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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Education of Gargantua
By François Rabelais (c. 1490–1553)
 
        
From ‘Readings from Rabelais’: Translation of Sir Walter Besant
  
  [The mare on which Gargantua rode to Paris was as big as six elephants: she was brought by sea in three corvettes and a brigantine. With the whisking of her tail she laid low a whole forest. Mounted on her, Gargantua was received with great admiration by the Parisians, who, says Rabelais, are more easily drawn together by a fiddler or a mule with bells than by an evangelical preacher,—a peculiarity which they still preserve. The young giant rewarded their admiration by carrying away the bells of Notre Dame to hang round the neck of his mare. To recover these bells the Parisians sent their most esteemed orator, Maître Janotus de Bragmardo, who came, like the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, duly preceded by three bedells, and followed by six Masters of Arts—Artless Masters, “Maîstres Inerts,” Rabelais calls them. His oration is a parody on the pretensions of the old-fashioned scholars, the ostentatious parade of bad Latin, and the learned discourses of doctors. The bells are restored and the orator rewarded. Then we leave the realms of the miraculous and become human again. Gargantua ceases, except at intervals, to be a giant; and Rabelais develops—it is the best, the wisest, the most useful chapter of his book—his theory of what the education of a prince should be.]

PONOCRATES appointed that for the beginning, he should do as he had been accustomed; to the end he might understand by what means, for so long a time, his old masters had made him so foolish, simple, and ignorant. He disposed, therefore, of his time in such fashion that ordinarily he did awake between eight and nine o’clock, whether it was day or not; for so had his ancient governors ordained, alleging that which David saith, Vanum est vobis ante lucem surgere. Then did he tumble and wallow in the bed some time, the better to stir up his vital spirits, and appareled himself according to the season; but willingly he would wear a great long gown of thick frieze, lined with fox fur. Afterwards he combed his head with the German comb, which is the four fingers and the thumb; for his preceptors said that to comb himself otherwise, to wash and make himself neat, was to lose time in this world. Then to suppress the dew and bad air, he breakfasted on fair fried tripe, fair grilled meats, fair hams, fair hashed capon, and store of sippet brewis. Ponocrates showed him that he ought not to eat so soon after rising out of his bed, unless he had performed some exercise beforehand. Gargantua answered: “What! have not I sufficiently well exercised myself? I rolled myself six or seven turns in my bed before I rose. Is not that enough? Pope Alexander did so, by the advice of a Jew, his physician; and lived till his dying day in despite of the envious. My first masters have used me to it, saying that breakfast makes a good memory; wherefore they drank first. I am very well after it, and dine but the better. And Maître Tubal, who was the first licentiate at Paris, told me that it is not everything to run a pace, but to set forth well betimes: so doth not the total welfare of our humanity depend upon perpetual drinking atas, atas, like ducks, but on drinking well in the morning; whence the verse—
  “‘To rise betimes is no good hour,
To drink betimes is better sure.’”
