Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 58)

By these words he excited a desire in all who heard him, to know whothe Moorish lady and the captive were, but no one liked to ask justthen, seeing that it was a fitter moment for helping them to restthemselves than for questioning them about their lives. Dorotheatook the Moorish lady by the hand and leading her to a seat besideherself, requested her to remove her veil. She looked at the captiveas if to ask him what they meant and what she was to do. He said toher in Arabic that they asked her to take off her veil, andthereupon she removed it and disclosed a countenance so lovely, thatto Dorothea she seemed more beautiful than Luscinda, and to Luscindamore beautiful than Dorothea, and all the bystanders felt that ifany beauty could compare with theirs it was the Moorish lady's, andthere were even those who were inclined to give it somewhat thepreference. And as it is the privilege and charm of beauty to winthe heart and secure good-will, all forthwith became eager to showkindness and attention to the lovely Moor.

Don Fernando asked the captive what her name was, and he repliedthat it was Lela Zoraida; but the instant she heard him, she guessedwhat the Christian had asked, and said hastily, with somedispleasure and energy, "No, not Zoraida; Maria, Maria!" giving themto understand that she was called "Maria" and not "Zoraida." Thesewords, and the touching earnestness with which she uttered them,drew more than one tear from some of the listeners, particularly thewomen, who are by nature tender-hearted and compassionate. Luscindaembraced her affectionately, saying, "Yes, yes, Maria, Maria," towhich the Moor replied, "Yes, yes, Maria; Zoraida macange," whichmeans "not Zoraida."

Night was now approaching, and by the orders of those whoaccompanied Don Fernando the landlord had taken care and pains toprepare for them the best supper that was in his power. The hourtherefore having arrived they all took their seats at a long tablelike a refectory one, for round or square table there was none inthe inn, and the seat of honour at the head of it, though he was forrefusing it, they assigned to Don Quixote, who desired the ladyMicomicona to place herself by his side, as he was her protector.Luscinda and Zoraida took their places next her, opposite to them wereDon Fernando and Cardenio, and next the captive and the othergentlemen, and by the side of the ladies, the curate and the barber.And so they supped in high enjoyment, which was increased when theyobserved Don Quixote leave off eating, and, moved by an impulse likethat which made him deliver himself at such length when he supped withthe goatherds, begin to address them:

"Verily, gentlemen, if we reflect upon it, great and marvellousare the things they see, who make profession of the order ofknight-errantry. Say, what being is there in this world, whoentering the gate of this castle at this moment, and seeing us as weare here, would suppose or imagine us to be what we are? Who would saythat this lady who is beside me was the great queen that we all knowher to be, or that I am that Knight of the Rueful Countenance,trumpeted far and wide by the mouth of Fame? Now, there can be nodoubt that this art and calling surpasses all those that mankind hasinvented, and is the more deserving of being held in honour inproportion as it is the more exposed to peril. Away with those whoassert that letters have the preeminence over arms; I will tellthem, whosoever they may be, that they know not what they say. For thereason which such persons commonly assign, and upon which they chieflyrest, is, that the labours of the mind are greater than those of thebody, and that arms give employment to the body alone; as if thecalling were a porter's trade, for which nothing more is required thansturdy strength; or as if, in what we who profess them call arms,there were not included acts of vigour for the execution of which highintelligence is requisite; or as if the soul of the warrior, when hehas an army, or the defence of a city under his care, did not exertitself as much by mind as by body. Nay; see whether by bodily strengthit be possible to learn or divine the intentions of the enemy, hisplans, stratagems, or obstacles, or to ward off impending mischief;for all these are the work of the mind, and in them the body has noshare whatever. Since, therefore, arms have need of the mind, asmuch as letters, let us see now which of the two minds, that of theman of letters or that of the warrior, has most to do; and this willbe seen by the end and goal that each seeks to attain; for thatpurpose is the more estimable which has for its aim the nobler object.The end and goal of letters- I am not speaking now of divineletters, the aim of which is to raise and direct the soul to Heaven;for with an end so infinite no other can be compared- I speak of humanletters, the end of which is to establish distributive justice, giveto every man that which is his, and see and take care that good lawsare observed: an end undoubtedly noble, lofty, and deserving of highpraise, but not such as should be given to that sought by arms,which have for their end and object peace, the greatest boon thatmen can desire in this life. The first good news the world and mankindreceived was that which the angels announced on the night that was ourday, when they sang in the air, 'Glory to God in the highest, andpeace on earth to men of good-will;' and the salutation which thegreat Master of heaven and earth taught his disciples and chosenfollowers when they entered any house, was to say, 'Peace be on thishouse;' and many other times he said to them, 'My peace I give untoyou, my peace I leave you, peace be with you;' a jewel and aprecious gift given and left by such a hand: a jewel without whichthere can be no happiness either on earth or in heaven. This peaceis the true end of war; and war is only another name for arms. This,then, being admitted, that the end of war is peace, and that so far ithas the advantage of the end of letters, let us turn to the bodilylabours of the man of letters, and those of him who follows theprofession of arms, and see which are the greater."

