Monday, September 15th, 2014
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1535 / Lyon

Baby Wants His Bottle


While everyone was pleasantly tattling on the subject of drinking, Gargamelle began to feel disturbed in her lower parts. Whereupon Grandgousier got up from the grass and comforted her kindly, thinking that these were birth pangs and telling her that since she had been resting under the willows she would soon be in a good state. She ought to take new heart, he said, at the coming of her new baby. For although the pains would be somewhat severe, they would nevertheless be quickly over, and the joy that would follow after would banish all her pain, so that only the memory of it would be left.

“Have a sheep’s courage,” he said. “Bring this boy into the world, and we’ll make another.”

“Ah,” she answered, “it’s easy for you men to talk. Well, I swear to God I’ll do my best,
since you ask it of me. But I wish to heaven you had cut it off!”

“What?” asked Grandgousier.

“Ha,” she said. “Just like a man! You know what I mean well enough.”

“My member?” he said. “By the blood of all the goats, send for a knife if that’s what you want.”

“Oh,” she said. “God forbid! God forgive me, I didn’t really mean it. Don’t do anything to it on account of anything I say. But I shall have trouble enough today, unless God helps me, all on account of your member, and just because I wanted to please you.”

“Take heart,” he said. “Don’t you worry, but let the four leading oxen do the work. I’ll go and take another swig. If any pain comes on you in the meantime, I shan’t be far off. Give me a shout and I’ll be with you."

A little while later she began to groan and wail and shout. Then suddenly swarms of midwives came up from every side, and feeling her underneath found some rather ill-smelling excrescences, which they thought were the child, but it was her fundament slipping out, because of the softening of her right intestine—which you call the bum gut—owing to her having eaten too much tripe.

At this point a dirty old hag of the company, who had the reputation of being a good she doctor and had come from Brizepaille, near Saint Genou, sixty years before, made her an astringent so horrible that all her sphincter muscles were stopped and constricted. Indeed you could hardly have relaxed them with your teeth—which is a most horrible thought—even if you had copied the method of the devil at the Mass of St. Martin, when he wrote down the chatter of two local girls and stretched his parchment by tugging with his teeth.

By this misfortune the cotyledons of the matrix were loosened at the top, and the child leapt up through them to enter the hollow vein. Then climbing through the diaphragm to a point above the shoulders where this vein divides in two, he took the left fork and came out by the left ear.

As soon as he was born he cried out, not like other children, “Mies! Mies!” but “Drink! Drink! Drink!” as if inviting the whole world to drink, and so loud that he was heard through all the lands of Booze and Bibulous.

I doubt whether you will truly believe in this strange nativity. I don’t care if you don’t. But an honest man, a man of good sense, always believes what he is told and what he finds written down. Is this a violation of our law or our faith? Is it against reason or against Holy Scripture? For my part I find nothing written in the Holy Bible which contradicts it. If this had been the will of God, would you say that he could not have performed it? For goodness’ sake, do not obfuscate your brains with such an idle thought.

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About the Author

François Rabelais, from Gargantua and Pantagruel. Interested in classically oriented humanism, Rabelais grew disaffected by monastic life in 1524 after his and a friend’s Greek books were seized by superiors. He joined the medical faculty at the University of Montpellier in 1530, practicing at the Hôtel-Dieu and publishing Pantagruel in 1532. “Rabelaisian” as an adjective first appeared in English in a preface to the works of novelist Laurence Sterne: “He decently lived a becoming ornament of the Church, till his Rabelaisian spirit…immersed him into the gaieties and frivolities of the world.”

That which the sober man keeps in his breast, the drunken man lets out at the lips. Astute people, when they want to ascertain a man’s true character, make him drunk.
Martin Luther, 1569
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