  1
  After he had thoroughly broken his fast, he went to church; and they carried for him, in a great basket, a huge breviary. There he heard six-and-twenty or thirty masses. This while, to the same place came his sayer of hours, lapped up about the chin like a tufted whoop, and his breath perfumed with good store of syrup. With him he mumbled all his kyriels, which he so curiously picked that there fell not so much as one grain to the ground. As he went from the church, they brought him, upon a dray drawn by oxen, a heap of paternosters of Sanct Claude, every one of them being of the bigness of a hat-block; and thus walking through the cloisters, galleries, or garden, he said more in turning them over than sixteen hermits would have done. Then did he study for some paltry half-hour with his eyes fixed upon his book; but as the comic saith, his mind was in the kitchen. Then he sat down at table; and because he was naturally phlegmatic, he began his meal with some dozens of hams, dried neats’ tongues, mullet’s roe, chitterlings, and such other forerunners of wine. In the meanwhile, four of his folks did cast into his mouth, one after another continually, mustard by whole shovelfuls. Immediately after that he drank a horrific draught of white wine for the ease of his kidneys. When that was done, he ate according to the season meat agreeable to his appetite, and then left off eating when he was like to crack for fulness. As for his drinking, he had neither end nor rule. For he was wont to say, that the limits and bounds of drinking were when the cork of the shoes of him that drinketh swelleth up half a foot high.  2
  Then heavily mumbling a scurvy grace, he washed his hands in fresh wine, picked his teeth with the foot of a pig, and talked jovially with his attendants. Then the carpet being spread, they brought great store of cards, dice, and chessboards.  3
  After having well played, reveled, passed and spent his time, it was proper to drink a little, and that was eleven goblets the man; and immediately after making good cheer again, he would stretch himself upon a fair bench, or a good large bed, and there sleep two or three hours together without thinking or speaking any hurt. After he was awakened he would shake his ears a little. In the mean time they brought him fresh wine. Then he drank better than ever. Ponocrates showed him that it was an ill diet to drink so after sleeping. “It is,” answered Gargantua, “the very life of the Fathers; for naturally I sleep salt, and my sleep hath been to me instead of so much ham.” Then began he to study a little, and the paternosters first, which the better and more formally to dispatch, he got up on an old mule which had served nine kings; and so mumbling with his mouth, doddling his head, would go see a coney caught in a net. At his return he went into the kitchen, to know what roast meat was on the spit; and supped very well, upon my conscience, and commonly did invite some of his neighbors that were good drinkers; with whom carousing, they told stories of all sorts, from the old to the new. After supper were brought in upon the place the fair wooden gospels—that is to say, many pairs of tables and cards—with little small banquets, intermined with collations and reer-suppers. Then did he sleep without unbridling, until eight o’clock in the next morning.  4
  When Ponocrates knew Gargantua’s vicious manner of living, he resolved to bring him up in another kind; but for a while he bore with him, considering that nature does not endure sudden changes without great violence. Therefore, to begin his work the better, he requested a learned physician of that time, called Maître Theodoras, seriously to perpend, if it were possible, how to bring Gargantua unto a better course. The said physician purged him canonically with Anticyran hellebore, by which medicine he cleansed all the alteration and perverse habitude of his brain. By this means also Ponocrates made him forget all that he had learned under his ancient preceptors. To do this better, they brought him into the company of learned men who were there, in emulation of whom a great desire and affection came to him to study otherwise, and to improve his parts. Afterwards he put himself into such a train of study that he lost not any hour in the day, but employed all his time in learning and honest knowledge. Gargantua awaked then about four o’clock in the morning. Whilst they were rubbing him, there was read unto him some chapter of the Holy Scripture aloud and clearly, with a pronunciation fit for the matter; and hereunto was appointed a young page born in Basché, named Anagnostes. According to the purpose and argument of that lesson, he oftentimes gave himself to revere, adore, pray, and send up his supplications to that good God whose word did show his majesty and marvelous judgments. Then his master repeated what had been read, expounding unto him the most obscure and difficult points. They then considered the face of the sky, if it was such as they had observed it the night before, and into what signs the sun was