Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XX. Wherein Is Prosecuted the Manner of Don Quixote’s Enchantment, with Other Famous Occurrences

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

The Fourth Book

XX. Wherein Is Prosecuted the Manner of Don Quixote’s Enchantment, with Other Famous Occurrences

WHEN Don Quixote saw himself to be encaged after that manner, and placed in the cart, he said, ‘I have read many and very grave histories of knights-errant, but I never read, saw, nor heard that they were wont to carry knights-errant enchanted after this manner, and with the leisure that those slothful and heavy beasts do threaten; for they were ever accustomed to be carried in the air with wonderful speed, shut in some dusky and obscure cloud, or in some fiery chariot, or on some hippogriff, or some other such like beast; but that they carry me now on a team of oxen, I protest it drives me into a great amazement; but perhaps both chivalry, and the enchantments of these our times, do follow a course different from those of former ages; and per-adventure it may also be, that as I am a new knight in the world, and the first that hath again revived the now neglected and forgotten exercise of arms, so have they also newly invented other kinds of enchantments, and other manners of carrying away enchanted knights. What dost thou think of this, son Sancho?’ ‘I know not,’ quoth Sancho, ‘what to think, because I am not so well seen in scriptures-errant as you are; but for all this I durst affirm and swear, that these visions which go up and down in this place are not altogether catholic.’ ‘Catholics! my father!’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘how can they be catholics, when they be all devils, which have assumed phantastical bodies to come and put me into this state? And if thou wilt prove the truth hereof, do but touch and feel them, and thou shalt find them to have no bodies but of air, and that they consist of nothing but an outward appearance.’ ‘Now, by my faith, sir,’ quoth Sancho, ‘I have already touched them, and find this devil that goeth there so busily up and down, both plump and soft-fleshed; and that he hath besides another property very different from that which I have heard say devils have; for it is said that they smell all of brimstone and other filthy things, but one may feel, at least half a league off, the amber that this devil smells of.’ Sancho spoke this of Don Fernando, who belike, as lords of his rank are wont, had his attire perfumed with amber.

‘Marvel not thereat, friend Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for the devils are very crafty, and although they bring smells or perfumes about them, yet they themselves smell nothing, because they are spirits; or if they do smell aught, it is not good, but evil and stinking savours: the reason is, for that as they do always bear, wheresoever they be, their hell about them, and can receive no kind of ease of their torments, and good smells be things that delight and please, it is not possible that they can smell any good thing; and if it seem to thee that that devil whom thou dost mention smells of amber, either thou art deceived, or he would deceive thee, by making thee to think that he is no devil.’ All these discourses passed between the master and the man, the whilst Don Fernando and Cardenio, fearing lest Sancho should find out the deceit whereto he was already come very near, resolved to hasten the knight’s departure; and therefore, calling the innkeeper aside, they commanded him to saddle Rozinante, and empannel Sancho’s beast, which he did with all expedition. And the curate agreed with the troopers for so much a day, to accompany him unto his village. Cardenio hanged, at the pommel of Rozinante’s saddle, the target on the one side, and on the other basin; and by signs he commanded Sancho to get up on his ass, and to lead Rozinante along by the bridle, and afterwards placed on either side of the cart two troopers, with their firelocks.

But before the cart departed, the hostess, her daughter, and Maritornes came out to bid Don Quixote farewell, feigning that they wept for sorrow of his disaster; to whom Don Quixote said, ‘My good ladies, do not weep; for all these mischances are incident to those which profess that which I do, and if these calamities had not befallen me, I would never have accounted myself for a famous knight-errant; for the like chances never happen to knights of little name or renown, because there [is] none in the world that makes any mention of them; but they often befall to the valorous, who have emulators of their virtue and valour, both many princes and many other knights, that strive by indirect means to destroy them. But for all that, virtue is so potent, as by herself alone, in spite of all the necromancy that ever the first inventor thereof, Zoroaster, knew, she will come off victorious from every danger, and will shine in the world as the sun doth in heaven. Pardon me, fair ladies, if by any carelessness I have done you any displeasure, for with my will and knowledge I never wronged any. And pray unto God for me, that he will please to deliver me out of this prison, whereinto some ill-meaning enchanter hath trust me; for if I once may see myself at liberty again, I will never forget the favours which you have done me in this castle, but greatly acknowledge and recompense them as they deserve.’ Whilst the ladies of the castle were thus entertained by Don Quixote, the curate and barber took leave of Don Fernando and his companions, of the captain and his brother, and of all the contented ladies, especially of Dorothea and Lucinda. All of them embraced, and promised to acquaint one another with their succeeding fortunes; Don Fernando entreating the curate to write unto him what became of Don Quixote, assuring him that no affair he could inform him of should please him better than that, and that he would, in lieu thereof, acquaint him with all occurrences which he though would delight him, either concerning his own marriage or Zoraida’s baptism, or the success of Don Louis, and Lucinda’s return into her house.