Don Quixote delivered his discourse in such a manner and in suchcorrect language, that for the time being he made it impossible forany of his hearers to consider him a madman; on the contrary, asthey were mostly gentlemen, to whom arms are an appurtenance by birth,they listened to him with great pleasure as he continued: "Here, then,I say is what the student has to undergo; first of all poverty: notthat all are poor, but to put the case as strongly as possible: andwhen I have said that he endures poverty, I think nothing more need besaid about his hard fortune, for he who is poor has no share of thegood things of life. This poverty he suffers from in various ways,hunger, or cold, or nakedness, or all together; but for all that it isnot so extreme but that he gets something to eat, though it may beat somewhat unseasonable hours and from the leavings of the rich;for the greatest misery of the student is what they themselves call'going out for soup,' and there is always some neighbour's brazieror hearth for them, which, if it does not warm, at least tempers thecold to them, and lastly, they sleep comfortably at night under aroof. I will not go into other particulars, as for example want ofshirts, and no superabundance of shoes, thin and threadbaregarments, and gorging themselves to surfeit in their voracity whengood luck has treated them to a banquet of some sort. By this roadthat I have described, rough and hard, stumbling here, fallingthere, getting up again to fall again, they reach the rank theydesire, and that once attained, we have seen many who have passedthese Syrtes and Scyllas and Charybdises, as if borne flying on thewings of favouring fortune; we have seen them, I say, ruling andgoverning the world from a chair, their hunger turned into satiety,their cold into comfort, their nakedness into fine raiment, theirsleep on a mat into repose in holland and damask, the justly earnedreward of their virtue; but, contrasted and compared with what thewarrior undergoes, all they have undergone falls far short of it, as Iam now about to show."



Continuing his discourse Don Quixote said: "As we began in thestudent's case with poverty and its accompaniments, let us see nowif the soldier is richer, and we shall find that in poverty itselfthere is no one poorer; for he is dependent on his miserable pay,which comes late or never, or else on what he can plunder, seriouslyimperilling his life and conscience; and sometimes his nakednesswill be so great that a slashed doublet serves him for uniform andshirt, and in the depth of winter he has to defend himself against theinclemency of the weather in the open field with nothing better thanthe breath of his mouth, which I need not say, coming from an emptyplace, must come out cold, contrary to the laws of nature. To besure he looks forward to the approach of night to make up for allthese discomforts on the bed that awaits him, which, unless by somefault of his, never sins by being over narrow, for he can easilymeasure out on the ground as he likes, and roll himself about in it tohis heart's content without any fear of the sheets slipping awayfrom him. Then, after all this, suppose the day and hour for takinghis degree in his calling to have come; suppose the day of battle tohave arrived, when they invest him with the doctor's cap made of lint,to mend some bullet-hole, perhaps, that has gone through histemples, or left him with a crippled arm or leg. Or if this does nothappen, and merciful Heaven watches over him and keeps him safe andsound, it may be he will be in the same poverty he was in before,and he must go through more engagements and more battles, and comevictorious out of all before he betters himself; but miracles ofthat sort are seldom seen. For tell me, sirs, if you have everreflected upon it, by how much do those who have gained by war fallshort of the number of those who have perished in it? No doubt youwill reply that there can be no comparison, that the dead cannot benumbered, while the living who have been rewarded may be summed upwith three figures. All which is the reverse in the case of men ofletters; for by skirts, to say nothing of sleeves, they all find meansof support; so that though the soldier has more to endure, hisreward is much less. But against all this it may be urged that it iseasier to reward two thousand soldiers, for the former may beremunerated by giving them places, which must perforce be conferredupon men of their calling, while the latter can only be recompensedout of the very property of the master they serve; but thisimpossibility only strengthens my argument.

