Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated by Charles Jarvis

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-[31]-

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 IX: Wherein is concluded, and an end put to, the stupendous Battle between the vigorous Biscainer and the valiant Manchegan.

 

In the last chapter of this history, we left the valiant Biscainer and the renowned Don Quixote, with their swords lifted up and naked, ready to discharge two such furious and cleaving strokes as must, if they had lighted full, at least have divided the combatants from head to heel, and split them asunder like a pomegranate: but in that critical instant this relishing history stopped short, and was left imperfect, without the author's giving us any notice where what remained of it might be found. This grieved me extremely; and the pleasure of having read so little was turned into disgust to think what small probability there was of finding the much, that, in my opinion, was wanting of so savoury a story. It seemed to me impossible, and quite beside all laudable custom, that so accomplished a knight should want a sage, to undertake the penning his unparalleled exploits: a circumstance that never before failed any of those knights-errant, who travelled in quest of adventures; every one of whom had one or two sages, made, as it were, on purpose, who not only recorded their actions, but described likewise their most minute and trifling thoughts, though never so secret. Surely, then, so worthy a knight could not be so unfortunate as to want what Platir, (31) and others like him, abounded with. For this reason I could not be induced to believe that so gallant a history could be left maimed and imperfect; and I laid the blame upon the malignity of time, the devourer and consumer of all things, which- either kept it concealed or had destroyed it. On the other side, I considered, that since among his books there were found some so modern as the "Cure of Jealousy," and the "Nymphs and Shepherds of Henares," (32) his history also must be modern: and if it was not as yet written, might, at least, still remain in the memories of the people of his village, and those of the neighbouring places. This thought held me in suspense, and made me desirous to learn, really and truly, the whole life and wonderful actions of our renowned Spaniard, Don Quixote de la Mancha, the light and mirror of Manchegan chivalry, and the first who, in our age, and in these calamitous times, took upon him the toil and exercise of arms-errant; to redress wrongs, succour widows, and relieve that sort of damsels, who, with -[32]- whip and palfrey, and with all their virginity about them, rambled up and down from mountain to mountain, and from valley to valley; unless some miscreant, or some lewd clown with hatchet and steel cap, or some prodigious giant, ravished them, damsels there were in days of yore, who, at the expiration of fourscore years, and never sleeping in all that time under a roof, went as spotless virgins to the grave as the mothers that bore them. Now, I say, upon these and many other accounts, our gallant Don Quixote is worthy of immortal memory and praise; nor ought some share to be denied to me, for the labour and pains I have taken to discover the end of this delectable history; though I am very sensible that if Heaven and fortune had not befriended me, the world would have still been without that pastime and pleasure which an attentive reader of it may enjoy for near two hours. Now the manner of finding it was this.

As I was walking one day on the exchange of Toledo, a boy came to sell some bundles of old papers to a mercer; and as I am fond of reading, though it be torn papers thrown about the streets, carried by this my natural inclination, I took a parcel of those the boy was selling, and perceived therein characters which I knew to be Arabic. And whereas though I knew the letters I could not read them, I looked about for some Moorish rabbi to read them for me; and it was not very difficult to find such an interpreter; for had I even sought one for some better and more ancient language I should have found him there. In short, my good fortune presented one to me; and acquainting him with my desire, and putting the book into his hands, he opened it towards the middle, and reading a little in it, began to laugh. I asked him what he smiled at; and he answered me, at something which he found written in the margin by way of annotation. I desired him to tell me what it was; and he, laughing on, said, There is written on the margin as follows: "This Dulcinea del Toboso, so often mentioned in this history, had, they say, the best hand at salting pork of any woman in all la Mancha." When I heard the name of Dulcinea del Toboso, I stood amazed and confounded; for I presently fancied to myself that those bundles of paper contained the History of Don Quixote.

With this thought I pressed him to read the beginning; which he did, and rendering extempore the Arabic into Castilian, said that it began thus: "The History of Don Quixote de la Mancha, written by Cide Hamete Benengeli, Arabian Historiographer." Much discretion was necessary to dissemble the joy I felt at hearing the title of the book; and snatching it out of the mercer's hands, I bought the whole bundle of papers from the boy for half a real; who, if he had been cunning, and had perceived how eager I was to have them, might very well have promised himself and have really had more than six for the bargain. I went off immediately with the Morisco through the cloister of the great church, and desired him to translate for me those papers that treated of Don Quixote into the Castilian tongue, without taking away or adding anything to them, offering to pay him whatever he should demand. He was satisfied with fifty pounds of raisins, and two bushels of wheat; and promised to translate them faithfully and expeditiously. But I, to make the business more sure, and not to let so valuable a prize slip through my fingers, took him home to my own house, where, in little more than six weeks' time, he translated the whole in the manner you have it here related.

