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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 85)


Said Don Quixote, "Sancho, my friend, night is drawing on upon us aswe go, and more darkly than will allow us to reach El Toboso bydaylight; for there I am resolved to go before I engage in anotheradventure, and there I shall obtain the blessing and generouspermission of the peerless Dulcinea, with which permission I expectand feel assured that I shall conclude and bring to a happytermination every perilous adventure; for nothing in life makesknights-errant more valorous than finding themselves favoured by theirladies."

"So I believe," replied Sancho; "but I think it will be difficultfor your worship to speak with her or see her, at any rate where youwill be able to receive her blessing; unless, indeed, she throws itover the wall of the yard where I saw her the time before, when I tookher the letter that told of the follies and mad things your worshipwas doing in the heart of Sierra Morena."

"Didst thou take that for a yard wall, Sancho," said Don Quixote,"where or at which thou sawest that never sufficiently extolledgrace and beauty? It must have been the gallery, corridor, orportico of some rich and royal palace."

"It might have been all that," returned Sancho, "but to me it lookedlike a wall, unless I am short of memory."

"At all events, let us go there, Sancho," said Don Quixote; "for, sothat I see her, it is the same to me whether it be over a wall, orat a window, or through the chink of a door, or the grate of a garden;for any beam of the sun of her beauty that reaches my eyes will givelight to my reason and strength to my heart, so that I shall beunmatched and unequalled in wisdom and valour."

"Well, to tell the truth, senor," said Sancho, "when I saw thatsun of the lady Dulcinea del Toboso, it was not bright enough to throwout beams at all; it must have been, that as her grace was siftingthat wheat I told you of, the thick dust she raised came before herface like a cloud and dimmed it."

"What! dost thou still persist, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "insaying, thinking, believing, and maintaining that my lady Dulcinea wassifting wheat, that being an occupation and task entirely atvariance with what is and should be the employment of persons ofdistinction, who are constituted and reserved for other avocations andpursuits that show their rank a bowshot off? Thou hast forgotten, OSancho, those lines of our poet wherein he paints for us how, in theircrystal abodes, those four nymphs employed themselves who rose fromtheir loved Tagus and seated themselves in a verdant meadow toembroider those tissues which the ingenious poet there describes tous, how they were worked and woven with gold and silk and pearls;and something of this sort must have been the employment of my ladywhen thou sawest her, only that the spite which some wickedenchanter seems to have against everything of mine changes all thosethings that give me pleasure, and turns them into shapes unliketheir own; and so I fear that in that history of my achievements whichthey say is now in print, if haply its author was some sage who isan enemy of mine, he will have put one thing for another, mingling athousand lies with one truth, and amusing himself by relatingtransactions which have nothing to do with the sequence of a truehistory. O envy, root of all countless evils, and cankerworm of thevirtues! All the vices, Sancho, bring some kind of pleasure with them;but envy brings nothing but irritation, bitterness, and rage."

"So I say too," replied Sancho; "and I suspect in that legend orhistory of us that the bachelor Samson Carrasco told us he saw, myhonour goes dragged in the dirt, knocked about, up and down,sweeping the streets, as they say. And yet, on the faith of anhonest man, I never spoke ill of any enchanter, and I am not so welloff that I am to be envied; to be sure, I am rather sly, and I havea certain spice of the rogue in me; but all is covered by the greatcloak of my simplicity, always natural and never acted; and if I hadno other merit save that I believe, as I always do, firmly and trulyin God, and all the holy Roman Catholic Church holds and believes, andthat I am a mortal enemy of the Jews, the historians ought to havemercy on me and treat me well in their writings. But let them say whatthey like; naked was I born, naked I find myself, I neither lose norgain; nay, while I see myself put into a book and passed on fromhand to hand over the world, I don't care a fig, let them say whatthey like of me."

