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Books - The Marijuana Papers
Written by Paul Finkelman   

Translated by Samuel Putnam

The herb "pantagruelion," which occupies the profound botanical and mystical attention of the French Renaissance physician and master satarist François Rabelais in Chapters 49 through 52 of the Third Book of Pantagruel, is none other than marihuana. M. Leon Faye, in his monograph Rabelais, botaniste (Angers, 1854), verified this, pointing out that Rabelais' description of "pantagruelion" is not only botanically accurate, but as full of life and earthiness as the herb itself.
Rabelais obviously knew many of the valuable attributes of marihuana: birdfood manufacturers would heartily agree that the seeds are "mantled with . . . delicious taste and savour to all shrill and sweetly singing birds." Moreover, Yugoslav and Hungarian scientists who over four hundred years later reported to the United Nations that, according to their experiments, marihuana possesses remarkable antibiotic properties, would in no way be surprised to learn from Dr. Rabelais that the plant's sap

killeth every kind of vermin that by any manner of putrefaction cometh to be bred and engendered there, and destroyeth also any whatsoever any other animal that shall have entered in thereat. If, likewise, you put a little of the said juice within a pail or bucket full of water, you shall see the water instantly turn and grow thick therewith, as if it were milk curds, whereof the virtue is so great, that the water thus curded is a present remedy for horses subject to the cholic, and such as strike at their own flanks. The root thereof well boiled mollifieth the joints, softeneth the hardness of shrunk-in sinews, is every way comfortable to the nerves, and good against all cramps and convulsions, as likewise all cold and knotty gouts.

Finally, both ancient Greeks and 20th-century hedonists would emphatically agree with the canny savant that

of old amongst the Greeks there was certain kind of fritters, and pancakes, buns and tarts, made thereof, which commonly for a liquorish daintiness were presented on the table after supper, to delight the palate and make the wine relish the better.

How Pantagruel Prepared to Embark; and Something about the Plant Called Pantogruelion1

A few days later, Pantagruel, after he had taken leave of the good Gargantua, and after the latter had wished his son Godspeed, arrived at the port of Thalasse, near Saint-Malo, accompanied by Panurge, Epistemon, Friar John Hackem, Abbott of Thélème, and others of his household. Among these others was Xenomanes, the great traveler and hero of perilous crossings, who had joined them upon Panurge's summons, since he held some arriere fee or other of the castellany of Salmagundi.
When they had reached the port, Pantagruel drew up a fleet of ships, to the number of those which Ajax of Salamina had mustered in convoying the Greeks to Troy, loading and equipping them with all the sailors, pilots, towers, interpreters, workmen, men-of-war, victuals, artillery, munitions, clothing, money and other supplies necessary for a long and hazardous voyage. Among other things, I observed that he took on a big cargo of his plant, the Pantagruelion, in the green and raw, as well as in the prepared state.

Now, this plant, the Pantagruelion, has a rather small, rather hard and rather round root, ending in an obtuse point; it is white, with few filaments, and does not grow deeper down than a foot and a half in the earth. From the root springs a solitary stock, round and ferulaceous,2 green on the outside and whitish within, and concave, like the stock of the smyrnium,3 the olus atrium,4 beans and the gentian. It is ligneous, straight, crisp and notched a little, in the form of lightly streaked columns. It is full of fibers, which are the distinguishing feature of the plant, especially as regards the variety known as Mesa, or "middling," and that which is known as Mylasia.5

In height, it grows, commonly, from five to six feet. Sometimes, it exceeds the length of a lance, which happens when it encounters a light, soft, marshy soil, warm and damp, like that of Olonne,8 and like that of Rosa, near Praeneste, in Sabinia,7 or when there happens to be plenty of rain about the time of the Fishermen's Holidays, and the summer solstice. Sometimes, it even exceeds the trees in height, and you might then, on the authority of Theophrastus,8 refer to it as Dendromalache.9 The plant, however, perishes each year, being perennial neither in root, trunk, bark nor boughs. For from the stock spring large strong boughs.

Its leaves are three times longer than they are wide, always green, rather rough, like the alkanet, rather hard and circularly incised like a sickle, or like the betony, and ending in a Macedonian pike-point, somewhat resembling a surgeon's lancet. The leaf, in appearance, is little different from those of the ash and agrimony, and so very like the eupatorium that a number of botanists, classifying this plant as domestic, have called the eupatorium the wild Pantagruelion. The leaves are arranged in rows around the stock, at equal distances apart, with five or seven in a row; for Nature so cherishes the Pantagruelion that she has endowed its leaves with those two odd numbers, which are so divine and mysterious. Its odor is strong, and none too pleasant to delicate nostrils.

