Chapter 52

How a certain kind of Pantagruelion cannot be consumed by fire.

What I have told you is great and admirable. But if you would hazard to believe in some other divinity of this sacred Pantagruelion, I will tell it to you. Believe it or not, it’s all the same to me. It suffices to me to have told you the truth. Truth you say. But to enter there, for it is of access quite rugged and difficult, I ask you. If I have in this bottle put two measures of wine, and one of water together very well mixed, how would you unmix them? How would you separate them? In what manner would you return to me the water apart without the wine, the wine without the water, in the same measure that they had been put there. Otherwise. If your carriers and bargemen bringing for the provision of your houses a certain number of tuns, pipes, and puncheons of wine of Grave, of Orleans, of Beaulne, of Mirevaux, had broached and drunk half of them, the rest filled with water, as do the Limosins by sabotsful, carting the wines of Argenton and Sangaultier, how would you remove the water entirely? How would you purify it? I understand well, you are speaking to me of a funnel of ivy. That is written. it is true and averred by a thousand experiments. You knew it already. But those that did not know it and never saw it would not believe it possible. To proceed.

If we were in the time of Sulla, Marius, Cæsar and other Roman emperors, or of the time of our ancient Druids, who used to have burned the dead bodies of their parents and lords, and wished the ashes of your wives or fathers to drink in infusion of some good white wine, as did Artemisia the ashes of Mausolus her husband, or else keep them entire in some urn and reliquary, how would you save these ashes apart and separate from the cinders of the bust and funeral fire? Answer. By my fig you would be very embarassed. I will disembarrass you. And tell you, that [you should] take of this celestial Pantagruelion as much as would be needed to cover the body of the deceased and the said body having been carefully enclosed within, bound and sewn with the same material, throw it on fire however great, however ardent you wish; the fire through the Pantagruelion will burn and reduce to ashes the body and the bones. The Pantagruelion will not only be neither consumed nor burned, nor lose a single atom of the ashes enclosed within, nor receive a single atom of the ashes of the burning pile, but will at last be taken out of the fire fairer, whiter, and cleaner than it was when you threw it in. For this reason it is called asbestos. You will find plenty of it in Carpasia, and under the climate Dia Cyenes, at a good rate. O grand thing! admirable thing? The fire which devours all, spoils all, and consumes; cleanses, purifies, and whitens only this Pantagruelion Carpasian Asbestin. If you mistrust this, and demand confirmation and the usual sign like Jews and unbelievers: take a fresh egg and wrap it round with this divine Pantagruelion. Thus wrapped up, put it in a brasier, as large and hot as you like. Leave it there as long as you like. At last you will take out the egg cooked, hard, and burnt, without alteration, change, or over-heating of the sacred Pantagruelion. For less than fifty thousand Bordeaux crowns, reduced to the twelfth part of a mite, you may make the experiment. Do not compare here the salamander. That’s a mistake. I confess indeed that a little fire of straw refreshes and rejoices it. But I assure you that in a great furnace it is like every other animal, suffocated and consumed. We have seen the experiment of it. Galen has long ago confirmed and demonstrated it, Book 3, De temperamentis, and Dioscorides maintains this, Book 2. Here do not instance to me the feather alum, nor the wooden tower in Piraeus which L. Sulla could not make burn, because Archelaus, governor of the town for King Mithradates, had plastered it all over with alum. Do not compare me here that tree which Alexander Cornelius called eonem. asserting that it was like the oak that bears the mistletoe; and cannot be by water, nor by fire, consumed or damaged, any more than the mistletoe of the oak, and that of this had been fashioned and built the so celebrated ship Argo. Search for who will believe it. I excuse myself. Neither parallel with it, however wonderful it may be, that kind of tree, which you see among the mountains of Briançon and Ambrun, which with its root furnishes us the good agaric, and from its trunk gives us resin so excellent that Galen dares equate it to turpentine; on its delicate leaves it retains that fine honey from heaven, which is manna; and which, though it be gummy and oily, is indestructible by fire. It is called larix in Greek and Latin; the people of the Alps call it melze; the Antenorides and Venetians, larege. From which was called Larignum the castle in Piedmont, which deceived Julius Cæsar on his return from the Gauls. Julius Cæsar had issued orders to all the peasants and inhabitants of the Alps and Piedmont, that they were to carry victuals and provisions to the stations which were prepared on the military road for his host as they passed out. To which they were all obedient, except those who were within Larigno, who were trusting to the natural strength of the place, refused the contribution. To chastise them for this refusal, the emperor made straight to the place march his army. Before the gate of the castle was a tower built of huge beams of larch laid one on the other alternately, like a pile of wood, continuing to such a height, that from the machicolations easily they could with stones and clubs beat off those who approached. When Cæsar heard that those within had no other defences than stones and clubs, and that they could scarcely hurl them so far as the approaches, he commanded his soldiers to throw around the castle a number of faggots, and set fire to them. Which was immediately done. The fire put to the faggots, the flame became so great and so high, that it covered the whole castle. Thus [they] thought that soon after the tower would be burnt and demolished. But the flame subsiding, and the faggots consumed, the tower appeared whole, without in anything being damaged. Which considering, Cæsar commanded that beyond of the throw of the stones all around, there one make a circuit of ditches and trenches. At which the Larignans surrendered on terms. And by their account Cæsar learned of the admirable nature of this wood, which of itself neither makes fire, flame, or coal, and would be worthy in this quality to be put in the rank of true Pantagruelion, and all the more so since Pantagruel of it had made all the gates, doors, windows, gutters, eaves, and roofing of Theleme; in like manner with this wood he caused to be covered the sterns, stems, cook-rooms, decks, courses, and bends of his carracks, ships, galleys, galleons, brigantines, foists, and other vessels of his arsenal of Thalassa; were it not that the larix in a great furnace of fire proceeding from other kinds of wood is at last consumed and destroyed, as are the stones in a lime-kiln. Pantagruelion asbeste is rather renovated and cleansed, than consumed or altered. Therefore

Indies cease, Arabs, Sabines
So to vaunt your myrrh, incense, ebony,
Come here, recognize our goods, and take from our herb the seed.
Then if with you it may grow, in good strain,
Graces render to heaven a million,
And affirm of France happy the realm,
From which proceeds Pantagruelion.

The end of the third book of deeds and sayings heroic of the good Pantagruel.

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