Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

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The History of the
Valorous & Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha

By Miguel de Cervantes, Translated by Thomas Shelton

The Second Part

The Author’s Prologue to the Reader

 

Now God defend, reader, noble or plebeian, whate’er thou art! how earnestly must thou needs by this time expect this prologue, supposing that thou must find in it nothing but revenge, brawling, and railing upon the author of the Second Don Quixote, of whom I only say as others say, that he was begot in Tordesillas, and born in Tarragona! The truth is, herein I mean not to give thee content. Let it be never so general a rule that injuries awaken and rouse up choler in humble breasts, yet in mine must this rule admit an exception. Thou, it may be, wouldst have me be-ass him, be-madman him, and be-fool him; but no such matter can enter into my thought; no, let his own rod whip him; as he hath brewed, so let him bake; elsewhere he shall have it: and yet there is somewhat which I cannot but resent, and that is, that he exprobates unto me my age and my maim,1 as if it had been in my power to hold time back, that so it should not pass upon me, or if my maim had befallen me in a tavern, and not upon the most famous occasion which either the ages past or present have seen2 nor may the times to come look for the like. If my wounds shine not in the eyes of such as behold them, yet shall they be esteemed at least in the judgment of such as know how they were gotten. A soldier had rather be dead in the battle than free by running away; and so is it with me, that should men set before me and facilitate an impossibility, I should rather have desired to have been in that prodigious action than now to be in a whole skin free from my scars for not having been in it. The scars which a soldier shows in his face and breast are stars which lead others to the heaven of honour, and to the desire of just praise: and beside, it may be noted that it is not so much men’s pens which write as their judgments; and these use to be bettered with years. Nor am I insensible of his calling me envious, and describing me as an ignorant. What envy may be, I vow seriously that, of those two sorts that are, I skill not but of that holy, noble, and ingenious envy, which being so as it is, I have no meaning to abuse any priest, especially if he hath annexed unto him the title of Familiar of the Inquisition: and if he said so, as it seems by this second author that he did, he is utterly deceived; for I adore his wit, admire his works and his continual virtuous employment. And yet in effect I cannot but thank this sweet signior author for saying that my novels are more satiric than exemplar; and that yet they are good, which they could not be were they not so quite thorough. It seems thou tellest me that I write somewhat limited and obscurely, and contain myself within the bounds of my modesty, as knowing that a man ought not add misery to him that is afflicted, which doubtless must needs be very great in this signior, since he dares not appear in open field in the light, but conceals his name, feigns his country, as if he had committed some treason against his King. Well, if thou chance to light upon him and know him, tell him from me that I hold myself no whit aggrieved at him: for I well know what the temptations of the devil are; and one of the greatest is when he puts into a man’s head that he is able to compose and print a book, whereby he shall gain as much fame as money, and as much money as fame; for confirmation hereof, I entreat thee, when thou art disposed to be merry and pleasant, to tell him this tale.

There was a madman in Seville which hit upon one of the prettiest absurd tricks that ever madman in this world lighted on, which was: he made him a cane sharp at one end, and then catching a dog in the street, or elsewhere, he held fast one of the dog’s legs under his foot, and the other he held up with his hand. Then, fitting his cane as well as he could behind, he fell a-blowing till he made the dog as round as a ball; and then, holding him still in the same manner, he gave him two claps with his hand on the belly, and so let him go, saying to those which stood by (which always were many), ‘How think you, my masters, is it a small matter to blow up a dog like a bladder?’ And how think you, is it a small matter to make a book? If, this tale should not fit him, then, good reader, tell him this other, for this also is of a madman and a dog. In Cordova was another madman, which was wont to carry on his head a huge piece of marble, not of the lightest, who, meeting a masterless dog, would stalk up close to him, and on a sudden down with his burden upon him; the dog would presently yearn, and barking and yelling run away; three streets could not hold him. It fell out afterwards, among other dogs upon whom he let fall his load, there was a capper’s dog, which his master made great account of, upon whom he let down his great stone and took him full on the head: the poor battered cur cries pitifully; his master spies it, and, affected with it, gets a meteyard, assaults the madman, and leaves him not a whole bone in his skin; and at every blow that he gave him he cries out, ‘Thou dog, thou thief! my spaniel! Saw’st thou not, thou cruel villain, that my dog was a spaniel?’ And ever and anon repeating still ‘his spaniel,’ he sent away the madman all black and blue. The madman was terribly scared herewith, but got away, and for more than a month after never came abroad: at last out he comes with his invention again, and a bigger load than before; and coming where the dog stood, viewing him over and over again very heedily, he had no mind, he durst not let go the stone, but only said, ‘Take heed, this is a spaniel.’ In fine, whatsoever dogs he met, though they were mastiffs or fisting-hounds, he still said they were spaniels. So that after that he never durst throw his great stone any more. And who knows but the same may befal this our historian, that he will no more let fall the weight of his wit in books? for in being naught, they are harder than rocks.

Tell him too, that for his menacing that with his book he will take away all my gain, I care not a straw for him; but, betaking myself to the famous interlude of Perendenga, I answer him, ‘Let the old man my master live, and Christ be with us all.’ Long live the great Conde de Lemos, whose Christianity and well-known liberality against all the blows of my short fortune keeps me on foot; and long live that eminent charity of the Cardinal of Toledo, Don Bernardo de Sandoval y Rojus! Were there no printing in the world, or were there as many books printed against me as there are letters in the rhymes of Mingo Revulgo, those two princes, without any solicitation of flattery or any other kind of applause, of their sole bounty have taken upon them to do me good, and to favour me; wherein I account myself more happy and rich than if Fortune, by some other ordinary way, had raised me to her highest honour. A poor man may have it, but a vicious man cannot. Poverty may cast a mist upon nobleness, but cannot altogether obscure it; but, as the glimmering of any light of itself, though but through narrow chinks and crannies, comes to be esteemed by high and noble spirits, and consequently favoured. Say no more to him, nor will I say any more to thee; but only advertise that thou consider that this Second Part of Don Quixote, which I offer thee, is framed by the same art and cut out of the same cloth that the first was. In it I present thee with Don Quixote enlarged, and at last dead and buried, that so no man presume to raise any further reports of him; those that are past are enow; and let it suffice that an honest man may have given notice of these discreet follies, with purpose not to enter into them any more. For plenty of anything, though never so good, makes it less esteemed; and scarcity, though of evil things, makes them somewhat accounted of. I forgot to tell thee that thou mayst expect Persiles, which I am now about to finish; as also the Second Part of Galatea.
 

1 He lost one of his hands 2 At the battle of Lepanto

Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

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