entering, as also the moon for that day. This done, he was appareled, combed, curled, trimmed, and perfumed, during which time they repeated to him the lessons of the day before. He himself said them by heart, and upon them grounded practical cases concerning the estate of man; which he would prosecute sometimes two or three hours, but ordinarily they ceased as soon as he was fully clothed. Then for three good hours there was reading. This done, they went forth, still conferring of the substance of the reading, and disported themselves at ball, tennis, or the pile trigone; gallantly exercising their bodies, as before they had done their minds. All their play was but in liberty, for they left off when they pleased; and that was commonly when they did sweat, or were otherwise weary. Then were they very well dried and rubbed, shifted their shirts, and walking soberly, went to see if dinner was ready. Whilst they stayed for that, they did clearly and eloquently recite some sentences that they had retained of the lecture. In the mean time Master Appetite came, and then very orderly sat they down at table. At the beginning of the meal there was read some pleasant history of ancient prowess, until he had taken his wine. Then if they thought good, they continued reading, or began to discourse merrily together; speaking first of the virtue, propriety, efficacy, and nature of all that was served in at that table; of bread, of wine, of water, of salt, of flesh, fish, fruits, herbs, roots, and of their dressing. By means whereof, he learned in a little time all the passages that on these subjects are to be found in Pliny, Athenæus, Dioscorides, Julius Pollux, Galen, Porphyrius, Oppian, Polybius, Heliodorus, Aristotle, Ælian, and others. Whilst they talked of these things, many times, to be more the certain, they caused the very books to be brought to the table; and so well and perfectly did he in his memory retain the things above said, that in that time there was not a physician that knew half so much as he did. Afterwards they conferred of the lessons read in the morning; and ending their repast with some conserve of quince, he washed his hands and eyes with fair fresh water, and gave thanks unto God in some fine canticle, made in praise of the Divine bounty and munificence. This done, they brought in cards, not to play, but to learn a thousand pretty tricks and new inventions, which were all grounded upon arithmetic. By this means he fell in love with that numerical science; and every day after dinner and supper he passed his time in it as pleasantly as he was wont to do at cards and dice: so that at last he understood so well both the theory and practice thereof, that Tonstal the Englishman, who had written very largely of that purpose, confessed that verily in comparison of him he understood nothing but double Dutch; and not only in that, but in the other mathematical sciences, as geometry, astronomy, music. For while waiting for the digestion of his food, they made a thousand joyous instruments and geometrical figures, and at the same time practiced the astronomical canons.  5
  After this they recreated themselves with singing musically, in four or five parts, or upon a set theme, as it best pleased them. In matter of musical instruments, he learned to play the lute, the spinet, the harp, the German flute, the flute with nine holes, the violin, and the sackbut. This hour thus spent, he betook himself to his principal study for three hours together, or more, as well to repeat his matutinal lectures as to proceed in the book wherein he was; as also to write handsomely, to draw and form the antique and Roman letters. This being done, they went out of their house, and with them a young gentleman of Touraine, named Gymnast, who taught him the art of riding. Changing then his clothes, he mounted on any kind of a horse, which he made to bound in the air, to jump the ditch, to leap the palisade, and to turn short in a ring both to the right and left hand. There he broke not his lance; for it is the greatest foolishness in the world to say, I have broken ten lances at tilts or in fight. A carpenter can do even as much. But it is a glorious and praiseworthy action with one lance to break and overthrow ten enemies. Therefore with a sharp, strong, and stiff lance would he usually force a door, pierce a harness, uproot a tree, carry away the ring, lift up a saddle, with the mail-coat and gauntlet. All this he did in complete arms from head to foot. He was singularly skillful in leaping nimbly from one horse to another without putting foot to ground. He could likewise from either side, with a lance in his hand, leap on horseback without stirrups, and rule the horse at his pleasure without a bridle; for such things are useful in military engagements. Another day he exercised the battle-axe, which he so dexterously wielded that he was passed knight of arms in the field and at all essays.  6
