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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

François Rabelais (c. 1490–1553)

Concerning Diogenes and Drink

From “Gargantua and Pantagruel”

GOOD people, most illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious gouty gentlemen—did you ever see Diogenes the cynic philosopher? If you have seen him, you then had your eyes in your head, or I am very much out of my understanding and logical sense. It is a gallant thing to see the clearness of wine, of gold, of the sun. I’ll be judged by the blind-born, so renowned in the sacred Scriptures, who, having at his choice to ask whatever he would from Him Who is Almighty, and Whose word in an instant is effectually performed, asked nothing else but that he might see.

If you have not seen him—as I am easily induced to believe that you have not—at least you have heard some talk of him. If you have not heard of him, I will presently tell you a story to make your wine relish. Drink, then; and so to the purpose. Harken, now, while I give you notice—to the end that you may not, like infidels, be by your simplicity abused—that in his time he was a rare philosopher, and the cheerfullest of a thousand. If he had some imperfection, so have you, so have we; for there is nothing but God that is perfect. Yet so it was, that by Alexander the Great, although he had Aristotle for his instructor and domestic, was he held in such estimation, that he wished, if he had not been Alexander, to have been Diogenes the Sinopian.

When Philip, King of Macedon, enterprised the siege and ruin of Corinth, the Corinthians, having received certain intelligence by their spies that he with a numerous army in battle array was coming against them, were all of them, not without cause, most terribly afraid; and therefore were not neglective of their duty in doing their best endeavors to put themselves in a fit posture to resist his hostile approach and defend their own city.

Some from the fields brought into the fortified places their movables, cattle, corn, wine, fruit, victuals, and other necessary provision.

Others did fortify and rampart their walls, set up little fortresses, bastions, squared ravelins, digged trenches, cleansed countermines, fenced themselves with gabions, contrived platforms, emptied casemates, barricaded the false brays, erected the cavaliers, repaired the counterscarps, plastered the curtains, lengthened ravelins, stopped parapets, mortised barbicans, new-pointed the portcullises, fastened the herses, sarasinesks, and cataracts, placed their sentries, and doubled their patrol. Every one did watch and ward, and none was exempted from carrying the basket. Some polished corslets, varnished backs and breasts, cleaned the head-pieces, mail-coats, brigandines, sallets, helmets, morions, jacks, gushets, gorgets, hoguines, brassards, and cuissards, corslets, haubergeons, shields, bucklers, targets, greves, gantlets, and spurs. Others made ready bows, slings, crossbows, pellets, catapults, migraines or fire-balls, firebrands, balists, scorpions, and other such warlike engines, expugnatory, and destructive to the helepolides. They sharpened and prepared spears, staves, pikes, brown bills, halberds, long hooks, lances, zagayes, quarterstaves, eel-spears, partizans, troutstaves, clubs, battle-axes, maces, darts, dartlets, glaves, javelins, javelots, and truncheons. They set edges upon simitars, cutlases, badelaire, back-swords, tucks, rapiers, bayonets, arrow-heads, dags, daggers, mandousians, poniards, whynyards, knives, skeans, sables, chippin knives, and raillons.

Every man exercised his weapon, every man scoured off the rust from his natural hanger. Nor was there a woman among them, though never so reserved, or old, who made not her harness to be well furbished. As you know, the Corinthian women of old were reputed very courageous combatants.

Diogenes, seeing them all so warm at work, and himself not employed by the magistrates in any business whatsoever, he did very seriously, for many days together, without speaking one word, consider, and contemplate the countenances of his fellow citizens.

Then, on a sudden, as if he had been roused up and inspired by a martial spirit, he girded his cloak, scarf-wise, about his left arm, tucked up his sleeves to the elbow, trussed himself like a clown gathering apples, and, giving to one of his old acquaintance his wallet, books, and opistographs, away went he out of town toward a little hill or promontory of Corinth, called Craneum, and there on the strand, a pretty level place, did he roll his jolly tub, which served him for a house to shelter him from the injuries of the weather. There, I say, in great vehemency of spirit, did he turn it, veer it, wheel it, frisk it, jumble it, shuffle it, huddle it, tumble it, hurry it, jolt it, jostle it, overthrow it, evert it, invert it, subvert it, overturn it, beat it, thwack it, bump it, batter it, knock it, thrust it, push it, jerk it, shock it, shake it, toss it, throw it, overthrow it, upside down, topsy-turvy, tread it, trample it, stamp it, tap it, ting it, ring it, tingle it, towl it, sound it, resound it, stop it, shut it, unbung it, close it, unstopple it. And then again in a mighty bustle he mounted it, broached it, nicked it, notched it, bespattered it, decked it, adorned it, trimmed it, garnished it, gaged it, furnished it, bored it, pierced it, trapped it, rumbled it, slid it down the hill, and precipitated it from the very height of the Craneum. Then from the foot to the top (like another Sisyphus with his stone), he bore it up again and every way so banged it and belabored it, that it was ten thousand to one he had not struck the bottom of it out.

