Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 19)

O never surely was there knightSo served by hand of dame,As served was he Sir Lancelot hightWhen he from Britain came-

with all the sweet and delectable course of his achievements in loveand war. Handed down from that time, then, this order of chivalry wenton extending and spreading itself over many and various parts of theworld; and in it, famous and renowned for their deeds, were the mightyAmadis of Gaul with all his sons and descendants to the fifthgeneration, and the valiant Felixmarte of Hircania, and the neversufficiently praised Tirante el Blanco, and in our own days almostwe have seen and heard and talked with the invincible knight DonBelianis of Greece. This, then, sirs, is to be a knight-errant, andwhat I have spoken of is the order of his chivalry, of which, as Ihave already said, I, though a sinner, have made profession, andwhat the aforesaid knights professed that same do I profess, and soI go through these solitudes and wilds seeking adventures, resolved insoul to oppose my arm and person to the most perilous that fortune mayoffer me in aid of the weak and needy."

By these words of his the travellers were able to satisfy themselvesof Don Quixote's being out of his senses and of the form of madnessthat overmastered him, at which they felt the same astonishment thatall felt on first becoming acquainted with it; and Vivaldo, who wasa person of great shrewdness and of a lively temperament, in orderto beguile the short journey which they said was required to reach themountain, the scene of the burial, sought to give him an opportunityof going on with his absurdities. So he said to him, "It seems tome, Senor Knight-errant, that your worship has made choice of one ofthe most austere professions in the world, and I imagine even thatof the Carthusian monks is not so austere."

"As austere it may perhaps be," replied our Don Quixote, "but sonecessary for the world I am very much inclined to doubt. For, ifthe truth is to be told, the soldier who executes what his captainorders does no less than the captain himself who gives the order. Mymeaning, is, that churchmen in peace and quiet pray to Heaven forthe welfare of the world, but we soldiers and knights carry intoeffect what they pray for, defending it with the might of our arms andthe edge of our swords, not under shelter but in the open air, atarget for the intolerable rays of the sun in summer and thepiercing frosts of winter. Thus are we God's ministers on earth andthe arms by which his justice is done therein. And as the businessof war and all that relates and belongs to it cannot be conductedwithout exceeding great sweat, toil, and exertion, it follows thatthose who make it their profession have undoubtedly more labour thanthose who in tranquil peace and quiet are engaged in praying to God tohelp the weak. I do not mean to say, nor does it enter into mythoughts, that the knight-errant's calling is as good as that of themonk in his cell; I would merely infer from what I endure myselfthat it is beyond a doubt a more laborious and a more belabouredone, a hungrier and thirstier, a wretcheder, raggeder, and lousier;for there is no reason to doubt that the knights-errant of yoreendured much hardship in the course of their lives. And if some ofthem by the might of their arms did rise to be emperors, in faith itcost them dear in the matter of blood and sweat; and if those whoattained to that rank had not had magicians and sages to help themthey would have been completely baulked in their ambition anddisappointed in their hopes."

"That is my own opinion," replied the traveller; "but one thingamong many others seems to me very wrong in knights-errant, and thatis that when they find themselves about to engage in some mighty andperilous adventure in which there is manifest danger of losing theirlives, they never at the moment of engaging in it think ofcommending themselves to God, as is the duty of every good Christianin like peril; instead of which they commend themselves to theirladies with as much devotion as if these were their gods, a thingwhich seems to me to savour somewhat of heathenism."

"Sir," answered Don Quixote, "that cannot be on any account omitted,and the knight-errant would be disgraced who acted otherwise: for itis usual and customary in knight-errantry that the knight-errant,who on engaging in any great feat of arms has his lady before him,should turn his eyes towards her softly and lovingly, as though withthem entreating her to favour and protect him in the hazardous venturehe is about to undertake, and even though no one hear him, he is boundto say certain words between his teeth, commending himself to her withall his heart, and of this we have innumerable instances in thehistories. Nor is it to be supposed from this that they are to omitcommending themselves to God, for there will be time and opportunityfor doing so while they are engaged in their task."

