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Picrochole

King of Lerne. A Greek compound, meaning “bitterbile,” or choleric. The rustics of Utopia one day asked the cake-bakers of Lerne to sell them some cakes, but received only abuse; whereupon a quarrel ensued. When Picrochole was informed thereof, he marched with all his men against Utopia. King Grangousier tried to appease the choleric king, but all his efforts were in vain. At length Gargantua arrived, defeated Picrochole, and put his army to the rout. (Rabelais: Gargantua, bk. i.)

King Picrochole's statesman.
One who without his host reckons of mighty achievements to be accomplished. The Duke of Smalltrash, Earl of Swashbuckler, and Captain Durtaille advised King Picrochole to divide his army into two parts: one was to be left to carry on the war in hand, and the other to be sent forth to make conquests. They were to take England, France and Spain, Asia Minor, the Greek Islands, and Turkey, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Russia, etc., and to divide the lands thus taken among the conquerors. Echephron, an old soldier, replied- “A shoemaker bought a hapoth of milk; with this he was going to make butter, the butter was to buy a cow, the cow was to have a calf, the calf was to be changed for a colt, and the man was to become a nabob; only he cracked his jug, spilt his milk, and went supperless to bed.” (Rabelais: Gargantua, bk. i. 33.)

In 1870 the French emperor (Napoleon III.) was induced to declare was against Germany. He was to make a demonstration and march in triumph to Berlin. Having taken Berlin, he was to march to Italy to restore the Pope to his dominions, and then to restore the Queen of Spain to her throne; but he failed in the first, lost his throne, and Paris fell into the hands of the allied Prussian army.

His uncle's “Berlin Decree,” for the subjection of Great Britain, was a similar miscalculation. This decree ordained that no European state was to deal with England; and, the trade of England being thus ruined, the kingdom must perforce submit to Napoleon. But as England was the best customer of the European states, the states of Europe were so impoverished that they revolted against the dictator, and the battle of Waterloo was his utter downfall.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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