The seeds are to be found near, and a little under, the head of the plant. They are as plentiful as those of any plant there is, being spherical, oblong or rhomboid in shape, of a light black, almost tan color, rather hard, and with a fragile coating. All singing birds, such as linnets, goldfinch, larks, canaries, tarins and others, are extremely fond of it. But in the human being, who eats much or often of this seed, it tends to exterminate the germinative principle; and while the Greeks used to employ it in making certain kinds of fricassees, tarts and fritters, which they ate after supper, along with their wine, as a dessert, it is, nevertheless, difficult to digest, hard on the stomach, begets bad blood and, on account of its excessive heat, goes to the brain and fills the head with painful and annoying fumes."10

And just as, in the case of a number of plants, such as the laurel, palm, oak, holly, asphodel, mandragora, fern, agaric, birthwort, cypress, turpentine-tree, penny-royal, peony and others, there are to be found two sexes, the male and the female, so in this plant, there is a male, which bears no flower but abounds in seeds, and a female which is rich in little whitish useless flowers, and which does not bear any seed worth speaking of. And just as in the case of other similar flowers, the female has a leaf wider and not quite so hard as that of the male, and does not grow to an equal height. And this Pantagruelion is planted when the swallows come again, and is taken from the earth at the time when the grasshoppers commence to be a little hoarse.


These last botanical, and highly mystical, chapters of Book Third appear to cry aloud for some sort of "explanation" or comment.

"The Pantagruelion plant, so called for the reason that Pantagruel was the discoverer of it,' is none other than the hemp, the cannabis sativa of Linnaeus," says M. MartyLaveaux. And M. Johanneau gives as some historic data:

"In addition to the essential part which hemp plays in shipping, in the making of ropes and sails, history shows us that never in France had the use of the hangman's rope been more frequent than under Francis I, when it was employed against the Lutherans and the Calvinists. . . . It was under Francis I that the hempen rope came to be used, in place of the halter, in hanging criminals."

And this appears to be about the only none too illuminating light that is to be thrown upon the subject. In any event, we have to admire Rabelais' botanical erudition; and it has been very much admired by his compatriots.

Among the eulogists of Rabelais as a botanist is Antoine Leroy; and others, specialists in their field, have followed him. De Candolle, in a note to his Théorie élémentaire, remarks that Rabelais has distanced all other writers in his dissertation on the origin of the names of plants; and M. Lion Faye contrasts with the coldly exact description of the hemp given by De Candolle in his Flore française the emotional description given us by Rabelais. (See Rabelais botaniste, Lion Faye, Angers, 1854.)
In an address delivered at Montpellier, on the eighth of June, 1856, before the members of the Société botanique de France, M. le comte Jaubert paid a high tribute to Rabelais, both as botanist and as philologist. Rabelais' remarks, he pointed out, are "seasoned with a witty irony on the subject of the credulity of the ancients regarding the properties of plants."

"Let any one compare these passages with the older works on botany which were printed about the same time, with the De Plinii erroribus of Leonisenus, in 1532, or the work of Otto Brunfels, in 1533 . . . and one will see in how far Rabelais was their superior."

There is, also, a story that is not without its interest, concerning Rabelais as a botanist. The scene is the University of Montpellier; and in the Faculty room, the learned professors are listening to a thesis De herbis et plantis medicinalibus (on medical plants and herbs). Rabelais becomes impatient at listening to so much bad science, and shows his impatience, unmistakably. The dean perceives this, and invites Dr. François to take a share in the argument. Rabelais, at first, modestly declines, but is unable, eventually, to keep out of it. The battle is on, and Rabelais speaks so forcefully and to the point that the enthusiasm of the auditors waxes high. The end of it is, our friend Rabelais walks off with the honors of the day.

As to Rabelais' injection of his botanical learning at this particular point, M. Moland, perhaps, gives as likely an explanation as any.

"Rabelais makes it (the Pantagruelion)," says M. Moland, "the symbol of social discipline and human industrial activity, a sort of active talisman of Holy Grail calibre, and one which he sets over against the myths contained in the old romances."

Rabelais is here improvising on a theme from Pliny (cf. the first six chapters of the latter's nineteenth book; cf, also Pliny's Chapter LV!.) The variation was probably suggested by the sails of Pantagruel's ships.

Our author's distinction with regard to the sex of plants has been remarked, but this knowledge was common property with the ancients. He, however, confuses the sexes—a confusion common in country districts.

See Saingan's L'Histoire naturelle . . . dans . . . Rabelais; also, La Lengue de Rabelais. Vol. I., pp. 24fl.

How the Celebrated Pantagruelion Should Be Prepared and Employed

The Pantagruelion is prepared at the time of the autumnal equinox, in a number of different manners, according to popular fancy and differences in national custom.

