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Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 96)


"If that be so," replied Don Lorenzo, "this science, I protest,surpasses all."

"How, if that be so?" said Don Quixote.

"What I mean to say," said Don Lorenzo, "is, that I doubt whetherthere are now, or ever were, any knights-errant, and adorned with suchvirtues."

"Many a time," replied Don Quixote, "have I said what I now say oncemore, that the majority of the world are of opinion that there neverwere any knights-errant in it; and as it is my opinion that, unlessheaven by some miracle brings home to them the truth that there wereand are, all the pains one takes will be in vain (as experience hasoften proved to me), I will not now stop to disabuse you of theerror you share with the multitude. All I shall do is to pray toheaven to deliver you from it, and show you how beneficial andnecessary knights-errant were in days of yore, and how useful theywould be in these days were they but in vogue; but now, for the sinsof the people, sloth and indolence, gluttony and luxury aretriumphant."

"Our guest has broken out on our hands," said Don Lorenzo to himselfat this point; "but, for all that, he is a glorious madman, and Ishould be a dull blockhead to doubt it."

Here, being summoned to dinner, they brought their colloquy to aclose. Don Diego asked his son what he had been able to make out as tothe wits of their guest. To which he replied, "All the doctors andclever scribes in the world will not make sense of the scrawl of hismadness; he is a madman full of streaks, full of lucid intervals."

They went in to dinner, and the repast was such as Don Diego said onthe road he was in the habit of giving to his guests, neat, plentiful,and tasty; but what pleased Don Quixote most was the marvelloussilence that reigned throughout the house, for it was like aCarthusian monastery.

When the cloth had been removed, grace said and their handswashed, Don Quixote earnestly pressed Don Lorenzo to repeat to him hisverses for the poetical tournament, to which he replied, "Not to belike those poets who, when they are asked to recite their verses,refuse, and when they are not asked for them vomit them up, I willrepeat my gloss, for which I do not expect any prize, havingcomposed it merely as an exercise of ingenuity."

"A discerning friend of mine," said Don Quixote, "was of opinionthat no one ought to waste labour in glossing verses; and the reasonhe gave was that the gloss can never come up to the text, and thatoften or most frequently it wanders away from the meaning andpurpose aimed at in the glossed lines; and besides, that the laws ofthe gloss were too strict, as they did not allow interrogations, nor'said he,' nor 'I say,' nor turning verbs into nouns, or alteringthe construction, not to speak of other restrictions and limitationsthat fetter gloss-writers, as you no doubt know."

"Verily, Senor Don Quixote," said Don Lorenzo, "I wish I could catchyour worship tripping at a stretch, but I cannot, for you slip throughmy fingers like an eel."

"I don't understand what you say, or mean by slipping," said DonQuixote.

"I will explain myself another time," said Don Lorenzo; "for thepresent pray attend to the glossed verses and the gloss, which runthus:

Could 'was' become an 'is' for me,Then would I ask no more than this;Or could, for me, the time that isBecome the time that is to be! -

GLOSS

Dame Fortune once upon a dayTo me was bountiful and kind;But all things change; she changed her mind,And what she gave she took away.O Fortune, long I've sued to thee;The gifts thou gavest me restore,For, trust me, I would ask no more,Could 'was' become an 'is' for me.

No other prize I seek to gain,No triumph, glory, or success,Only the long-lost happiness,The memory whereof is pain.One taste, methinks, of bygone blissThe heart-consuming fire might stay;And, so it come without delay,Then would I ask no more than this.

I ask what cannot be, alas!That time should ever be, and thenCome back to us, and be again,No power on earth can bring to pass;For fleet of foot is he, I wis,And idly, therefore, do we prayThat what for aye hath left us mayBecome for us the time that is.

Perplexed, uncertain, to remain'Twixt hope and fear, is death, not life;'Twere better, sure, to end the strife,And dying, seek release from pain.And yet, thought were the best for me.Anon the thought aside I fling,And to the present fondly cling,And dread the time that is to be."

