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 Bottom Next page   


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 XXXVIII: In which an Account is given of the Afflicted Matron's Misfortune.


After the doleful music there began to enter the garden twelve duennas, divided into two files, all clad in large mourning habits, seemingly of milled serge, with white veils of thin muslin, so long, that only the border of the robe appeared. After these came the Countess Trifaldi, whom Squire Trifaldi of the White Beard led by the hand. She was clad in a robe of the finest serge; each grain of which, had it been napped, would have been of the size of a good rounceval-pea. The train, or tail (call it which you will), was divided into three corners, supported by three pages, clad also in mourning, making a sightly and mathematical figure, with the three acute angles, formed by the three comers; from which all that saw them concluded she was from thence called the Countess Trifaldi, as much as to say, the Countess of the Three Skirts; and Benengeli says that was the truth of the matter, and that her right title was the Countess Lobuna, because that earldom produced abundance of wolves; and had they been foxes instead of wolves, she would have been styled Countess Zorruna, it being the custom in those parts for great persons to take their titles from the thing or things with which their country most abounded. But this countess, in favour of the new cut of her train, quitted that of Lobuna, and took that of Trifaldi. The twelve duennas, with the lady, advanced a procession pace, their faces covered with black veils, and not transparent like Trifaldi's, but so close that nothing could be seen through them. Now, upon the appearance of this squadron of duennas, the duke, duchess, and Don Quixote rose from their seats, as did all the rest who beheld this grand procession. The twelve duennas halted and made a lane, through which the Afflicted advanced without Trifaldin's letting go her hand; which the duke, duchess, and Don Quixote seeing, they stepped forward about a dozen paces to receive her. She, kneeling on the ground, with a voice rather harsh and coarse than fine and delicate, said: "May it please your grandeurs to spare condescending to do so great a courtesy to this your valet; I mean your handmaid: for such is my affliction that I shall not be able to answer as I ought, because my strange and unheard-of misfortune has carried away my understanding I know not whither; and sure it must be a vast way off, since the more I seek it the less I find it." "He would want it, lady countess," replied the duke, "who could not judge of your worth by your person, which, without seeing any more, merits the whole cream of courtesy, and the whole flower of well-bred ceremonies." And, raising her by the hand, he led her to a chair close by the duchess, who also received her with much civility. Don Quixote held his peace, and Sancho was dying with impatience to see the face of the Trifaldi, or of some one of her many duennas; but it was not possible till they of their accord unveiled themselves.

Now all keeping silence, and in expectation who should break it, the -[458]- Afflicted Matron began in these words: "Confident I am, most mighty lord, most beautiful lady, and most discreet bystanders, that my most miserableness will find in your most valorous breasts a protection no less placid than generous and dolorous: for such it is, as is sufficient to mollify marbles, soften diamonds, and melt the steel of the hardest hearts in the world. But, before it ventures on the public stage of your hearing, not to say of your ears, I should be glad to be informed, whether the refinedissimo knight, Don Quixote de la Manchissima, and his squirissimo Panza, be in this bosom, circle, or company." "Panza," said Sancho, before anybody else could answer, "is here, and also Don Quixotissimo; and therefore, Afflictedissima Matronissima, say what you have a mindissima; for we are all ready and preparedissimos to be your servitorissimos." Upon this Don Quixote stood up, and directing his discourse to the Afflicted Matron, said: "If your distresses, afflicted lady, can promise themselves any remedy from the valour or fortitude of a knight-errant, behold mine, which, though weak and scanty, shall all be employed in your service. I am Don Quixote de la Mancha, whose function is to succour the distressed of ail sorts; and this being so, as it really is, you need not, Madam, bespeak good will, nor have recourse to preambles, but plainly and without circumlocution tell your griefs: for you are within hearing of those who know how to compassionate, if not to redress them." The afflicted Matron hearing this, made a show as if she would prostrate herself at Don Quixote's feet; and actually did so; and struggling to kiss them, said: "I prostrate myself, O invincible knight! before these feet and legs, as the basis and pillars of knight-errantry: these feet will I kiss, on whose steps the whole remedy of my misfortune hangs and depends. O valorous errant, whose true exploits outstrip and obscure the fabulous ones of the Amadises. Esplandians, and Belianises!" And, leaving Don Quixote, she turned to Sancho Panza, and, taking him by the hand, said: "O thou, the most trusty squire that ever served knight-errant in the present or past ages, whose goodness is of greater extent than the beard of my companion Trifaldin here present, well mayest thou boast, that, in serving Don Quixote, thou dost serve in miniature the whole tribe of knights that ever handled arms in the world: I conjure thee, by what thou owest to thy own fidelity and goodness, to become an importunate intercessor for me with thy lord, that he would instantly favour the humblest and unhappiest of countesses." To which Sancho answered: "Whether my goodness Madam, be or be not as long and as broad as your squire's beard, signifies little to me; so that my soul be bearded and whiskered when it depart this life, I care little or nothing for beards here below; but, without these wheedlings and beseechings, I will desire my master, who, I know, has a kindness for me, especially now that he wants me for a certain business, to favour and assist your ladyship in whatever he can. Unbundle yon griefs, Madam, and let us into the particulars; and leave us alone to manage, for we shall understand one another." The duke and duchess were ready to burst with laughing at this, as knowing the drift of this adventure; and commended, in their thoughts, the smartness and dissimulation of the Trifaldi, who, returning to her seat, said:

