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Chapter 58 A prophetical Riddle

  • Poor mortals, who wait for a happy day,
  • Cheer up your hearts, and hear what I shall say:
  • If it be lawful firmly to believe
  • That the celestial bodies can us give
  • Wisdom to judge of things that are not yet;
  • Or if from heaven such wisdom we may get
  • As may with confidence make us discourse
  • Of years to come, their destiny and course;
  • I to my hearers give to understand
  • That this next winter, though it be at hand,
  • Yea and before, there shall appear a race
  • Of men who, loth to sit still in one place,
  • Shall boldly go before all people's eyes,
  • Suborning men of divers qualities
  • To draw them unto covenants and sides,
  • In such a manner that, whate'er betides,
  • They'll move you, if you give them ear, no doubt,
  • With both your friends and kindred to fall out.
  • They'll make a vassal to gain-stand his lord,
  • And children their own parents; in a word,
  • All reverence shall then be banished,
  • No true respect to other shall be had.
  • They'll say that every man should have his turn,
  • Both in his going forth and his return;
  • And hereupon there shall arise such woes,
  • Such jarrings, and confused to's and fro's,
  • That never were in history such coils
  • Set down as yet, such tumults and garboils.
  • Then shall you many gallant men see by
  • Valour stirr'd up, and youthful fervency,
  • Who, trusting too much in their hopeful time,
  • Live but a while, and perish in their prime.
  • Neither shall any, who this course shall run,
  • Leave off the race which he hath once begun,
  • Till they the heavens with noise by their contention
  • Have fill'd, and with their steps the earth's dimension.
  • Then those shall have no less authority,
  • That have no faith, than those that will not lie;
  • For all shall be governed by a rude,
  • Base, ignorant, and foolish multitude;
  • The veriest lout of all shall be their judge,
  • O horrible and dangerous deluge!
  • Deluge I call it, and that for good reason,
  • For this shall be omitted in no season;
  • Nor shall the earth of this foul stir be free,
  • Till suddenly you in great store shall see
  • The waters issue out, with whose streams the
  • Most moderate of all shall moistened be,
  • And justly too; because they did not spare
  • The flocks of beasts that innocentest are,
  • But did their sinews and their bowels take,
  • Not to the gods a sacrifice to make,
  • But usually to serve themselves for sport:
  • And now consider, I do you exhort,
  • In such commotions so continual,
  • What rest can take the globe terrestrial?
  • Most happy then are they, that can it hold,
  • And use it carefully as precious gold,
  • By keeping it in gaol, whence it shall have
  • No help but him who being to it gave.
  • And to increase his mournful accident,
  • The sun, before it set in th' occident,
  • Shall cease to dart upon it any light,
  • More than in an eclipse, or in the night,—
  • So that at once its favour shall be gone,
  • And liberty with it be left alone.
  • And yet, before it come to ruin thus,
  • Its quaking shall be as impetuous
  • As Aetna's was when Titan's sons lay under,
  • And yield, when lost, a fearful sound like thunder.
  • Inarime did not more quickly move,
  • When Typheus did the vast huge hills remove,
  • And for despite into the sea them threw.
  • Thus shall it then be lost by ways not few,
  • And changed suddenly, when those that have it
  • To other men that after come shall leave it.
  • Then shall it be high time to cease from this
  • So long, so great, so tedious exercise;
  • For the great waters told you now by me,
  • Will make each think where his retreat shall be;
  • And yet, before that they be clean disperst,
  • You may behold in th' air, where nought was erst,
  • The burning heat of a great flame to rise,
  • Lick up the water, and the enterprise.
  • It resteth after those things to declare,
  • That those shall sit content who chosen are,
  • With all good things, and with celestial man (ne,)
  • And richly recompensed every man:
  • The others at the last all stripp'd shall be,
  • That after this great work all men may see,
  • How each shall have his due. This is their lot;
  • O he is worthy praise that shrinketh not!
  • No sooner was this enigmatical monument read over, but Gargantua, fetching _ery deep sigh, said unto those that stood by, It is not now only, I perceive, that people called to the faith of the gospel, and convinced with th_ertainty of evangelical truths, are persecuted. But happy is that man tha_hall not be scandalized, but shall always continue to the end in aiming a_hat mark which God by his dear Son hath set before us, without bein_istracted or diverted by his carnal affections and depraved nature.
  • The monk then said, What do you think in your conscience is meant an_ignified by this riddle? What? said Gargantua,—the progress and carrying o_f the divine truth. By St. Goderan, said the monk, that is not my exposition.
  • It is the style of the prophet Merlin. Make upon it as many grave allegorie_nd glosses as you will, and dote upon it you and the rest of the world a_ong as you please; for my part, I can conceive no other meaning in it but _escription of a set at tennis in dark and obscure terms. The suborners of me_re the makers of matches, which are commonly friends. After the two chase_re made, he that was in the upper end of the tennis-court goeth out, and th_ther cometh in. They believe the first that saith the ball was over or unde_he line. The waters are the heats that the players take till they swea_gain. The cords of the rackets are made of the guts of sheep or goats. Th_lobe terrestrial is the tennis-ball. After playing, when the game is done, they refresh themselves before a clear fire, and change their shirts; and ver_illingly they make all good cheer, but most merrily those that have gained.
  • And so, farewell!