When Don Lorenzo had finished reciting his gloss, Don Quixotestood up, and in a loud voice, almost a shout, exclaimed as he graspedDon Lorenzo's right hand in his, "By the highest heavens, noble youth,but you are the best poet on earth, and deserve to be crowned withlaurel, not by Cyprus or by Gaeta- as a certain poet, God forgive him,said- but by the Academies of Athens, if they still flourished, and bythose that flourish now, Paris, Bologna, Salamanca. Heaven grantthat the judges who rob you of the first prize- that Phoebus maypierce them with his arrows, and the Muses never cross thethresholds of their doors. Repeat me some of your long-measure verses,senor, if you will be so good, for I want thoroughly to feel the pulseof your rare genius."

Is there any need to say that Don Lorenzo enjoyed hearing himselfpraised by Don Quixote, albeit he looked upon him as a madman? powerof flattery, how far-reaching art thou, and how wide are the bounds ofthy pleasant jurisdiction! Don Lorenzo gave a proof of it, for hecomplied with Don Quixote's request and entreaty, and repeated tohim this sonnet on the fable or story of Pyramus and Thisbe.

SONNET

The lovely maid, she pierces now the wall;Heart-pierced by her young Pyramus doth lie;And Love spreads wing from Cyprus isle to fly,A chink to view so wondrous great and small.There silence speaketh, for no voice at allCan pass so strait a strait; but love will plyWhere to all other power 'twere vain to try;For love will find a way whate'er befall.Impatient of delay, with reckless paceThe rash maid wins the fatal spot where sheSinks not in lover's arms but death's embrace.So runs the strange tale, how the lovers twainOne sword, one sepulchre, one memory,Slays, and entombs, and brings to life again.

"Blessed be God," said Don Quixote when he had heard Don Lorenzo'ssonnet, "that among the hosts there are of irritable poets I havefound one consummate one, which, senor, the art of this sonnetproves to me that you are!"

For four days was Don Quixote most sumptuously entertained in DonDiego's house, at the end of which time he asked his permission todepart, telling him he thanked him for the kindness and hospitality hehad received in his house, but that, as it did not becomeknights-errant to give themselves up for long to idleness andluxury, he was anxious to fulfill the duties of his calling in seekingadventures, of which he was informed there was an abundance in thatneighbourhood, where he hoped to employ his time until the day cameround for the jousts at Saragossa, for that was his properdestination; and that, first of all, he meant to enter the cave ofMontesinos, of which so many marvellous things were reported allthrough the country, and at the same time to investigate and explorethe origin and true source of the seven lakes commonly called thelakes of Ruidera.

Don Diego and his son commended his laudable resolution, and badehim furnish himself with all he wanted from their house andbelongings, as they would most gladly be of service to him; which,indeed, his personal worth and his honourable profession madeincumbent upon them.

The day of his departure came at length, as welcome to Don Quixoteas it was sad and sorrowful to Sancho Panza, who was very wellsatisfied with the abundance of Don Diego's house, and objected toreturn to the starvation of the woods and wilds and theshort-commons of his ill-stocked alforjas; these, however, he filledand packed with what he considered needful. On taking leave, DonQuixote said to Don Lorenzo, "I know not whether I have told youalready, but if I have I tell you once more, that if you wish to spareyourself fatigue and toil in reaching the inaccessible summit of thetemple of fame, you have nothing to do but to turn aside out of thesomewhat narrow path of poetry and take the still narrower one ofknight-errantry, wide enough, however, to make you an emperor in thetwinkling of an eye."

In this speech Don Quixote wound up the evidence of his madness, butstill better in what he added when he said, "God knows, I would gladlytake Don Lorenzo with me to teach him how to spare the humble, andtrample the proud under foot, virtues that are part and parcel ofthe profession I belong to; but since his tender age does not allow ofit, nor his praiseworthy pursuits permit it, I will simply contentmyself with impressing it upon your worship that you will becomefamous as a poet if you are guided by the opinion of others ratherthan by your own; because no fathers or mothers ever think their ownchildren ill-favoured, and this sort of deception prevails stillmore strongly in the case of the children of the brain."

Both father and son were amazed afresh at the strange medley DonQuixote talked, at one moment sense, at another nonsense, and at thepertinacity and persistence he displayed in going through thick andthin in quest of his unlucky adventures, which he made the end and aimof his desires. There was a renewal of offers of service andcivilities, and then, with the gracious permission of the lady ofthe castle, they took their departure, Don Quixote on Rocinante, andSancho on Dapple.