Which, when one of his friends had seen, and asked him why he did so toil his body, perplex his spirit, and torment his tub, the philosopher’s answer was, “That, not being employed in any other charge by the Republic, he thought it expedient to thunder and storm it so tempestuously upon his tub, that, among a people so fervently busy, and earnest at work, he alone might not seem a loitering slug and lazy fellow.” To the same purpose may I say of myself,

  • “Though I be rid from fear,
  • I am not void of care.”
  • For perceiving no account to be made of me toward the discharge of a trust of any great concernment, and considering that through all the parts of this most noble kingdom of France, both on this and on the other side of the mountains, every one is most diligently exercised and busied, some in the fortifying of their own native country, for its defense, others in the repulsing of their enemies by an offensive war; and all this with a policy so excellent, and such admirable order, so manifestly profitable for the future, whereby France shall have its frontiers most magnificently enlarged, and the French assured of a long and well-grounded peace, that very little withholds me from the opinion of good Heraclitus, which affirmeth war to be the father of all good things. And therefore do I believe that war is in Latin called bellum, and not by antiphrasis, as some patchers of old rusty Latin would have us to think, because in war there is little beauty to be seen; but absolutely and simply, for that in war appeareth all that is good and graceful, and that by the wars is purged out all manner of wickedness and deformity. For proof whereof the wise and pacific Solomon could no better represent the unspeakable perfection of the divine wisdom, than by comparing it to the due disposure and ranking of an army in battle array, well provided and ordered.

    Therefore, by reason of my weakness and inability, being reputed by my compatriots unfit for the offensive part of warfare; and, on the other side, being no way employed in matter of the defensive, although it had been but to carry burdens, fill ditches, or break clods, either whereof had been to me indifferent—therefore, I held it not a little disgraceful to be only an idle spectator of so many valorous, eloquent, and warlike persons who, in the view and sight of all Europe, act this notable interlude or tragi-comedy, and not exert myself, and contribute thereto this nothing, my all, which remained for me to do. In my opinion, little honor is due to such as are mere lookers-on, liberal of their eyes, and of their strength parsimonious, who conceal their crowns and hide their silver. Having made this choice and election, it seemed to me that my exercise therein would be neither unprofitable nor troublesome to any, while I should thus set a-going my Diogenical tub, which is all that is left me safe from the shipwreck of my former misfortunes.

    At this dingle-dangle wagging of my tub, what would you have me to do? I know not as yet. Stay a little, till I suck up a draft of this bottle; it is my true and only Helicon; it is my Caballine Fountain; it is my sole enthusiasm. Drinking thus, I meditate, discourse, resolve, and conclude. After that the epilogue is made, I laugh, I write, I compose, and drink again. Ennius drinking wrote, and writing drank. Æschylus, if Plutarch in his Symposiacs merit any faith, drank composing, and drinking composed. Homer never wrote fasting, and Cato never wrote till after he had drunk. These passages I have brought before you, to the end you may not say that I live without the example of men well praised and better prized.

    Since then my luck or destiny is such as you have heard—for it is not for everybody to go to Corinth—I am fully resolved to be so little idle and unprofitable, that I will set myself to serve the one and the other sort of people. Among the diggers, pioneers, and rampart-builders, I will do as did Neptune and Apollo at Troy, under Laomedon, or as did Renault of Montauban in his latter days. I will serve the masons; I will set on the pot to boil for the bricklayers; and, while the minced meat is making ready at the sound of my small pipe, I will measure the muzzle of the musing dotards. Thus did Amphion with the melody of his harp found, build, and finish the great and renowned city of Thebes.

    For the use of the warriors I am about to broach off a new barrel to give them a taste—which by two former volumes of mine, if by the deceitfulness and falsehood of printers they had not been jumbled, marred, and spoiled, you would have very well relished—and draw unto them a jolly, cheerful quart of Pantagruelian sentences, which you may lawfully call, if you please, Diogenical; and shall have me, seeing I cannot be their fellow soldier, for their faithful butler, refreshing and cheering, according to my little power, their return from the alarms of the enemy; as also for an indefatigable extoller of their martial exploits and glorious achievements.