According to Pantagruel's instructions, the first thing to do was to divest the stock of its leaves and seeds, and then to macerate it in still, not running, water—for five days, if the weather was dry and the water warm; for nine or twelve, if the weather was cloudy or the water cold—then to dry it in the sun; and afterwards, in the shade, the bark was to be peeled from the fibers, in which, as has been said, the whole character and value of the plant lies, and these fibers were to be separated from the ligneous part, which is of no use, except for making a luminous flame, for kindling fires and for the amusement of little children, who employ it to put in pigs' bladders."

Under-cover topers sometimes use it as a syphon for sucking and drawing up the new wine through the bunghole. Some modern Pantagruelists, desirous of avoiding the manual labor involved in thus peeling the plant, make use of certain cataractie12 instruments, constructed in the form in which the spiteful Juno held her hands to prevent the birth of Alcmene, Hercules' mother.13 By means of this instrument, they crush and break the ligneous part and render it useless, in order to save the fibers.

This preparation is an all-sufficient one for those who, contrary to popular opinion, and in a manner which all philosophers would term paradoxical, earn their living backwards." Those who put a higher value on it do something which reminds one of what we are told concerning the pastime of the three sister Parcae, concerning the nocturnal sports of the noble Circe, and concerning the long apology which Penelope made to her lovelorn lilies, during the absence of her husband, Ulysses. In this manner are its inestimable virtues brought out, which I would, in part, expound to you, since to expound to you the whole is an inhossible task for me. What I shall endeavor to do is to explain its name for you.

I find that plants get their names in different ways. Some take the name of the one who first discovered and came to know them, who pointed them out, cultivated, tanned and domesticated them. Thus, the mercurialis takes its name from Mercury; the panacea" from Aesculapius' daughter; the artemisia from Artemis, or Diana; the eupatorium from King Eupator," the telephium" from Telephus,18 the euphorbia from Euphorbus, physician to King Juba;12 the clymenus" from King Clymenus;21 the alcibiadion,22 from Alcibiades; the gentian from Gentius, King of Slavonia.

And so highly, in the old days, was this privilege of giving one's name to a newly discovered plant, esteemed that, just as there sprang up a quarrel between Neptune and Pallas as to whose name the land they had discovered together should take,—the district which later was called Athens, from Athene, or Minerva,—so, in a like manner, Lyncus, King of Scythia, endeavored to betray and kill the young Triptolemus, who had been sent by Ceres to make men acquainted with wheat, which up to that time had been unknown. Lyncus desired, through the death of Triptolemus, to have his own name given to the find, in order that the immortal honor and glory of being the discoverer of this grain, which is so useful and necessary to human life, might be his; and for this reason, he was transformed by Ceres into a lynx. So, too, great and long wars were formerly waged between certain kings, with nothing better to do, in Cappadocia, the only question in dispute being as to whose name a certain plant should bear; and for this reason, the plant was called polemonia,23 or the warlike flower.

Others have retained the names of regions to which they were transported. Thus Median apples24 take their name from Media where they were first found; Punic apples,25 or pomegranates, were brought from Phoenicia," or Carthage; the ligusticum27 was brought from Liguria, or the Genoese coast; the rhubarb came from a river in Barbary called the Rha,28 as Ammianus" tells us. We have other examples in the santonica," in Greek fennel, in chestnuts (castanes),31 in persica,82 in the sabina," in the stoechas, which takes its name from my Hyerean Islands, formerly called the Stoechades,34 in the spica celtica,"35 etc.

Others get their names by way of anthiphrasis. Absinth, for example, is the opposite of pinthe,36 so called because it is unpleasant to drink; while holosteon37 means "all bone," whereas, contrary to its name, there is not a more fragile or a more tender plant in all nature.

Others derive their names from their virtues or the manner in which they work, like the aristolochia," which aids women in childbirth; the lichen, which cures maladies of its name;39 the mallow, which mollifies; and the callithrichum, which makes beautiful hair. Other examples are to be found in the alyssum,40 the ephemerum,41 the bechium,42 the nasturtium" or Orleans cress,44 the hyoscyamus,45 the henbane, etc.

Others are named from the extraordinary qualities which have been discovered in them, as, for example, the heliotrope, or marigold, which is so called for the reason that it follows the sun; for when the sun rises, it expands; when the sun climbs upward, it climbs upward, too; when the sun sinks, it, too, droops; when the sun hides itself, it closes its petals. There is the adiantum,46 so called because it never retains humidity, even though it grows near the water, and even though it be submerged in water fort very long time. There are, also, the hieracium,47 the eryngium" and others.

