Monday, April 09, 2012


How to Read

François Rabelais, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, tr. J.M. Cohen (1955; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970), p. 38 (from the Prologue):
Or did you ever see a dog — which is, as Plato says, in the second book of his Republic, the most philosophical creature in the world — discover a marrow-bone? If ever you did, you will have noticed how devotedly he eyes it, how carefully he guards it, how fervently he holds it, how circumspectly he begins to gnaw it, how lovingly he breaks it, and how diligently he licks it. What induces him to do all this? What hope is there in his labour? What benefit does he expect? Nothing more than a little marrow....Now you must follow this dog's example, and be wise in smelling out, sampling, and relishing these fine and most juicy books, which are easy to run down but hard to bring to bay. Then, by diligent reading and frequent meditation, you must break the bone and lick out the substantial marrow...
In French:
Mais veistez vous oncques chien rencontrant quelque os medullare? C'est, comme dict Platon, li.2 de Rep., la beste du monde plus philosophe. Si veu l'avez, vous avez peu noter de quelle devotion il le guette, de quel soing il le guarde, de quel ferveur il le tient, de quelle prudence il l'entomne, de quelle affection il le brise, et de quelle diligence il le sugce. Qui l'induict à ce faire? Quel est l'espoir de son estude? Quel bien y pretend il? Rien plus qu'un peu de mouelle....A l'exemple d'icelluy vous convient estre saiges, pour fleurer, sentir, et estimer ces beaux livres de haulte gresse, legiers au prochaz et hardiz à la rencontre. Puis, par curieuse leczon et meditation frequente, rompre l'os et sugcer la substantificque mouelle...
Rabelais died on this day in 1553.

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