Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 8)

"Say on," said I, listening to his talk; "how do you propose to makeup for my diffidence, and reduce to order this chaos of perplexity Iam in?"

To which he made answer, "Your first difficulty about the sonnets,epigrams, or complimentary verses which you want for the beginning,and which ought to be by persons of importance and rank, can beremoved if you yourself take a little trouble to make them; you canafterwards baptise them, and put any name you like to them,fathering them on Prester John of the Indies or the Emperor ofTrebizond, who, to my knowledge, were said to have been famouspoets: and even if they were not, and any pedants or bachelorsshould attack you and question the fact, never care two maravedisfor that, for even if they prove a lie against you they cannot cut offthe hand you wrote it with.

"As to references in the margin to the books and authors from whomyou take the aphorisms and sayings you put into your story, it is onlycontriving to fit in nicely any sentences or scraps of Latin you mayhappen to have by heart, or at any rate that will not give you muchtrouble to look up; so as, when you speak of freedom and captivity, toinsert

Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro;

and then refer in the margin to Horace, or whoever said it; or, if youallude to the power of death, to come in with-

Pallida mors Aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas,Regumque turres.

If it be friendship and the love God bids us bear to our enemy, goat once to the Holy Scriptures, which you can do with a very smallamount of research, and quote no less than the words of God himself:Ego autem dico vobis: diligite inimicos vestros. If you speak ofevil thoughts, turn to the Gospel: De corde exeunt cogitationes malae.If of the fickleness of friends, there is Cato, who will give youhis distich:

Donec eris felix multos numerabis amicos,Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris.

With these and such like bits of Latin they will take you for agrammarian at all events, and that now-a-days is no small honour andprofit.

"With regard to adding annotations at the end of the book, you maysafely do it in this way. If you mention any giant in your bookcontrive that it shall be the giant Goliath, and with this alone,which will cost you almost nothing, you have a grand note, for you canput- The giant Golias or Goliath was a Philistine whom the shepherdDavid slew by a mighty stone-cast in the Terebinth valley, as isrelated in the Book of Kings- in the chapter where you find itwritten.

"Next, to prove yourself a man of erudition in polite literature andcosmography, manage that the river Tagus shall be named in your story,and there you are at once with another famous annotation, settingforth- The river Tagus was so called after a King of Spain: it has itssource in such and such a place and falls into the ocean, kissingthe walls of the famous city of Lisbon, and it is a common belief thatit has golden sands, &c. If you should have anything to do withrobbers, I will give you the story of Cacus, for I have it by heart;if with loose women, there is the Bishop of Mondonedo, who will giveyou the loan of Lamia, Laida, and Flora, any reference to whom willbring you great credit; if with hard-hearted ones, Ovid will furnishyou with Medea; if with witches or enchantresses, Homer has Calypso,and Virgil Circe; if with valiant captains, Julius Caesar himself willlend you himself in his own 'Commentaries,' and Plutarch will give youa thousand Alexanders. If you should deal with love, with two ouncesyou may know of Tuscan you can go to Leon the Hebrew, who willsupply you to your heart's content; or if you should not care to go toforeign countries you have at home Fonseca's 'Of the Love of God,'in which is condensed all that you or the most imaginative mind canwant on the subject. In short, all you have to do is to manage toquote these names, or refer to these stories I have mentioned, andleave it to me to insert the annotations and quotations, and I swearby all that's good to fill your margins and use up four sheets atthe end of the book.

