How Panurge consulteth with an old French poet, named Raminagrobis.
I never thought, said Pantagruel, to have encountered with any man so headstrong in his apprehensions, or in his opinions so wilful, as I have found you to be and see you are. Nevertheless, the better to clear and extricate your doubts, let us try all courses, and leave no stone unturned nor wind unsailed by. Take good heed to what I am to say unto you. The swans, which are fowls consecrated to Apollo, never chant but in the hour of their approaching death, especially in the Meander flood, which is a river that runneth along some of the territories of Phrygia. This I say, because Aelianus and Alexander Myndius write that they had seen several swans in other places die, but never heard any of them sing or chant before their death. However, it passeth for current that the imminent death of a swan is presaged by his foregoing song, and that no swan dieth until preallably he have sung.
After the same manner, poets, who are under the protection of Apollo, when they are drawing near their latter end do ordinarily become prophets, and by the inspiration of that god sing sweetly in vaticinating things which are to come. It hath been likewise told me frequently, that old decrepit men upon the brinks of Charon’s banks do usher their decease with a disclosure all at ease, to those that are desirous of such informations, of the determinate and assured truth of future accidents and contingencies. I remember also that Aristophanes, in a certain comedy of his, calleth the old folks