"For all that," answered the traveller, "I feel some doubt still,because often I have read how words will arise between twoknights-errant, and from one thing to another it comes about thattheir anger kindles and they wheel their horses round and take agood stretch of field, and then without any more ado at the top oftheir speed they come to the charge, and in mid-career they are wontto commend themselves to their ladies; and what commonly comes ofthe encounter is that one falls over the haunches of his horse piercedthrough and through by his antagonist's lance, and as for the other,it is only by holding on to the mane of his horse that he can helpfalling to the ground; but I know not how the dead man had time tocommend himself to God in the course of such rapid work as this; itwould have been better if those words which he spent in commendinghimself to his lady in the midst of his career had been devoted to hisduty and obligation as a Christian. Moreover, it is my belief that allknights-errant have not ladies to commend themselves to, for theyare not all in love."

"That is impossible," said Don Quixote: "I say it is impossible thatthere could be a knight-errant without a lady, because to such it isas natural and proper to be in love as to the heavens to have stars:most certainly no history has been seen in which there is to befound a knight-errant without an amour, and for the simple reason thatwithout one he would be held no legitimate knight but a bastard, andone who had gained entrance into the stronghold of the saidknighthood, not by the door, but over the wall like a thief and arobber."

"Nevertheless," said the traveller, "if I remember rightly, Ithink I have read that Don Galaor, the brother of the valiant Amadisof Gaul, never had any special lady to whom he might commendhimself, and yet he was not the less esteemed, and was a very stoutand famous knight."

To which our Don Quixote made answer, "Sir, one solitary swallowdoes not make summer; moreover, I know that knight was in secretvery deeply in love; besides which, that way of falling in love withall that took his fancy was a natural propensity which he could notcontrol. But, in short, it is very manifest that he had one alone whomhe made mistress of his will, to whom he commended himself veryfrequently and very secretly, for he prided himself on being areticent knight."

"Then if it be essential that every knight-errant should be inlove," said the traveller, "it may be fairly supposed that yourworship is so, as you are of the order; and if you do not prideyourself on being as reticent as Don Galaor, I entreat you asearnestly as I can, in the name of all this company and in my own,to inform us of the name, country, rank, and beauty of your lady,for she will esteem herself fortunate if all the world knows thatshe is loved and served by such a knight as your worship seems to be."

At this Don Quixote heaved a deep sigh and said, "I cannot saypositively whether my sweet enemy is pleased or not that the worldshould know I serve her; I can only say in answer to what has beenso courteously asked of me, that her name is Dulcinea, her countryEl Toboso, a village of La Mancha, her rank must be at least that of aprincess, since she is my queen and lady, and her beauty superhuman,since all the impossible and fanciful attributes of beauty which thepoets apply to their ladies are verified in her; for her hairs aregold, her forehead Elysian fields, her eyebrows rainbows, her eyessuns, her cheeks roses, her lips coral, her teeth pearls, her neckalabaster, her bosom marble, her hands ivory, her fairness snow, andwhat modesty conceals from sight such, I think and imagine, asrational reflection can only extol, not compare."

"We should like to know her lineage, race, and ancestry," saidVivaldo.

To which Don Quixote replied, "She is not of the ancient RomanCurtii, Caii, or Scipios, nor of the modern Colonnas or Orsini, nor ofthe Moncadas or Requesenes of Catalonia, nor yet of the Rebellas orVillanovas of Valencia; Palafoxes, Nuzas, Rocabertis, Corellas, Lunas,Alagones, Urreas, Foces, or Gurreas of Aragon; Cerdas, Manriques,Mendozas, or Guzmans of Castile; Alencastros, Pallas, or Meneses ofPortugal; but she is of those of El Toboso of La Mancha, a lineagethat though modern, may furnish a source of gentle blood for themost illustrious families of the ages that are to come, and this letnone dispute with me save on the condition that Zerbino placed atthe foot of the trophy of Orlando's arms, saying,

'These let none moveWho dareth not his might with Roland prove.'"

"Although mine is of the Cachopins of Laredo," said the traveller,"I will not venture to compare it with that of El Toboso of La Mancha,though, to tell the truth, no such surname has until now everreached my ears."

"What!" said Don Quixote, "has that never reached them?"