Others get their names from metamorphoses which men or women of like name are supposed to have undergone. The daphne, or laurel, is so called from Daphne; the myrtle from Myrrhine; the Pitys49 from Pitys. In addition, there is the cinara, or artichoke, the narcissus, the saffron," the smilax51 and others.

Others get their names from a fancied resemblance. For example, the hippuris, so called because it resembles a horse's tail; the alopecurus, which is like a fox's tail; the psyllium, which is like a flea; the delphinium, which is like a dolphin; the bugloss, which is like a beef's tongue; the iris, which in its flowers is like a rainbow; the myosota, which is like a mouse's ear; the coronopus, which is like a crow's foot, etc.

On the other hand, the members of the Fabian family have left their name with the beans," the Piso's with the peas," the Lentuli with the lentils,54 and the Cicero's with the chickpeas.55 We have, also, going a little higher up in the scale, Venus' navel, Venus' locks, Venus' tub, Jupiter's beard, Jupiter's eye," Mars' blood, Mercury's fingers or the hermodactyls, etc.

Others are named from their forms, as the trefoil, which has three leaves; the pentaphyllon, which has five leaves; and the serpolet (wild thyme), which creeps (qui herpe) along the ground. There are, also, the helxine, 57 the pestasites,58 and the myrobalans, to which the Arabs gave the name Been,59 since this fruit is like an acorn in shape and very oily.

Where the Pantagruelion Gets Its Name; the Admirable Virtues of This Plant

In all of these manners, except the fabulous—since God forbid that we should make use of fable in so veracious a narrative as this—the plant Pantagruelion gets its name.

For Pantagruel was the discoverer," I will not say of the plant itself, but of a certain use to which it may be put, a use that is more bated and abhorred by robbers, and more inimical to their welfare, than is the moth or the dodder to flax, reeds to the fern, the horsetail to reapers, tares to chick-peas, the darnel to barley, the wolf-bean to lentils, the antranium to beans, rye-grass to wheat or ivy to walls; more inimical than the pond-lily, or nymphea heraclia, is to bawdy monks," than the birch and rod are to the pupils of Navarre, than cabbage is to the vine, garlic to the magnet, the onion to the sight, fern-seed to pregnant women, willow-seed to vicious nuns, the yew-tree's shade to those sleeping under it, wolfs bane to wolves and leopards, the smell of the fig-tree to enraged bulls, hemlock to goslings, purslain to the teeth, or oil to frees.

For many of them, as a result of such an employment of this plant, have seen their lives end high and short, after the manner of Phyllis," Queen of Thrace, of Bonosus, Emperor of Rome,63 of Amata, wife of the Latin king, of Iphis, of Autolyca,64 of Lycambes,65 of Arachne, of Phaedra, of Leda, of Achaeus, King of Lydia,66 and others. They were greatly put out by the fact that, without their being otherwise ill, the passage by which their gab left and their grub entered was, through the use of the Pantagruelion, suddenly shut off, in a nastier fashion than if they had had the sore throat or the quinsy.

We have heard others, at the moment when Atropos was snipping their life-thread, moaning and lamenting because, as they said, Pantagruel had them by the throat. But alas! It was not Pantagruel. He was never yet a hangman. It was merely Pantagruel turned into a halter and providing them with a nice little necktie." And so, they were speaking out of turn and incorrectly: unless, possibly, one may excuse them under the figure known as synecdoche, assuming that they were taking the discovery for the discoverer, as Ceres is commonly taken for bread, Bacchus for wine. I swear to you, by the nice line of gab that's in the bottle, cooling in that bucket over there, that our friend Pantagruel never held any one by the throat, unless it was those who had neglected to ward off an imminent thirst.

This plant is also called Pantagruelion out of resemblance. For when Pantagruel was born into the world, he was as big as this plant I am telling you of; and it was a very easy matter to take his measurements, in view of the fact that he was born in a period of drought, at a time when this plant was being gathered, and when Icarus' dog," by his barkings at the sun, was turning the whole world Troglodyte and forcing every one to live in caves and subterranean retreats.

It is, in addition, called Pantagruelion on account of its singular virtues. For just as Pantagruel is the embodiment of all jovial perfection—a fact of which none of you drinkers, I take it, is in doubt—so in the Pantagruelion, I recognize so many virtues, so much energy, so high a degree of perfection, and so many admirable qualities that if it and its qualities had been known at the time when the trees, according to the Prophet's narrative, were engaged in electing a king of the forest to rule them, it would, undoubtedly, have carried off a majority of the votes. Shall I go further and say more? If Oxylus, son of Ares, had begotten this plant by his sister, Hamadryad, he would have taken more delight in its fair worth than in all his eight children of immortal memory, about whom our mythologists make such a fuss. (The eldest daughter's name, by the way, was Vine; the son who came next was named Fig-tree, the next Walnut, the next Oak, the next Sorbapple, the next Service-tree, while the last-born bore the name of Elm, and was a great surgeon in his day.)

