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Frederick Sheldon Travelling Fellow, Harvard University,
Santiago, Chile.

1917 Arvin, Neil Cole, Ph.D.

The Comédies-Vaudevilles of Eugène Scribe. (Unpublished.)

1917 Leavitt, Sturgis Elbeno, Ph.D.

Scarron in England, 1656-1800. (Unpublished.)

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

JOHN L. GERIG

R

MISCELLANEOUS

RABELAIS AND THE WAR OF 1914

EADERS of Rabelais will recall the chapters dealing with the Picrocholian war. Perhaps only those who have turned the pages of Rabelais again during these recent months have noticed how very closely, not merely in general spirit but even in some of its details, the narrative parallels events of the last few years in our own time. The comparison should have its interest for us of the present.

It will be remembered that Picrochole, the type of the unscrupulous king,1 has invoked a pretext to attack the kingdom of his neighbor, Grandgousier. Picrochole's counselors have led him to believe that he can very soon conquer the whole world. They advise him in these terms: "Vostre armée partirez en deux, comme trop mieulx l'entendez. L'une partie ira ruer sur ce Grandgousier et ses gens. Par icelle sera de prime abordée facilement desconfit. Là recouvrerez argent à tas."2 This plan was to be completed by invasions of Spain, Africa, Italy, Palestine, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the British Isles, and many other countries, including even Greenland "jusques à la mer Glaciale."

Of those present only one attempts to prick this bubble and to show that, successful or not, the plan is utterly foolish. This is Echephron, an old gentleman of much experience and sound judgment, who inquires:

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Que pretendez vous par ces belles conquestes? Quelle sera la fin de tant de travaulx et traverses?"

"-Ce sera (dist Picrochole) que, nous retournez, repouserons à noz aises."

1 M. Abel Lefranc identifies Picrochole with Gaucher de Sainte-Marthe, known for the violence and combativeness of his character. The Rabelais family and others struggled for years to compel him to answer in court for his infringements upon their rights. Cf. Rabelais, Œuvres (Lefranc ed., 1913, Introd., pp. lx ff.).

2 Id., Gargantua, vol. II, Chap. XXXIII, p. 292.

3 Id., p. 299.

Dont dist Echephron: "Et, si par cas jamais n'en retournez, car le voyage est long et pereilleux, n'est ce mieulx que des maintenant nous repousons, sans nous mettre en ces hazars?"4

But this "Norman Angell" argument has of course no effect upon Picrochole. The invasion of Grandgousier's territories continues. The latter writes to his son, Gargantua, to return from Paris to assist in the defense of the kingdom. The letter explains the situation in terms not dissimilar to those since used by President Wilson. Says Grandgousier:

"Ma deliberation n'est de provocquer, ains de apaiser; d'assaillir, mais defendre; de conquester, mais de guarder mes feaulx subjectz et terres hereditaires, es quelles est hostillement entré Picrochole sans cause ny occasion, et de jour en jour poursuit sa furieuse entreprinse avecques excès non tolerables à personnes liberes."5

Grandgousier, still hoping against hope to be able to preserve peace, sends an ambassador to Picrochole with this message:

"Doncques merveille n'est si le roy Grandgousier, mon maistre, est à ta furieuse et hostile venue saisy de grand desplaisir et perturbé en son entendement. Merveille seroit si ne l'avoient esmeu les excès incomparables qui en ses terres et subjectz ont esté par toy et tes gens commis, es quelz n'a esté obmis exemple aulcun d'inhumanité, ce que luy est tant grief de soy, par la cordiale affection de laquelle tousjours a chery ses subjectz. . . . Toutesfoys sus l'estimation humaine plus grief luy est en tant que par toy et les tiens ont esté ces griefz et tords faictz, qui de toute memoire et ancienneté aviez, toy et tes peres, une amitié avecques luy et tous ses encestres conceu, laquelle jusques à present comme sacrée ensemble aviez inviolablement maintenue, guardée et entretenue."

But, though the messenger makes it clear that peace is sought, yet he firmly upholds his master's rightful dignity and the justice of his cause:

"Depars d'icy presentement, et demain pour tout le jour soye retiré en tes terres, sans par le chemin faire aulcun tumulte ne force; et paye mille bezans d'or pour les dommaiges que as faict

en ces terres."7

4 Id., p. 300.

5 Id., Chap. XXIX, p. 275.

Id., Chap. XXXI, pp. 280-81.