CHAPTER XIX

IN WHICH IS RELATED THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENAMOURED SHEPHERD,TOGETHER WITH OTHER TRULY DROLL INCIDENTS

Don Quixote had gone but a short distance beyond Don Diego'svillage, when he fell in with a couple of either priests orstudents, and a couple of peasants, mounted on four beasts of theass kind. One of the students carried, wrapped up in a piece ofgreen buckram by way of a portmanteau, what seemed to be a littlelinen and a couple of pairs of-ribbed stockings; the other carriednothing but a pair of new fencing-foils with buttons. The peasantscarried divers articles that showed they were on their way from somelarge town where they had bought them, and were taking them home totheir village; and both students and peasants were struck with thesame amazement that everybody felt who saw Don Quixote for the firsttime, and were dying to know who this man, so different fromordinary men, could be. Don Quixote saluted them, and afterascertaining that their road was the same as his, made them an offerof his company, and begged them to slacken their pace, as theiryoung asses travelled faster than his horse; and then, to gratifythem, he told them in a few words who he was and the calling andprofession he followed, which was that of a knight-errant seekingadventures in all parts of the world. He informed them that his ownname was Don Quixote of La Mancha, and that he was called, by way ofsurname, the Knight of the Lions.

All this was Greek or gibberish to the peasants, but not so to thestudents, who very soon perceived the crack in Don Quixote's pate; forall that, however, they regarded him with admiration and respect,and one of them said to him, "If you, sir knight, have no fixedroad, as it is the way with those who seek adventures not to have any,let your worship come with us; you will see one of the finest andrichest weddings that up to this day have ever been celebrated in LaMancha, or for many a league round."

Don Quixote asked him if it was some prince's, that he spoke of itin this way. "Not at all," said the student; "it is the wedding of afarmer and a farmer's daughter, he the richest in all this country,and she the fairest mortal ever set eyes on. The display with which itis to be attended will be something rare and out of the common, for itwill be celebrated in a meadow adjoining the town of the bride, who iscalled, par excellence, Quiteria the fair, as the bridegroom is calledCamacho the rich. She is eighteen, and he twenty-two, and they arefairly matched, though some knowing ones, who have all the pedigreesin the world by heart, will have it that the family of the fairQuiteria is better than Camacho's; but no one minds that now-a-days,for wealth can solder a great many flaws. At any rate, Camacho isfree-handed, and it is his fancy to screen the whole meadow withboughs and cover it in overhead, so that the sun will have hard workif he tries to get in to reach the grass that covers the soil. Hehas provided dancers too, not only sword but also bell-dancers, for inhis own town there are those who ring the changes and jingle the bellsto perfection; of shoe-dancers I say nothing, for of them he hasengaged a host. But none of these things, nor of the many others Ihave omitted to mention, will do more to make this a memorable weddingthan the part which I suspect the despairing Basilio will play init. This Basilio is a youth of the same village as Quiteria, and helived in the house next door to that of her parents, of whichcircumstance Love took advantage to reproduce to the word thelong-forgotten loves of Pyramus and Thisbe; for Basilio loved Quiteriafrom his earliest years, and she responded to his passion withcountless modest proofs of affection, so that the loves of the twochildren, Basilio and Quiteria, were the talk and the amusement of thetown. As they grew up, the father of Quiteria made up his mind torefuse Basilio his wonted freedom of access to the house, and torelieve himself of constant doubts and suspicions, he arranged a matchfor his daughter with the rich Camacho, as he did not approve ofmarrying her to Basilio, who had not so large a share of the giftsof fortune as of nature; for if the truth be told ungrudgingly, heis the most agile youth we know, a mighty thrower of the bar, afirst-rate wrestler, and a great ball-player; he runs like a deer, andleaps better than a goat, bowls over the nine-pins as if by magic,sings like a lark, plays the guitar so as to make it speak, and, aboveall, handles a sword as well as the best."

"For that excellence alone," said Don Quixote at this, "the youthdeserves to marry, not merely the fair Quiteria, but Queen Guinevereherself, were she alive now, in spite of Launcelot and all who wouldtry to prevent it."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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