the manna, and, although it be of a gummy, oily, fat, and greasy substance, it is, notwithstanding, unconsumable by any fire. It is in Greek and Latin called Larix. The Alpinese name is Melze. The Antenorides and Venetians term it Larege; which gave occasion to that castle in Piedmont to receive the denomination of Larignum, by putting Julius Caesar to a stand at his return from amongst the Gauls.

Julius Caesar commanded all the yeomen, boors, hinds, and other inhabitants in, near unto, and about the Alps and Piedmont, to bring all manner of victuals and provision for an army to those places which on the military road he had appointed to receive them for the use of his marching soldiery. To which ordinance all of them were obedient, save only those as were within the garrison of Larignum, who, trusting in the natural strength of the place, would not pay their contribution. The emperor, purposing to chastise them for their refusal, caused his whole army to march straight towards that castle, before the gate whereof was erected a tower built of huge big spars and rafters of the larch-tree, fast bound together with pins and pegs of the same wood, and interchangeably laid on one another, after the fashion of a pile or stack of timber, set up in the fabric thereof to such an apt and convenient height that from the parapet above the portcullis they thought with stones and levers to beat off and drive away such as should approach thereto.

When Caesar had understood that the chief defence of those within the castle did consist in stones and clubs, and that it was not an easy matter to sling, hurl, dart, throw, or cast them so far as to hinder the approaches, he forthwith commanded his men to throw great store of bavins, faggots, and fascines round about the castle, and when they had made the heap of a competent height, to put them all in a fair fire; which was thereupon incontinently done. The fire put amidst the faggots was so great and so high that it covered the whole castle, that they might well imagine the tower would thereby be altogether burnt to dust, and demolished. Nevertheless, contrary to all their hopes and expectations, when the flame ceased, and that the faggots were quite burnt and consumed, the tower appeared as whole, sound, and entire as ever. Caesar, after a serious consideration had thereof, commanded a compass to be taken without the distance of a stone cast from the castle round about it there, with ditches and entrenchments to form a blockade; which when the Larignans understood, they rendered themselves upon terms. And then by a relation from them it was that Caesar learned the admirable nature and virtue of this wood, which of itself produceth neither fire, flame, nor coal, and would, therefore, in regard of that rare quality of incombustibility, have been admitted into this rank and degree of a true Pantagruelional plant; and that so much the rather, for that Pantagruel directed that all the gates, doors, angiports, windows, gutters, fretticed and embowed ceilings, cans, and other whatsoever wooden furniture in the abbey of Theleme, should be all materiated of this kind of timber. He likewise caused to cover therewith the sterns, stems, cook-rooms or laps, hatches, decks, courses, bends, and walls of his carricks, ships, galleons, galleys, brigantines, foists, frigates, crears, barques, floats, pinks, pinnaces, hoys, ketches, capers, and other vessels of his Thalassian arsenal; were it not that the wood or timber of the larch-tree, being put within a large and ample furnace full of huge vehemently flaming fire proceeding from the fuel of other sorts and kinds of wood, cometh at last to be corrupted, consumed, dissipated, and destroyed, as are stones in a lime-kiln. But this Pantagruelion Asbeston is rather by the fire renewed and cleansed than by the flames thereof consumed or changed. Therefore,

Arabians, Indians, Sabaeans,
Sing not, in hymns and Io Paeans,
Your incense, myrrh, or ebony.
Come here, a nobler plant to see,
And carry home, at any rate,
Some seed, that you may propagate.
If in your soil it takes, to heaven
A thousand thousand thanks be given;
And say with France, it goodly goes,
Where the Pantagruelion grows.




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