Thursday, July 1, 2010

Don Quixote 1.53


To fancy that in this life anything belonging to it will remain
for ever in the same state is an idle fancy; on the contrary, in it
everything seems to go in a circle, I mean round and round. The spring
succeeds the summer, the summer the fall, the fall the autumn, the
autumn the winter, and the winter the spring, and so time rolls with
never-ceasing wheel. Man's life alone, swifter than time, speeds
onward to its end without any hope of renewal, save it be in that
other life which is endless and boundless. Thus saith Cide Hamete
the Mahometan philosopher; for there are many that by the light of
nature alone, without the light of faith, have a comprehension of
the fleeting nature and instability of this present life and the
endless duration of that eternal life we hope for; but our author is
here speaking of the rapidity with which Sancho's government came to
an end, melted away, disappeared, vanished as it were in smoke and
shadow. For as he lay in bed on the night of the seventh day of his
government, sated, not with bread and wine, but with delivering
judgments and giving opinions and making laws and proclamations,
just as sleep, in spite of hunger, was beginning to close his eyelids,
he heard such a noise of bell-ringing and shouting that one would have
fancied the whole island was going to the bottom. He sat up in bed and
remained listening intently to try if he could make out what could
be the cause of so great an uproar; not only, however, was he unable
to discover what it was, but as countless drums and trumpets now
helped to swell the din of the bells and shouts, he was more puzzled
than ever, and filled with fear and terror; and getting up he put on a
pair of slippers because of the dampness of the floor, and without
throwing a dressing gown or anything of the kind over him he rushed
out of the door of his room, just in time to see approaching along a
corridor a band of more than twenty persons with lighted torches and
naked swords in their hands, all shouting out, "To arms, to arms,
senor governor, to arms! The enemy is in the island in countless
numbers, and we are lost unless your skill and valour come to our

Keeping up this noise, tumult, and uproar, they came to where Sancho
stood dazed and bewildered by what he saw and heard, and as they
approached one of them called out to him, "Arm at once, your lordship,
if you would not have yourself destroyed and the whole island lost."

"What have I to do with arming?" said Sancho. "What do I know
about arms or supports? Better leave all that to my master Don
Quixote, who will settle it and make all safe in a trice; for I,
sinner that I am, God help me, don't understand these scuffles."

"Ah, senor governor," said another, "what slackness of mettle this
is! Arm yourself; here are arms for you, offensive and defensive; come
out to the plaza and be our leader and captain; it falls upon you by
right, for you are our governor."

"Arm me then, in God's name," said Sancho, and they at once produced
two large shields they had come provided with, and placed them upon
him over his shirt, without letting him put on anything else, one
shield in front and the other behind, and passing his arms through
openings they had made, they bound him tight with ropes, so that there
he was walled and boarded up as straight as a spindle and unable to
bend his knees or stir a single step. In his hand they placed a lance,
on which he leant to keep himself from falling, and as soon as they
had him thus fixed they bade him march forward and lead them on and
give them all courage; for with him for their guide and lamp and
morning star, they were sure to bring their business to a successful

"How am I to march, unlucky being that I am?" said Sancho, "when I
can't stir my knee-caps, for these boards I have bound so tight to
my body won't let me. What you must do is carry me in your arms, and
lay me across or set me upright in some postern, and I'll hold it
either with this lance or with my body."

"On, senor governor!" cried another, "it is fear more than the
boards that keeps you from moving; make haste, stir yourself, for
there is no time to lose; the enemy is increasing in numbers, the
shouts grow louder, and the danger is pressing."

Urged by these exhortations and reproaches the poor governor made an
attempt to advance, but fell to the ground with such a crash that he
fancied he had broken himself all to pieces. There he lay like a
tortoise enclosed in its shell, or a side of bacon between two
kneading-troughs, or a boat bottom up on the beach; nor did the gang
of jokers feel any compassion for him when they saw him down; so far
from that, extinguishing their torches they began to shout afresh
and to renew the calls to arms with such energy, trampling on poor
Sancho, and slashing at him over the shield with their swords in
such a way that, if he had not gathered himself together and made
himself small and drawn in his head between the shields, it would have
fared badly with the poor governor, as, squeezed into that narrow
compass, he lay, sweating and sweating again, and commending himself
with all his heart to God to deliver him from his present peril.
Some stumbled over him, others fell upon him, and one there was who
took up a position on top of him for some time, and from thence as
if from a watchtower issued orders to the troops, shouting out, "Here,
our side! Here the enemy is thickest! Hold the breach there! Shut that
gate! Barricade those ladders! Here with your stink-pots of pitch
and resin, and kettles of boiling oil! Block the streets with
feather beds!" In short, in his ardour he mentioned every little
thing, and every implement and engine of war by means of which an
assault upon a city is warded off, while the bruised and battered
Sancho, who heard and suffered all, was saying to himself, "O if it
would only please the Lord to let the island be lost at once, and I
could see myself either dead or out of this torture!" Heaven heard his
prayer, and when he least expected it he heard voices exclaiming,
"Victory, victory! The enemy retreats beaten! Come, senor governor,
get up, and come and enjoy the victory, and divide the spoils that
have been won from the foe by the might of that invincible arm."