The curate offered willingly to accomplish to a hair all that he had commanded him; and so they returned once again to embrace one another, and to renew their mutual and complimentary offers. The innkeeper came also to the curate, and gave him certain papers, saying that he had found them within one of the linings of the wallet wherein the Tale of the Curious-Impertinent was had, and that, since the owner did not return to fetch it, he bade him take them all with him; for, seeing he could not read, he would keep them no longer. Master curate yielded him many thanks; and then, opening them, found in the beginning thereof these words, The Tale of Riconete and Cortadillo, by which he understood that it was some history, and collected that it must be a good one, seeing that of the Curious-Impertinent, contrived perhaps by the same author, had proved so well; and therefore he laid it up, with an intention to read it as soon as he had opportunity. Then he mounted on horseback with his friend the barber; and both of them, putting on their masks, that they might not quickly be known by Don Quixote, they travelled after the team, which held on in this order: first went the cart, guided by the carter; on both sides thereof the troopers rode, with their firelocks; then followed Sancho upon his ass, leading Rozinante by the bridle; and last of all came the curate and barber, upon their mighty mules, and with their faces covered; all in grave posture, and with an alderman-like pace, and travelling no faster than the slow steps of the heavy oxen permitted them. Don Quixote sat with his hands tied, his legs stretched out, and leaning against the bar of the cage, with such a silence and patience as he rather seemed a statue than a man. In this quiet and leisurely manner they travelled for the space of two leagues, when, arriving to a valley, it seemed to their conductor a fit place to repose and bait his oxen; and, acquainting the curate with his purpose, the barber was of opinion that they should yet go on a little farther, because he knew that there lay behind a little mountain, which was within their view, a certain vale, much better furnished with grass than that wherein he meant to abide. The barber’s opinion was allowed; and therefore they continued on their travel: when the curate, looking by chance behind him, say coming after them six or seven men on horseback, and very well appointed, who quickly got ground of them; for they came not the lazy and phlegmatic pace of oxen, but as men that were mounted on canons’ mules, and pricked forward with a desire to pass over the heat of the day in their inn, which was not much more than a league from thence. Finally, those diligent travellers overtook our slothful ones, and saluted them courteously; and one of them, that was a canon of Toledo and master of the rest, noting the orderly procession of the cart, troopers, Sancho, Rozinante, the curate and barber, but chiefly the encaged Don Quixote, he could not forbear to demand what meant the carriage of that man in so strange a manner, although he did already conjecture, by observation of the troopers, that he was some notable robber, or other delinquent, the punishment of whom belonged to the Holy Brotherhood. One of the troopers, to whom the demand was made, did answer in this manner: ‘Sir, we know not wherefore this knight is carried in this form; and therefore let he himself, who best may, tell you the reason thereof.’

Don Quixote had overheard their discourse, and said, ‘If, gentlemen, you be conversant and skilful in matters of chivalry, I will communicate my misfortunes with you; but if you be not, I have no reason to trouble myself to recount them.’ The curate and barber, seeing the travellers in talk with Don Quixote, drew near to make answer for him in such sort that their invention might not be discovered; the whilst the canon replied to the knight, and said, ‘Truly, brother, I am better acquainted with books of knighthood than with Villalpando’s Logic; and therefore, if all the difficulty rest only in that, you may safely communicate whatsoever you will with me.’ ‘A God’s name be it,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘you shall therefore understand, sir knight, that I am carried away enchanted in this cage, through the envy and fraud of wicked magicians; for virtue is much more persecuted of the wicked than honoured of the good. I am a knight-errant; but none of those whose names are not recorded in the books of fame, but one of those who, in despite of envy itself, and of all the magicians of Persia, the Brahmins of India, or of the Gymnosophists of Ethiopia, shall hang his name in the temple of eternity, that it may serve as a model and pattern to ensuing ages, wherein knights-errant may view the steps which they are to follow, if they mean to aspire to the top and honourable height of arms.’ ‘The knight Sir Don Quixote saith true,’ quoth the curate, speaking to the travellers, ‘that he is carried away in this chariot enchanted, not through his own default or sins, but through the malignant treachery of those to whom virtue is loathsome and valour odious. This is, good sir, the Knight of the Sad Countenance (if you have at any time heard speak of him), whose valorous acts shall remain ensculped in stubborn brass and time-surviving marble, though envy and malice do labour never so much to obscure them.’