"That, Sancho," returned Don Quixote, "reminds me of what happenedto a famous poet of our own day, who, having written a bitter satireagainst all the courtesan ladies, did not insert or name in it acertain lady of whom it was questionable whether she was one or not.She, seeing she was not in the list of the poet, asked him what he hadseen in her that he did not include her in the number of the others,telling him he must add to his satire and put her in the new part,or else look out for the consequences. The poet did as she bade him,and left her without a shred of reputation, and she was satisfied bygetting fame though it was infamy. In keeping with this is what theyrelate of that shepherd who set fire to the famous temple of Diana, byrepute one of the seven wonders of the world, and burned it with thesole object of making his name live in after ages; and, though itwas forbidden to name him, or mention his name by word of mouth orin writing, lest the object of his ambition should be attained,nevertheless it became known that he was called Erostratus. Andsomething of the same sort is what happened in the case of the greatemperor Charles V and a gentleman in Rome. The emperor was anxiousto see that famous temple of the Rotunda, called in ancient timesthe temple 'of all the gods,' but now-a-days, by a betternomenclature, 'of all the saints,' which is the best preservedbuilding of all those of pagan construction in Rome, and the one whichbest sustains the reputation of mighty works and magnificence of itsfounders. It is in the form of a half orange, of enormousdimensions, and well lighted, though no light penetrates it savethat which is admitted by a window, or rather round skylight, at thetop; and it was from this that the emperor examined the building. ARoman gentleman stood by his side and explained to him the skilfulconstruction and ingenuity of the vast fabric and its wonderfularchitecture, and when they had left the skylight he said to theemperor, 'A thousand times, your Sacred Majesty, the impulse came uponme to seize your Majesty in my arms and fling myself down fromyonder skylight, so as to leave behind me in the world a name thatwould last for ever.' 'I am thankful to you for not carrying such anevil thought into effect,' said the emperor, 'and I shall give youno opportunity in future of again putting your loyalty to the test;and I therefore forbid you ever to speak to me or to be where I am;and he followed up these words by bestowing a liberal bounty upon him.My meaning is, Sancho, that the desire of acquiring fame is a verypowerful motive. What, thinkest thou, was it that flung Horatius infull armour down from the bridge into the depths of the Tiber? Whatburned the hand and arm of Mutius? What impelled Curtius to plungeinto the deep burning gulf that opened in the midst of Rome? What,in opposition to all the omens that declared against him, madeJulius Caesar cross the Rubicon? And to come to more modernexamples, what scuttled the ships, and left stranded and cut off thegallant Spaniards under the command of the most courteous Cortes inthe New World? All these and a variety of other great exploits are,were and will be, the work of fame that mortals desire as a reward anda portion of the immortality their famous deeds deserve; though weCatholic Christians and knights-errant look more to that futureglory that is everlasting in the ethereal regions of heaven than tothe vanity of the fame that is to be acquired in this presenttransitory life; a fame that, however long it may last, must after allend with the world itself, which has its own appointed end. So that, OSancho, in what we do we must not overpass the bounds which theChristian religion we profess has assigned to us. We have to slaypride in giants, envy by generosity and nobleness of heart, anger bycalmness of demeanour and equanimity, gluttony and sloth by thespareness of our diet and the length of our vigils, lust andlewdness by the loyalty we preserve to those whom we have made themistresses of our thoughts, indolence by traversing the world in alldirections seeking opportunities of making ourselves, besidesChristians, famous knights. Such, Sancho, are the means by which wereach those extremes of praise that fair fame carries with it."

"All that your worship has said so far," said Sancho, "I haveunderstood quite well; but still I would be glad if your worship woulddissolve a doubt for me, which has just this minute come into mymind."

"Solve, thou meanest, Sancho," said Don Quixote; "say on, in God'sname, and I will answer as well as I can."

"Tell me, senor," Sancho went on to say, "those Julys or Augusts,and all those venturous knights that you say are now dead- where arethey now?"

"The heathens," replied Don Quixote, "are, no doubt, in hell; theChristians, if they were good Christians, are either in purgatory orin heaven."