"Putting this, however, aside, for it is a puzzling question forwhich it is difficult to find a solution, let us return to thesuperiority of arms over letters, a matter still undecided, so manyare the arguments put forward on each side; for besides those I havementioned, letters say that without them arms cannot maintainthemselves, for war, too, has its laws and is governed by them, andlaws belong to the domain of letters and men of letters. To thisarms make answer that without them laws cannot be maintained, for byarms states are defended, kingdoms preserved, cities protected,roads made safe, seas cleared of pirates; and, in short, if it werenot for them, states, kingdoms, monarchies, cities, ways by sea andland would be exposed to the violence and confusion which war bringswith it, so long as it lasts and is free to make use of its privilegesand powers. And then it is plain that whatever costs most is valuedand deserves to be valued most. To attain to eminence in letters costsa man time, watching, hunger, nakedness, headaches, indigestions,and other things of the sort, some of which I have already referredto. But for a man to come in the ordinary course of things to be agood soldier costs him all the student suffers, and in an incomparablyhigher degree, for at every step he runs the risk of losing hislife. For what dread of want or poverty that can reach or harass thestudent can compare with what the soldier feels, who finds himselfbeleaguered in some stronghold mounting guard in some ravelin orcavalier, knows that the enemy is pushing a mine towards the postwhere he is stationed, and cannot under any circumstances retire orfly from the imminent danger that threatens him? All he can do is toinform his captain of what is going on so that he may try to remedy itby a counter-mine, and then stand his ground in fear and expectationof the moment when he will fly up to the clouds without wings anddescend into the deep against his will. And if this seems a triflingrisk, let us see whether it is equalled or surpassed by theencounter of two galleys stem to stem, in the midst of the open sea,locked and entangled one with the other, when the soldier has nomore standing room than two feet of the plank of the spur; and yet,though he sees before him threatening him as many ministers of deathas there are cannon of the foe pointed at him, not a lance length fromhis body, and sees too that with the first heedless step he will godown to visit the profundities of Neptune's bosom, still withdauntless heart, urged on by honour that nerves him, he makeshimself a target for all that musketry, and struggles to cross thatnarrow path to the enemy's ship. And what is still more marvellous, nosooner has one gone down into the depths he will never rise fromtill the end of the world, than another takes his place; and if he toofalls into the sea that waits for him like an enemy, another andanother will succeed him without a moment's pause between theirdeaths: courage and daring the greatest that all the chances of warcan show. Happy the blest ages that knew not the dread fury of thosedevilish engines of artillery, whose inventor I am persuaded is inhell receiving the reward of his diabolical invention, by which hemade it easy for a base and cowardly arm to take the life of a gallantgentleman; and that, when he knows not how or whence, in the height ofthe ardour and enthusiasm that fire and animate brave hearts, thereshould come some random bullet, discharged perhaps by one who fledin terror at the flash when he fired off his accursed machine, whichin an instant puts an end to the projects and cuts off the life of onewho deserved to live for ages to come. And thus when I reflect onthis, I am almost tempted to say that in my heart I repent of havingadopted this profession of knight-errant in so detestable an age as welive in now; for though no peril can make me fear, still it gives mesome uneasiness to think that powder and lead may rob me of theopportunity of making myself famous and renowned throughout theknown earth by the might of my arm and the edge of my sword. ButHeaven's will be done; if I succeed in my attempt I shall be all themore honoured, as I have faced greater dangers than the knights-errantof yore exposed themselves to."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
Viewed 195357 times


Page generation 0.001 seconds