This same representation which had been begun amid so unanimous an acclamation!
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Eternal flood and ebb of popular favor! What would he not have given to be still at that hour of honey! But Master Coppenole, the hosier, must needs rise of a sudden, and Gringoire was forced to listen to him deliver, amid universal attention, the following abominable harangue. I certainly do see yonder in the corner on that stage, some people who appear to be fighting. I have been waiting for the first blow this quarter of an hour; nothing comes; they are cowards who only scratch each other with insults.
You ought to send for the fighters of London or Rotterdam; and, I can tell you! They ought at least, to give us a moorish dance, or some other mummer! That is not what was told me; I was promised a feast of fools, with the election of a pope. It is very diverting. Would you like to make your pope after the fashion of my country? At all events, it will be less wearisome than to listen to chatterers. If they wish to come and make their grimaces through the hole, they can join the game. What say you, Messieurs les bourgeois? You have here enough grotesque specimens of both sexes, to allow of laughing in Flemish fashion, and there are enough of us ugly in countenance to hope for a fine grinning match.
Gringoire would have liked to retort; stupefaction, rage, indignation, deprived him of words. Gringoire hid his face between his two hands, not being so fortunate as to have a mantle with which to veil his head, like Agamemnon of Timantis. Bourgeois , scholars and law clerks all set to work. The little chapel situated opposite the marble table was selected for the scene of the grinning match.
A pane broken in the pretty rose window above the door, left free a circle of stone through which it was agreed that the competitors should thrust their heads. In order to reach it, it was only necessary to mount upon a couple of hogsheads, which had been produced from I know not where, and perched one upon the other, after a fashion.
It was settled that each candidate, man or woman for it was possible to choose a female pope , should, for the sake of leaving the impression of his grimace fresh and complete, cover his face and remain concealed in the chapel until the moment of his appearance.
Through a Fractured Glass, Darkly (Part Two): Whitley’s Onion
In less than an instant, the chapel was crowded with competitors, upon whom the door was then closed. Coppenole, from his post, ordered all, directed all, arranged all. During the uproar, the cardinal, no less abashed than Gringoire, had retired with all his suite, under the pretext of business and vespers, without the crowd which his arrival had so deeply stirred being in the least moved by his departure.
The attention of the populace, like the sun, pursued its revolution; having set out from one end of the hall, and halted for a space in the middle, it had now reached the other end. The marble table, the brocaded gallery had each had their day; it was now the turn of the chapel of Louis XI. Henceforth, the field was open to all folly.
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There was no one there now, but the Flemings and the rabble. The grimaces began. The first face which appeared at the aperture, with eyelids turned up to the reds, a mouth open like a maw, and a brow wrinkled like our hussar boots of the Empire, evoked such an inextinguishable peal of laughter that Homer would have taken all these louts for gods.
A second and third grimace followed, then another and another; and the laughter and transports of delight went on increasing. There was in this spectacle, a peculiar power of intoxication and fascination, of which it would be difficult to convey to the reader of our day and our salons any idea. Let the reader picture to himself a series of visages presenting successively all geometrical forms, from the triangle to the trapezium, from the cone to the polyhedron; all human expressions, from wrath to lewdness; all ages, from the wrinkles of the new-born babe to the wrinkles of the aged and dying; all religious phantasmagories, from Faun to Beelzebub; all animal profiles, from the maw to the beak, from the jowl to the muzzle.
Let the reader imagine all these grotesque figures of the Pont Neuf, those nightmares petrified beneath the hand of Germain Pilon, assuming life and breath, and coming in turn to stare you in the face with burning eyes; all the masks of the Carnival of Venice passing in succession before your glass,—in a word, a human kaleidoscope. The orgy grew more and more Flemish.
Teniers could have given but a very imperfect idea of it. There were no longer either scholars or ambassadors or bourgeois or men or women; there was no longer any Clopin Trouillefou, nor Gilles Lecornu, nor Marie Quatrelivres, nor Robin Poussepain.
