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

CHAPTER VI: What passed betwixt Don Quixote, his Niece, and the Old Woman;
and it is one of the most Material Chapters in all the History


WHILST Sancho and his wife were in this impertinent aforesaid discourse, Don Quixote’s niece and old woman were not idle, and by a thousand signs guessed that her uncle and their master would a-slashing the third time, and return to the exercising of his (for them) ill knight-errantry. They sought by all means possible to divert him from so bad a purpose; but all was to no purpose, to preach in a desert, or to beat cold iron. Notwithstanding, amongst many other discourses that passed betwixt them, the old woman told him, ‘Truly, master, if you keep not your foot still, and rest quiet at home, and suffer yourself to be led through mountains and valleys, like a soul in purgatory, seeking after those they call adventures, which I call misfortunes, I shall complain on you, and cry out to God and the king, that, they remedy it.’ To which Don Quixote answered: ‘Woman, what God will answer to your complaints I know not, nor what his Majesty will; only I know, if I were a king, I would save a labour in answering such an infinity of foolish petitions as are given him daily; for one of the greatest toils, amongst many other that kings have, is this: to be bound to hearken to all, to answer all; therefore I would be loath that ought concerning me should trouble him.’ ‘Then,’ quoth the old woman, ‘tell us, sir, in his Majesty’s court be there not knights?’ ‘Yes,’ answered he, ‘and many, and good reason, for the adornment and greatness of princes, and for ostentation of the royal Majesty.’ ‘Why would not your worship,’ replied she, ‘be one of them that might quietly serve the king your master at court?’

‘Look ye, friend, answered Don Quixote; ‘all knights cannot be courtiers, nor all courtiers neither can, nor ought to be knights-errant. In the world there must be of all sorts, and, though we. be all knights, yet the one and the other differ much: for your courtiers, without stirring out of their chambers, or over the court thresholds, can travel all the world over, looking upon a map, without spending a mite, without suffering heat, cold, hunger, or thirst; but we, the true knights-errant, with sun, with cold, with air, with all the inclemencies of heaven, night and day, a-horseback and on foot, do trace the whole world through: and we do not know our enemies by supposition, as they are painted, but in their real being; and at all times and upon every occasion we set upon them, without standing upon trifles, or on the laws of duello, whether a sword or lance were longer or shorter, whether either of the parties wore a charm or some hidden deceit, if they shall fight after the sun’s going down or no, with other ceremonies of this nature which are used in single combats betwixt man and man, that thou knowest not of, but I do. Know further that the good knight-errant, although he see ten giants that with their heads not only touch but overtop the clouds, and that each of them hath legs as big as two great towers, and arms like the masts of mighty ships, and each eye as big as a mill-wheel and more fiery than a glass-oven, must not be affrighted in any wise, rather with a staid pace and undaunted courage he must set on them, close with them, and, if possible, overcome and make them turn tail in an instant; yea, though they came armed with the shells of a certain fish, which, they say, are harder than diamonds; and though instead of swords they had cutting-skeins of Damasco steel, or iron clubs with pikes of the same, as I have seen them more than once or twice. All this have I said, woman mine, that you may see the difference betwixt some knights and others; and it is reason that princes should more esteem this second, or, to say fitter, this first species of knights-errant; for, as we read in their histories, such an one there hath been amongst them that hath been a safeguard, not only of one kingdom, but of many.’

‘Ah, sir,’ then said his niece, ‘beware; for all is lies and fiction that you have spoken touching your knights-errant, whose stories, if they were not burnt, they deserve each of them at least to have a penance inflicted upon them, or some note by which they might be known to be infamous, and ruiners of good customs.’

‘I assure thee certainly,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘if thou wert not lineally my niece, as daughter to mine own sister, I would so punish thee for the blasphemy thou hast spoken, as should resound thorough all the world. Is it possible that a piss-kitchen, that scarce knows how to make bone-lace, dares speak and censure the histories of knights-errant? What would Sir Amadis have said if he should have heard this? But I warrant he would have forgiven thee, for he was the humblest and most courteous knight of his time, and moreover a great protector of damosels; but such an one might have heard thee that thou mightest have repented thee; for all are not courteous or pitiful, some are harsh and brutish. Neither are all that bear the name of knights so truly; for some are of gold, others of alchymy; yet all seem to be knights, but all cannot brook the touchstone of truth. You have some base knaves that burst again to seem knights, and some that are knights that kill themselves in post-haste till they become peasants. The one either raise themselves by their ambition or virtue; the others fall, either by their negligence or vice; and a man had need be wise to distinguish between these two sorts of knights, so near in their names, so distant in their actions.’