    I remember, nevertheless, to have read that Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, one day among the many spoils and booties which by his victories he had acquired, presented to the Egyptians, in the open view of the people, a Bactrian camel all black, and a party-colored slave, in such sort, as that the one half of his body was black, and the other white, not in partition of breadth by the diaphragm, as was that woman consecrated to the Indian Venus, whom the Thyanean philosopher did see between the river Hydaspes and Mount Caucasus, but in a perpendicular dimension of altitude; which were things never before that seen in Egypt. He expected by the show of these novelties to win the love of the people. But what happened thereupon? At the production of the camel they were all affrighted, and offended at the sight of the party-colored man—some scoffed at him as a detestable monster brought forth by the error of Nature—in a word, of the hope which he had to please these Egyptians, and by such means to increase the affection which they naturally bore him, he was altogether frustrated and disappointed; understanding fully, by their deportments, that they took more pleasure and delight in things that were proper, handsome, and perfect, than in misshapen, monstrous, and ridiculous creatures. Since which time he had both the slave and the camel in such dislike, that very shortly thereafter, either through negligence or for want of ordinary sustenance, they both tipped over the perch.

    This example putteth me in a suspense between hope and fear, misdoubting that, for the contentment which I aim at, I shall but reap what will be most distasteful to me. My cake will be dough; instead of serving them, I shall but vex them, and offend those whom I purpose to exhilarate; resembling, in this dubious adventure, Euclion’s cock, so renowned by Plautus in his Pot, and by Ausonius in his Griphon, and by divers others; which cock, for having by his scraping discovered a treasure, had his hide well curried. Put the case I get no anger by it, though formerly such things fell out, and the like may occur again—yet, by Hercules, it will not. For I perceive in them all, one and the same specifical form, and the like individual proprieties, which our ancestors called Pantagruelism; by virtue whereof they will bear with anything that floweth from a good, free, and loyal heart. I have seen them ordinarily take good-will in part of payment, and remain satisfied therewith, when one was not able to do better. Having despatched this point, I return to my barrel.

    Up, my lads, to this wine, spare it not! Drink, boys, and troll it off at full bowls! If you do not think it good, let it alone. I am not like those officious and importunate sots, who by force, outrage, and violence, constrain an easy, good-natured fellow to whiffle, quaff, carouse, and what is worse. All honest tipplers, all honest gouty men, all such as are a-dry, coming to this little barrel of mine, need not drink thereof, if it please them not. But if they have a mind to it, and that the wine prove agreeable to the tastes of their worshipful worships, let them drink, frankly, freely, and boldly, without paying anything, and welcome. This is my decree, my statute, and ordinance. And let none fear there shall be any want of wine, for how much soever you shall draw forth at the faucet, so much shall I tun in at the bung. Thus shall the barrel remain inexhaustible; it hath a lively spring and perpetual current. Such was the beverage contained within the cup of Tantalus, which was figuratively represented among the Brachman sages. Such was in Iberia the mountain of salt, so highly written of by Cato. Such was the branch of gold consecrated to the subterranean goddess, which Vergil treats of so sublimely. It is a true cornucopia of merriment and raillery. If at any time it seem to you to be emptied to the very lees, yet shall it not for all that be drawn wholly dry. Good hope remains there at the bottom, as in Pandora’s box; and not despair, as in the leaky tubs of the Danaids. Remark well what I have said, and what manner of people they be whom I do invite; for, to the end that none be deceived, I, in imitation of Lucilius, who did protest that he wrote only to his own Tarentines and Consentines, have not pierced this vessel for any else but you, honest men, who are drinkers of the first edition, and gouty blades of the highest degree. The great dorophages, bribemongers, have on their hands occupation enough, and enough on the hooks for their venison. There may they follow their prey; here is no garbage for them. You pettifoggers, garblers, and masters of chicanery, speak not to me. Hence, mastiffs, dogs in a doublet, get you behind, aloof, villains, out of my sunshine! Curs, to the devil! Do you jog hither, wagging your tails, to pant at my wine? Look, here is the cudgel which Diogenes, in his last will, ordained to be set by him after his death, for beating away, crushing the reins, and breaking the backs of these bustuary hobgoblins and Cerberian hell-hounds. Pack you hence, therefore, you hypocrites, to your sheep, dogs! Get you gone, you dissemblers, to the devil! Eh! What! are you there yet? I renounce my part of Papimanie, if I snap you, Grr, Grrr, Grrrrrr. Avaunt! Avaunt! Will you not be gone?