"Now let us come to those references to authors which other bookshave, and you want for yours. The remedy for this is very simple:You have only to look out for some book that quotes them all, from Ato Z as you say yourself, and then insert the very same alphabet inyour book, and though the imposition may be plain to see, becauseyou have so little need to borrow from them, that is no matter;there will probably be some simple enough to believe that you havemade use of them all in this plain, artless story of yours. At anyrate, if it answers no other purpose, this long catalogue of authorswill serve to give a surprising look of authority to your book.Besides, no one will trouble himself to verify whether you havefollowed them or whether you have not, being no way concerned in it;especially as, if I mistake not, this book of yours has no need of anyone of those things you say it wants, for it is, from beginning toend, an attack upon the books of chivalry, of which Aristotle neverdreamt, nor St. Basil said a word, nor Cicero had any knowledge; nordo the niceties of truth nor the observations of astrology come withinthe range of its fanciful vagaries; nor have geometricalmeasurements or refutations of the arguments used in rhetoric anythingto do with it; nor does it mean to preach to anybody, mixing up thingshuman and divine, a sort of motley in which no Christian understandingshould dress itself. It has only to avail itself of truth to nature inits composition, and the more perfect the imitation the better thework will be. And as this piece of yours aims at nothing more thanto destroy the authority and influence which books of chivalry have inthe world and with the public, there is no need for you to goa-begging for aphorisms from philosophers, precepts from HolyScripture, fables from poets, speeches from orators, or miraclesfrom saints; but merely to take care that your style and diction runmusically, pleasantly, and plainly, with clear, proper, andwell-placed words, setting forth your purpose to the best of yourpower, and putting your ideas intelligibly, without confusion orobscurity. Strive, too, that in reading your story the melancholymay be moved to laughter, and the merry made merrier still; that thesimple shall not be wearied, that the judicious shall admire theinvention, that the grave shall not despise it, nor the wise fail topraise it. Finally, keep your aim fixed on the destruction of thatill-founded edifice of the books of chivalry, hated by some andpraised by many more; for if you succeed in this you will haveachieved no small success."

In profound silence I listened to what my friend said, and hisobservations made such an impression on me that, without attempting toquestion them, I admitted their soundness, and out of them Idetermined to make this Preface; wherein, gentle reader, thou wiltperceive my friend's good sense, my good fortune in finding such anadviser in such a time of need, and what thou hast gained inreceiving, without addition or alteration, the story of the famous DonQuixote of La Mancha, who is held by all the inhabitants of thedistrict of the Campo de Montiel to have been the chastest lover andthe bravest knight that has for many years been seen in thatneighbourhood. I have no desire to magnify the service I render theein making thee acquainted with so renowned and honoured a knight,but I do desire thy thanks for the acquaintance thou wilt make withthe famous Sancho Panza, his squire, in whom, to my thinking, I havegiven thee condensed all the squirely drolleries that are scatteredthrough the swarm of the vain books of chivalry. And so- may Godgive thee health, and not forget me. Vale.



In belief of the good reception and honours that Your Excellencybestows on all sort of books, as prince so inclined to favor goodarts, chiefly those who by their nobleness do not submit to theservice and bribery of the vulgar, I have determined bringing to lightThe Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of la Mancha, in shelter of YourExcellency's glamorous name, to whom, with the obeisance I owe to suchgrandeur, I pray to receive it agreeably under his protection, so thatin this shadow, though deprived of that precious ornament ofelegance and erudition that clothe the works composed in the houses ofthose who know, it dares appear with assurance in the judgment of somewho, trespassing the bounds of their own ignorance, use to condemnwith more rigour and less justice the writings of others. It is myearnest hope that Your Excellency's good counsel in regard to myhonourable purpose, will not disdain the littleness of so humble aservice.

Miguel de Cervantes



In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire tocall to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen thatkeep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and agreyhound for coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, asalad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and apigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of hisincome. The rest of it went in a doublet of fine cloth and velvetbreeches and shoes to match for holidays, while on week-days he made abrave figure in his best homespun. He had in his house a housekeeperpast forty, a niece under twenty, and a lad for the field andmarket-place, who used to saddle the hack as well as handle thebill-hook. The age of this gentleman of ours was bordering on fifty;he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser anda great sportsman. They will have it his surname was Quixada orQuesada (for here there is some difference of opinion among theauthors who write on the subject), although from reasonableconjectures it seems plain that he was called Quexana. This,however, is of but little importance to our tale; it will be enoughnot to stray a hair's breadth from the truth in the telling of it.