‘Help me God!’ quoth the niece, ‘that you should know so much, uncle, as were it in case of necessity, you might step into a pulpit, and preach in the streets1 and for all that you go on so blindly and fall into so eminent a madness that you would have us think you valiant now you are old; that you are strong being so sickly; that you’ are able to make crooked things straight, being crooked with years; and that you are a knight when you are none: for, though gentlemen may be knights, yet the poor cannot.’

‘You say well, niece, in that,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘and I could tell thee things concerning lineages that should admire thee; but because I will not mingle divinity with humanity I say nothing. Mark ye, ho! to four sorts of lineages — hearken to me — may all in the world be reduced, and they are these: some that from base beginnings have arrived at the greatest honours; others that had great beginnings and so conserve them till the end; others that, though they had great beginnings, yet they end pointed like a pyramis, having lessened and annihilated their beginning, till it ends in nothing; others there are, and these the most, that neither had good beginning nor reasonable middle, and so they pass away without mention, as the lineage of the common and ordinary sort of people. Let the house of the Othomans be an example to thee of the first, who had an obscure beginning, but rose to the greatness they now preserve; that from a base and poor shepherd that gave them their first beginning have come to this height in which now we see them. Many princes may be an instance of the second lineage, that began in greatness, and was so preserved without augmentation or diminution, only kept their inheritance, containing themselves within the limits of their own kingdoms peacefully. Thousands of examples there be of such as began in greatness, and lessened towards their end. For all your Pharaohs, your Ptolemies of Egypt, your Caesars of Rome, with all the hurry, if I may so term them, of your infinite princes, monarchs, lords, Medes, Assyrians, Persians, Grecians, and Barbarians, — all these lineages, all these lordships, ended, pointed, and came to nought, as well they as those that gave them beginning; for it is not possible to find any of their successors, and, if it were, he must be in mean and base estate. With the common sort I have nothing to do, since they only live and serve to increase the number of men, without deserving more fame or elogy of their greatness. Thus much, fools, you may infer from all that hath been said, that the confusion of lineages is very great; and that those are the most great and glorious that show it in the virtue, wealth, and liberality of their owners. Virtue, wealth, and liberality, I say, for that great man that is vicious will be the more so by his greatness, and the rich man not liberal is but a covetous beggar; for he that possesseth riches is not happy in them, but in the spending them; not only in spending, but in well spending them. The poor knight hath no way to show he is a knight, but that he is virtuous, affable, well-fashioned, courteous and well-behaved, and officious; not proud, not arrogant, not back-biting; and above all, charitable; for in a penny that he gives cheerfully to the poor he shows himself as liberal as he that for ostentation gives an alms before a multitude; and there is no man that sees him adorned with these virtues, but, although he know him not, he will judge of him and think he is well descended; for, if he were not, ‘twere miraculous, and the reward of virtue hath been always praise, and the virtuous must needs be praised. There be two courses for men to come to be wealthy and noble by; the one is arts, t’other arms. I have more arms than learning, and was born, according to my inclination that way, under the influence of the planet Mars, so that I must of force follow his steps, which I mean to do in spite of all the world, and it is vain for you to strive to persuade me that I should nill what the heavens will me, fortune ordains, and reason requires, and above all my affection desires. Well, in knowing, as I know, the innumerable troubles that are annexed to knight-errantry, so I know the infinite goods that are obtained with it. And I know that the path of virtue is very narrow, and the way of vice large and spacious; and I know that their ends and resting-places are different; for that of vice, large and spacious, ends in death; and that of virtue, narrow and cumbersome, ends in life; and not in a life that hath ending, but that is endless; and I know what our great Castilian poet2 said:

“To the high seat of immortality,
Through crabbed paths we must our journey take,
Whence he that falls can never climb so high.”’

‘Woe is me!’ said the niece, ‘my master too is a poet, he knows everything. I’ll hold a wager, if he would be a mason, he would build a house as easily as a cage. ‘I promise thee, niece,’ said Don Quixote, ‘if these knightly cogitations did not rap my senses there is nothing I could not do, nor no curiosity should escape me, especially cages and tooth-pickers.’

By this one knocked at the door, and asking who was there, Sancho answered, “Tis I.’ The old woman, as soon as she heard him, ran to hide herself, because she would not see him. The niece let him in; and his master Don Quixote went to receive him with open arms; and they both locked themselves in, where they had another dialogue as good as the former.

1 An usual thing in Spain, that a friar or Jesuit, when a fiery zeal takes him, makes his pulpit in any part of the street or market-place.
2 Boscan.

Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

Gavilan Spanish Questions or comments Bibliographic Record Index page Previous page Top Next page