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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 7)


But it is, after all, the humour of "Don Quixote" that distinguishesit from all other books of the romance kind. It is this that makes it,as one of the most judicial-minded of modern critics calls it, "thebest novel in the world beyond all comparison." It is its variedhumour, ranging from broad farce to comedy as subtle asShakespeare's or Moliere's that has naturalised it in every countrywhere there are readers, and made it a classic in every languagethat has a literature.

SOME COMMENDATORY VERSES

URGANDA THE UNKNOWN

To the book of Don Quixote of la Mancha

If to be welcomed by the good,O Book! thou make thy steady aim,No empty chatterer will dareTo question or dispute thy claim.But if perchance thou hast a mindTo win of idiots approbation,Lost labour will be thy reward,Though they'll pretend appreciation.

They say a goodly shade he findsWho shelters 'neath a goodly tree;And such a one thy kindly starIn Bejar bath provided thee:A royal tree whose spreading boughsA show of princely fruit display;A tree that bears a noble Duke,The Alexander of his day.

Of a Manchegan gentlemanThy purpose is to tell the story,Relating how he lost his witsO'er idle tales of love and glory,Of "ladies, arms, and cavaliers:"A new Orlando Furioso-Innamorato, rather- whoWon Dulcinea del Toboso.

Put no vain emblems on thy shield;All figures- that is bragging play.A modest dedication make,And give no scoffer room to say,"What! Alvaro de Luna here?Or is it Hannibal again?Or does King Francis at MadridOnce more of destiny complain?"

Since Heaven it hath not pleased on theeDeep erudition to bestow,Or black Latino's gift of tongues,No Latin let thy pages show.Ape not philosophy or wit,Lest one who cannot comprehend,Make a wry face at thee and ask,"Why offer flowers to me, my friend?"

Be not a meddler; no affairOf thine the life thy neighbours lead:Be prudent; oft the random jestRecoils upon the jester's head.Thy constant labour let it beTo earn thyself an honest name,For fooleries preserved in printAre perpetuity of shame.

A further counsel bear in mind:If that thy roof be made of glass,It shows small wit to pick up stonesTo pelt the people as they pass.Win the attention of the wise,And give the thinker food for thought;Whoso indites frivolities,Will but by simpletons be sought.

AMADIS OF GAULTo Don Quixote of la Mancha

SONNET

Thou that didst imitate that life of mineWhen I in lonely sadness on the greatRock Pena Pobre sat disconsolate,In self-imposed penance there to pine;Thou, whose sole beverage was the bitter brineOf thine own tears, and who withouten plateOf silver, copper, tin, in lowly stateOff the bare earth and on earth's fruits didst dine;Live thou, of thine eternal glory sure.So long as on the round of the fourth sphereThe bright Apollo shall his coursers steer,In thy renown thou shalt remain secure,Thy country's name in story shall endure,And thy sage author stand without a peer.

DON BELIANIS OF GREECETo Don Quixote of la Mancha

SONNET

In slashing, hewing, cleaving, word and deed,I was the foremost knight of chivalry,Stout, bold, expert, as e'er the world did see;Thousands from the oppressor's wrong I freed;Great were my feats, eternal fame their meed;In love I proved my truth and loyalty;The hugest giant was a dwarf for me;Ever to knighthood's laws gave I good heed.My mastery the Fickle Goddess owned,And even Chance, submitting to control,Grasped by the forelock, yielded to my will.Yet- though above yon horned moon enthronedMy fortune seems to sit- great Quixote, stillEnvy of thy achievements fills my soul.

THE LADY OF ORIANATo Dulcinea del Toboso

SONNET

Oh, fairest Dulcinea, could it be!It were a pleasant fancy to suppose so-Could Miraflores change to El Toboso,And London's town to that which shelters thee!Oh, could mine but acquire that liveryOf countless charms thy mind and body show so!Or him, now famous grown- thou mad'st him grow so-Thy knight, in some dread combat could I see!Oh, could I be released from AmadisBy exercise of such coy chastityAs led thee gentle Quixote to dismiss!Then would my heavy sorrow turn to joy;None would I envy, all would envy me,And happiness be mine without alloy.

