A Letter to Maitre Francoys Rabelais
(of the Coming of the Coqcigrues
From Letters to Dead Authors
Master,- In the Boreal and Septentrional lands, turned aside from the noonday
and the sun, there dwelt of old (as thou knowest, and as Olaus voucheth) a
race of men, brave, strong, nimble, and adventurous, who had no other care but
to fight and drink. There, by reason of the cold (as Virgil witnesseth), men
break wine with axes. To their minds, when once they were dead and gotten to
Valhalla, or the place of their Gods, there would be no other pleasure but to
swig, tipple, drink, and boose till the coming of that last darkness and
Twilight, wherein they, with their deities, should do battle against the
enemies of all mankind; which day they rather desired than dreaded.
So chanced it also with Pantagruel and Brother John and their company, after
they had once partaken of the secret of the _Dive_Bouteille_. Thereafter they
searched no longer; but, abiding at their ease, were merry, frolic, jolly,
gay, glad, and wise; only that they always and ever did expect the awful
Coming of the Coqcigrues. Now concerning the day of that coming, and the
nature of them that should come, they knew nothing; and for his part Panurge
was all the more adread, as Aristotle testifieth that men (and Panurge above
others) most fear that which they know least. Now it chanced one day, as they
sat at meat, with viands rare, dainty, and precious as ever Apicius dreamed
of, that there fluttered on the air a faint sound as of sermons, speeches,
orations, addresses, discourses, lectures, and the like; whereat Panurge,
pricking up his ears, cried, 'Methinks this wind bloweth from Midlothian,' and
so fell a trembling.
Next, to their aural orifices, and the avenues audient of the brain, was borne
a very melancholy sound as of harmoniums, hymns, organ-pianos, psalteries, and
the like, all playing different airs, in a kind most hateful to the Muses.
Then said Panurge, as well as he might for the chattering of his teeth: 'May I
never drink if here come not the Coqcigrues!' and this saying and prophecy of
his was true and inspired. But thereon the others began to mock, flout, and
gird at Panurge for his cowardice. ' Here am I! ' cried Brother John, '
well-armed and ready to stand a siege; being entrenched, fortified, hemmed-in
and surrounded with great pasties, huge pieces of salted beef, salads,
fricassees, hams, tongues, pies, and a wilderness of pleasant little tarts,
jellies, pastries, trifles, and fruits of all kinds, and I shall not thirst
while I have good wells, founts, springs, and sources of Bordeaux wine,
Burgundy, wine of the Champagne country, sack and Canary. A fig for thy
But even as he spoke there ran up suddenly a whole legion, or rather army, of
physicians, each armed with laryngoscopes, stethoscopes, horoscopes,
microscopes, weighing machines, and such other tools, engines, and arms as
they had who, after thy time, persecuted Monsieur de Pourceaugnac! And they
all, rushing on Brother John, cried out to him, ' Abstain! Abstain!' And one
said, 'I have well diagnosed thee, and thou art in a fair way to have the
gout.' 'I never did better in my days,' said Brother John. 'Away with thy
meats and drinks!' they cried. And one said, 'He must to Royat;' and another,
'Hence with him to Aix;' and a third, 'Banish him to Wiesbaden;' and a
fourth, 'Hale him to Gastein;' and yet another, ' To Barbouille with him in
And while others felt his pulse and looked at his tongue, they all wrote
prescriptions for him like men mad. 'For thy eating,' cried he that seemed to
be their leader, 'No soup!' 'No soup!' quoth Brother John; and those cheeks of
his, whereat you might have warmed your two hands in the winter solstice, grew
white as lilies. 'Nay! and no salmon nor any beef nor mutton! A little chicken
by times, but _periculo_tuo_! Nor any game, such as grouse, partridge,
pheasant, capercailzie, wild duck; nor any cheese, nor fruit, nor pastry, nor
coffee, nor eau de vie; and avoid all sweets. No veal, pork, nor made dishes
of any kind.' 'Then what may I eat?' quoth the good Brother, whose valour had
oozed out of the soles of his sandals. 'A little cold bacon at breakfast--no
eggs,' quoth the leader of the strange folk, 'and a slice of toast without
butter.' 'And for thy drink'-- ('What?' gasped Brother John)--'one
dessert-spoonful of whisky, with a pint of the water of Apollinaris at
luncheon and dinner. No more!' At this Brother John fainted, falling like a
great buttress of a hill, such as Taygetus or Erymanthus.
While they were busy with him, others of the frantic folk had built great
platforms of wood, whereon they all stood and spoke at once, both men and
women. And of these some wore red crosses on their garments, which meaneth
'Salvation ;' and others wore white crosses, with a little black button of
crape, to signify 'Purity;' and others bits of blue to mean 'Abstinence.'
While some of these pursued Panurge others did beset Pantagruel; asking him
very long questions, whereunto he gave but short answers. Thus they asked:
Have ye Local Option here?--Pan.: What?
May one man drink if his neighbour be not athirst?-- Pan.: Yea!
Have ye Free Education? -- Pan.: What?
Must they that have, pay to school them that have not?-- Pan.: Nay
Have ye free land?--Pan.: What?
Have ye taken the land from the farmer, and given it to the tailor out of work
and the candlemaker masterless? --Pan.: Nay!
Have your women folk votes?--Pan.: Bosh!
Have ye got religion?-- Pan.: How?
Do you go about the streets at night, brawling, blowing a trumpet before you,
and making long prayers?-- Pan.: Nay
Have you manhood suffrage? -- Pan.: Eh?
Is Jack as good as his master? Pan.: Nay!
Have you joined the Arbitration Society? -- Pan.: _Quoy?_?
Will you let another kick you, and will you ask his neighbour if you deserve
the same?-- Pan.: Nay?
Do you cat what you list?-- Pan.: Ay!
Do you drink when you are athirst? Pan.: Ay!
Are you governed by the free expression of the popular will?-- Pan.: How?
Are you servants of priests, pulpits, and penny papers?--Pan.: No!
Now, when they heard these answers of Pantagruel they all fell, some a
weeping, some a praying, some a swearing, some an arbitrating, some a
lecturing, some a caucussing, some a preaching, some a faith-healing, some a
miracle-working, some a hypnotising, some a writing to the daily press; and
while they were thus busy, like folk distraught, 'reforming the island,'
Pantagruel burst out a laughing; whereat they were greatly dismayed; for
laughter killeth the whole race of Coqcigrues, and they may not endure it.
Then Pantagruel and his company stole aboard a barque that Panurge had ready
in the harbour. And having provisioned her well with store of meat and good
drink, they set sail for the kingdom of Entelechy, where, having landed, they
were kindly entreated; and there abide to this day; drinking of the sweet and
eating of the fat, under the protection of that intellectual sphere which hath
in all places its centre and nowhere its circumference.
Such was their destiny; there was their end appointed, and thither the
Coqcigrues can never come. For all the air of that land is full of laughter,
which killeth Coqcigrues; and there aboundeth the herb Pantagruelion. But for
thee, Master Francoys, thou art not well liked in this island of ours, where
the Coqcigrues are abundant, very fierce, cruel, and tyrannical. Yet thou hast
thy friends, that meet and drink to thee and wish thee well wheresoever thou
hast found thy _grand_peut-e'tre_.
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