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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616)

Great Battle Against a Flock of Sheep

From “Don Quixote

WHILE the knight and his squire were conferring together, Don Quixote perceived in the road on which they were traveling a great and thick cloud of dust coming toward them; upon which he turned to Sancho, and said:

“This is the day, oh, Sancho, that shall manifest the good that fortune hath in store for me. This is the day, I say, on which shall be proved, as at all times, the valor of my arm, and on which I shall perform exploits that will be recorded and written in the book of fame, and there remain to all succeeding ages. Seest thou that cloud of dust, Sancho? It is raised by a prodigious army of divers and innumerable nations, who are on the march this way.”

“If so, there must be armies,” said Sancho; “for here, on this side, arises just such another cloud of dust.”

Don Quixote turned, and seeing that it really was so he rejoiced exceedingly, taking it for granted there were two armies coming to engage in the midst of that spacious plain; for at all hours and moments his imagination was full of the battles, enchantments, adventures, extravagances, amours, and challenges detailed in his favorite books, and in every thought, word, and action he reverted to them. Now, the cloud of dust he saw was raised by two great flocks of sheep going the same road from different parts, and as the dust concealed them until they came near, and Don Quixote affirmed so positively that they were armies, Sancho began to believe it, and said, “Sir, what then must we do?”

“What?” replied Don Quixote. “Favor and assist the weaker side! Thou must know, Sancho, that the army which marches toward us in front is led and commanded by the great Emperor Alifanfaron, lord of the great island of Taprobana; this other, which marches behind us, is that of his enemy, the King of the Garamantes, Pentapolin of the Naked Arm, for he always enters into battle with his right arm bare.”

“But why do these two princes bear one another so much ill will?” demanded Sancho.

“They hate one another,” answered Don Quixote, “because this Alifanfaron is a furious pagan, in love with the daughter of Pentapolin, who is a most beautiful and superlatively graceful lady, and also a Christian; but her father will not give her in marriage to the pagan king unless he will first renounce the religion of his false prophet Mohammed, and turn Christian.”

“By my beard,” said Sancho, “Pentapolin is in the right; and I am resolved to assist him to the utmost of my power.”

“Therein thou wilt do thy duty, Sancho,” said Don Quixote; “for, in order to engage in such contests, it is not necessary to be dubbed a knight.”

“I easily comprehend that,” answered Sancho. “But where shall we dispose of this ass, that we may be sure to find him when the fray is over? For I believe it was never yet the fashion to go to battle on a beast of this kind.”

“Thou art in the right,” said Don Quixote; “and thou mayest let him take his chance whether he be lost or not, for we shall have such choice of horses after the victory, that Rozinante himself will run a risk of being exchanged. But listen with attention while I give thee an account of the principal knights in the two approaching armies; and that thou mayest observe them the better, let us retire to that rising ground, whence both armies may be distinctly seen.”

They did so, and placed themselves for that purpose on a hillock, from which the two flocks which Don Quixote mistook for armies might easily have been discerned, had not their view been obstructed by the clouds of dust. Seeing, however, in his imagination what did not exist, he began with a loud voice to say:

“The knight thou seest yonder with the gilded armor, who bears on his shield a lion crowned, couchant at a damsel’s feet, is the valorous Laurcalco, Lord of the Silver Bridge. The other, with the armor flowered with gold, who bears the three crowns argent in a field azure, is the formidable Micocolembo, Grand Duke of Quiracia. The third, with gigantic limbs, who marches on his right, is the undaunted Brandabarbaran of Boliche, Lord of the Three Arabias. He is armed with a serpent’s skin, and bears instead of a shield, a gate, which fame says is one of those belonging to the temple which Samson pulled down when with his death he avenged himself upon his enemies. But turn thine eyes on this other side, and there thou wilt see, in front of this other army, the ever-victorious and never-vanquished Timonel de Carcajona, Prince of the New Biscay, who comes clad in armor quartered azure, vert, argent, and or; bearing on his shield a car or in a field gules, with a scroll inscribed MIAU, being the beginning of his mistress’s name, who, it is reported, is the peerless Miaulina, daughter of Alphenniquen, Duke of Algarve. That other who burdens and oppresses the back of yon powerful steed, whose armor is as white as snow, and his shield also white, without any device, is a new knight, by birth a Frenchman, called Peter Papin, Lord of the Baronies of Utrique. The other whom thou seest, with his armed heels pricking the flanks of that fleet piebald courser, and his armor of pure azure, is the mighty Duke of Nerbia, Espartafilardo of the Wood, whose device is an asparagus-bed, with this motto in Castilian, ‘Thus drags my fortune.’”

