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François Rabelais
French humanist, satirist and physician
(c. 1494 - c. 1553)



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Mieux est de ris que de larmes écrire
Pour ce que rire est la propre de l'homme.

It is better to write of laughter than of tears
For laughter is the basis of mankind.
-- Gargantua (1532), Aux lecteurs.

Rompre l'os et sucer la substantifique molle.
Break the bone and suck out the very substance.
-- Gargantua (1532), bk. I, ch. 5

Je boy pour la soif advenir.
I drink for the thirst to come.
-- Gargantua (1532), bk. I, ch. 5

L'appétit vient en mangeant.
The appetite grows by eating.
-- Gargantua (1532), bk. I, ch. 5

Natura vacuum abhorret.
Nature abhores a vacuum.
-- Gargantua (1532), bk. I, ch. 5

Nature n'endure mutatons soudaines sans grande violence.
Nature does not endure sudden changes without great violence.
-- Gargantua (1532), bk. I, ch. 23

Guerre faicte sans bonne provision d'argent n'a qu'un souspirail de vigeur. Les nerfs des batailles sont les pécunes.
The strength of war waged without a good supply of money is as fleetiing as a breath. Money is the sinews of battle.
-- Gargantua (1532), bk. I, ch. 46

En leur règle n'était que ce clause: FAY CE QUE VOUDRAS.
In their laws there was but this one clause: DO WHAT YOU WISH.
-- Referring to the fictional Abbey of Thélème, in: Gargantua (1532), bk. I, ch. 57

Quaestio subtilissima, utrum chimera in vacuo bombinans posuit comedere secundas intentiones.
A most subtle question: whether a chimera buzzing in a vacuum can devour second intentions.
-- Panatagruel (1534), bk. 2, ch. 7

Science sans conscience n'est que ruine de l'âme.
Science without conscience is the soul's perdition.
-- Panatagruel (1534), bk. 2, ch. 8

Il avait soixante et trois manières d'en trouver toujours à son besoin, dont la plus honorable et la plus commune était par façon de larcin furtivement fait.
He had sixty-three ways to find the money when he needed it, the most honourable and most ordinary of which was to steal secretively.
-- Panatagruel (1534), bk. 2, ch. 16

Un fol enseigne bien un sage.
A fool has a lot to teach a wise man.
-- Tiers Livre (1546), pt. 37

Pantagruélisme... est certaine gaieté de l'esprit confite en mépris des choses fortuites.
Pantagruelism is a certain liveliness of mind made in contempt of chance happenings.
-- Quart Livre (1548), Prologue de l'auteur

O que trois et quatre fois heureux sont ceux qui plantent choux!
Oh, those who plant cabbages are three and four times happier than the rest of us!
-- Quart Livre (1548), pt. 18

Ignorance est mère de tous les maux.
Ignorance is the mother of all evils.
-- Cinquième Livre (1564), pt. 7

A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit.
-- Attributed.

Il aurait répondu à un page... "Je vais quérir un grand peut-être..." Puis il avait expiré en disant: "Tirez le rideau, la farce est jouée."
He answered a page... "I am going to seek a great perhaps..." Then he died, saying "Bring down the curtain; the farce is played out."
-- Last words. Attributed. Quoted in Jean Fleury, Rabelais et ses oeuvres (1877), vol. I, ch. 3, pt. 15, p. 130. Fleury writes: Rien, sans ses contemporains, n'autorise ces récits... Tout cela part partie de la légende rabelaisienne. (Nothing in the writings of his contemporaries authorises this account... All of this is part of the Rabelaisian legend.)

Je n'ai rien, je dois beaucoup, je donne le reste au pauvres.
I owe much; I have nothing; the rest I leave to the poor.
-- Another version of the last words of Rabelais. This version, as with the previous one quoted above, is simply attributed and not based on any known contemporary sources. (See: William B. Brahms. Last words of notable people: final words of more than 3,500 noteworthy people throughout history. Haddenfield, NJ, Reference Department Press, 2010. P. 523.)


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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