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 XXXVIII: The Afflicted Matron recounts her Ill Errantry


AFTER the music there entered in at the garden about some twelve matron-waiters, divided into two ranks, all clad in large monks’ weeds, to see to of fulled serge, with white stoles of thin calico, so long that they only showed the edge of their black weeds. After them came the Countess Trifaldi, whom Trifaldin with the White Beard led by the hand, clad all in finest unnapped baize; for, had it been napped, every grain of it would have been as big as your biggest pease. Her tail or her train — call it whether you will — had three corners, which was borne by three pages, clad likewise in mourning. Thus making a sightly and mathematical show with those three sharp corners, which the pointed skirt made, for which belike she was called the Countess Trifaldi,1 as if we should say the Countess of the Three Trains — and Benengeli says it was true, and that her right name was the Countess Lobuna, because there were many wolves bred in her country; and if they had been foxes, as they were wolves, they would have called her the Countess Zorruna,2 by reason that in those parts it was the custom that great ones took their appellations from the thing or things that did most abound in their states; — but this countess, taken with the strangeness of the three-fold train, left her name of Lobuna, and took that of Trifaldi.

The twelve waiters and their lady came a procession pace, their faces covered with black veils, and not transparent, as was Trifaldin’s, but so close that nothing was seen through. Just as the matronly squadron came in, the duke, the duchess, and Don Quixote stood up, and all that beheld the large procession. The twelve made a stand and a lane, through the midst of which the Afflicted came forward, Trifaldin still leading her by the hand, which the duke, the duchess, and Don Quixote seeing, they advanced some dozen paces to meet her. She, kneeling on the ground, with a voice rather coarse and hoarse than fine and clear, said, ‘May it please your greatnesses to spare this courtesy to your servant; I say, to me your servant, for as I am the Afflicted I shall not answer you as I ought, by reason that my strange and unheard-of misfortune hath transported my understanding I know not whither, and sure ‘tis far off, since the more I seek it the less I find it.’ ‘He should want it, lady,’ quoth the duke, ‘that by your person could not judge of your worth, the which, without any more looking into, deserves the cream of courtesy, and the flower of all mannerly ceremonies.’ So, taking her up by the hand, he led her to sit down in a chair by the duchess, who welcomed her also with much courtesy.

Don Quixote was silent, and Sancho longed to see the Trifaldi’s face, and some of her waiting-women: but there was no possibility, till they of their own accords would show them; so all being quiet and still, they expected who should first break silence, which was done by the Afflicted Matron, with these words: ‘Confident I am, most powerful sir, most beautiful lady, and most discreet auditors, that my most miserableness3 shall find in your most valorous breasts shelter, no less pleasing than generous and compassionate; for it is such as is able to make marble relent, to soften the diamonds and to mollify the steel of the hardest hearts in the world; but, before it come into the market-place of your hearing (I will not say your ears) I should be glad to know if the most purifiediferous Don Quixote of the Manchissima, and his squiriferous Panza, be in this lap, this quire, this company.

‘Panza is here,’ quoth Sancho, before anybody else could answer, and ‘Don Quixotissimo too; therefore, most Afflictedissimous Matronissima, speak what you willissimus,4 for we are all ready and most forward to be your servitorissimus.’

Then Don Quixote rose up, and directed his speech to the Afflicted Matron, and said, ‘If your troubles, straitened lady, may promise you any hope of remedy by the valour and force of any knight-errant, behold here are my poor and weak arms, that shall be employed in your service. I am Don Quixote de la Mancha, whose function is to succour the needy, which being so as it is, you need not, lady, to use any rhetoric or to seek any preambles; but plainly and without circumstances tell your griefs; for they shall be heard by those that, if they cannot redress them, yet they will commiserate them.’