I shall not stop to tell you how the juice of this plant, squeezed out and dropped into the ears, kills all kinds of vermin bred by putrefaction, as well as any other form of animal life which may have found its way in. If you put some of this juice into a pail of water, you will at once see the water turn, as though it had been curdled, so great is the strength of the plant. And water so curdled is a very good remedy for colicky horses and those who bite at their flanks.69 The root of the plant, boiled in water, slackens taut nerves and contracted joints, and loosens up scirrhous and knotty cases of gout. If you wish promptly to heal a burn, a burn from either water or fire, apply the Pantag,ruelion raw, that is, in the form in which it comes from the earth, without any other application of any sort; but be careful to change it, as soon as you see it drying upon the wound.

Without this plant, kitchens would be disgraceful and tables unbearable, even though the latter might be laden with all sorts of exquisite dishes. There would be no pleasure in beds, even though they might be rich in gold, silver, amber, ivory and porphyry. Without it, millers would not carry corn to the mill nor bring back flour. Without it, how would the lawyers' speeches be carried to the courtroom? How, without it, would the plaster be carried to the workshop? Without it, how would water be drawn from the wells? Without it, what would the notaries, copyists, scribes and secretaries do? Would not all records and documents perish? Would not the noble art of printing be lost forever? Of what would they make printer's chases? How would they ring the bells?

With it, in addition, the priests of Isis are adorned and Egyptian Image-bearers clad; it is the primal covering of all humankind. All the wool-bearing trees of the Seres,7° all the cotton-trees of Tylus in the Persian Sea, all the cynin of the Arabians and the vines of Malta never clothed so many persons as does this one plant alone. It shelters armies, now, much more effectively than they were formerly sheltered with skins; it shades theatres and amphitheatres against the heat, and surrounds woods and thickets for the pleasure of hunters; it descends into waters, either fresh or salt, for the benefit of fishermen. By it, boots, shoes, slippers, pumps, kicks, brogans and clogs are shaped for use. By it, bows are stretched, crossbows tightened and slings set. And, as though it were a sacred plant, vervain-like and revered by the manes and the spirits of darkness, no human corpses are interred without it.

I will go further. By means of this plant, invisible substances are visibly halted, captured, detained and, as it were, put into prison. Thanks to this achievement, big, heavy mills are skillfully turned, to the great advantage of human life. And I am greatly astonished by the fact that this use of the plant was, for so many centuries, an unrevealed secret to the old philosophers, considering the intolerable labor which, without it, they had to endure in manipulating their mills.

By means of this plant, through its retention of aerial currents, the big ships and commodious luxury-crafts,72 the mighty galleons and the hundred-men and thousand-men boats are launched and propelled, at the will of their helmsmen. Thanks to it, those nations which Nature would appear to have hidden away, with the object of leaving them unknown and inaccessible—these nations have come to us, and we have gone to them, something which the birds could not do, however light of wing they might be, and whatever ability to swim upon the air might have been conferred upon them by Nature. Ceylon has seen Lapland; Java has seen the Hyperborean Mountains; Phebol shall see Thélème, and the Icelanders and Greenlanders shall drink from the Euphrates. Thanks to it, Boreas has visited the house of Auster, and Eurus has called upon Zephyrus.

As a result of all this, the celestial Intelligences, the gods of the sea as well as those of the earth, have become thoroughly frightened, as they beheld, through the employment of this blessed Pantagruelion, the Arctic peoples crossing the Atlantic in full view of those in the Antarctic region, crossing the two Tropics, taking a turn through the Torrid Zone, taking the measure of the entire Zodiac, and disporting themselves under the Equinoctial, with each Pole in sight, on a level with their horizon.

The Olympian gods, spurred by a similar terror, have said to one another:

"Pantagruel, through the use of this marvelous plant, is putting us to a lot more bother and worry than the Aloïdae73 ever did. He will be married before long, and will have children by his wife. This destiny we cannot forestall, since it is one which has passed through the hands and spindles of the fatal sisters, the daughters of Necessity. By his children, it may be, there will be invented, a plant of like energy, by means of which human beings will be enabled to visit the sources of the hailstorms, the lands from which the rains come, and the factory of thunder-bolts; they will be able to invade the regions of the moon, to enter the district of the heavenly signs, and to find a lodging, some on the Golden Eagle, others on the Sheep, others on the Crown, others on the Harp and others on the Silver Lion. They will sit at table with us, and will take our goddesses for wives, since that will be their one means of becoming gods like us."