In this manner he went on naming sundry knights of each squadron, as his fancy dictated, and giving to each their arms, colors, devices, and mottoes extempore; and, without pausing, he continued thus:

“That squadron in the front is formed and composed of people of different nations. Here stand those who drink the sweet waters of the famous Xanthus; the mountaineers who tread the Massilian fields; those who sift the pure and fine gold-dust of Arabia Felix; those who dwell along the famous and refreshing banks of the clear Thermodon; those who drain, by divers and sundry ways, the golden veins of Pactolus; the Numidians, unfaithful in their promises, the Persians, famous for bows and arrows; the Parthians and Medes, who fight flying; the Arabians, perpetually changing their habitations; the Scythians, as cruel as fair; the broad-lipped Ethiopians; and an infinity of other nations, whose countenances I see and know, although I cannot recollect their names. In that other squadron come those who drink the crystal streams of olive-bearing Betis; those who brighten and polish their faces with the liquor of the ever rich and golden Tagus; those who enjoy the beneficial waters of the divine Genii; those who tread the Tartesian fields, abounding in pasture; those who recreate themselves in the Elysian meads of Xereza; the rich Manchegans, crowned with yellow ears of corn; those clad in iron, the antique remains of the Gothic race; those who bathe themselves in Pisuerga, famous for the gentleness of its current; those who feed their flocks on the spacious pastures of the winding Guadiana, celebrated for its hidden source; those who shiver on the cold brow of the woody Pyreneus and the snowy tops of lofty Appeninus; in a word, all that Europe contains and includes.”

Good Heaven, how many provinces did he name, how many nations did he enumerate, giving to each, with wonderful readiness, its peculiar attributes! Sancho Panza stood confounded at his discourse, without speaking a word; and now and then he turned his head about to see whether he could discover the knights and giants his master named. But, seeing none, he said:

“Sir, the devil a man, or giant, or knight, of all you have named, can I see anywhere; perhaps all may be enchantment, like last night’s goblins.”

“How sayest thou, Sancho?” answered Don Quixote. “Hearest thou not the neighing of the steeds, the sound of the trumpets, and the rattling of the drums?”

“I hear nothing,” answered Sancho, “but the bleating of sheep and lambs.”

And so it was, for now the two flocks were come very near them.

“Thy fears, Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “prevent thee from hearing or seeing aright; for one effect of fear is to disturb the senses and make things not to appear what they really are; and if thou art so much afraid, retire, and leave me alone, for with my single arm I shall insure victory to that side which I favor with my assistance.” Then, clapping spurs to Rozinante and setting his lance in rest, he darted down the hillock like lightning. Sancho cried out to him:

“Hold, my Lord Don Quixote—come back! As God shall save me, they are lambs and sheep you are going to encounter! Pray come back! Wo to the father that begot me! What madness is this! Look: there is neither giant nor knight, nor cats, nor arms, nor shields quartered nor entire, nor true azures nor bedeviled! Sinner that I am! What are you doing?”

Notwithstanding all this, Don Quixote turned not again, but still went on, crying aloud:

“Ho, knights! You that follow and fight under the banner of the valiant Emperor Pentapolin of the Naked Arm, follow me all, and you shall see with how much ease I revenge him on his enemy Alifanfaron of Taprobana!”

With these words he rushed into the midst of the squadron of sheep, and began to attack them with his lance as courageously and intrepidly as if in good earnest he was engaging his mortal enemies. The shepherds and herdsmen who came with the flocks called out to him to desist; but seeing it was to no purpose, they unbuckled their slings and began to salute his ears with a shower of stones. Don Quixote cared not for the stones, but, galloping about on all sides, cried out:

“Where art thou, proud Alifanfaron? Present thyself before me! I am a single knight, desirous to prove thy valor hand to hand, and to punish thee with the loss of life for the wrong thou dost to the valiant Pentapolin Garamanta!”

At that instant a large stone struck him with such violence on the side that it bent a couple of ribs in his body; insomuch that he believed himself either slain or sorely wounded; and therefore, remembering his balsam, he pulled out the cruse, and, applying it to his mouth, began to swallow some of the liquor; but before he could take what he thought sufficient, another of those almonds hit him full on the hand and dashed the cruse to pieces, knocking out three or four of his teeth, by the way, and grievously bruising two of his fingers. Such was the first blow, and such the second, that the poor knight fell from his horse to the ground. The shepherds ran to him, and verily believed they had killed him; whereupon in all haste they collected their flock, took up their dead, which were about seven, and marched off without further inquiry.