Nothing but savage monsters of a mind,—
No shapen beauteous thoughts; yet when the wise
Seriously strip him of his wild disguise,
Melt down his dross, refine his massy ore,
And polish that which seem’d rough-cast before,
Search his deep sense, unveil his hidden mirth,
And make that fiery which before seem’d earth
(Conquering those things of highest consequence,
What’s difficult of language or of sense),
He will appear some noble table writ
In the old Egyptian hieroglyphic wit;
Where, though you monsters and grotescoes see,
You meet all mysteries of philosophy.
For he was wise and sovereignly bred
To know what mankind is, how ’t may be led:
He stoop’d unto them, like that wise man, who
Rid on a stick, when ’s children would do so.
For we are easy sullen things, and must
Be laugh’d aright, and cheated into trust;
Whilst a black piece of phlegm, that lays about
Dull menaces, and terrifies the rout,
And cajoles it, with all its peevish strength
Piteously stretch’d and botch’d up into length,
Whilst the tired rabble sleepily obey
Such opiate talk, and snore away the day,
By all his noise as much their minds relieves,
As caterwauling of wild cats frights thieves.
But Rabelais was another thing, a man
Made up of all that art and nature can
Form from a fiery genius,—he was one
Whose soul so universally was thrown
Through all the arts of life, who understood
Each stratagem by which we stray from good;
So that he best might solid virtue teach,
As some ’gainst sins of their own bosoms preach:
He from wise choice did the true means prefer,
In the fool’s coat acting th’ philosopher.
Thus hoary Aesop’s beasts did mildly tame
Fierce man, and moralize him into shame;
Thus brave romances, while they seem to lay
Great trains of lust, platonic love display;
Thus would old Sparta, if a seldom chance
Show’d a drunk slave, teach children temperance;
Thus did the later poets nobly bring
The scene to height, making the fool the king.
And, noble sir, you vigorously have trod
In this hard path, unknown, un-understood
By its own countrymen, ’tis you appear
Our full enjoyment which was our despair,
Scattering his mists, cheering his cynic frowns
(For radiant brightness now dark Rabelais crowns),
Leaving your brave heroic cares, which must
Make better mankind and embalm your dust,
So undeceiving us, that now we see
All wit in Gascon and in Cromarty,
Besides that Rabelais is convey’d to us,
And that our Scotland is not barbarous.
J. De la Salle.
The First Decade.
Musa! canas nostrorum in testimonium Amorum,
Et Gargantueas perpetuato faces,
Utque homini tali resultet nobilis Eccho:
Quicquid Fama canit, Pantagruelis erit.