When the canon heard the imprisoned man and the three speak thus in one tenor, he was about to bless himself for wonder, and could not conjecture what had befallen him; and into no less admiration were they brought that came with him. But Sancho Panza having in the meantime approached to hear their speech, to plaster up the matter, added: ‘Now, sirs, whether you will love me well or ill for what I shall say, the very truth of the matter is, that my lord, Don Quixote, is as much enchanted as my mother, and no more; for his judgment is yet whole and sound-he eats and drinks, and doth his necessities as other men do, and as he himself did yesterday and other days before they encaged him: all which being so, how can you make me believe that he goeth enchanted? for I have heard many persons avouch that enchanted persons neither eat, nor drink, nor speak; and yet, my lord, if he be not thwarted, will talk more than twenty barristers.’ And then, turning towards the curate, he said, ‘O master curate, master curate do you think that I do not know you? And think you that I do not suppose, yea, and presage whereto these new enchantments are addressed? Well, know then that I know you well, although you cover your face never so much, and that I understand your meaning, how deeply soever you smother your drifts. But in fine, where emulation and envy reign, virtue cannot live; where pinching sways, liberality goes by. A pox take the devil! for, but for your reverence, my lord had e’er this time been wedded to the Princess Micomicona, and I myself had been created an earl at least; for no less might be expected either from the bounty of my lord or the greatness of my deserts. But now I perceive that to be true which is commonly said, “that the wheel of fortune turns about more swiftly than that of a mill,” and that they which were yesterday on the top thereof, lie to-day along on the ground. I am chiefly grieved for my wife and children; for whereas they ought and might hope to see their father come in at his gates made a governor or viceroy of some isle or kingdom, they shall now see him return unto them no better than a poor horse-boy. All which I have urged so much, master curate, only to intimate to your paternity how you ought to have remorse, and make a scruple of conscience, of treating my dear lord as you do; and look to it well, that God do not one day demand at your hands, in the other life, amends for the prison whereinto you carry him, and that you be not answerable for all the succours and good deeds which he would have afforded the world in this time of his captivity.’

‘Snuff me those candles,’ quoth the barber, hearing him speak so. ‘What, Sancho! art thou also of thy master’s fraternity? I swear by the Lord, I begin to see that thou art very like to keep him company in the cage, and that thou shalt be as deeply enchanted as he, for the portion which thou hast of humour and chivalry. Thou wast in an ill hour begotten with child by his promises, and in a worse did the isle, which thou so greatly longest for, sink into thy pate.’ ‘I am not with child by anybody,’ said Sancho; ‘nor am I a man of humour, to let anybody get me with child, no, though it were the king himself; and although I be poor, yet am I a Christian, and owe nothing to any one; and if I desire islands, others there are that desire worse things, and every one is the son of his own works; and under the name of a man, I may become pope, how much more the governor of an island, and chiefly seeing my lord may gain so many as he may want men to bestow them on? And therefore, master barber, you should take heed how you speak; for all consists not in trimming of beards; and there is some difference between Peter and Peter. I say it, because all of us know one another, and no man shall unperceived put a false dye upon me. As concerning my lord’s enchantment, God knows the truth; and therefore let it rest as it is, seeing it is the worse for the stirring in.’ The barber would not reply unto Sancho, lest that, with this simplicities, he should discover what the curate and himself did labour so much to conceal. And the curate, doubting the same, had entreated the canon to prick on a little forward, and he would unfold to him the mystery of the encaged knight, with other matters of delight. The canon did so, and, taking his men along with them, was very attentive to all that he rehearsed of the condition, life, madness, and fashion of Don Quixote. There did he briefly acquaint him with the original cause of his distraction, and all the progress of his adventures, until his shutting up in that cage; and their own design in carrying him home to his country, to try whether they might by any means find out a remedy for his frenzy. The canon and his men again admired to hear so strange a history as that of Don Quixote; and as soon as the curate had ended his relation, the canon said:

