How Pantagruel representeth unto Panurge the difficulty of giving advice in the matter of marriage; and to that purpose mentioneth somewhat of the Homeric and Virgilian lotteries.
Your counsel, quoth Panurge, under your correction and favour, seemeth unto me not unlike to the song of Gammer Yea-by-nay. It is full of sarcasms, mockeries, bitter taunts, nipping bobs, derisive quips, biting jerks, and contradictory iterations, the one part destroying the other. I know not, quoth Pantagruel, which of all my answers to lay hold on; for your proposals are so full of ifs and buts, that I can ground nothing on them, nor pitch upon any solid and positive determination satisfactory to what is demanded by them. Are not you assured within yourself of what you have a mind to? The chief and main point of the whole matter lieth there. All the rest is merely casual, and totally dependeth upon the fatal disposition of the heavens.
We see some so happy in the fortune of this nuptial encounter, that their family shineth as it were with the radiant effulgency of an idea, model, or representation of the joys of paradise; and perceive others, again, to be so unluckily matched in the conjugal yoke, that those very basest of devils which tempt the hermits that inhabit the deserts of Thebais and Montserrat are not more miserable than they. It is therefore expedient, seeing you are resolved for once to take a trial of the state of marriage, that, with shut eyes, bowing your head, and kissing the ground, you put the business to a venture, and give it a fair hazard, in recommending the success of the residue to the disposure of Almighty God. It lieth not in my power to give you any other manner of assurance, or otherwise to certify you of what shall ensue on this your undertaking. Nevertheless, if it please you, this you may do. Bring hither Virgil’s poems, that after having opened the book, and with our fingers severed the leaves thereof three several times, we may, according to the number agreed upon betwixt ourselves, explore the future hap of your intended marriage. For frequently by a Homeric lottery have many hit upon their destinies; as is testified in the person of Socrates, who, whilst he was in prison, hearing the recitation of this verse of Homer, said of Achilles in the Ninth of the Iliads—