Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated by Charles Jarvis

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The Life and Exploits
of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha

By Miguel de Cervantes, Translated by Charles Jarvis, Esq.

The First Part

CHAPTER I: Which treats of the quality and manner of life of the renowned Gentleman
Don Quixote de la Mancha.


In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I purposely omit, there lived, not long ago, one of those gentlemen who usually keep a lance upon a rack, an old target, a lean horse, and a greyhound for coursing. A dish of boiled meat consisting of somewhat more beef than mutton, the fragments served up cold on most nights, an omelet on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a small pigeon, by way of addition, on Sundays, consumed three-fourths of his income. The rest was laid out in a surtout of fine black cloth, a pair of velvet breeches for holidays, with slippers of the same; and on week days he prided himself in the very best of his own home-spun cloth. His family consisted of an Housekeeper somewhat above forty, a Niece not quite twenty, and a lad for the field and the market, who both saddled the horse and handled the priming-hook. The age of our gentleman bordered upon fifty years. He was of a robust constitution, spare-bodied, of a meagre visage, a very early riser, and a keen sportsman. It is said, that his surname was Quixada, or Quesada, for in this there is some difference among the authors who have written upon this subject; though by probable conjectures it may be gathered that he was called Quixana.(1) But this is of little importance to our story: let it suffice, that in relating we do not swerve a jot from the truth.

You must know, then, that this gentleman, at times when he was idle, which was most part of the year, gave himself up to the reading of books of chivalry, with so much attachment and relish, that he almost forgot all the sports of the field, and even the management of his domestic affairs: and his curiosity and extravagant fondness herein arrived to such a pitch, that he sold many acres of arable land to purchase books of Knight-errantry, and carried home all he could lay hands on of that kind. But, -[2]- among them all, none pleased him so much as those composed by the famous Feliciano de Silva; for the gaudiness of his prose, and the intricacy of his style, seemed to him so many pearls; and especially when he came to peruse those love speeches and challenges, wherein in several places he found written: "The reason of the unreasonable treatment of my reason enfeebles my reason in such a manner, that with reason I complain of your beauty:" and also when he read: "The high heavens, that with your divinity divinely fortify you with the stars, making you meritorious of the merit merited by your greatness." With this kind of language the poor gentleman lost his wits, and distracted himself to comprehend and unravel their meaning; which was more than Aristotle himself could do, were he to rise again from the dead for that purpose alone. He had some doubts as to the dreadful wounds which Don Belianis gave and received; for he imagined, that, notwithstanding the most expert surgeons had cured him, his face and whole body must still be full of seams and scars. Nevertheless, he commended in his author the concluding his book with a promise of that unfinishable adventure: and he often had it in his thoughts to take pen in hand, and finish it himself, precisely as it is there promised: which he had certainly performed, and successfully too, if other greater and continual cogitations had not diverted him.

He had frequent disputes with the priest (2) of his village, who was a learned person, and had taken his degrees in Ciguenza, which of the two was the better knight, Palmerin of England or Amadis de Gaul. But Master Nicholas, barber-surgeon of the same town, affirmed, that none ever came up to the Knight of the Sun; and, if any one could be compared to him, it was Don Galaor, brother of Amadis de Gaul; for he was of a disposition fit for everything, no finical gentleman, nor such a whimperer as his brother; and, as to courage, he was by no means inferior to him. In short, he so bewildered himself in this kind of study, that he passed the nights in reading, from sunset to sunrise, and the days, from sunrise to sunset; and thus, through little sleep and much reading, his brain was dried up in such a manner, that he came at last to lose his wits. His imagination was full of all that he read in his books; namely, enchantments, battles, single combats, challenges, wounds, courtships, amours, tempests, and impossible absurdities. And so firmly was he persuaded that the whole system of chimeras he read of was true, that he thought no history in the world was more to be depended upon. The Cid Ruydiaz (3) he was wont to say, was a very good knight, but not comparable to the Knight of the Burning Sword, who, with a single back-stroke, cleft asunder two fierce and monstrous giants. He was better pleased with Bernardo del Carpio for putting Orlando the Enchanted to death in Roncesvalles, by means of the same stratagem which Hercules used when he suffocated Anteus, son of the Earth, by squeezing him between his arms. He spoke mighty well of the giant Morgante; for though he was of that monstrous brood, who are always proud and insolent, he alone was affable and well-bred. But above all, he was charmed with Reynaldo de Montalvan, especially when he saw him sallying out of his castle, and plundering all he met; and when abroad he seized that image of Mahomet, which was all of massive gold, as his history records. He would have given his housekeeper, and niece to boot, for a fair opportunity of handsomely kicking the traitor Galalon. (4)

In fine, having quite lost his wits, he fell into one of the strangest conceits that ever entered into the head of any madman; which was, that -[3]- he thought it expedient and necessary, as well for the advancement of his own reputation, as for the public good, that he should commence knight-errant, and wander through the world with his horse and arms, in quest of adventures; and to put in practice whatever he had read to have been practised by knights-errant; redressing all kind of grievances, and exposing himself to danger on all occasions; that by accomplishing such enterprises he might acquire eternal fame and renown. The poor gentleman already imagined himself at least crowned emperor of Trapisonda by the valour of his arm: and thus wrapt up in these agreeable delusions, and hurried on by the strange pleasure he took in them, he hastened to put in execution what he so much desired.