In the first sheet was drawn in a most lively manner Don Quixote's -[33]- combat with the Biscainer, in the same attitude in which the history sets it forth; the swords lifted up; the one covered with his buckler, the other with his cushion, and the Biscainer's mule so to the life that you might discover it to be a hackney-jade a bow-shot off. The Biscainer had a label at his feet, on which was written, Don Sancho de Azpeytia; which, without doubt, must have been his name: and at the feet of Rozinante was another on which was written Don Quixote. Rozinante was wonderfully well delineated; so long and lank, so lean and feeble, with so sharp a backbone, and so like one in a galloping consumption, that you might see plainly with that exactness and propriety the name of Rozinante had been given him. Close by him stood Sancho Panza, holding his ass by the halter; at whose feet was another scroll, whereon was written Sancho Zancas: and not without reason, if he was as the painting expressed, paunch-bellied, short of stature, and spindle-shanked: which doubtless gave him the names of Panza and Zancas; for the history sometimes calls him by the one, and sometimes by the other of these surnames. There were some other minuter particulars observable; but they are all of little importance, and contribute nothing to the faithful narration of the history; though none are to be despised if true. But if there be any objection against the truth of this history it can only be that the author was an Arab, those of that nation being not a little addicted to lying: though as they are so much our enemies, one should rather think he fell short of than exceeded the bounds of truth. And so in truth he seems to have done: for when he might and ought to have launched out in celebrating the praises of so excellent a knight, it looks as if he industriously passed them over in silence: a thing ill done and worse designed; for historians ought to be precise, faithful, and unprejudiced; and neither interest nor fear, hatred nor affection, should make them swerve from the way of truth, whose mother is history, the rival of time, the depository of great actions, the witness of what is past, the example and instruction to the present, and monitor to the future. In this you will certainly find whatever you can desire in the most agreeable; and if any perfection is wanting to it, it must without all question be the fault of the infidel its author, and not owing to any defect in the subject. In short this part, according to the translation, began thus:

The trenchant blades of the two valorous and enraged combatants being brandished aloft, seemed to stand threatening heaven and earth, and the deep abyss; such was the courage and gallantry of their deportment. And the first who discharged his blow was the choleric Biscainer; which fell with such force and fury, that if the edge of the sword had not turned aslant by the way, that single blow had been enough to have put an end to this cruel conflict, and to all the adventures of our knight; but good fortune that preserved him for greater things, so twisted his adversary's sword, that though it alighted on the left shoulder, it did him no other hurt than to disarm that side, carrying off by the way a great part of his helmet with half an ear; all which with hideous ruin fell to the ground, leaving him in a piteous plight.

Good God! who is he that can worthily recount the rage that entered into the breast of our Manchegan, at seeing himself so roughly handled? Let it suffice that it was such, that he raised himself afresh in his stirrups, and grasping his sword faster in both hands, discharged it with such fury upon the Biscainer, taking him full upon the cushion and upon the head, which he could not defend, that, as if a mountain had fallen upon -[34]- him, the blood began to gush out at his nostrils, his mouth, and his ears; and he seemed as if he was just falling down from his mule, which doubtless he must have done if he had not laid fast hold of her neck: but notwithstanding that, he lost his stirrups and let go his hold; and the mule, frighted by the terrible stroke, began to run about the field, and at two or three plunges laid her master flat upon the ground. Don Quixote stood looking on with great calmness, and when he saw him fall, leaped from his horse and ran with much agility up to him, and clapping the point of his sword to his eyes, bid him yield or he would cut off his head. The Biscainer was so stunned that he could not answer a word; and it had gone hard with him, so blinded with rage was Don Quixote, if the ladies of the coach who hitherto in great dismay beheld the conflict had not approached him, and earnestly besought him that he would do them the great kindness and favour to spare the life of their squire. Don Quixote answered with much solemnity and gravity: "Assuredly, fair ladies, I am very willing to grant your request, but it is upon a certain condition and compact; which is, that this knight shall promise me to repair to the town of Toboso, and present himself as from me before the peerless Dulcinea, that she may dispose of him as she shall think fit." The terrified and disconsolate lady, without considering what Don Quixote required, and without inquiring who Dulcinea was, promised him her squire should perform whatever he enjoined him. "In reliance upon this promise," said Don Quixote, "I will do him no farther hurt, though he has well deserved it at my hands."

 

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