The rest of the party went along listening with great attention tothe conversation of the pair, and even the very goatherds andshepherds perceived how exceedingly out of his wits our Don Quixotewas. Sancho Panza alone thought that what his master said was thetruth, knowing who he was and having known him from his birth; and allthat he felt any difficulty in believing was that about the fairDulcinea del Toboso, because neither any such name nor any suchprincess had ever come to his knowledge though he lived so close to ElToboso. They were going along conversing in this way, when they sawdescending a gap between two high mountains some twenty shepherds, allclad in sheepskins of black wool, and crowned with garlands which,as afterwards appeared, were, some of them of yew, some of cypress.Six of the number were carrying a bier covered with a great variety offlowers and branches, on seeing which one of the goatherds said,"Those who come there are the bearers of Chrysostom's body, and thefoot of that mountain is the place where he ordered them to bury him."They therefore made haste to reach the spot, and did so by the timethose who came had laid the bier upon the ground, and four of themwith sharp pickaxes were digging a grave by the side of a hard rock.They greeted each other courteously, and then Don Quixote and thosewho accompanied him turned to examine the bier, and on it, coveredwith flowers, they saw a dead body in the dress of a shepherd, toall appearance of one thirty years of age, and showing even in deaththat in life he had been of comely features and gallant bearing.Around him on the bier itself were laid some books, and several papersopen and folded; and those who were looking on as well as those whowere opening the grave and all the others who were there preserved astrange silence, until one of those who had borne the body said toanother, "Observe carefully, Ambrosia if this is the placeChrysostom spoke of, since you are anxious that what he directed inhis will should be so strictly complied with."

"This is the place," answered Ambrosia "for in it many a time did mypoor friend tell me the story of his hard fortune. Here it was, hetold me, that he saw for the first time that mortal enemy of the humanrace, and here, too, for the first time he declared to her hispassion, as honourable as it was devoted, and here it was that at lastMarcela ended by scorning and rejecting him so as to bring the tragedyof his wretched life to a close; here, in memory of misfortunes sogreat, he desired to be laid in the bowels of eternal oblivion."Then turning to Don Quixote and the travellers he went on to say,"That body, sirs, on which you are looking with compassionate eyes,was the abode of a soul on which Heaven bestowed a vast share of itsriches. That is the body of Chrysostom, who was unrivalled in wit,unequalled in courtesy, unapproached in gentle bearing, a phoenix infriendship, generous without limit, grave without arrogance, gaywithout vulgarity, and, in short, first in all that constitutesgoodness and second to none in all that makes up misfortune. Heloved deeply, he was hated; he adored, he was scorned; he wooed a wildbeast, he pleaded with marble, he pursued the wind, he cried to thewilderness, he served ingratitude, and for reward was made the prey ofdeath in the mid-course of life, cut short by a shepherdess whom hesought to immortalise in the memory of man, as these papers whichyou see could fully prove, had he not commanded me to consign themto the fire after having consigned his body to the earth."

"You would deal with them more harshly and cruelly than theirowner himself," said Vivaldo, "for it is neither right nor proper todo the will of one who enjoins what is wholly unreasonable; it wouldnot have been reasonable in Augustus Caesar had he permitted thedirections left by the divine Mantuan in his will to be carried intoeffect. So that, Senor Ambrosia while you consign your friend's bodyto the earth, you should not consign his writings to oblivion, forif he gave the order in bitterness of heart, it is not right thatyou should irrationally obey it. On the contrary, by granting lifeto those papers, let the cruelty of Marcela live for ever, to serve asa warning in ages to come to all men to shun and avoid falling intolike danger; or I and all of us who have come here know already thestory of this your love-stricken and heart-broken friend, and we know,too, your friendship, and the cause of his death, and the directionshe gave at the close of his life; from which sad story may be gatheredhow great was the cruelty of Marcela, the love of Chrysostom, andthe loyalty of your friendship, together with the end awaiting thosewho pursue rashly the path that insane passion opens to their eyes.Last night we learned the death of Chrysostom and that he was to beburied here, and out of curiosity and pity we left our direct road andresolved to come and see with our eyes that which when heard of had somoved our compassion, and in consideration of that compassion andour desire to prove it if we might by condolence, we beg of you,excellent Ambrosia, or at least I on my own account entreat you,that instead of burning those papers you allow me to carry away someof them."

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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