"Very good," said Sancho; "but now I want to know- the tombs wherethe bodies of those great lords are, have they silver lamps beforethem, or are the walls of their chapels ornamented with crutches,winding-sheets, tresses of hair, legs and eyes in wax? Or what arethey ornamented with?"

To which Don Quixote made answer: "The tombs of the heathens weregenerally sumptuous temples; the ashes of Julius Caesar's body wereplaced on the top of a stone pyramid of vast size, which they now callin Rome Saint Peter's needle. The emperor Hadrian had for a tomb acastle as large as a good-sized village, which they called the MolesAdriani, and is now the castle of St. Angelo in Rome. The queenArtemisia buried her husband Mausolus in a tomb which was reckoned oneof the seven wonders of the world; but none of these tombs, or ofthe many others of the heathens, were ornamented with winding-sheetsor any of those other offerings and tokens that show that they who areburied there are saints."

"That's the point I'm coming to," said Sancho; "and now tell me,which is the greater work, to bring a dead man to life or to kill agiant?"

"The answer is easy," replied Don Quixote; "it is a greater workto bring to life a dead man."

"Now I have got you," said Sancho; "in that case the fame of themwho bring the dead to life, who give sight to the blind, curecripples, restore health to the sick, and before whose tombs there arelamps burning, and whose chapels are filled with devout folk ontheir knees adoring their relics be a better fame in this life andin the other than that which all the heathen emperors andknights-errant that have ever been in the world have left or may leavebehind them?"

"That I grant, too," said Don Quixote.

"Then this fame, these favours, these privileges, or whatever youcall it," said Sancho, "belong to the bodies and relics of thesaints who, with the approbation and permission of our holy motherChurch, have lamps, tapers, winding-sheets, crutches, pictures, eyesand legs, by means of which they increase devotion and add to theirown Christian reputation. Kings carry the bodies or relics of saintson their shoulders, and kiss bits of their bones, and enrich and adorntheir oratories and favourite altars with them."

"What wouldst thou have me infer from all thou hast said, Sancho?"asked Don Quixote.

"My meaning is," said Sancho, "let us set about becoming saints, andwe shall obtain more quickly the fair fame we are striving after;for you know, senor, yesterday or the day before yesterday (for itis so lately one may say so) they canonised and beatified two littlebarefoot friars, and it is now reckoned the greatest good luck to kissor touch the iron chains with which they girt and tortured theirbodies, and they are held in greater veneration, so it is said, thanthe sword of Roland in the armoury of our lord the King, whom Godpreserve. So that, senor, it is better to be an humble little friar ofno matter what order, than a valiant knight-errant; with God acouple of dozen of penance lashings are of more avail than twothousand lance-thrusts, be they given to giants, or monsters, ordragons."

"All that is true," returned Don Quixote, "but we cannot all befriars, and many are the ways by which God takes his own to heaven;chivalry is a religion, there are sainted knights in glory."

"Yes," said Sancho, "but I have heard say that there are more friarsin heaven than knights-errant."

"That," said Don Quixote, "is because those in religious ordersare more numerous than knights."

"The errants are many," said Sancho.

"Many," replied Don Quixote, "but few they who deserve the name ofknights."

With these, and other discussions of the same sort, they passed thatnight and the following day, without anything worth mentionhappening to them, whereat Don Quixote was not a little dejected;but at length the next day, at daybreak, they descried the greatcity of El Toboso, at the sight of which Don Quixote's spirits roseand Sancho's fell, for he did not know Dulcinea's house, nor in allhis life had he ever seen her, any more than his master; so thatthey were both uneasy, the one to see her, the other at not havingseen her, and Sancho was at a loss to know what he was to do whenhis master sent him to El Toboso. In the end, Don Quixote made uphis mind to enter the city at nightfall, and they waited until thetime came among some oak trees that were near El Toboso; and whenthe moment they had agreed upon arrived, they made their entrance intothe city, where something happened them that may fairly be calledsomething.

CHAPTER IX

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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