Miqeul de Cervantes >> Don Quixote (page 20)

And without waiting for the shepherd's answer, he stretched outhis hand and took up some of those that were nearest to him; seeingwhich Ambrosio said, "Out of courtesy, senor, I will grant yourrequest as to those you have taken, but it is idle to expect me toabstain from burning the remainder."

Vivaldo, who was eager to see what the papers contained, openedone of them at once, and saw that its title was "Lay of Despair."

Ambrosio hearing it said, "That is the last paper the unhappy manwrote; and that you may see, senor, to what an end his misfortunesbrought him, read it so that you may be heard, for you will havetime enough for that while we are waiting for the grave to be dug."

"I will do so very willingly," said Vivaldo; and as all thebystanders were equally eager they gathered round him, and he, readingin a loud voice, found that it ran as follows.




Since thou dost in thy cruelty desireThe ruthless rigour of thy tyrannyFrom tongue to tongue, from land to land proclaimed,The very Hell will I constrain to lendThis stricken breast of mine deep notes of woeTo serve my need of fitting utterance.And as I strive to body forth the taleOf all I suffer, all that thou hast done,Forth shall the dread voice roll, and bear alongShreds from my vitals torn for greater pain.Then listen, not to dulcet harmony,But to a discord wrung by mad despairOut of this bosom's depths of bitterness,To ease my heart and plant a sting in thine.

The lion's roar, the fierce wolf's savage howl,The horrid hissing of the scaly snake,The awesome cries of monsters yet unnamed,The crow's ill-boding croak, the hollow moanOf wild winds wrestling with the restless sea,The wrathful bellow of the vanquished bull,The plaintive sobbing of the widowed dove,The envied owl's sad note, the wail of woeThat rises from the dreary choir of Hell,Commingled in one sound, confusing sense,Let all these come to aid my soul's complaint,For pain like mine demands new modes of song.

No echoes of that discord shall be heardWhere Father Tagus rolls, or on the banksOf olive-bordered Betis; to the rocksOr in deep caverns shall my plaint be told,And by a lifeless tongue in living words;Or in dark valleys or on lonely shores,Where neither foot of man nor sunbeam falls;Or in among the poison-breathing swarmsOf monsters nourished by the sluggish Nile.For, though it be to solitudes remoteThe hoarse vague echoes of my sorrows soundThy matchless cruelty, my dismal fateShall carry them to all the spacious world.

Disdain hath power to kill, and patience diesSlain by suspicion, be it false or true;And deadly is the force of jealousy;Long absence makes of life a dreary void;No hope of happiness can give reposeTo him that ever fears to be forgot;And death, inevitable, waits in hall.But I, by some strange miracle, live onA prey to absence, jealousy, disdain;Racked by suspicion as by certainty;Forgotten, left to feed my flame alone.And while I suffer thus, there comes no rayOf hope to gladden me athwart the gloom;Nor do I look for it in my despair;But rather clinging to a cureless woe,All hope do I abjure for evermore.

Can there be hope where fear is? Were it well,When far more certain are the grounds of fear?Ought I to shut mine eyes to jealousy,If through a thousand heart-wounds it appears?Who would not give free access to distrust,Seeing disdain unveiled, and- bitter change!-All his suspicions turned to certainties,And the fair truth transformed into a lie?Oh, thou fierce tyrant of the realms of love,Oh, Jealousy! put chains upon these hands,And bind me with thy strongest cord, Disdain.But, woe is me! triumphant over all,My sufferings drown the memory of you.

And now I die, and since there is no hopeOf happiness for me in life or death,Still to my fantasy I'll fondly cling.I'll say that he is wise who loveth well,And that the soul most free is that most boundIn thraldom to the ancient tyrant Love.I'll say that she who is mine enemyIn that fair body hath as fair a mind,And that her coldness is but my desert,And that by virtue of the pain be sendsLove rules his kingdom with a gentle sway.Thus, self-deluding, and in bondage sore,And wearing out the wretched shred of lifeTo which I am reduced by her disdain,I'll give this soul and body to the winds,All hopeless of a crown of bliss in store.

