Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
XXII. Wherein the Discreet Discourse That Passed between Sancho Panza and His Lord Don Quixote Is Expressed
The knight-errant and the ill-errant squire beguiled the time in those discourses, until they arrived to the place where the canon, curate, and barber expected them. And then, Sancho alighting, and helping to take down the cage, the wainman unyoked his oxen, permitting them to take the benefit of pasture in that green and pleasant valley, whose verdure invited not such to enjoy it as were enchanted like Don Quixote, but rather such heedful and discreet persons as was his man, who entreated the curate to license his lord to come out but a little while, for otherwise the prison would not be so cleanly as the presence of so worthy a knight as his lord was required. The curate understood his meaning, and answered that he would satisfy his requests very willingly, but that he feared when he saw himself at liberty, he would play them some prank or other, and go whither nobody should ever set eye on him after. ‘I will be his surety that he shall not fly away,’ quoth Sancho. ‘And I also, quoth the canon, ‘if he will but promise me, as he is a knight, that he will not depart from us without our consent.’ ‘I give my word that I will not,’ quoth Don Quixote, who heard all that they had said, ‘and the rather because that enchanted bodies have not free will to dispose of themselves as they list; for he that enchanted them may make them unable to stir from one place in three days; and if they make an escape, he can compel them to return flying; and therefore, since it was so, they might securely set him at liberty,
The canon beheld him very earnestly, and with admiration, wondering to see the strangeness of his fond humour, and how that he showed, in whatsoever he uttered, a very good understanding, and only left the stirrups (as is said before) when any mention was made of chivalry; and therefore, moved to compassion, after they were all laid down along upon the grass, expecting their dinner, he said unto him, ‘Gentleman, is it possible that the idle and unsavoury lecture of books of knighthood hath so much distracted your wit as thus to believe that you are carried away enchanted, with other things of that kind, as much wide from truth as untruths can be from verity itself? Or how is it possible that any human understanding can frame itself to believe that in this world there have been such an infinity of Amadises, such a crew of famous knights, so many emperors of Trapisonda, such a number of Felixmartes of Hircania; so many palfreys, damsels-errant, serpents, robbers, giants, battles, unheard-of adventures, sundry kinds of enchantments, such immeasureable encounters, such bravery of apparel, such a multitude of enamoured and valiant princesses, so many squires, earls, witty dwarfs, viragoes, love-letters, amorous dalliances; and finally, so many, so unreasonable
‘Thus much I dare avouch of myself, that when I read them, as long as I do not think that they are all but toys and untruths, they delight me; but when I ponder seriously what they are, I throw the very best of them against the walls, yea, and would throw them into the fire if they were near me, or in my hands, having well deserved that severity, as false impostors and seducers of common sense, as broachers of new sects and of uncouth courses of life, as those that give occasion to the ignorant vulgar to believe in such exorbitant untruths as are contained in them; yea, and are withal so presumptuous, as to dare to confound the wits of the most discreet and best descended gentlemen; as we may clearly perceive by that they have done to yourself, whom they have brought to such terms as it is necessary to shut you up in a cage and carry you on a team of oxen, even as one carries a lion or tiger from place to place, to gain a living by the showing of him. Therefore, good Sir Don Quixote, take compassion of yourself, and return into the bosom of discretion, and learn to employ the most happy talent of understanding and abundance of wit, wherewith bountiful Heaven hath enriched you, to some other course of study, which may redound to the profit of your soul; and advancement of your credit and estate. And if, borne away by your natural disposition, you will yet persist in the reading of warlike and knightly discourses, read in the Holy Scripture the Acts of Judges, for there you shall find surpassing feats and deeds, as true as valorous. Portugal had a Viriathus; Rome a Caesar; Carthage a Hannibal; Greece an Alexander; Castile an Earl Fernan Gonzalez; Valencia a Cid; Andalusia a Gonzalo Hernandez; Estremadura a Diego Garcia de Paredes; Xerez a Garcia Perez de Vargas; Toledo a Garcilaso de la Vega; Seville a Don Manuel de Leon: the discourses of whose valorous acts may entertain, teach, delight, and make to wonder the most sublime wit that shall read them. Yea, this were indeed a study fit for your sharp understanding, my dear Sir Don Quixote, for by this you should become learned in histories, enamoured of virtue, instructed in goodness, bettered in manners, valiant
Don Quixote listened with all attention unto the canon’s admonition, and perceiving that he was come to an end of them, after he had looked upon him a good while he said, ‘Methinks, gentleman, that the scope of your discourse hath been addressed to persuade me that there never were any knights-errant in the world, and that all the books of chivalry are false, lying, hurtful, and unprofitable to the commonwealth, and that I have done ill to read them, worse to believe in them, and worst of all to follow them, by having thus taken on me the most austere profession of wandering knighthood, whereof they entreat; denying, moreover, that there were ever any Amadises, either of Gaul or Greece; or any of all the other knights wherewith such books are stuffed.’
‘All is just as you have said,’ quoth the canon: whereto Don Quixote replied thus, ‘You also added, that such books had done me much hurt, seeing they had turned my judgment, and immured me up in this cage, and that it were better for me to make some amendment, and alter my study, reading other that are more authentic, and delight and instruct much better.’
‘It is very true,’ answered the canon.
‘Why, then,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘I find, by mine accounts, that the enchanted and senseless man is yourself, seeing you have bent yourself to speak so many blasphemies against a thing so true, so current, and of such request in the world, as he that should deny it, as you do, merits the same punishment which as you say you give to those books when the reading thereof offends you; for to go about to make men believe that Amadis never lived, nor any other of those knights wherewith histories are fully replenished, would be none other than to persuade them that the sun lightens not, the earth sustains not, nor the ice makes anything cold. See what wit is there in the world so profound, that can induce another to believe that the history of Guy of Burgundy and the Princes Floripes was not true? Nor that of Fierabras,
Full of admiration remained the good canon to hear the composition and medley that Don Quixote made of truths and fictions together, and at the great notice he had of all things that might anyway concern his knighthood-errant; and therefore he shaped him this answer: ‘I cannot deny, Sir Don Quixote, but that some part of that which you have said is true, especially touching those Spanish adventurers of whom you have spoken, and will likewise grant you that there were Twelve Peers of France, but I will not believe that they have accomplished all that which the Archbishop Turpin hath left written of them; for the bare truth of the affair is, that they were certain noblemen chosen out by the kings of France, whom they called peers, because they were all equal in valour, quality, and worth; or if they were not, it was at least presumed that they were; and they were not much unlike the military orders of Saint James or Calatrava, were in request, wherein is presupposed that such as are of the profession are, or ought to be, valourous and well-descended gentlemen: and as now they say a knight of Saint John or Alcantara, so in those times they said a knight of the Twelve Peers, because they were twelve equals, chosen to be of that military order. That there was a Cid and a Bernard of Carpio is also doubtless; that they have done the acts recounted of them I believe there is very great cause to doubt. As touching the pin of the good Earl Pierres, and that it is by Babieca his saddle in the king’s armoury, I confess that my sin hath made me so ignorant,
‘Well, it is there without question,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘and for the greater confirmation thereof, they say it is laid up in a case of neat’s leather to keep it from rusting.’ ‘That may very well so be,’ said the canon; ‘yet by the orders that I have received, I do not remember that ever I saw it: and although I should grant it to be there, yet do I not therefore oblige myself to believe the histories of all the Amadises, nor those of the other rabblement of knights which books do mention unto us; nor is it reason that so honourable a man, adorned with so many good parts and endowed with such a wit as you are, should believe that so many and so strange follies as are written in the raving books of chivalry can be true.’