GANDALIN, SQUIRE OF AMADIS OF GAUL,To Sancho Panza, squire of Don Quixote

SONNET

All hail, illustrious man! Fortune, when sheBound thee apprentice to the esquire trade,Her care and tenderness of thee displayed,Shaping thy course from misadventure free.No longer now doth proud knight-errantryRegard with scorn the sickle and the spade;Of towering arrogance less count is madeThan of plain esquire-like simplicity.I envy thee thy Dapple, and thy name,And those alforjas thou wast wont to stuffWith comforts that thy providence proclaim.Excellent Sancho! hail to thee again!To thee alone the Ovid of our SpainDoes homage with the rustic kiss and cuff.

FROM EL DONOSO, THE MOTLEY POET,

On Sancho Panza and Rocinante

ON SANCHO

I am the esquire Sancho Pan-Who served Don Quixote of La Man-;But from his service I retreat-,Resolved to pass my life discreet-;For Villadiego, called the Si-,Maintained that only in reti-Was found the secret of well-be-,According to the "Celesti-:"A book divine, except for sin-By speech too plain, in my opin-

ON ROCINANTE

I am that Rocinante fa-,Great-grandson of great Babie-,Who, all for being lean and bon-,Had one Don Quixote for an own-;But if I matched him well in weak-,I never took short commons meek-,But kept myself in corn by steal-,A trick I learned from Lazaril-,When with a piece of straw so neat-The blind man of his wine he cheat-.

ORLANDO FURIOSOTo Don Quixote of La Mancha

SONNET

If thou art not a Peer, peer thou hast none;Among a thousand Peers thou art a peer;Nor is there room for one when thou art near,Unvanquished victor, great unconquered one!Orlando, by Angelica undone,Am I; o'er distant seas condemned to steer,And to Fame's altars as an offering bearValour respected by Oblivion.I cannot be thy rival, for thy fameAnd prowess rise above all rivalry,Albeit both bereft of wits we go.But, though the Scythian or the Moor to tameWas not thy lot, still thou dost rival me:Love binds us in a fellowship of woe.

THE KNIGHT OF PHOEBUS

To Don Quixote of La Mancha

My sword was not to be compared with thinePhoebus of Spain, marvel of courtesy,Nor with thy famous arm this hand of mineThat smote from east to west as lightnings fly.I scorned all empire, and that monarchyThe rosy east held out did I resignFor one glance of Claridiana's eye,The bright Aurora for whose love I pine.A miracle of constancy my love;And banished by her ruthless cruelty,This arm had might the rage of Hell to tame.But, Gothic Quixote, happier thou dost prove,For thou dost live in Dulcinea's name,And famous, honoured, wise, she lives in thee.

FROM SOLISDANTo Don Quixote of La Mancha

SONNET

Your fantasies, Sir Quixote, it is true,That crazy brain of yours have quite upset,But aught of base or mean hath never yetBeen charged by any in reproach to you.Your deeds are open proof in all men's view;For you went forth injustice to abate,And for your pains sore drubbings did you getFrom many a rascally and ruffian crew.If the fair Dulcinea, your heart's queen,Be unrelenting in her cruelty,If still your woe be powerless to move her,In such hard case your comfort let it beThat Sancho was a sorry go-between:A booby he, hard-hearted she, and you no lover.

DIALOGUEBetween Babieca and Rocinante

SONNET

B. "How comes it, Rocinante, you're so lean?"R. "I'm underfed, with overwork I'm worn."B. "But what becomes of all the hay and corn?"R. "My master gives me none; he's much too mean."B. "Come, come, you show ill-breeding, sir, I ween;'T is like an ass your master thus to scorn."R. He is an ass, will die an ass, an ass was born;Why, he's in love; what's what's plainer to be seen?"B. "To be in love is folly?"- R. "No great sense."B. "You're metaphysical."- R. "From want of food."B. "Rail at the squire, then."- R. "Why, what's the good?I might indeed complain of him,I grant ye,But, squire or master, where's the difference?They're both as sorry hacks as Rocinante."

THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE

Idle reader: thou mayest believe me without any oath that I wouldthis book, as it is the child of my brain, were the fairest, gayest,and cleverest that could be imagined. But I could not counteractNature's law that everything shall beget its like; and what, then,could this sterile, illtilled wit of mine beget but the story of adry, shrivelled, whimsical offspring, full of thoughts of all sortsand such as never came into any other imagination- just what mightbe begotten in a prison, where every misery is lodged and everydoleful sound makes its dwelling? Tranquillity, a cheerful retreat,pleasant fields, bright skies, murmuring brooks, peace of mind,these are the things that go far to make even the most barren musesfertile, and bring into the world births that fill it with wonderand delight. Sometimes when a father has an ugly, loutish son, thelove he bears him so blindfolds his eyes that he does not see hisdefects, or, rather, takes them for gifts and charms of mind and body,and talks of them to his friends as wit and grace. I, however- forthough I pass for the father, I am but the stepfather to "DonQuixote"- have no desire to go with the current of custom, or toimplore thee, dearest reader, almost with tears in my eyes, asothers do, to pardon or excuse the defects thou wilt perceive inthis child of mine. Thou art neither its kinsman nor its friend, thysoul is thine own and thy will as free as any man's, whate'er he be,thou art in thine own house and master of it as much as the king ofhis taxes and thou knowest the common saying, "Under my cloak I killthe king;" all which exempts and frees thee from every considerationand obligation, and thou canst say what thou wilt of the story withoutfear of being abused for any ill or rewarded for any good thoumayest say of it.

My wish would be simply to present it to thee plain and unadorned,without any embellishment of preface or uncountable muster ofcustomary sonnets, epigrams, and eulogies, such as are commonly put atthe beginning of books. For I can tell thee, though composing itcost me some labour, I found none greater than the making of thisPreface thou art now reading. Many times did I take up my pen to writeit, and many did I lay it down again, not knowing what to write. Oneof these times, as I was pondering with the paper before me, a penin my ear, my elbow on the desk, and my cheek in my hand, thinkingof what I should say, there came in unexpectedly a certain lively,clever friend of mine, who, seeing me so deep in thought, asked thereason; to which I, making no mystery of it, answered that I wasthinking of the Preface I had to make for the story of "DonQuixote," which so troubled me that I had a mind not to make any atall, nor even publish the achievements of so noble a knight.

"For, how could you expect me not to feel uneasy about what thatancient lawgiver they call the Public will say when it sees me,after slumbering so many years in the silence of oblivion, comingout now with all my years upon my back, and with a book as dry as arush, devoid of invention, meagre in style, poor in thoughts, whollywanting in learning and wisdom, without quotations in the margin orannotations at the end, after the fashion of other books I see, which,though all fables and profanity, are so full of maxims from Aristotle,and Plato, and the whole herd of philosophers, that they fill thereaders with amazement and convince them that the authors are men oflearning, erudition, and eloquence. And then, when they quote the HolyScriptures!- anyone would say they are St. Thomases or other doctorsof the Church, observing as they do a decorum so ingenious that in onesentence they describe a distracted lover and in the next deliver adevout little sermon that it is a pleasure and a treat to hear andread. Of all this there will be nothing in my book, for I have nothingto quote in the margin or to note at the end, and still less do I knowwhat authors I follow in it, to place them at the beginning, as alldo, under the letters A, B, C, beginning with Aristotle and endingwith Xenophon, or Zoilus, or Zeuxis, though one was a slanderer andthe other a painter. Also my book must do without sonnets at thebeginning, at least sonnets whose authors are dukes, marquises,counts, bishops, ladies, or famous poets. Though if I were to asktwo or three obliging friends, I know they would give me them, andsuch as the productions of those that have the highest reputation inour Spain could not equal.

"In short, my friend," I continued, "I am determined that SenorDon Quixote shall remain buried in the archives of his own La Manchauntil Heaven provide some one to garnish him with all those thingshe stands in need of; because I find myself, through my shallownessand want of learning, unequal to supplying them, and because I am bynature shy and careless about hunting for authors to say what I myselfcan say without them. Hence the cogitation and abstraction you foundme in, and reason enough, what you have heard from me."

Hearing this, my friend, giving himself a slap on the forehead andbreaking into a hearty laugh, exclaimed, "Before God, Brother, nowam I disabused of an error in which I have been living all this longtime I have known you, all through which I have taken you to be shrewdand sensible in all you do; but now I see you are as far from thatas the heaven is from the earth. It is possible that things of solittle moment and so easy to set right can occupy and perplex a ripewit like yours, fit to break through and crush far greaterobstacles? By my faith, this comes, not of any want of ability, but oftoo much indolence and too little knowledge of life. Do you want toknow if I am telling the truth? Well, then, attend to me, and you willsee how, in the opening and shutting of an eye, I sweep away allyour difficulties, and supply all those deficiencies which you saycheck and discourage you from bringing before the world the story ofyour famous Don Quixote, the light and mirror of all knight-errantry."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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