Thou whose injustice hath supplied the causeThat makes me quit the weary life I loathe,As by this wounded bosom thou canst seeHow willingly thy victim I become,Let not my death, if haply worth a tear,Cloud the clear heaven that dwells in thy bright eyes;I would not have thee expiate in aughtThe crime of having made my heart thy prey;But rather let thy laughter gaily ringAnd prove my death to be thy festival.Fool that I am to bid thee! well I knowThy glory gains by my untimely end.

And now it is the time; from Hell's abyssCome thirsting Tantalus, come SisyphusHeaving the cruel stone, come TityusWith vulture, and with wheel Ixion come,And come the sisters of the ceaseless toil;And all into this breast transfer their pains,And (if such tribute to despair be due)Chant in their deepest tones a doleful dirgeOver a corse unworthy of a shroud.Let the three-headed guardian of the gate,And all the monstrous progeny of hell,The doleful concert join: a lover deadMethinks can have no fitter obsequies.

Lay of despair, grieve not when thou art goneForth from this sorrowing heart: my miseryBrings fortune to the cause that gave thee birth;Then banish sadness even in the tomb.

The "Lay of Chrysostom" met with the approbation of the listeners,though the reader said it did not seem to him to agree with what hehad heard of Marcela's reserve and propriety, for Chrysostomcomplained in it of jealousy, suspicion, and absence, all to theprejudice of the good name and fame of Marcela; to which Ambrosioreplied as one who knew well his friend's most secret thoughts,"Senor, to remove that doubt I should tell you that when the unhappyman wrote this lay he was away from Marcela, from whom be hadvoluntarily separated himself, to try if absence would act with him asit is wont; and as everything distresses and every fear haunts thebanished lover, so imaginary jealousies and suspicions, dreaded asif they were true, tormented Chrysostom; and thus the truth of whatreport declares of the virtue of Marcela remains unshaken, and withher envy itself should not and cannot find any fault save that ofbeing cruel, somewhat haughty, and very scornful."

"That is true," said Vivaldo; and as he was about to read anotherpaper of those he had preserved from the fire, he was stopped by amarvellous vision (for such it seemed) that unexpectedly presenteditself to their eyes; for on the summit of the rock where they weredigging the grave there appeared the shepherdess Marcela, so beautifulthat her beauty exceeded its reputation. Those who had never till thenbeheld her gazed upon her in wonder and silence, and those who wereaccustomed to see her were not less amazed than those who had neverseen her before. But the instant Ambrosio saw her he addressed her,with manifest indignation:

"Art thou come, by chance, cruel basilisk of these mountains, to seeif in thy presence blood will flow from the wounds of this wretchedbeing thy cruelty has robbed of life; or is it to exult over the cruelwork of thy humours that thou art come; or like another pitilessNero to look down from that height upon the ruin of his Rome inembers; or in thy arrogance to trample on this ill-fated corpse, asthe ungrateful daughter trampled on her father Tarquin's? Tell usquickly for what thou art come, or what it is thou wouldst have,for, as I know the thoughts of Chrysostom never failed to obey thee inlife, I will make all these who call themselves his friends obey thee,though he be dead."