"Lift me up," said the wretched Sancho in a woebegone voice. They
helped him to rise, and as soon as he was on his feet said, "The enemy
I have beaten you may nail to my forehead; I don't want to divide
the spoils of the foe, I only beg and entreat some friend, if I have
one, to give me a sup of wine, for I'm parched with thirst, and wipe
me dry, for I'm turning to water."

They rubbed him down, fetched him wine and unbound the shields,
and he seated himself upon his bed, and with fear, agitation, and
fatigue he fainted away. Those who had been concerned in the joke were
now sorry they had pushed it so far; however, the anxiety his fainting
away had caused them was relieved by his returning to himself. He
asked what o'clock it was; they told him it was just daybreak. He said
no more, and in silence began to dress himself, while all watched him,
waiting to see what the haste with which he was putting on his clothes

He got himself dressed at last, and then, slowly, for he was
sorely bruised and could not go fast, he proceeded to the stable,
followed by all who were present, and going up to Dapple embraced
him and gave him a loving kiss on the forehead, and said to him, not
without tears in his eyes, "Come along, comrade and friend and partner
of my toils and sorrows; when I was with you and had no cares to
trouble me except mending your harness and feeding your little
carcass, happy were my hours, my days, and my years; but since I
left you, and mounted the towers of ambition and pride, a thousand
miseries, a thousand troubles, and four thousand anxieties have
entered into my soul;" and all the while he was speaking in this
strain he was fixing the pack-saddle on the ass, without a word from
anyone. Then having Dapple saddled, he, with great pain and
difficulty, got up on him, and addressing himself to the majordomo,
the secretary, the head-carver, and Pedro Recio the doctor and several
others who stood by, he said, "Make way, gentlemen, and let me go back
to my old freedom; let me go look for my past life, and raise myself
up from this present death. I was not born to be a governor or protect
islands or cities from the enemies that choose to attack them.
Ploughing and digging, vinedressing and pruning, are more in my way
than defending provinces or kingdoms. 'Saint Peter is very well at
Rome; I mean each of us is best following the trade he was born to.
A reaping-hook fits my hand better than a governor's sceptre; I'd
rather have my fill of gazpacho' than be subject to the misery of a
meddling doctor who me with hunger, and I'd rather lie in summer under
the shade of an oak, and in winter wrap myself in a double sheepskin
jacket in freedom, than go to bed between holland sheets and dress
in sables under the restraint of a government. God be with your
worships, and tell my lord the duke that 'naked I was born, naked I
find myself, I neither lose nor gain;' I mean that without a
farthing I came into this government, and without a farthing I go
out of it, very different from the way governors commonly leave
other islands. Stand aside and let me go; I have to plaster myself,
for I believe every one of my ribs is crushed, thanks to the enemies
that have been trampling over me to-night."

"That is unnecessary, senor governor," said Doctor Recio, "for I
will give your worship a draught against falls and bruises that will
soon make you as sound and strong as ever; and as for your diet I
promise your worship to behave better, and let you eat plentifully
of whatever you like."

"You spoke late," said Sancho. "I'd as soon turn Turk as stay any
longer. Those jokes won't pass a second time. By God I'd as soon
remain in this government, or take another, even if it was offered
me between two plates, as fly to heaven without wings. I am of the
breed of the Panzas, and they are every one of them obstinate, and
if they once say 'odds,' odds it must be, no matter if it is evens, in
spite of all the world. Here in this stable I leave the ant's wings
that lifted me up into the air for the swifts and other birds to eat
me, and let's take to level ground and our feet once more; and if
they're not shod in pinked shoes of cordovan, they won't want for
rough sandals of hemp; 'every ewe to her like,' 'and let no one
stretch his leg beyond the length of the sheet;' and now let me
pass, for it's growing late with me."

To this the majordomo said, "Senor governor, we would let your
worship go with all our hearts, though it sorely grieves us to lose
you, for your wit and Christian conduct naturally make us regret
you; but it is well known that every governor, before he leaves the
place where he has been governing, is bound first of all to render
an account. Let your worship do so for the ten days you have held
the government, and then you may go and the peace of God go with you."

"No one can demand it of me," said Sancho, "but he whom my lord
the duke shall appoint; I am going to meet him, and to him I will
render an exact one; besides, when I go forth naked as I do, there
is no other proof needed to show that I have governed like an angel."

"By God the great Sancho is right," said Doctor Recio, "and we
should let him go, for the duke will be beyond measure glad to see

They all agreed to this, and allowed him to go, first offering to
bear him company and furnish him with all he wanted for his own
comfort or for the journey. Sancho said he did not want anything more
than a little barley for Dapple, and half a cheese and half a loaf
for himself; for the distance being so short there was no occasion for
any better or bulkier provant. They all embraced him, and he with
tears embraced all of them, and left them filled with admiration not
only at his remarks but at his firm and sensible resolution.

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