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 XXXVIII: The Continuation of Don Quixote's curious Discourse upon Arms and Letters.


Don Quixote continuing his discourse, said: "Since in speaking of the scholar we began with his poverty and its several branches, let us see whether the soldier be richer. And we shall find that poverty itself is not poorer; for he depends on his wretched pay, which comes late, or perhaps never; or else on what he can pilfer, with great peril of his life and conscience. And sometimes his nakedness is such, that his slashed buff doublet serves him both for finery and shirt; and in the midst of winter, being in the open field, he has nothing to warm him but the breath of his mouth, which issuing from an empty place, must needs come out cold, against all the rules of nature. But let us wait until night, and see whether his bed will make amends for these inconveniences; and that, if it be not his own fault, will never offend in point of narrowness; for he may measure out as many feet of earth as he pleases, and roll himself upon it at pleasure, without fear of rumpling the sheets. Suppose now the day and hour come of taking the degree of his profession; I say, suppose the day of battle come; and then his doctorial cap will be of lint, to cure some wound made by a musket-shot, which perhaps has gone through his temples, or lamed him in the leg or the arm. And though this should not happen, but merciful Heaven should keep and preserve him alive and unhurt, he will remain perhaps in the same poverty as before; and there -[215]- must happen a second and a third engagement, and battle after battle, and he must come off victor from them all to get anything considerable by it; but these miracles are seldom seen. And tell me, gentlemen, if you have observed it, how much fewer are they who are rewarded for their services in war, than those who have perished in it? Doubtless, you must answer that there is no comparison between the numbers; that the dead cannot be reckoned up; whereas those who live and are rewarded, may be numbered with three figures. All this is quite otherwise with scholars, who from the gown (I am loth to say the sleeves) (96) are all handsomely provided for. Thus, though the hardships of the soldier are greater, his reward is less. But to this may be answered, that it is easier to reward two thousand scholars than thirty thousand soldiers; for the former are rewarded by giving them employments, which must of course be given to men of their profession; whereas the latter cannot be rewarded but with the very property of the master whom they serve; and this impossibility serves to strengthen my assertion.

"But setting aside this, which is a very intricate point, let us turn to the pre-eminence of arms over letters; a controversy hitherto undecided, so strong are the reasons which each party alleges on its own side; for besides those I have already mentioned, letters say that without them arms could not subsist; for war also has its laws to which it is subject, and laws are the province of letters and learned men. To this arms answer, that laws cannot be supported without them; for by arms republics are defended, kingdoms are preserved, cities are guarded, highways are secured, and the seas are cleared from corsairs and pirates; in short, were it not for them, republics, kingdoms, monarchies, cities, journeys by land, and voyages by sea, would be subject to the cruelties and confusion which war carries along with it while it lasts, and is at liberty to make use of its privileges and its power. Besides it is past dispute, that what cost most the attaining, is and ought to be most esteemed. Now, in order to arrive at a degree of eminence in learning, it costs time, watching, hunger, nakedness, dizziness in the head, weakness of the stomach, and other similar inconveniences, as I have already mentioned in part. But for a man to rise gradually to be a good soldier, costs him all it can cost the scholar, and that in so much a greater degree, that there is no comparison, since at every step he is in imminent danger of his life. And what dread of necessity and poverty can affect or distress a scholar equal to that which a soldier feels, who being besieged in some fortress, and placed as a sentinel in some ravelin or cavalier, (97) perceives that the enemy is mining toward the place where he stands, and yet must on no account stir from his post, or shun the danger that so nearly threatens him? All that he can do in such a case is to give notice to his officer of what passes, that he may remedy it by some countermine, and in the meantime he must stand his ground, fearing and expecting when of a sudden he is to mount to the clouds without wings, and then descend headlong to the deep against his will. And if this be thought but a trifling danger, let us see whether it be equalled or exceeded by the encounter of two gallies, prow to prow, in the midst of the wide sea; which being locked and grappled together, there is no more room left for the soldier than the two-foot plank at the beak-head; and though he sees as many threatening ministers of death before him as there are pieces of artillery and small arms pointed at him from the opposite side, not the length of a lance from his body; and though he knows that the -[216]- first slip of his foot will send him to visit the profound depths of Neptune's bosom; notwithstanding all this, with an undaunted heart, carried on by honour that inspires him, he exposes himself as a mark to all their fire, and endeavours by that narrow pass to force his way into the enemy's vessel; and what is most to be admired is, that scarcely is one fallen, whence he cannot arise until the end of the world, when another takes his place; and if he also falls into the sea, which lies in wait for him like an enemy, another and another succeeds, without any intermission between their deaths; an instance of bravery and intrepidity the greatest that is to be met with in all the extremities of war. A blessing on those happy ages, strangers to the dreadful fury of those devilish instruments of artillery, whose inventor I verily believe is now in hell, receiving the reward of his diabolical invention; by means of which it is in the power of a cowardly and base hand to take away the life of the bravest cavalier, and to which is owing, that, without knowing how or from whence, in the midst of that resolution and bravery which inflames and animates gallant spirits, comes a chance ball, shot off by one who perhaps fled and was frightened at the very flash in the pan, and in an instant cuts short and puts an end to the thoughts and life of him who deserved to have lived for many ages. And, therefore, when I consider this, I could almost say, I repent of having undertaken this profession of knight-errantry, in so detestable an age as this in which we live; for though no danger can daunt me, still it gives me some concern to think that powder and lead may chance to deprive me of the opportunity of becoming famous and renowned, by the valour of my arm and edge of my sword, over the face of the whole earth. But Heaven's will be done; I have this satisfaction, that I shall acquire so much the greater fame, if I succeed, in proportion as the perils to which I expose myself are greater than those to which the knights-errant of past ages were exposed."

Don Quixote made this long harangue while the rest were eating, forgetting to reach a bit to his mouth, though Sancho Panza ever and anon desired him to mind his victuals, telling him he would have time enough afterwards to talk as much as he pleased. Those who heard him were moved with fresh compassion, to see a man who to everybody's thinking had so good an understanding, and could talk so well upon every other subject, so egregiously want it whenever the discourse happened to turn upon his unlucky and cursed chivalry. The priest told him there was great reason in all he had said in favour of arms, and that he, though a scholar and a graduate, was of his opinion.

The collation being over, and the cloth taken away, while the hostess, her daughter, and Maritornes, were preparing the chamber where Don Quixote de la Mancha lay, in which it was ordered that the ladies should be lodged by themselves that night, Don Fernando desired the stranger to relate to them the history of his life, since it could not but be extraordinary and entertaining, if they might judge by his coming in company with Zoraida. To which the stranger answered, that he would very willingly do what they desired, and that he only feared the story would not prove such as might afford them the pleasure he wished; however, rather than not comply with their request, he would relate it. The priest and all the rest thanked him, and entreated him to begin. And he, finding himself courted by so many, said: "There is no need of entreaties, gentlemen, where you may command; and, therefore, pray be attentive, and you will hear a true -[217]- story, not to be equalled, perhaps, by any feigned ones, though usually composed with the most curious and studied art." What he said made all the company seat themselves in order, and observe a strict silence; and he, finding they held their peace, expecting what he would say, with an agreeable and composed voice began as follows:


Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

Don Quixote de la Mancha, translated by Charles Jarvis

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