Gargantua and Pantagruel eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 952 pages of information about Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Indeed, said Epistemon, I saw this way of syllabizing tried at Xaintes at a general procession, in the presence of that good, virtuous, learned and just president, Brian Vallee, Lord of Douhait.  When there went by a man or woman that was either lame, blind of one eye, or humpbacked, he had an account brought him of his or her name; and if the syllables of the name were of an odd number, immediately, without seeing the persons, he declared them to be deformed, blind, lame, or crooked of the right side; and of the left, if they were even in number; and such indeed we ever found them.

By this syllabical invention, said Pantagruel, the learned have affirmed that Achilles kneeling was wounded by the arrow of Paris in the right heel, for his name is of odd syllables (here we ought to observe that the ancients used to kneel the right foot); and that Venus was also wounded before Troy in the left hand, for her name in Greek is Aphrodite, of four syllables; Vulcan lamed of his left foot for the same reason; Philip, King of Macedon, and Hannibal, blind of the right eye; not to speak of sciaticas, broken bellies, and hemicranias, which may be distinguished by this Pythagorean reason.

But returning to names:  do but consider how Alexander the Great, son of King Philip, of whom we spoke just now, compassed his undertaking merely by the interpretation of a name.  He had besieged the strong city of Tyre, and for several weeks battered it with all his power; but all in vain.  His engines and attempts were still baffled by the Tyrians, which made him finally resolve to raise the siege, to his great grief; foreseeing the great stain which such a shameful retreat would be to his reputation.  In this anxiety and agitation of mind he fell asleep and dreamed that a satyr was come into his tent, capering, skipping, and tripping it up and down, with his goatish hoofs, and that he strove to lay hold on him.  But the satyr still slipped from him, till at last, having penned him up into a corner, he took him.  With this he awoke, and telling his dream to the philosophers and sages of his court, they let him know that it was a promise of victory from the gods, and that he should soon be master of Tyre; the word satyros divided in two being sa Tyros, and signifying Tyre is thine; and in truth, at the next onset, he took the town by storm, and by a complete victory reduced that stubborn people to subjection.

On the other hand, see how, by the signification of one word, Pompey fell into despair.  Being overcome by Caesar at the battle of Pharsalia, he had no other way left to escape but by flight; which attempting by sea, he arrived near the island of Cyprus, and perceived on the shore near the city of Paphos a beautiful and stately palace; now asking the pilot what was the name of it, he told him that it was called kakobasilea, that is, evil king; which struck such a dread and terror in him that he fell into despair, as being assured of losing shortly his life; insomuch that his complaints, sighs, and groans were heard by the mariners and other passengers.  And indeed, a while after, a certain strange peasant, called Achillas, cut off his head.

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Gargantua and Pantagruel from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.