The short of it was, they decided to hold a council and discuss a possible means of preventing all this.

How a Certain Species of Pantagruelion Cannot Be Consumed by Fire

The properties which I have been describing for you are great and marvelous, but if you will venture to believe me, I will tell you of yet another divine quality of this sacred Pantagruelion. You may believe it or not, it is all one to me; it is enough for me to have told the truth. And the truth I mean to tell you. But before we go on, for the road leading up is rather rough and difficult, I would ask you a question:

If I had put into that bottle two measures of wine and one of water, and then had mixed them well together, how would you set about it to urunix them? How would you separate them, in such a manner as to be able to give me the water without the wine, and the wine without the water, in the same quantities?

Or to put it differently, if the teamsters and sailors, in bringing, to stock your houses, a certain number of barrels and hogsheads of the wine of Grave, of Orléans, of Beaune and of Mirevaux, had lapped and drunk them half up and filled the rest up with water, as the Limousins do by the shoeful, in carting the wines of Argenton and Saint-Gaultier, how would you set about it to remove the water entirely? How would you purify the wine?

I can hear you very well: you are telling me about an ivy funnel. You will find that device, it is true, mentioned in literature, and it has been tested by a thousand experiences, as you very well know; yet those who had never known about it, or who had never seen the thing done, would not believe it possible. But let us pass on.

Suppose we were living in the age of Sulla, Marius, Caesar and the other Roman emperors, or in the time of the old Druids, who burned the dead bodies of their lords and relatives, and supposing that you wished to drink the ashes of your wives or fathers, in an infusion of good white wine, as Artemisia did the ashes of her husband, Mausolus, or supposing that you merely wished to keep them intact in some urn or reliquary, how would you set about to save the ashes, by separating them from those of the funeral pyre? Now, tell me that.

Faith, but you're up a stump. I will let you go this time, simply informing you that, having taken enough of the heavenly Pantagruelion to cover the body of the dead, and having wrapped and bound the body well in this, sewing it in with the same material, you may then cast it upon as ardent a fire as you like; and the fire, through the Pantagruelion, will burn the body and reduce body and bones to ashes, and not only will the Pantagruelion not be consumed or burned, but not a single atom of the ashes enclosed in it will be lost, nor will the Pantagruelion take up a single atom of the incinerary ashes; but it will come forth from the fire, in the end, whiter and cleaner than when you put it in. For this reason it is called a4sbestine.74 You will find an abundance of it, very cheap, at • Carpasia and in the region about Syene.

Oh, what a great and marvelous thing! To think that the fire, which devours, ruins and consumes everything, should, alone, clean, purge and whiten the Carpasian Pantagruelion, the asbestine flax. If you are inclined to doubt this, and to demand the usual proofs, like the Jews and other incredulous persons, then, take a fresh egg and bind it around with this divine Pantagruelion. Thus bound, it may be placed upon a bed of coals, as big and as hot as you like; leave it there as long as you like, and in the end, you will take out the egg hard boiled, without any change of any sort in the sacred Pantagruelion, and without the latter's being even heated. For less than fifty thousand Bordelais crowns, minus the twelfth part of a quarter-denier,75 you can put this to a test and find out for yourselves. And don't quote me the example of the salamander, for that is bunk. I am quite willing to admit that a little straw bonfire is good for the salamander, but in a great furnace, it would, I assure you, like every other animal, be suffocated and consumed. We know this by experience; Galen proved it, a long time ago, lib. 3. De temp4ramentis, and he is supported by Dioscorides, lib. 2.

And please don't mention, either, plume-alum nor the wooden tower in the Piraeus, which L. Sulla never succeeded in burning, for the reason that Archelaiis, governor of the city for King Mithridates, had wholly covered it with alum. And don't bring up, by way of comparison, that tree which Alexander Cornelius named Eon, remarking that it was like the oak in that it bore mistletoe, and in that it could not be consumed or damaged by fire or water any more than the oak tree's mistletoe, adding that from its wood had been built the ship Argos, which is so famous. Go look for it, if you believe him; but please excuse me.

And please don't try to compare, however miraculous it may be, that species of trees which you find on the mountains near Briançon and Embrun, which from its roots supplies us with the edible agaric and from its body furnishes us with a resin so excellent that Galen even goes so far as to compare it with turpentine, while its delicate leaves secrete a fine, heavenly honey, a veritable manna. However gummy and oily it may be, this tree is, yet, indestructible by fire.76 You call it Larix in Greek and Latin; the Alpine folk call it the Larch, and the Antenorides and Venetians the Larega, from which comes the name Larignum given to that castle in the Piedmont which stood out against Julius Caesar upon the latter's march into Gaul.