  Then tossed he the pike, played with the two-handed sword, with the back sword, with the Spanish tuck, the dagger, poniard, armed, unarmed, with a buckler, with a cloak, with a target. Then would he hunt the hart, the roebuck, the bear, the fallow deer, the wild boar, the hare, the pheasant, the partridge, and the bustard. He played at the great ball, and made it bound in the air, both with fist and foot. He wrestled, ran, jumped, not at three steps and a leap, nor a hopping, nor yet at the German jump; “for,” said Gymnast, “these jumps are for the wars altogether unprofitable, and of no use:” but at one leap he would skip over a ditch, spring over a hedge, mount six paces upon a wall, climb after this fashion up against a window, the height of a lance. He did swim in deep waters on his face, on his back, sidewise, with all his body, with his feet only, with one hand in the air, wherein he held a book, crossing thus the breadth of the river Seine without wetting, and dragging along his cloak with his teeth, as did Julius Cæsar; then with the help of one hand he entered forcibly into a boat, from whence he cast himself again headlong into the water, sounded the depths, hollowed the rocks, and plunged into the pits and gulfs. Then turned he the boat about, governed it, led it swiftly or slowly with the stream and against the stream, stopped it in its course, guided it with one hand, and with the other laid hard about him with a huge great oar, hoisted the sail, hied up along the mast by the shrouds, ran upon the bulwarks, set the compass, tackled the bowlines, and steered the helm. Coming out of the water, he ran furiously up against a hill, and with the same alacrity and swiftness ran down again. He climbed up trees like a cat, leaped from the one to the other like a squirrel. He did pull down the great boughs and branches, like another Milo: then with two sharp well-steeled daggers, and two tried bodkins, would he run up by the wall to the very top of a house like a rat; then suddenly come down from the top to the bottom, with such an even disposal of members that by the fall he would catch no harm.  7
  He did cast the dart, throw the bar, put the stone, practice the javelin, the boar-spear or partisan, and the halbert. He broke the strongest bows in drawing, bended against his breast the greatest cross-bows of steel, took his aim by the eye with the hand-gun, traversed the cannon; shot at the butts, at the papegay, before him, sidewise, and behind him, like the Parthians. They tied a cable-rope to the top of a high tower, by one end whereof hanging near the ground he wrought himself with his hands to the very top; then came down again so sturdily and firmly that you could not on a plain meadow have run with more assurance. They set up a great pole fixed upon two trees. There would he hang by his hands, and with them alone, his feet touching at nothing, would go back and fore along the aforesaid rope with so great swiftness, that hardly could one overtake him with running.  8
  Then to exercise his breast and lungs, he would shout like all the devils. I heard him once call Eudemon from the Porte St. Victor to Montmartre. Stentor never had such a voice at the siege of Troy.  9
  Then for the strengthening of his nerves, they made him two great pigs of lead, each in weight 8,700 quintals. Those he took up from the ground, in each hand one, then lifted them up over his head, and held them so without stirring three quarters of an hour or more, which was an inimitable force.  10
  He fought at barriers with the stoutest; and when it came to the cope, he stood so sturdily on his feet that he abandoned himself unto the strongest, in case they could remove him from his place, as Milo was wont to do of old,—in imitation of whom he held a pomegranate in his hand, to give it unto him that could take it from him.  11
  The time being thus bestowed, and himself rubbed, cleansed, and refreshed with other clothes, they returned fair and softly; and passing through certain meadows, or other grassy places, beheld the trees and plants, comparing them with what is written of them in the books of the ancients, such as Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Marinus, Pliny, Nicander, Macer, and Galen, and carried home to the house great handfuls of them, whereof a young page called Rhizotomos had charge—together with hoes, picks, spuds, pruning-knives, and other instruments requisite for herbarizing. Being come to their lodging, whilst supper was making ready, they repeated certain passages of that which has been read, and then sat down at table. Here remark, that his dinner was sober and frugal, for he did then eat only to prevent the gnawings of his stomach; but his supper was copious and large, for he took then as much as was fit to maintain and nourish him: which indeed is the true diet prescribed by the art of good and sound physic, although a rabble of fond physicians counsel the contrary. During that repast was continued the lesson read at dinner as long as they thought good; the rest was spent in good discourse, learned and profitable. After that they had given thanks, they set themselves to sing musically, and play upon harmonious instruments, or at those pretty sports made with cards, dice, or cups,—thus made merry till it was time to go to bed; and sometimes they would go make visits unto learned men, or to such as had been travelers in strange countries. At full night they went unto the most open place of the house to see the face of the sky, and there beheld the comets, if any were, as likewise the figures, situations, aspects, oppositions, and conjunctions of the stars.  12