" Id., p. 284.

All useless. Picrochole remains insolent. The ambassador returns to Grandgousier,

"lequel trouva à genous, teste nue, encliné en un petit coing de son cabinet, priant Dieu qu'il vouzist amollir la cholere de Picrochole et le mettre au poinct de raison, sans y proceder par force."8

Grandgousier learns that Picrochole has invoked the supposed theft of some cakes as the pretext for his attacks: "Je le veulx (dist Grandgousier) bien entendre davant qu'aultre chose deliberer sur ce que seroit de faire." He discovers that nothing is due Picrochole, since "le tout avoit esté bien payé," and since the first provocation had come from one of Picrochole's men, Marquet. Nevertheless, Grandgousier in such a matter is willing to go more than his half of the way, if by so doing he may spare his subjects the suffering of war. "Puis qu'il n'est question que de quelques fouaces, je essayeray le contenter, car il me desplaist par trop de lever guerre."9 Picrochole, however, characteristically, interprets as evidence of weakness and fear all the efforts made to preserve peace. He merely seizes the money and cakes sent by Grandgousier in payment of the alleged damage and continues his plundering and ravaging. The ambassadors return to Grandgousier with the same conclusion as that expressed by President Wilson in his address at Baltimore: "Il n'estoit aulcun espoir de les tirer à paix, sinon à vive et forte guerre."10

Picrochole is defeated in the war and flees. Gargantua magnanimously pardons all his enemies except (significantly) those directly responsible for the war, the evil counselors who had urged and flattered Picrochole into the undertaking of it. Of these men he feels it necessary to make an example. Thus an idealist and a thinker may be stern on occasion, as well as another. The kingdom is held in trust for the infant son of Picrochole. Especial care is taken that the boy have good teachers. In his famous speech to the vanquished, Gargantua makes it clear that he does not for a moment think of adding the new kingdom to the other dominions belonging to his father: "Car . . . sans mon vouloir, sans espoir 8 Id., Chap. XXXII, p. 286.

⚫ Id., p. 287.

10 Id., p. 290.

de accroistre ny mon bien ny mon nom, estoit faicte cette guerre.”11 Thus he again anticipates Mr. Wilson.

Grandgousier's attitude is the same. We like to flatter ourselves by calling his words "modern" in spirit. He says: “Le temps n'est plus d'ainsi conquester les royaulmes avecques dommaige de son prochain frere christian. Ceste imitation des anciens Hercules, Alexandres, Hannibalz, Scipions, Cesars et aultres telz, est contraire à la profession de l'Evangile, par lequel nous est commandé guarder, saulver, regir et administrer chascun ses pays et terres, non hostilement envahir les aultres, et, ce que les Sarazins et Barbares jadis appelloient prouesses, maintenant nous appellons briguanderies et mechansetez."12

Thus in the year 153413 does Rabelais frankly declare war to be an evil, to be undertaken only in self-defense after all other means of keeping the peace have been tried and found unavailing; finally, when peace is concluded, it must be on terms of justice tempered with reasonable clemency, which does not in any way exclude the necessary punishment of those most guilty of beginning the war. Provision must be made so that they may not a second time have the opportunity to break the peace. All attempts at conquest must be abandoned as wholly contrary to the teachings of Christianity.

This brief account of Rabelais' enlightened views on the question which the world is at length, after four centuries, struggling manfully to solve in the same way, should not give the impression that Rabelais was alone during his century in dreaming this dream of peace.14 Moreover, before him were of course the doctrines of Christianity, the Greek philosophers, some of the finest passages of the great vision-seers of the Old Testament. But each man is the inheritor of the ideas of those before him and of the great men of his time with whom he is thrown in contact. Some make the most of their heritage, some do not. Entirely aside from

11 Id., Chap. L, pp. 392–93.

12 Id., Chap. XLVI, p. 371.

13 The date of Gargantua has been commonly given as 1535, but M. Lefranc thinks the second half of the year 1534 more probable as the date of publication (Rabelais, Euvres, Introd., p. xvii).

14 Cf. Lefranc, op. cit., p. lxxxiii, for mention of Erasmus and Budé (among others), whose ideas were similar.

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