Antigonus, King of Macedon, one day coming into one of the tents, where his cooks used to dress his meat, and finding there poet Antagoras frying a conger, and holding the pan himself, merrily asked him, Pray, Mr. Poet, was Homer frying congers when he wrote the deeds of Agamemnon? Antagoras readily answered: But do you think, sir, that when Agamemnon did them he made it his business to know if any in his camp were frying congers? The king thought it an indecency that a poet should be thus a-frying in a kitchen; and the poet let the king know that it was a more indecent thing for a king to be found in such a place. I’ll clap another story upon the neck of this, quoth Panurge, and will tell you what Breton Villandry answered one day to the Duke of Guise.
They were saying that at a certain battle of King Francis against Charles the Fifth, Breton, armed cap-a-pie to the teeth, and mounted like St. George, yet sneaked off, and played least in sight during the engagement. Blood and oons, answered Breton, I was there, and can prove it easily; nay, even where you, my lord, dared not have been. The duke began to resent this as too rash and saucy; but Breton easily appeased him, and set them all a-laughing. Egad, my lord, quoth he, I kept out of harm’s way; I was all the while with your page Jack, skulking in a certain place where you had not dared hide your head as I did. Thus discoursing, they got to their ships, and left the island of Chely.
How Pantagruel passed by the land of Pettifogging, and of the strange way of living among the Catchpoles.
Steering our course forwards the next day, we passed through Pettifogging, a country all blurred and blotted, so that I could hardly tell what to make on’t. There we saw some pettifoggers and catchpoles, rogues that will hang their father for a groat. They neither invited us to eat or drink; but, with a multiplied train of scrapes and cringes, said they were all at our service for the Legem pone.
One of our droggermen related to Pantagruel their strange way of living, diametrically opposed to that of our modern Romans; for at Rome a world of folks get an honest livelihood by poisoning, drubbing, lambasting, stabbing, and murthering; but the catchpoles earn theirs by being thrashed; so that if they were long without a tight lambasting, the poor dogs with their wives and children would be starved. This is just, quoth Panurge, like those who, as Galen tells us, cannot erect the cavernous nerve towards the equinoctial circle unless they are soundly flogged. By St. Patrick’s slipper, whoever should jerk me so, would soon, instead of setting me right, throw me off the saddle, in the devil’s name.