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 Second Part

CHAPTER VI: Of what passed between Don Quixote, his Niece, and Housekeeper; and is one of the most important Chapters of the whole History.


While Sancho Panza and his wife, Teresa Cascajo, were holding the foregoing impertinent dialogue, Don Quixote's niece and housekeeper were not idle; who guessing, by a thousand signs, that their uncle and master would break loose the third time, and return to the exercise of his (and to them) unlucky knight-errantry, endeavoured by all possible means to divert him from so foolish a design; but it was all preaching in the desert and hammering on cold iron. However, among many other various reasonings which passed between them, the housekeeper said to him, "Sir, if your worship will not tarry quietly at home, and leave this rambling over hills and dales, like a disturbed ghost, in quest of those same adventures, which I call misadventures, I am resolved to complain aloud to God and the king, -[318]- to put a stop to it." To which Don Quixote replied, "Mistress Housekeeper, what answer God will return to your complaints, I know not; and what his majesty will answer, as little: I only know that, if I were king, I would dispense with myself from answering that infinity of impertinent memorials, which are every day presented to him; for one of the greatest fatigues a king undergoes, is the being obliged to hear and answer everybody; and therefore I should be loath my concerns should give him any trouble." To which the housekeeper replied, "Pray, Sir, are there not knights in his majesty's court?" "Yes," answered Don Quixote, "there are many; and it is fitting there should, for the ornament and grandeur of princes, and for the ostentation of the royal dignity." "Would it not then be better," replied she, "that your worship should be one of them, and quietly serve your king and lord at court?" "Look you, friend," answered Don Quixote, "all knights cannot be courtiers, neither can nor ought all courtiers to be knights-errant: there must be of all sorts in the world; and though we are all knights, there is a great deal of difference between us; for the courtiers, without stirring out of their apartments or over the threshold, traverse the whole globe, in a map, without a farthing expense, and without suffering heat or cold, hunger or thirst. But we, the true knights-errant, measure the whole earth with our own feet, exposed to the sun and the cold, to the air and the inclemencies of the sky, by night and by day, on foot and on horseback; nor do we know our enemies in picture only, but in their proper persons, and attack them at every turn and upon every occasion, without standing upon trifles or upon the laws of duelling; such as, whether our adversary bears a shorter or longer lance or sword, whether he carries about him any relics or wears any secret coat of mail, or whether the sun be duly divided or not; with other ceremonies of the same stamp, used in single combats between man and man, which you understand not, but I do. And you must know farther, that your true knight-errant, though he should espy ten giants, whose heads not only touch but overtop the clouds, and though each of them stalk on two prodigious towers instead of legs, and have arms like the main-mast of huge and mighty ships of war, and each eye like a great mill-wheel, and more fiery than the furnace of a glass house, yet he must in no wise be affrighted, but, on the contrary, with a genteel air and an undaunted heart, encounter, assail, and, if possible, overcome and rout them in an instant of time, though they should come armed with the shell of a certain fish, which, they say, is harder than adamant; and though, instead of swords, they should bring trenchant sabres of Damascan steel, or iron maces pointed also with steel, as I have seen more than once or twice. All this I have said, Mistress Housekeeper, to show you the difference between some knights and others; and it were to be wished that every prince knew how to esteem this second, or rather first species of knights-errant, since, as we read in their histories, some among them have been the bulwark, not of one only, but of many kingdoms."

"Ah! dear uncle," said the niece, "then be assured, that what you tell us of knights-errant is all invention and lies; and, if their histories must not be burnt, at least they deserve to wear each of them a Sanbenito,(139) or some badge whereby they may be known to be infamous, and destructive of good manners." "By the God in whom I live!" said Don Quixote, "were you not my niece directly, as being my own sister's daughter, I would make such an example of you, for the blasphemy you have uttered, -[319]- that the whole world should ring of it. How is it possible that a young baggage, who scarcely knows how to manage a dozen of bobbins, should presume to put in her oar, and censure the histories of knights-errant? What would Sir Amadis have said, should he have heard of such a thing? But now I think of it, I am sure he would have forgiven you; for he was the most humble and most courteous knight of his time, and the greatest favourer of damsels. But some other might have heard you, from whom you might not have come off so well; for all are not courteous and good- natured; some are rude and uncivil. Neither are all they, who call themselves knights, really such at bottom; for some are of gold, others of alchemy; and yet all appear to be knights, though all cannot abide the touchstone of truth. Mean fellows there are, who break their winds in straining to appear knights; and topping knights there are, who, one would think, die with desire to be thought mean men. The former raise themselves by their ambition or by their virtues; the latter debase themselves by their weakness or their vices; and one had need of a good discernment to distinguish between these two kinds of knights, so near in their names and so distant in their actions." "Bless me! uncle," cried the niece, "that your worship should be so knowing, that, if need were, you might mount a pulpit, and hold forth anywhere in the streets, and yet should give into so blind a vagary,- and so exploded a piece of folly, as to think to persuade the world that you are valiant now you are old; that you are strong, when, alas! you are infirm; and that you are able to make crooked things straight, though stooping yourself under the weight of years; above all, that you are a knight, when you are really none; for, though gentlemen may be such, yet poor ones hardly can."