"Of the famous kingdom of Candaya, which lies between the great Taprobana and the South Sea, two leagues beyond Cape Camorin, was Queen Donna Maguncia, widow of King Archipiela, her lord and husband from this marriage sprung the Infanta Antonomasia, heiress of the kingdom -[459]- which Infanta Antonomasia was educated under my care and instruction, as being the most ancient duenna, and of the best quality, among those that waited upon her mother. Now, in process of time, the young Antonomasia arrived to the age of fourteen, with such perfection of beauty, that nature could not raise it a pitch higher; and what is more, discretion itself was but a child to her; for she was as discreet as fair, and she was the fairest creature in the world, and is so still, if envious fates and hardhearted destinies have not cut short her thread of life. But, surely, they have not done it! for Heaven would never permit that so much injury should be done to the earth as to tear off such an unripe cluster from its fairest vine. Of this beauty, never sufficiently extolled by my feeble tongue, an infinite number of princes, as well natives as foreigners, grew enamoured. Among whom, a private gentleman of the court dared to raise his thoughts to the heaven of so much beauty, confiding in his youth, his genteel finery, his many abilities and graces, and the facility and felicity of his wit; for I must tell your grandeurs, if it be no offence, that he touched a guitar so as to make it speak. He was besides a poet, and a fine dancer, and could make bird-cages so well, as to get his living by it, in case of extreme necessity. So many qualifications and endowments were sufficient to overset a mountain, and much more a tender virgin. But all his gentility, graceful behaviour, and fine accomplishments would have signified little or nothing towards the conquest of my girl's fortress, if the robber and ruffian had not artfully contrived to seduce me first. The assassin and barbarous vagabond began with endeavouring to obtain my goodwill, and suborn my inclination, that I might, like a treacherous keeper as I was, deliver up to him the keys of the fortress I guarded. In short, he imposed upon my understanding, and got from me my consent, by means of I know not what toys and trinkets he presented me with. But that, which chiefly brought me down, and levelled me with the ground, was a stanza, which I heard him sing one night through a grate, that looked into an alley where he stood; and, if I remember right, the verses were these:

' The tyrant fair, whose beauty sent
      The throbbing mischief to my heart,
  The more my anguish to augment,
      Forbids me to reveal the smart.'

"The stanza seemed to me to be of pearls, and his voice of barley-sugar; and many a time since have I thought, considering the mishap I fell into, that poets, at least the lascivious, ought, as Plato advised, to be banished from all good and well-regulated commonwealths; because they write couplets, not like those of the Marquis of Mantua, which divert and make children and women weep, but such pointed things as, like smooth thorns, pierce the soul, and, wounding like lightning, leave the garment whole and unsinged. Another time he sung:

' Come, death, with gently-stealing pace,
      And take me unperceiv'd away,
  Nor let me see thy wish'd-for face,
      Lest joy my fleeting life shou'd stay;'

with such other couplets and ditties as enchant when sung, and surprise when written. Now, when they condescend to compose a kind of verses, at that time in fashion in Candaya, which they call roundelays, they -[460]- presently occasion a dancing of the soul, a tickling of the fancy, a perpetual agitation of the body, and lastly, a kind of quicksilver of all the senses. And therefore I say, most noble auditors, that such versifiers deserve to be banished to the isle of Lizards; though in truth they are not to blame, but the simpletons who commend them, and the idiots who believe them; and, had I been the honest duenna I ought, his nightly serenades had not moved me, nor had I believed those poetical expressions, Dying I live; in ice I burn; I shiver inflames; in despair I hope; I go yet stay; with other impossibilities of the like stamp, of which their writings are full. And when they promise us the phoenix of Arabia, the crown of Ariadne, the hairs of the sun, the pearls of the South Sea, the gold of Tiber, and the balsam of Pancaya; they then give their pen the greatest scope, as it costs them little to promise what they never intend, nor can perform. But, woe is me, unhappy wretch! whither do I stray? What folly or what madness hurries me to recount the faults of others, having so many of my own to relate? Woe is me again, unhappy creature! for not his verses, but my own simplicity, vanquished me; not the music, but my levity, my great ignorance, and my little caution, melted me down, opened the way, and smoothed the passage, for Don Clavijo; for that is the name of the aforesaid cavalier. And so, I being the go-between, he was often in the chamber of the betrayed, not by him, but me, Antonomasia, under the title of her lawful husband; for, though a sinner, I would never have consented, without his being her husband, that he should have come within the shadow of her shoe-string. No, no, marriage must be the forerunner of any business of this kind undertaken by me; only there was one mischief in it, which was the disparity between them, Don Clavijo being but a private gentleman, and the Infanta Antonomasia heiress, as I have already said, of the kingdom. This intrigue lay concealed and wrapped up in the sagacity of my cautious management for some time, till I perceived it began to show itself in I know not what kind of swelling in Antonomasia; the apprehension of which made us lay our three heads together; and the result was, that before the unhappy slip should come to light, Don Clavijo should demand Antonomasia in marriage before the vicar, in virtue of a contract, signed by the Infanta and given him, to be his wife, worded by my wit. and in such strong terms, that the force of Sampson was not able to break through it. The business was put in execution; the vicar saw the contract and took the lady's confession; she acknowledged the whole, and was ordered into the custody of an honest alguazil of the court." Here Sancho said, "What! are there court alguazils, poets, and roundelays in Candaya too? If so, I swear, I think, the world is the same everywhere; but, Madam Trifaldi, pray make haste; for it grows late, and I die to hear the end of this very long story." "That I will," answered the countess.


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