All was universal license. The grand hall was no longer anything but a vast furnace of effrontry and joviality, where every mouth was a cry, every individual a posture; everything shouted and howled.
From the SparkNotes Blog
The strange visages which came, in turn, to gnash their teeth in the rose window, were like so many brands cast into the brazier; and from the whole of this effervescing crowd, there escaped, as from a furnace, a sharp, piercing, stinging noise, hissing like the wings of a gnat. But we must do justice to our friend Jehan. He floundered about with incredible fury. His mouth was wide open, and from it there escaped a cry which no one heard, not that it was covered by the general clamor, great as that was but because it attained, no doubt, the limit of perceptible sharp sounds, the thousand vibrations of Sauveur, or the eight thousand of Biot.
As for Gringoire, the first moment of depression having passed, he had regained his composure. He had hardened himself against adversity. We shall see which will carry the day, grimaces or polite literature. It was far worse than it had been a little while before. He no longer beheld anything but backs. I am mistaken. The big, patient man, whom he had already consulted in a critical moment, had remained with his face turned towards the stage. Gringoire was touched to the heart by the fidelity of his only spectator.
He approached him and addressed him, shaking his arm slightly; for the good man was leaning on the balustrade and dozing a little. But be at ease! Your name, if you please? What do you think of it? Gringoire was forced to content himself with this eulogy; for a thunder of applause, mingled with a prodigious acclamation, cut their conversation short.
The Pope of the Fools had been elected. That was, in fact, a marvellous grimace which was beaming at that moment through the aperture in the rose window. After all the pentagonal, hexagonal, and whimsical faces, which had succeeded each other at that hole without realizing the ideal of the grotesque which their imaginations, excited by the orgy, had constructed, nothing less was needed to win their suffrages than the sublime grimace which had just dazzled the assembly. Master Coppenole himself applauded, and Clopin Trouillefou, who had been among the competitors and God knows what intensity of ugliness his visage could attain , confessed himself conquered: We will do the same.
We shall not try to give the reader an idea of that tetrahedral nose, that horseshoe mouth; that little left eye obstructed with a red, bushy, bristling eyebrow, while the right eye disappeared entirely beneath an enormous wart; of those teeth in disarray, broken here and there, like the embattled parapet of a fortress; of that callous lip, upon which one of these teeth encroached, like the tusk of an elephant; of that forked chin; and above all, of the expression spread over the whole; of that mixture of malice, amazement, and sadness. Let the reader dream of this whole, if he can. The acclamation was unanimous; people rushed towards the chapel.
They made the lucky Pope of the Fools come forth in triumph. But it was then that surprise and admiration attained their highest pitch; the grimace was his face. Or rather, his whole person was a grimace. A huge head, bristling with red hair; between his shoulders an enormous hump, a counterpart perceptible in front; a system of thighs and legs so strangely astray that they could touch each other only at the knees, and, viewed from the front, resembled the crescents of two scythes joined by the handles; large feet, monstrous hands; and, with all this deformity, an indescribable and redoubtable air of vigor, agility, and courage,—strange exception to the eternal rule which wills that force as well as beauty shall be the result of harmony.
Such was the pope whom the fools had just chosen for themselves. One would have pronounced him a giant who had been broken and badly put together again. When this species of cyclops appeared on the threshold of the chapel, motionless, squat, and almost as broad as he was tall; squared on the base , as a great man says; with his doublet half red, half violet, sown with silver bells, and, above all, in the perfection of his ugliness, the populace recognized him on the instant, and shouted with one voice,—.
Quasimodo, the one-eyed!
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Once he left a broom on my leads. The men, on the contrary, were delighted and applauded. Quasimodo, the object of the tumult, still stood on the threshold of the chapel, sombre and grave, and allowed them to admire him. One scholar Robin Poussepain, I think , came and laughed in his face, and too close.
Quasimodo contented himself with taking him by the girdle, and hurling him ten paces off amid the crowd; all without uttering a word. Holy Father! You would deserve to be pope at Rome, as well as at Paris.