"You are much in the right, niece, in what you say," answered Don Quixote;" and I could tell you such things concerning lineages as would surprise you; but, because I would not mix things divine with human, I forbear. Hear me, friends, with attention. All the genealogies in the world may be reduced to four sorts, which are these. First, of those who, having had low beginnings, have gone on extending and dilating themselves, till they have arrived at a prodigious grandeur. Secondly, of these who, having had great beginnings, have preserved and continue to preserve them in the same condition they were in at first. Thirdly, of those who, though they have had great beginnings, have ended in a small point like a pyramid, having gone on diminishing and decreasing continually, till they have come almost to nothing; like the point of the pyramid, which, in respect of its base or pedestal, is next to nothing. Lastly, of those, and they are the most numerous, who, having had neither a good beginning nor a tolerable middle, will therefore end without a name, like the families of common and ordinary people. Of the first sort, who, having had a mean beginning, have risen to greatness and still preserve it, we have an example in the Ottoman family, which, from a poor shepherd, its founder, is arrived at the height we now see it at. Of the second sort of genealogies, which began great, and preserves themselves without augmentation, examples may be fetched from sundry hereditary princes, who contain themselves peaceably within the limits of their own dominions, without enlarging or contracting them. Of those who began great, and have ended in a point, there are thousands of instances; for all the Pharaohs and Ptolemies of Egypt, the Caesars of Rome, with all the herd, if I may so call them, of that infinite number of princes, monarchs, and lords, Medes, Assyrians, -[320]- Persians, Greeks, and Barbarians; all these families and dominions, as well as their founders, have ended in a point and next to nothing; for it is impossible now to find any of their descendants, and, if one should find them, it would be in some low and abject condition. Of the lineages of the common sort I have nothing to say, only, that they serve to swell the number of the living, without deserving any other fame or eulogy. From all that has been said, I would have you infer, my dear fools, that the confusion there is among genealogies is very great, and that those only appear great and illustrious which show themselves such by the virtue, riches, and liberality of their possessors. I say virtue, riches, and liberality, because the great man that is vicious will be greatly vicious; and the rich man who is not liberal is but a covetous beggar; for the possessor of riches is not happy in having, but in spending them, and not in spending them merely according to his own inclination, but in knowing how to spend them properly. The knight, who is poor, has no other way of showing himself to be one, but that of virtue, by being affable, well-behaved, courteous, kind, and obliging; not proud, not arrogant, no murmurer, and above all charitable; for, by two farthings given cheerfully to the poor, he shall discover as much generosity as he who bestows large alms by sound of bell; and there is no one who sees him adorned with the aforesaid virtues, though he knows him not, but will judge and repute him to be well descended. Indeed it would be a miracle were it otherwise; praise was always the reward of virtue, and the virtuous cannot fail of being commended. There are two roads, daughters, by which men may arrive at riches and honours; the one by the way of letters, the other by that of arms. I have more in me of the soldier than of the scholar; and was born, as it appears by my propensity to arms, under the influence of the planet Mars; so that I am, as it were, forced into that track, and that road I must take in spite of the whole world; and it will be in vain for you to tire yourselves in persuading me not to attempt what Heaven requires, fortune ordains, and reason demands; and, above all, what my inclination leads me to. I know the innumerable toils attending on knight-errantry. I know also the numberless advantages obtained by it. I know that the path of virtue is strait and narrow, and the road of vice broad and spacious. I know also, that their end and resting-places are different; for those of vice, large and open, end in death; and those of virtue, narrow and intricate, end in life, and not in life that has an end, but in that which is eternal. And I know, as our great Castilian poet expresses it, that

'He, who to Fame's immortal seat would climb,
 Must traverse rugged paths and rocks sublime;
 Regardless of defeat pursue his way,
 Nor flinch, till perseverance gains the day.'"

"Ah, woe is me!" cried the niece;" what! my uncle a poet too! he knows everything; nothing comes amiss to him. I will lay a wager that, if he had a mind to turn mason, he would build a house with as much ease as a bird-cage." "I assure you, niece," answered Don Quixote, "that if these knightly thoughts did not employ all my senses, there is nothing I could not do, nor any curious art but what I could turn my hand to, especially bird-cages and tooth-picks."(140)

By this time there was knocking at the door, and upon asking who is there? Sancho Panza answered, "It is I." The housekeeper no sooner -[321]- knew his voice, but she ran to hide herself, so much she abhorred the sight of him. The niece let him in, and his master Don Quixote went out and received him with open arms; and they two, being locked up together in the knight's chamber, held another dialogue, not a jot inferior to the former.


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