Chapter 16 How Pantagruel adviseth Panurge to consult with the Sibyl o_anzoust
A little while thereafter Pantagruel sent for Panurge and said unto him, Th_ffection which I bear you being now inveterate and settled in my mind by _ong continuance of time, prompteth me to the serious consideration of you_elfare and profit; in order whereto, remark what I have thought thereon. I_ath been told me that at Panzoust, near Crouly, dwelleth a very famous sibyl,
who is endowed with the skill of foretelling all things to come. Tak_pistemon in your company, repair towards her, and hear what she will say unt_ou. She is possibly, quoth Epistemon, some Canidia, Sagana, or Pythonissa,
either whereof with us is vulgarly called a witch, —I being the more easil_nduced to give credit to the truth of this character of her, that the plac_f her abode is vilely stained with the abominable repute of abounding mor_ith sorcerers and witches than ever did the plains of Thessaly. I should not,
to my thinking, go thither willingly, for that it seems to me a thin_nwarrantable, and altogether forbidden in the law of Moses. We are not Jews,
quoth Pantagruel, nor is it a matter judiciously confessed by her, no_uthentically proved by others that she is a witch. Let us for the presen_uspend our judgment, and defer till after your return from thence the siftin_nd garbling of those niceties. Do we know but that she may be an elevent_ibyl or a second Cassandra? But although she were neither, and she did no_erit the name or title of any of these renowned prophetesses, what hazard, i_he name of God, do you run by offering to talk and confer with her of th_nstant perplexity and perturbation of your thoughts? Seeing especially, an_hich is most of all, she is, in the estimation of those that are acquainte_ith her, held to know more, and to be of a deeper reach of understanding,
than is either customary to the country wherein she liveth or to the se_hereof she is. What hindrance, hurt, or harm doth the laudable desire o_nowledge bring to any man, were it from a sot, a pot, a fool, a stool, _inter mitten, a truckle for a pulley, the lid of a goldsmith's crucible, a_il-bottle, or old slipper? You may remember to have read, or heard at least,
that Alexander the Great, immediately after his having obtained a gloriou_ictory over the King Darius in Arbela, refused, in the presence of th_plendid and illustrious courtiers that were about him, to give audience to _oor certain despicable-like fellow, who through the solicitations an_ediation of some of his royal attendants was admitted humbly to beg tha_race and favour of him. But sore did he repent, although in vain, a thousan_nd ten thousand times thereafter, the surly state which he then took upon hi_o the denial of so just a suit, the grant whereof would have been worth unt_im the value of a brace of potent cities. He was indeed victorious in Persia,
but withal so far distant from Macedonia, his hereditary kingdom, that the jo_f the one did not expel the extreme grief which through occasion of the othe_e had inwardly conceived; for, not being able with all his power to find o_nvent a convenient mean and expedient how to get or come by the certainty o_ny news from thence, both by reason of the huge remoteness of the places fro_ne to another, as also because of the impeditive interposition of many grea_ivers, the interjacent obstacle of divers wild deserts, and obstructiv_nterjection of sundry almost inaccessible mountains,—whilst he was in thi_ad quandary and solicitous pensiveness, which, you may suppose, could not b_f a small vexation to him, considering that it was a matter of no grea_ifficulty to run over his whole native soil, possess his country, seize o_is kingdom, install a new king in the throne, and plant thereon foreig_olonies, long before he could come to have any advertisement of it: fo_bviating the jeopardy of so dreadful inconveniency, and putting a fit remed_hereto, a certain Sidonian merchant of a low stature but high fancy, ver_oor in show, and to the outward appearance of little or no account, havin_resented himself before him, went about to affirm and declare that he ha_xcogitated and hit upon a ready mean and way by the which those of hi_erritories at home should come to the certain notice of his Indian victories,
and himself be perfectly informed of the state and condition of Egypt an_acedonia within less than five days. Whereupon the said Alexander, plunge_nto a sullen animadvertency of mind, through his rash opinion of th_mprobability of performing a so strange and impossible-like undertaking,
dismissed the merchant without giving ear to what he had to say, and vilifie_im. What could it have cost him to hearken unto what the honest man ha_nvented and contrived for his good? What detriment, annoyance, damage, o_oss could he have undergone to listen to the discovery of that secret whic_he good fellow would have most willingly revealed unto him? Nature, I a_ersuaded, did not without a cause frame our ears open, putting thereto n_ate at all, nor shutting them up with any manner of enclosures, as she hat_one unto the tongue, the eyes, and other such out-jetting parts of the body.
The cause, as I imagine, is to the end that every day and every night, an_hat continually, we may be ready to hear, and by a perpetual hearing apt t_earn. For, of all the senses, it is the fittest for the reception of th_nowledge of arts, sciences, and disciplines; and it may be that man was a_ngel, that is to say, a messenger sent from God, as Raphael was to Tobit. To_uddenly did he contemn, despise, and misregard him; but too long thereafter,
by an untimely and too late repentance, did he do penance for it. You say ver_ell, answered Epistemon, yet shall you never for all that induce me t_elieve that it can tend any way to the advantage or commodity of a man t_ake advice and counsel of a woman, namely, of such a woman, and the woman o_uch a country. Truly I have found, quoth Panurge, a great deal of good in th_ounsel of women, chiefly in that of the old wives amongst them; for ever_ime I consult with them I readily get a stool or two extraordinary, to th_reat solace of my bumgut passage. They are as sleuthhounds in th_nfallibility of their scent, and in their sayings no less sententious tha_he rubrics of the law. Therefore in my conceit it is not an improper kind o_peech to call them sage or wise women. In confirmation of which opinion o_ine, the customary style of my language alloweth them the denomination o_resage women. The epithet of sage is due unto them because they ar_urpassing dexterous in the knowledge of most things. And I give them th_itle of presage, for that they divinely foresee and certainly foretell futur_ontingencies and events of things to come. Sometimes I call them no_aunettes, but monettes, from their wholesome monitions. Whether it be so, as_ythagoras, Socrates, Empedocles, and our master Ortuinus. I furthermor_raise and commend above the skies the ancient memorable institution of th_ristine Germans, who ordained the responses and documents of old women to b_ighly extolled, most cordially reverenced, and prized at a rate in nothin_nferior to the weight, test, and standard of the sanctuary. And as they wer_espectfully prudent in receiving of these sound advices, so by honouring an_ollowing them did they prove no less fortunate in the happy success of al_heir endeavours. Witness the old wife Aurinia, and the good mother Velled, i_he days of Vespasian. You need not any way doubt but that feminine old age i_lways fructifying in qualities sublime—I would have said sibylline. Let u_o, by the help, let us go, by the virtue of God, let us go. Farewell, Fria_ohn, I recommend the care of my codpiece to you. Well, quoth Epistemon, _ill follow you, with this protestation nevertheless, that if I happen to ge_ sure information, or otherwise find that she doth use any kind of charm o_nchantment in her responses, it may not be imputed to me for a blame to leav_ou at the gate of her house, without accompanying you any further in.