Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don Quixote 1.9



In the First Part of this history we left the valiant Biscayan and
the renowned Don Quixote with drawn swords uplifted, ready to
deliver two such furious slashing blows that if they had fallen full
and fair they would at least have split and cleft them asunder from
top to toe and laid them open like a pomegranate; and at this so
critical point the delightful history came to a stop and stood cut
short without any intimation from the author where what was missing
was to be found.

This distressed me greatly, because the pleasure derived from having
read such a small portion turned to vexation at the thought of the
poor chance that presented itself of finding the large part that, so
it seemed to me, was missing of such an interesting tale. It
appeared to me to be a thing impossible and contrary to all
precedent that so good a knight should have been without some sage
to undertake the task of writing his marvellous achievements; a
thing that was never wanting to any of those knights-errant who,
they say, went after adventures; for every one of them had one or
two sages as if made on purpose, who not only recorded their deeds but
described their most trifling thoughts and follies, however secret
they might be; and such a good knight could not have been so
unfortunate as not to have what Platir and others like him had in
abundance. And so I could not bring myself to believe that such a
gallant tale had been left maimed and mutilated, and I laid the
blame on Time, the devourer and destroyer of all things, that had
either concealed or consumed it.

On the other hand, it struck me that, inasmuch as among his books
there had been found such modern ones as "The Enlightenment of
Jealousy" and the "Nymphs and Shepherds of Henares," his story must
likewise be modern, and that though it might not be written, it
might exist in the memory of the people of his village and of those in
the neighbourhood. This reflection kept me perplexed and longing to
know really and truly the whole life and wondrous deeds of our
famous Spaniard, Don Quixote of La Mancha, light and mirror of
Manchegan chivalry, and the first that in our age and in these so evil
days devoted himself to the labour and exercise of the arms of
knight-errantry, righting wrongs, succouring widows, and protecting
damsels of that sort that used to ride about, whip in hand, on their
palfreys, with all their virginity about them, from mountain to
mountain and valley to valley- for, if it were not for some ruffian,
or boor with a hood and hatchet, or monstrous giant, that forced them,
there were in days of yore damsels that at the end of eighty years, in
all which time they had never slept a day under a roof, went to
their graves as much maids as the mothers that bore them. I say, then,
that in these and other respects our gallant Don Quixote is worthy
of everlasting and notable praise, nor should it be withheld even from
me for the labour and pains spent in searching for the conclusion of
this delightful history; though I know well that if Heaven, chance and
good fortune had not helped me, the world would have remained deprived
of an entertainment and pleasure that for a couple of hours or so
may well occupy him who shall read it attentively. The discovery of it
occurred in this way.

One day, as I was in the Alcana of Toledo, a boy came up to sell
some pamphlets and old papers to a silk mercer, and, as I am fond of
reading even the very scraps of paper in the streets, led by this
natural bent of mine I took up one of the pamphlets the boy had for
sale, and saw that it was in characters which I recognised as
Arabic, and as I was unable to read them though I could recognise
them, I looked about to see if there were any Spanish-speaking Morisco
at hand to read them for me; nor was there any great difficulty in
finding such an interpreter, for even had I sought one for an older
and better language I should have found him. In short, chance provided
me with one, who when I told him what I wanted and put the book into
his hands, opened it in the middle and after reading a little in it
began to laugh. I asked him what he was laughing at, and he replied
that it was at something the book had written in the margin by way
of a note. I bade him tell it to me; and he still laughing said, "In
the margin, as I told you, this is written: 'This Dulcinea del
Toboso so often mentioned in this history, had, they say, the best
hand of any woman in all La Mancha for salting pigs.'"

When I heard Dulcinea del Toboso named, I was struck with surprise
and amazement, for it occurred to me at once that these pamphlets
contained the history of Don Quixote. With this idea I pressed him
to read the beginning, and doing so, turning the Arabic offhand into
Castilian, he told me it meant, "History of Don Quixote of La
Mancha, written by Cide Hamete Benengeli, an Arab historian." It
required great caution to hide the joy I felt when the title of the
book reached my ears, and snatching it from the silk mercer, I
bought all the papers and pamphlets from the boy for half a real;
and if he had had his wits about him and had known how eager I was for
them, he might have safely calculated on making more than six reals by
the bargain. I withdrew at once with the Morisco into the cloister
of the cathedral, and begged him to turn all these pamphlets that
related to Don Quixote into the Castilian tongue, without omitting
or adding anything to them, offering him whatever payment he
pleased. He was satisfied with two arrobas of raisins and two
bushels of wheat, and promised to translate them faithfully and with
all despatch; but to make the matter easier, and not to let such a
precious find out of my hands, I took him to my house, where in little
more than a month and a half he translated the whole just as it is set
down here.