‘Verily, master curate, I do find by experience that those books which are instituted of chivalry or knighthood are very prejudicial to well-governed commonwealths; and although, borne away by an idle and curious desire, I have read the beginning of almost as many as are imprinted of that subject, yet could I never endure myself to finish and read any one of them through; for methinks that somewhat, more or less, they all import one thing, and this hath no more than that, nor the other more than his fellow. And in mine opinion, this kind of writing and invention falls within the compass of the fables called Milesiae, which are wandering and idle tales, whose only scope is delight, and not instruction; quite contrary to the project of those called Fabulae Apologae, which delight and instruct together. And though that the principal end of such books be recreation, yet cannot I perceive how they can yield it, seeing they be forced with so many and so proportionless untruths; for the delight that the mind conceives must proceed from the beauty and conformity which it sees or contemplates in such things as the sight or imagination represents unto it, and all things that are deformed and discordant must produce the contrary effect. Now, then, what beauty can there be, or what proportion between the parts and the whole, or the whole and the parts, in a book or fable wherein a youth of sixteen years of age gives a blow to a giant as great as a tower, and with that blow divides him in two as easily as if he were a pellet of sugar? And when they describe a battle, after that they have told us how there were at least a million of men on the adverse side, yet if the knight of the book be against them, we must of force, and whether we will or no, understand that the said knight obtained the victory through the invincible strength of his arm. What, then, shall we say of the facility wherewithal the inheritrix of a kingdom or empire falls between the arms of those errant and unknown knights? What understanding, if it be not altogether barren or barbarous, can delight itself, reading how a great tower full of knights doth pass through the sea as fast as a ship with the most prosperous wind? and that going to bed a man is in Lombardy, and the next morning finds himself in Prester John’s country, among the Indians, or in some other region which never was discovered by Ptolemy, nor seen by Marco Polo? And if I should be answered, that the inventors of such books do write them as fables, and therefore are not bound any respect of circumstances or observation of truth, I would reply, that an untruth is so much the more pleasing by how much the nearer it resembles a truth, and so much the more grateful by how much the more it is doubtful and possible; for lying fables must be suited unto the reader’s understanding, and so written as that, facilitating impossible things, levelling untrue things, and holding the mind in suspense, they may ravish a more delight, and entertain such manners, as pleasure and wonder may step by step walk together: all which things he that writes not likelihoods shall never be able to perform. And as touching imitation (wherein consists the perfection of that which is written), I have not seen in any books of knighthood an entire bulk of a fable so proportioned in all the members thereof, as that the middle may answer the beginning, and the end the beginning and middle; but rather they have composed them of so many members, as it more probably seems that the authors intended to frame chimeras or monsters than to deliver proportionate figures, most harsh in their style, incredible in exploits, impudent in love matters, absurd in compliments, prolix in battles, fond in discourses, uncertain and senseless in voyages; and finally, devoid of all discretion, art, and ingenious disposition: and therefore they deserve, as most idle and frivolous things, to be banished out of all Christian commonwealths.’

Master curate did listen to the canon with very great attention; and he seemed unto him to be a man of good understanding, and that he had great reason for what he had alleged; and therefore said that, in respect they did concur in opinions, and that he had an old grudge to the vanity of such books, he had likewise fired all Don Quixote’s library, consisting of many books of that subject. And then he recounted to him the search and inquisition he had made of them; and which he had condemned, and which reserved: whereat the canon laughed heartily, and said that, ‘notwithstanding all the evil he had spoken of such books, yet did he find one good in them, to wit, the subject they offered a good wit to work upon and show itself in them; for they displayed a large and open plain, through which the pen might run without let or encumbrances, describing of shipwrecks, tempests, encounters, and battles; delineating a valorous captain with all the properties required in him-as wisdom to frustrate the designs of his enemy, eloquence to persuade or dissuade his soldiers, ripeness in advice, promptness in execution, as much valour in attending as in assaulting of an enemy; deciphering now a lamentable and tragical success, then a joyful and unexpected event; there a most beautiful, honest, and discreet lady, here a valiant, courteous, and Christian knight; there an unmeasurable, barbarous braggart, here a gentle, valorous, and wise prince; representing the goodness and loyalty of subjects, the magnificence and bounty of lords. Sometimes he may show himself an astrologer, sometimes a cosmographer, sometimes a musician, sometimes a statist, and sometimes, if he please, he may have occasion to show himself a necromancer. There may he demonstrate the subtlety of Ulysses, the piety of Aeneas, the valour of Achilles, the misfortunes of Hector, the treachery of Sinon, the amity of Euryalus, the liberality of Alexander, the resolution of Caesar, the clemency and truth of Trajan, the fidelity of Zopyrus, the prudence of Cato, and finally, all those parts that make a worthy man perfect; one whiles by placing them all in one subject, another by distributing them among many; and this being done, and set out in a pleasing style and a witty fashion, that approacheth as near as is possible unto the truth, will questionless remain a work of many fair drafts, which being accomplished will represent such beauty and perfection as shall fully attain to the best end aimed at in all writing; that is, as I have said, jointly to instruct and delight: for the irregularity and liberality of those books give[s] to the author the means to show himself an epic, lyric, tragedian, and comedian, with all other things which the most graceful and pleasant sciences of poetry and oratory include in themselves; for epics may be as well written in prose as in verse.’