As for Pantagruel, he said that here was the seat of Arete—that is as much as to say, virtue—described by Hesiod. This, however, with submission to better judgments. The ruler of this place was one Master Gaster, the first master of arts in this world. For, if you believe that fire is the great master of arts, as Tully writes, you very much wrong him and yourself; alas! Tully never believed this. On the other side, if you fancy Mercury to be the first inventor of arts, as our ancient Druids believed of old, you are mightily beside the mark. The satirist’s sentence, that affirms Master Gaster to be the master of all arts, is true. With him peacefully resided old goody Penia, alias Poverty, the mother of the ninety-nine Muses, on whom Porus, the lord of Plenty, formerly begot Love, that noble child, the mediator of heaven and earth, as Plato affirms in Symposio.
We were all obliged to pay our homage and swear allegiance to that mighty sovereign; for he is imperious, severe, blunt, hard, uneasy, inflexible; you cannot make him believe, represent to him, or persuade him anything.
He does not hear; and as the Egyptians said that Harpocrates, the god of silence, named Sigalion in Greek, was astome, that is, without a mouth, so Gaster was created without ears, even like the image of Jupiter in Candia.
He only speaks by signs, but those signs are more readily obeyed by everyone than the statutes of senates or commands of monarchs. Neither will he admit the least let or delay in his summons. You say that when a lion roars all the beasts at a considerable distance round about, as far as his roar can be heard, are seized with a shivering. This is written, it is true, I have seen it. I assure you that at Master Gaster’s command the very heavens tremble, and all the earth shakes. His command is called, Do this or die. Needs must when the devil drives; there’s no gainsaying of it.
The pilot was telling us how, on a certain time, after the manner of the members that mutinied against the belly, as Aesop describes it, the whole kingdom of the Somates went off into a direct faction against Gaster, resolving to throw off his yoke; but they soon found their mistake, and most humbly submitted, for otherwise they had all been famished.
What company soever he is in, none dispute with him for precedence or superiority; he still goes first, though kings, emperors, or even the pope, were there. So he held the first place at the council of Basle; though some will tell you that the council was tumultuous by the contention and ambition of many for priority.