"I come not, Ambrosia for any of the purposes thou hast named,"replied Marcela, "but to defend myself and to prove how unreasonableare all those who blame me for their sorrow and for Chrysostom'sdeath; and therefore I ask all of you that are here to give me yourattention, for will not take much time or many words to bring thetruth home to persons of sense. Heaven has made me, so you say,beautiful, and so much so that in spite of yourselves my beautyleads you to love me; and for the love you show me you say, and evenurge, that I am bound to love you. By that natural understanding whichGod has given me I know that everything beautiful attracts love, but Icannot see how, by reason of being loved, that which is loved forits beauty is bound to love that which loves it; besides, it mayhappen that the lover of that which is beautiful may be ugly, andugliness being detestable, it is very absurd to say, "I love theebecause thou art beautiful, thou must love me though I be ugly." Butsupposing the beauty equal on both sides, it does not follow thatthe inclinations must be therefore alike, for it is not every beautythat excites love, some but pleasing the eye without winning theaffection; and if every sort of beauty excited love and won the heart,the will would wander vaguely to and fro unable to make choice of any;for as there is an infinity of beautiful objects there must be aninfinity of inclinations, and true love, I have heard it said, isindivisible, and must be voluntary and not compelled. If this be so,as I believe it to be, why do you desire me to bend my will byforce, for no other reason but that you say you love me? Nay- tell me-had Heaven made me ugly, as it has made me beautiful, could I withjustice complain of you for not loving me? Moreover, you must rememberthat the beauty I possess was no choice of mine, for, be it what itmay, Heaven of its bounty gave it me without my asking or choosing it;and as the viper, though it kills with it, does not deserve to beblamed for the poison it carries, as it is a gift of nature, neitherdo I deserve reproach for being beautiful; for beauty in a modestwoman is like fire at a distance or a sharp sword; the one does notburn, the other does not cut, those who do not come too near. Honourand virtue are the ornaments of the mind, without which the body,though it be so, has no right to pass for beautiful; but if modesty isone of the virtues that specially lend a grace and charm to mind andbody, why should she who is loved for her beauty part with it togratify one who for his pleasure alone strives with all his mightand energy to rob her of it? I was born free, and that I might live infreedom I chose the solitude of the fields; in the trees of themountains I find society, the clear waters of the brooks are mymirrors, and to the trees and waters I make known my thoughts andcharms. I am a fire afar off, a sword laid aside. Those whom I haveinspired with love by letting them see me, I have by words undeceived,and if their longings live on hope- and I have given none toChrysostom or to any other- it cannot justly be said that the death ofany is my doing, for it was rather his own obstinacy than my crueltythat killed him; and if it be made a charge against me that his wisheswere honourable, and that therefore I was bound to yield to them, Ianswer that when on this very spot where now his grave is made hedeclared to me his purity of purpose, I told him that mine was to livein perpetual solitude, and that the earth alone should enjoy thefruits of my retirement and the spoils of my beauty; and if, afterthis open avowal, he chose to persist against hope and steer againstthe wind, what wonder is it that he should sink in the depths of hisinfatuation? If I had encouraged him, I should be false; if I hadgratified him, I should have acted against my own better resolutionand purpose. He was persistent in spite of warning, he despairedwithout being hated. Bethink you now if it be reasonable that hissuffering should be laid to my charge. Let him who has been deceivedcomplain, let him give way to despair whose encouraged hopes haveproved vain, let him flatter himself whom I shall entice, let himboast whom I shall receive; but let not him call me cruel orhomicide to whom I make no promise, upon whom I practise no deception,whom I neither entice nor receive. It has not been so far the willof Heaven that I should love by fate, and to expect me to love bychoice is idle. Let this general declaration serve for each of mysuitors on his own account, and let it be understood from this timeforth that if anyone dies for me it is not of jealousy or misery hedies, for she who loves no one can give no cause for jealousy toany, and candour is not to be confounded with scorn. Let him who callsme wild beast and basilisk, leave me alone as something noxious andevil; let him who calls me ungrateful, withhold his service; who callsme wayward, seek not my acquaintance; who calls me cruel, pursue menot; for this wild beast, this basilisk, this ungrateful, cruel,wayward being has no kind of desire to seek, serve, know, or followthem. If Chrysostom's impatience and violent passion killed him, whyshould my modest behaviour and circumspection be blamed? If I preservemy purity in the society of the trees, why should he who would have mepreserve it among men, seek to rob me of it? I have, as you know,wealth of my own, and I covet not that of others; my taste is forfreedom, and I have no relish for constraint; I neither love norhate anyone; I do not deceive this one or court that, or trifle withone or play with another. The modest converse of the shepherd girls ofthese hamlets and the care of my goats are my recreations; mydesires are bounded by these mountains, and if they ever wanderhence it is to contemplate the beauty of the heavens, steps by whichthe soul travels to its primeval abode."

With these words, and not waiting to hear a reply, she turned andpassed into the thickest part of a wood that was hard by, leavingall who were there lost in admiration as much of her good sense asof her beauty. Some- those wounded by the irresistible shafts launchedby her bright eyes- made as though they would follow her, heedlessof the frank declaration they had heard; seeing which, and deemingthis a fitting occasion for the exercise of his chivalry in aid ofdistressed damsels, Don Quixote, laying his hand on the hilt of hissword, exclaimed in a loud and distinct voice:

Title: Don Quixote
Author: Miqeul de Cervantes
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