Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  I. Wherein Is Rehearsed the Calling and Exercise of the Renowned Gentleman, Don Quixote of the Mancha

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The First Part

I. Wherein Is Rehearsed the Calling and Exercise of the Renowned Gentleman, Don Quixote of the Mancha

THERE lived not long since, in a certain village of the Mancha, the name whereof I purposely omit, a gentleman of their calling that use to pile up in their halls old lances, halberds, morions, and such other armours and weapons. He was, besides, master of an ancient target, a lean stallion, and a swift greyhound. His pot consisted daily of somewhat more beef than mutton: a gallimaufry each night, collops and eggs on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and now and then a lean pigeon on Sundays, did consume three parts of his rents; the rest and remnant thereof was spent on a jerkin of fine puce, a pair of velvet hose, with pantofles of the same for the holy-days, and one suit of the finest vesture; for therewithal he honoured and set out his person on the workdays. He had in his house a woman-servant of about forty years old, and a niece not yet twenty, and a man that served him both in field and at home, and could saddle his horse, and likewise manage a pruning-hook. The master himself was about fifty years old, of a strong complexion, dry flesh, and a withered face. He was an early riser, and a great friend of hunting. Some affirm that his surname was Quixada, or Quesada (for in this there is some variance among the authors that write his life), although it may be gathered, by very probable conjectures, that he was called Quixana. Yet all this concerns our historical relation but little: let it then suffice, that in the narration thereof we will not vary a jot from the truth.

You shall therefore wit, that this gentleman above named, the spurts that he was idle (which was the longer part of the year), did apply himself wholly to the reading of books of knighthood, and that with such gusts and delights, as he almost wholly neglected the exercise of hunting; yea, and the very administration of his household affairs. And his curiosity and folly came to that pass, that he made away many acres of arable land to buy him books of that kind, and therefore he brought to his house as many as ever he could get of that subject. And among them all, none pleased him better than those which famous Felician of Silva composed. For the smoothness of his prose, with now and then some intricate sentence meddled, seemed to him peerless; and principally when he did read the courtings, or letters of challenge, that knights sent to ladies, or one to another; where, in many places, he found written: ‘The reason of the unreasonableness which against my reason is wrought, doth so weaken my reason, as with all reason I do justly complain on your beauty.’ And also when he read: ‘The high heavens, which with your divinity do fortify you divinely with the stars, and make you deserveress of the deserts which your greatness deserves,’ etc. With these and other such passages the poor gentleman grew distracted, and was breaking his brains day and night, to understand and unbowel their sense, an endless labour; for even Aristotle himself would not understand them, though he were again resuscitated only for that purpose. He did not like so much the unproportionate blows that Don Belianis gave and took in fight; for, as he imagined, were the surgeons never so cunning that cured them, yet was it impossible but that the patient his face and all his body must remain full of scars and tokens. Yet did he praise, notwithstanding, in the author of that history, the conclusion of his book, with the promise of the Endless Adventure; and many times he himself had a desire to take pen and finish it exactly, as it is there promised; and would doubtless have performed it, and that certes with happy success, if other more urgent and continual thoughts had not disturbed him.

Many times did he fall at variance with the curate of his village (who was a learned man, graduated in Ciguenca) touching who was the better knight, Palmerin of England, or Amadis de Gaul. But Master Nicholas, the barber of the same town, would affirm that none of both arrived in worth to the Knight of the Sun; and if any one knight might paragon with him, it was infallibly Don Galaor, Amadis de Gaul’s brother, whose nature might fitly be accommodated to anything; for he was not so coy and whining a knight as his brother, and that in matters of valour he did not bate him an ace.

In resolution, he plunged himself so deeply in his reading of these books, as he spent many times in the lecture of them whole days and nights; and in the end, through his little sleep and much reading, he dried up his brains in such sort as he lost wholly his judgment. His fantasy was filled with those things that he read, of enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, tempests, and other impossible follies. And these toys did so firmly possess his imagination with an infallible opinion that all that machina of dreamed inventions which he read was true, as he accounted no history in the world to be so certain and sincere as they were. He was wont to say, that the Cid Ruy Diaz was a very good knight, but not to be compared to the Knight of the Burning Sword, which, with one thwart blow, cut asunder two fierce and mighty giants. He agreed better with Bernardo del Carpio, because he slew the enchanted Roland in Roncesvalles. He likewise liked of the shift Hercules used when he smothered Anteon, the son of the earth, between his arms. He praised the giant Morgant marvellously, because, though he was of that monstrous progeny, who are commonly all of them proud and rude, yet he was affable and courteous. But he agreed best of all with Reinauld of Mount Alban; and most of all then, when he saw him sally out of his castle to rob as many as ever he could meet; and when, moreover, he robbed the idol of Mahomet, made all of gold, as his history recounts, and would be content to give his old woman, yea, and his niece also, for a good opportunity on the traitor Galalon, that he might lamb-skin and trample him into powder.