Julius Caesar had expressly commanded all the inhabitants of the Alps and the Piedmont region to bring food-supplies and munitions to those stations which he had established along his line of march, in order to provide for his advancing army. All obeyed these orders, except those in the stronghold of Larigno, who, confident in the natural strength of their position, refused to make the contributions demanded. With the object of chastising them for this refusal, the emperor marched his army straight to the spot. In front of the castle-gate, a tower had been erected, composed of great rafters of larch-wood, laid alternately one upon another, like a pile of logs. This tower was so high that, from its machicolations, the defenders, by means of stones and handspikes, could readily repel any invaders.

When Caesar learned that those inside had no weapons of defense except spikes and stones, and that these could hardly be thrown as far as the approaches to the place, he commanded his soldiers to pile fagots around the tower and to set fire to it. This was at once done. When the fagots had been kindled, the flames leaped up higher than the castle; and so, they naturally thought that, in very short order, the tower would be burned to the ground. But when the flames died down, and the fagots had been burned, the tower still stood there whole, without being damaged in the slightest. When Caesar perceived this, he commanded that a network of ditches and trenches should be constructed about the place, out of stone's throw.

Then it was that the people of Larigno began to sue for peace, and it was through them that Caesar learned of the marvelous character of this wood, which of itself produced neither fire, flame nor coal, and was, therefore, worthy of being compared to the true Pantagruelion,—all the more so, from the fact that, out of it, Pantagruel commanded all the doors, gates, windows, gutter-spouts, copings and roofings of Thélème should be made. He, likewise, employed it in covering the poops, prows, cabins, decks, passageways and railings of his freighters, ships, galleys, galleons, brigs, rowing craft and the other vessels in his navy-yard at Thalasse. The only thing was that larch, in a great furnace, with an intense fire provided by other varieties of wood, is at last destroyed, like stones in a lime-kiln But the asbestine Pantagruelion is, by such a test, freshened up and given a new lease on life, rather than disintegrated and destroyed. For this reason,

Indians, Arabs, Sabaeans, cease

To vaunt your ebony, incense, myrrh;

Come here and see our blessings, please,

And take a little seed from her;

Then, bless the heavens, if they concur,

And this plant with you grows;

And bless our France, each traveler,

Where the Pantagruelion blows.

THE HASHISH CLUB Théophile Gautier
Translated by Ralph J. Gladstone
It should be remembered by the reader that the fantastic hallucinatory episodes Gautier claims to have experienced in this colorful account of his initiation into Le Club des Hachichins may be attributed to several factors: the first concerns literary style—Gautier was habituated to a rococo form of prose that was frequently excessive in its rhetorical flourishes —a style which was, however, characteristic of much French writing in the middle of the 19th century; moreover Gautier's "set and setting" (the "set" being his general psychological make-up as modified by his mood and expectations, and the "setting" being the atmosphere of the physical surroundings and the interpersonal vibrations of the people present) were, as the essay demonstrates, enormously stimulating and melodramatic per se. Much of the grotesque, incredible flavor of this account, then, may be attributed to the interacting influences of the Hotel Pimodan's haunted neo-Gothic interiors, the mystery-laden, ritualistic inclinations of Gautier's fellow hashish eaters, and an acutely inflamed and uninhibited literary imagination. Finally, the quantity of Dawamesc—a confection whose main ingredient is hashish—which was eaten by Gautier (administered presumably by Dr. Jacques Joseph Moreau de Tours, a psychiatrist who pioneered in the therapeutic use of hashish in the treatment of emotional and mental disorders) was "about the size of one's thumb," rather an

1 On the significance of this plant, see end-of-chapter note. The plant referred to is generally supposed to be hemp.

2 Like the ferrula. Urquhart: cane-like."

3 Myrrh.

4 Black cabbage.

5 Or Mylasea; a variety of hemp, in Pliny. For this and mesa, see Pliny, XIX., 9, 56.

6 "Town of Poitou, surrounded with swamps and salt-beds." (Des Marets-Rathery.)

7 See Pliny, XIX., 9.

8 History of Plants, I, 5.—"It is from this author and from Pliny that Rabelais gets the greater part of what he has to say, in this chapter and those following." (Marty-Laveaux.)

9 Greek for tree-mallow.

10 "It is well known that it is from a species of hemp that the peoples of the Orient prepare their hashish." (Des Marets-Rathery.)

11 To "make them rattle." (Urquhart.)

12 The meaning is: for bruising (Greek Kataraktikos).

13 Pliny, XXVIII, 6.—Juno held her hands with fingers joined in the form of a comb.

14 "He means the rope-makers (cordiers), who earn their living by working à reculons." (Variorum.)

15 "Sort of plant, remedy for all afflictions." (Moland.)—Probably, ginseng. The name is applied in Pliny to the ligusticum silvestre and to the cunila bubula (species of origa.num).