You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever hewas at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself upto reading books of chivalry with such ardour and avidity that healmost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and eventhe management of his property; and to such a pitch did hiseagerness and infatuation go that he sold many an acre oftillageland to buy books of chivalry to read, and brought home as manyof them as he could get. But of all there were none he liked so wellas those of the famous Feliciano de Silva's composition, for theirlucidity of style and complicated conceits were as pearls in hissight, particularly when in his reading he came upon courtships andcartels, where he often found passages like "the reason of theunreason with which my reason is afflicted so weakens my reason thatwith reason I murmur at your beauty;" or again, "the high heavens,that of your divinity divinely fortify you with the stars, renderyou deserving of the desert your greatness deserves." Over conceits ofthis sort the poor gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awakestriving to understand them and worm the meaning out of them; whatAristotle himself could not have made out or extracted had he cometo life again for that special purpose. He was not at all easy aboutthe wounds which Don Belianis gave and took, because it seemed tohim that, great as were the surgeons who had cured him, he must havehad his face and body covered all over with seams and scars. Hecommended, however, the author's way of ending his book with thepromise of that interminable adventure, and many a time was he temptedto take up his pen and finish it properly as is there proposed,which no doubt he would have done, and made a successful piece of workof it too, had not greater and more absorbing thoughts prevented him.

Many an argument did he have with the curate of his village (alearned man, and a graduate of Siguenza) as to which had been thebetter knight, Palmerin of England or Amadis of Gaul. Master Nicholas,the village barber, however, used to say that neither of them cameup to the Knight of Phoebus, and that if there was any that couldcompare with him it was Don Galaor, the brother of Amadis of Gaul,because he had a spirit that was equal to every occasion, and was nofinikin knight, nor lachrymose like his brother, while in the matterof valour he was not a whit behind him. In short, he became soabsorbed in his books that he spent his nights from sunset to sunrise,and his days from dawn to dark, poring over them; and what with littlesleep and much reading his brains got so dry that he lost his wits.His fancy grew full of what he used to read about in his books,enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves,agonies, and all sorts of impossible nonsense; and it so possessed hismind that the whole fabric of invention and fancy he read of was true,that to him no history in the world had more reality in it. He used tosay the Cid Ruy Diaz was a very good knight, but that he was not to becompared with the Knight of the Burning Sword who with one back-strokecut in half two fierce and monstrous giants. He thought more ofBernardo del Carpio because at Roncesvalles he slew Roland in spite ofenchantments, availing himself of the artifice of Hercules when hestrangled Antaeus the son of Terra in his arms. He approved highlyof the giant Morgante, because, although of the giant breed which isalways arrogant and ill-conditioned, he alone was affable andwell-bred. But above all he admired Reinaldos of Montalban, especiallywhen he saw him sallying forth from his castle and robbing everyone hemet, and when beyond the seas he stole that image of Mahomet which, ashis history says, was entirely of gold. To have a bout of kicking atthat traitor of a Ganelon he would have given his housekeeper, and hisniece into the bargain.

In short, his wits being quite gone, he hit upon the strangestnotion that ever madman in this world hit upon, and that was that hefancied it was right and requisite, as well for the support of his ownhonour as for the service of his country, that he should make aknight-errant of himself, roaming the world over in full armour and onhorseback in quest of adventures, and putting in practice himselfall that he had read of as being the usual practices ofknights-errant; righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himselfto peril and danger from which, in the issue, he was to reap eternalrenown and fame. Already the poor man saw himself crowned by the mightof his arm Emperor of Trebizond at least; and so, led away by theintense enjoyment he found in these pleasant fancies, he set himselfforthwith to put his scheme into execution.

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
Viewed 140751 times


Page generation 0.001 seconds