And the first thing he did was to scour up a suit of armour, which had been his great-great-grandfather's, and, being mouldy and rust-eaten, had lain by many long years, forgotten in a corner. These he cleaned and furbished up the best he could: but he perceived they had one grand defect, which was, that, instead of a helmet, they had only a simple morion, or steel cap; but he dexterously supplied this want by contriving a sort of vizor of pasteboard, which, being fixed to the head-piece, gave it the appearance of a complete helmet. It is true, indeed, that, to try its strength, and whether it was proof against a cut, he drew his sword, and, giving it two strokes, undid in an instant what he had been a week in doing. But not altogether approving of his having broken it to pieces with so much ease, to secure himself from the like danger for the future, he made it over again, fencing it with small bars of iron within in such a manner that he rested satisfied of its strength; and without caring to make a fresh experiment on it, he approved and looked upon it as a most excellent helmet.

The next thing he did was to visit his steed; and though his bones stuck out like the corners of a real, (5) and he had more faults than Gonela's horse, which "tantum pellis et ossa fuit," he fancied that neither Alexander's Bucephalus, nor Cyd's Babieca, was equal to him. Four days was he considering what name to give him: for (as he said within himself) it was not fit that a horse so good, and appertaining to a Knight so famous, should be without some name of eminence; and, therefore, he studied to accommodate him with one which should express what he had been before he belonged to a knight-errant, and what he actually now was; for it seemed highly reasonable, if his master changed his state, he likewise should change his name, and acquire one famous and high-sounding, as became the new order, and the new way of life he now professed. And so, after sundry names devised and rejected, liked and disliked again, he concluded at last to call him Rozinante; (6) a name, in his opinion, lofty and sonorous, and at the same time expressive of what he had been, when he was but a common steed, and before he had acquired his present superiority over all the steeds in the world.

Having given his horse a name so much to his satisfaction, he resolved to give himself one. This consideration took him up eight days more; and at length he determined to call himself Don Quixote, from whence, as is said, the authors of this most true History conclude that his name was certainly Quixada, and not Quesada, as others would have it. But recollecting that the valorous Amadis, not content with the simple appellation of Amadis, added thereto the name of his kingdom and native country, in order to render it famous, and styled himself Amadis de Gaul; so he, like -[4]- a good knight, did, in like manner, call himself Don Quixote de la Mancha; whereby, in his opinion, he set forth in a very lively manner his lineage and country, and did it due honour by taking his surname from thence.

And now, his armour being furbished up, the morion converted into a perfect helmet, and both his steed and himself new-named, he persuaded himself that he wanted nothing but to make choice of some lady to be in love with: for a knight-errant without a mistress was a tree without leaves or fruit, and a body without a soul. "If," said he, "for the punishment of my sins, or through my good fortune, I should chance to meet some giant, as is usual with knights-errant, and should overthrow him in fight, or cleave him asunder, or, in fine, vanquish and force him to yield, will it not be proper to have some lady to send him to, as a present; that, when he comes before her, he may kneel to her sweet ladyship, and, with humble and submissive tone, accost her thus: 'Madam, I am the giant Caraculiambro, lord of the island Malindrania, whom the never-enough-to-be-praised Don Quixote de la Mancha has overcome in single combat, and has commanded to present myself before your ladyship, that your grandeur may dispose of me as you think proper.' "Oh! how did our good gentleman exult, when he had made this harangue, and, especially, when he had found out a person on whom to confer the title of his mistress; which, it it is believed, happened thus. Near the place where he lived there dwelt a very comely country lass, with whom he had formerly been in love; though, as it is supposed, she never knew it, nor troubled herself about it. Her name was Aldonza Lorenzo; and her he pitched upon to be the lady of his thoughts: then, casting about for a name, which should have some affinity with her own, and yet incline towards that of a great lady or princess, he resolved to call her Dulcinea del Toboso, for she was born at that place: a name, to his thinking, harmonious, uncommon, and significant, like the rest he had devised for himself,' and for all that belonged to him.


Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated by Charles Jarvis

Gavilan Spanish Questions or comments Bibliographic Record Index page Previous page Top Next page