In the first pamphlet the battle between Don Quixote and the
Biscayan was drawn to the very life, they planted in the same attitude
as the history describes, their swords raised, and the one protected
by his buckler, the other by his cushion, and the Biscayan's mule so
true to nature that it could be seen to be a hired one a bowshot
off. The Biscayan had an inscription under his feet which said, "Don
Sancho de Azpeitia," which no doubt must have been his name; and at
the feet of Rocinante was another that said, "Don Quixote."
Rocinante was marvellously portrayed, so long and thin, so lank and
lean, with so much backbone and so far gone in consumption, that he
showed plainly with what judgment and propriety the name of
Rocinante had been bestowed upon him. Near him was Sancho Panza
holding the halter of his ass, at whose feet was another label that
said, "Sancho Zancas," and according to the picture, he must have
had a big belly, a short body, and long shanks, for which reason, no
doubt, the names of Panza and Zancas were given him, for by these
two surnames the history several times calls him. Some other
trifling particulars might be mentioned, but they are all of slight
importance and have nothing to do with the true relation of the
history; and no history can be bad so long as it is true.

If against the present one any objection be raised on the score of
its truth, it can only be that its author was an Arab, as lying is a
very common propensity with those of that nation; though, as they
are such enemies of ours, it is conceivable that there were
omissions rather than additions made in the course of it. And this
is my own opinion; for, where he could and should give freedom to
his pen in praise of so worthy a knight, he seems to me deliberately
to pass it over in silence; which is ill done and worse contrived, for
it is the business and duty of historians to be exact, truthful, and
wholly free from passion, and neither interest nor fear, hatred nor
love, should make them swerve from the path of truth, whose mother
is history, rival of time, storehouse of deeds, witness for the
past, example and counsel for the present, and warning for the future.
In this I know will be found all that can be desired in the
pleasantest, and if it be wanting in any good quality, I maintain it
is the fault of its hound of an author and not the fault of the
subject. To be brief, its Second Part, according to the translation,
began in this way:

With trenchant swords upraised and poised on high, it seemed as
though the two valiant and wrathful combatants stood threatening
heaven, and earth, and hell, with such resolution and determination
did they bear themselves. The fiery Biscayan was the first to strike a
blow, which was delivered with such force and fury that had not the
sword turned in its course, that single stroke would have sufficed
to put an end to the bitter struggle and to all the adventures of
our knight; but that good fortune which reserved him for greater
things, turned aside the sword of his adversary, so that although it
smote him upon the left shoulder, it did him no more harm than to
strip all that side of its armour, carrying away a great part of his
helmet with half of his ear, all which with fearful ruin fell to the
ground, leaving him in a sorry plight.

Good God! Who is there that could properly describe the rage that
filled the heart of our Manchegan when he saw himself dealt with in
this fashion? All that can be said is, it was such that he again
raised himself in his stirrups, and, grasping his sword more firmly
with both hands, he came down on the Biscayan with such fury,
smiting him full over the cushion and over the head, that- even so
good a shield proving useless- as if a mountain had fallen on him,
he began to bleed from nose, mouth, and ears, reeling as if about to
fall backwards from his mule, as no doubt he would have done had he
not flung his arms about its neck; at the same time, however, he
slipped his feet out of the stirrups and then unclasped his arms,
and the mule, taking fright at the terrible blow, made off across
the plain, and with a few plunges flung its master to the ground.
Don Quixote stood looking on very calmly, and, when he saw him fall,
leaped from his horse and with great briskness ran to him, and,
presenting the point of his sword to his eyes, bade him surrender,
or he would cut his head off. The Biscayan was so bewildered that he
was unable to answer a word, and it would have gone hard with him,
so blind was Don Quixote, had not the ladies in the coach, who had
hitherto been watching the combat in great terror, hastened to where
he stood and implored him with earnest entreaties to grant them the
great grace and favour of sparing their squire's life; to which Don
Quixote replied with much gravity and dignity, "In truth, fair ladies,
I am well content to do what ye ask of me; but it must be on one
condition and understanding, which is that this knight promise me to
go to the village of El Toboso, and on my behalf present himself
before the peerless lady Dulcinea, that she deal with him as shall
be most pleasing to her."

The terrified and disconsolate ladies, without discussing Don
Quixote's demand or asking who Dulcinea might be, promised that
their squire should do all that had been commanded.

"Then, on the faith of that promise," said Don Quixote, "I shall
do him no further harm, though he well deserves it of me."

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