16 Of Pontus; see the English dictionary, under eupatorium.

17 The telephion of Pliny, herb resembling purslain.

18 Son of Hercules and the nymph Auge, and King of Mysia.

19 King of Numidia.

20 Unknown plant in Pliny.

21 King of Orchomenus in Boetia.

22 Variety of anchusa, employed as an antidote for the bite of serpents.

23 From the Greek polemos, war. Greek valerian, otherwise called philaeteria. See Pliny.

24 Maki medica.

25 Mala punica.

26 Rabelais writes Punicia.

27 The plant known as lovage.

28 This etymology is doubtful. Rhubarb (French: rhubarbe) comes from the late Latin rheubarbarum, for rheum barbarum (Greek: rheon).

29 Book XXII.

30 The lavender (from the land of the Santoni, or people of Gaul, the present Saintonge).

31 From Castana, city of Pontus.

32 The persicum pomum or persicum was a variety of peach.

33 The savin, or variety of juniper.

34 On these Islands, see the Translator's Note to Book Third.—The stoechas was French lavender.

35 The large lavender.

36 Or pint; that is, the opposite of drinking.—As De Marsy remarks, Rabelais is apparently deriving the word absinth from the Greek pineo, drink, looking upon the Greek apsinthion as equivalent to apinthioncomposed, that is, of the privative prepositional particle apo and pinthios. This same fanciful etymology is reproduced by Scapula in his Lexicon graeco-latinum of 1580.—Urquhart: "because it is contrary to psintos."

37 A whitish plantain.

38 Or birthwort.—Greek: aristos, best; locheia, childbirth.

39 Blotches, the Latin signification of lichen.

40 The mad-wort, used against the bite of mad dogs; also as a remedy for hiccups. Greek alysso, be uneasy.

41 An unknown plant.

42 Colt's foot.—A cough-remedy; Greek bechia, hoarseness.

43 See the English dictionary.

44 We find in the Crieries de Paris of G. de la Villeneuve: "Vez ci bon cresson Orlenois."

45 Henbane. Literally: hog's bean.

46 The maiden's hair (capillus veneris).

47 The mouse-ear (hieracium pilosella).—"Hawk-ear."

48 Variety of thistle.

49 Greek name for pine. The nymph, Pitys, was changed into a pine.

50 Or crocus.

51 After a young girl who was changed into one.

52 Fabae.

53 Pisa.

54 Lenticulae. (As a matter of fact, this word is a diminutive of the Latin lens.)

55 Cicer, a chick-pea. These are the traditional etymologies.

56 "The name which the Latins give to the Sempervivum majus." (Variorum.)

57 The parietary.—Greek: helko, traiL

58 Plant with a broad leaf like a hat (petasus); kind of colt's foot.

59 "That is, acorn." (Variorum.)—Le Duchat refers to Avicenna, Canon II, Chapter LXXXV.

60 "It was, as a matter of fact, Francis I who substituted the rope and the strappado for the halter." (Variorum.)

61 "It is especially prescribed for monks against temptations of the flesh." (Le Duchat.)

62 Daughter of Sithon, King of Thrace, who hanged herself out of despair over her lover, Demophobn, Theseus' son.

63 Favorite of Probus, who had himself proclaimed emperor by the army of the Rhine, but who was conquered and put to death. One story is that he hanged himself.

64 Daughter of Autolycus and mother of Ulysses. She hanged herself when the false news of the death of her son was brought her.

65 Having promised his daughter to the poet Archilochus, he failed to deliver her, was punished by a plague of worms and hanged himself, along with his daughter, in despair.

66 Hanged by his revolting subjects because he desired to levy new taxes.

67 leurs servant de cornette.—We speak of a hanging as a "necktie party."

68 The dog-star.

69 See Pliny, Book XX, next to last chapter. This remedy, according to Le Duchat, was employed in Alsace, in the year 1705, to cure a species of colic among the horses of the French army.

70 "Ancient people of Asia, who have been believed to be Chinese." (Des Marets-Rathery.)

71 Arabian trees, from the product of which the natives, according to Pliny, made clothing. Pliny gives this tree the name of cynus.

72 thalameges. These were large and luxurious boats, furnished with beds.

73 The giants, Othus and Ephialtes, sons of Aloeus, who fought Heaven.

74 Rabelais writes Asbeston. "Asbestinum is the Latin name of the amianthus, a sort of incombustible flax." (Des Marets-Rathery.)

75 This is about one 1/204th of a cent in our currency.

76 This, needless to say, is a slight exaggeration.


Our valuable member Paul Finkelman has been with us since Monday, 20 February 2012.

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