Friday, February 25, 2011


Alcofribas Nasier on Tree-Felling

François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, tr. W.F. Smith in Rabelais: The Five Books and Minor Writings, Vol. I (London: Alexander P. Watt, 1893), footnotes omitted.

I.xvi (p. 63):
So they joyously went along their Highway, and always in high Feather until just above Orleans, in which Place was a spacious Forest five-and-thirty Leagues long, and seventeen wide, or thereabouts. This Forest was horribly fertile and abounding in Gad-flies and Hornets, so that it was a very Brigand's Den for the poor Mares, Asses, and Horses.

But Gargantua's Mare did handsomely avenge all the Outrages therein perpetrated on the Beasts of her Kind, by a Trick which they did not in the least suspect. For as soon as they had entered the said Forest and the Hornets had given the Assault, she drew out her Tail, and so well did she smouch them in skirmishing that she threw down the whole Wood along and athwart, this side and that side, here and there, longways and sideways, over and under, and knocked down the Trees as a Mower does Grass; in such sort that since then there has been neither Wood nor Hornets, but the whole Land was reduced to a Plain.

Seeing this, Gargantua took mighty great Pleasure thereat, without otherwise vaunting himself. And he said to his People: "I find This fine" (Beau ce). Whence this Country has since been called Beauce.
See Charles Ploetz, Manuel de Littérature Française, 12th ed. (Berlin: F.-A. Herbig, 1903), p. xxxviii, n. 5:
Les commentateurs voient dans ce récit une allusion, les uns à la duchesse d'Etampes, les autres à Diane de Poitiers, à laquelle François Ier avait fait don d'une partie de la forêt d'Orléans et qui y fit faire de grands abatis.
These mistresses of François I were Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly, Duchess of Étampes (1508–1580), and Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566).

III.ii (pp. 391-393, on Panurge's administration of Salmigondin and his defence of how he did it):
And his Worship, the new Baron, managed so well and prudently that in less than fourteen Days he wasted and dilapidated the fixed and uncertain Revenue of his Barony for three whole Years; not dilapidated, properly speaking, as you might say in founding Monasteries, erecting Temples, building Colleges and Hospitals, or throwing his Flitches of Bacon to the Dogs; but he spent it in a thousand little Banquets and jovial Feasts open to all Comers, especially to all good Companions, young Girls and pretty Wenches; in felling Timber, burning the great Logs for the Sale of the Ashes, taking Money in advance, buying dear and selling cheap, and eating his Corn in the Blade.


"It hath also been an Act proceeding from the four Cardinal Virtues: .... (3) From FORTITUDE, in felling the great Trees like a second Milo; throwing down the dark Forests, which are Dens of Wolves, Boars and Foxes, Hiding-places of Brigands and Murderers, Lurking-holes for Assassins, Workshops for Forgers, Retreats for Heretics; levelling them for open Spaces and pleasant Heaths, playing the Haut-boys on on the high and stately Timber, and preparing Benches for the Eve of the Day of Judgment."
For background see Louisa Mackenzie, "Forests," in Elizabeth Chesney Zegura, ed., The Rabelais Encyclopedia (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004), pp. 81-82.


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