  Then with his master did he briefly recapitulate, after the manner of the Pythagoreans, that which he had read, seen, learned, done, and understood in the whole course of that day.  13
  Then prayed they unto God the Creator, falling down before him, and strengthening their faith towards him, and glorifying him for his boundless bounty; and giving thanks unto him for the time that was past, they recommended themselves to his Divine clemency for the future. Which being done, they entered upon their repose.  14
  If it happened that the weather were rainy and inclement, the forenoon was employed according to custom, except that they had a good clear fire lighted, to correct the distempers of the air. But after dinner, instead of their wonted exercitations, they did abide within, and by way of Apotherapie, did recreate themselves in bottling hay, in cleaving and sawing wood, and in threshing sheaves of corn at the barn.  15
  Then they studied the art of painting or carving; or brought into use the antique game of knucklebones, as Leonicus hath written of it, and as our good friend Lascaris playeth at it. While playing, they examined the passages of ancient authors wherein the said play is mentioned, or any metaphor drawn from it.  16
  They went likewise to see the drawing of metals, or the casting of great ordnance: they went to see the lapidaries, the goldsmiths and cutters of precious stones, the alchemists, coiners of money, upholsterers, weavers, velvet-workers, watchmakers, looking-glass-makers, printers, organists, dyers, and other such kind of artificers; and everywhere giving them wine, did learn and consider the industry and invention of the trades.  17
  They went also to hear the public lectures, the solemn Acts, the repetitions, the declamations, the pleadings of the gentle lawyers, and sermons of evangelical preachers.  18
  He went through the halls and places appointed for fencing, and there played against the masters of all weapons, and showed them by experience that he knew as much in it as, yea, more than they. And instead of herbarizing, they visited the shops of druggists, herbalists, and apothecaries, and diligently considered the fruits, roots, leaves, gums, seeds, and strange unguents, as also how they did compound them.  19
  He went to see jugglers, tumblers, mountebanks, and quacksalvers, and considered their cunning, their shifts, their summersaults, and their smooth tongues; especially of those of Chauny in Picardy, who are naturally great praters, and brave gibers of fibs, in manner of green apes.  20
  At their return they did eat more soberly at supper than at other times, and meats more desiccative and extenuating; to the end that the intemperate moisture of the air, communicated to the body by a necessary confinity, might by this means be corrected, and that they might not receive any prejudice for want of their ordinary bodily exercise.  21
  Thus was Gargantua governed; and kept on in this course of education, from day to day profiting, as you may understand such a young man of good sense, with such discipline so continued, may do. Which, although at the beginning it seemed difficult, became a little after so sweet, so easy, and so delightful, that it seemed rather the recreation of a king than the study of a scholar. Nevertheless, Ponocrates, to divert him from this vehement intention of spirit, thought fit, once in a month, upon some fair and clear day, to go out of the city betimes in the morning, either towards Gentilly or Boulogne, or to Montrouge, or Charenton-bridge, or to Vanves, or St. Cloud, and there spend all the day long in making the greatest cheer that could be devised; sporting, making merry, drinking healths, playing, singing, dancing, tumbling in some fair meadow, unnestling of sparrows, taking of quails, and fishing for frogs and crayfish. But though that day was passed without books or lecture, yet was it not spent without profit; for in the said meadows they repeated certain pleasant verses of Virgil’s ‘Agriculture,’ of Hesiod, and of Politian’s ‘Husbandry’; would set abroach some witty Latin epigrams, then immediately turned them into rondeaux and ballades in the French language. In their feasting they would sometimes separate the water from the wine that was therewith mixed—as Cato teacheth, De re rustica, and Pliny—with an ivy cup; would wash the wine in a basin full of water, and take it out again with a funnel; would make the water go from one glass to another, and would contrive little automatic engines,—that is to say, machines moving of themselves.  22
 
 
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