Finally, his wit being wholly extinguished, he fell into one of the strangest conceits that ever madman stumbled on in this world; to wit, it seemed unto him very requisite and behooveful, as well for the augmentation of his honour as also for the benefit of the commonwealth, that he himself should become a knight-errant, and go throughout the world, with his horse and armour, to seek adventures, and practise in person all that he had read was used by knights of yore; revenging of all kinds of injuries, and offering himself to occasions and dangers, which, being once happily achieved, might gain him eternal renown. The poor soul did already figure himself crowned, through the valour of his arm, at least Emperor of Trapisonda; and led thus by these soothing thoughts, and borne away with the exceeding delight he found in them, he hastened all that he might, to effect his urging desires.

And first of all he caused certain old rusty arms to be scoured, that belonged to his great-grandfather, and lay many ages neglected and forgotten in a by-corner of his house; he trimmed and dressed them the best he might, and then perceived a great defect they had; for they wanted a helmet, and had only a plain morion; but he by his industry supplied that want, and framed, with certain papers pasted together, a beaver for his morion. True it is, that to make trial whether his pasted beaver was strong enough, and might abide the adventure of a blow, he out with his sword and gave it a blow or two, and with the very first did quite undo his whole week’s labour. The facility wherewithal it was dissolved liked him nothing; wherefore, to assure himself better the next time from the like danger, he made it anew, placing certain iron bars within it, in so artificial a manner, as he rested at once satisfied, both with his invention, and also the solidity of the work; and without making a second trial, he deputed and held it in estimation of a most excellent beaver. Then did he presently visit his horse, who (though he had more quarters than pence in a sixpence, through leanness, and more faults than Gonella’s), having nothing on him but skin and bone; yet he thought that neither Alexander’s Bucephalus, nor the Cid his horse Balieca, were in any respect equal to him. He spent four days devising him a name; for (as he reasoned to himself) it was not fit that so famous a knight’s horse, and chiefly being so good a beast, should want a known name; and therefore he endeavoured to give him such a one as should both declare what sometime he had been, before he pertained to a knight-errant, and also what at present he was; for it stood greatly with reason, seeing his lord and master changed his estate and vocation, that he should alter likewise his denomination, and get a new one, that were famous and altisonant, as became the new order and exercise which he now professed; and therefore, after many other names which he framed, blotted out, rejected, added, undid, and turned again to frame in his memory and imagination, he finally concluded to name him Rozinante, a name in his opinion lofty, full, and significant of what he had been when he was a plain jade, before he was exalted to his new dignity; being, as he thought, the best carriage beast of the world. The name being thus given to his horse, and so to his mind, he resolved to give himself a name also; and in that thought he laboured other eight days; and, in conclusion, called himself Don Quixote; whence (as is said) the authors of this most true history deduce, that he was undoubtedly named Quixada, and not Quesada, as others would have it. And remembering that the valorous Amadis was not satisfied only with the dry name of Amadis, but added thereunto the name of his kingdom and country, to render his own more redoubted, terming himself Amadis de Gaul; so he, like a good knight, would add to his own that also of his province, and call himself Don Quixote of the Mancha, wherewith it appeared that he very lively declared his lineage and country, which he did honour, by taking it for his surname.

His armour being scoured, his morion transformed into a helmet, his horse named, and himself confirmed with a new name also, he forthwith bethought himself, that now he wanted nothing but a lady on whom he might bestow his service and affection; for the knight-errant that is loveless resembles a tree that wants leaves and fruit, or a body without a soul: and therefore he was wont to say, ‘If I should for my sins, or by good hap, encounter there abroad with some giant (as knights-errant do ordinarily), and that I should overthrow him with one blow to the ground, or cut him with a stroke in two halves, or finally overcome, and make him yield to me, would it not be very expedient to have some lady to whom I might present him? And that he, entering in her presence, do kneel before my sweet lady, and say unto her, with an humble and submissive voice, “Madam, I am the giant Caraculiambro, lord of the island called Malindrania, whom the never-too-much-praised knight, Don Quixote de la Mancha, hath overcome in single combat; and hath commanded to present myself to your greatness, that it may please your highness to dispose of me according unto your liking!”’ Oh, how glad was our knight when he had made this discourse to himself, but chiefly when he had found out one whom he might call his lady! For, as it is imagined, there dwelt in the next village unto his manor, a young handsome wench, with whom he was sometime in love, although, as is understood, she never knew or took notice thereof. She was called Aldonsa Lorenzo, and her he thought fittest to entitle with the name of Lady of his thoughts, and searching a name for her that should not vary much from her own, and yet should draw and aveer somewhat to that of a princess or great lady, he called her Dulcinea del Toboso (for there she was born), a name is his conceit harmonious, strange, and significant, like to all the others that he had given to his things.