Which when the Afflicted Matron heard, she seemed to fall at Don Quixote’s feet, and cast herself down, striving to embrace them, and said, ‘Before these feet and legs I cast myself, O invincible knight! since they are the basis and columns of knight-errantry; these feet will I kiss, on whose steps the whole remedy of my misfortunes doth hang and depend. O valorous errant, whose valorous exploits do obscure and darken the fabulous ones of the Amadises, Esplandians, and Belianises!’ And, leaving Don Quixote, she laid hold on Sancho Panza, and, gripping his hands, said, ‘O thou the loyallest squire that ever served knight-errant in past or present times! longer in goodness than my usher Trifaldin’s beard! well mayst thou vaunt that in serving Don Quixote thou servest in cipher the whole troop of knights that have worn arms in the world — I conjure thee, by thy most loyal goodness, that thou be a good intercessor with thy master, that he may eftsoons favour this most humble most unfortunate countess.

To which said Sancho, ‘That my goodness, lady, be as long as your squire’s beard, I do not much stand upon; the business is, bearded or with mustachoes, let me have my soul go to heaven when I die, for for beards here I care little or nothing. But, without these clawings or entreaties, I will desire my master (for I know he loves me well, and the rather because now in a certain business he hath need of me) that he favour and help your worship as much as he may; but pray uncage your griefs, and tell them us, and let us alone to understand them.’

The dukes were ready to burst with laughter, as they that had taken the pulse of this adventure, and commended within themselves the wit and dissimulation of the Trifaldi, who, sitting her down, said:

‘Of the famous kingdom of Taprobana, which is between the great Taprobana and the South Sea, some two leagues beyond Cape Comorin, was queen the Lady Donna Maguncia, widow to King Archipielo, her lord and husband, in which matrimony they had the Princess Antonomasia, heir to the kingdom. The said princess was brought up and increased under my tutorage and instruction, because I was the ancientest and chiefest matron that waited on her mother. It fell out then that, times coming and going, the child Antonomasia being about fourteen years of age, she was so fair that nature could give no further addition. Discretion itself was a snotty-nose to her, that was as discreet as fair, and she was the fairest in the world, and is, if envious fates and inflexible destinies have not cut the thread of her life; but sure they have not, for Heaven will not permit that earth suffer such a loss as would be the lopping of a branch of the fairest vine in the world. On this beauty, never sufficiently extolled by my rude tongue, a number of princes were enamoured, as well neighbours as strangers, amongst whom a private gentleman durst raise his thoughts to the heaven of that beauty, one that lived in court, confident in his youth and gallantry, and other abilities, and happy facilities of wit; for let me give your greatnesses to understand, if it be not tedious, he played on a gittern as if he made it speak; he was a poet and a great dancer, and could very well make birdcages, and only with this art might have gotten his living, when he had been in great necessity; so that all these parts and adornments were able to throw down a mountain, much more a delicate damsel; but all his gentry, all his graces, all his behaviour and abilities, could have little prevailed to render my child’s fortress, if the cursed thief had not conquered me first. First, the cursed rascal vagamund sought to get by good will, and to bribe me, that I, ill keeper, should deliver him the keys of my fortress. To conclude, he inveigled my understanding, and obtained my consent, with some toys and trifles (I know not what) that he gave me; but that which most did prostrate me and made me fall was certain verses, that I heard him sing one night from a grated window, toward a lane where he lay, which were, as I remember, these:

“An ill upon my soul doth steal
From my sweetest enemy;
And it more tormenteth me
That I feel, yet must conceal.”

The ditty was most precious to me, and his voice as sweet as sugar, and many a time since have I thought, seeing the mishap I fell into by these and such other like verses, and have considered, that poets should be banished from all good and well-governed commonwealths, as Plato counselled, — at least lascivious poets, for they write lascivious verses; not such as those of the Marquis of Mantua,5 that delight and make women and children weep, but piercing ones, that like sharp thorns, but soft, traverse the soul, and wound it like lightning, leaving the garment sound. And again he sung:

“Come death, hidden, without pain
(Let me not thy coming know),
That the pleasure to die so,
Make me not to live again.”

Other kinds of songs he had, which being sung enchanted, and written suspended; for when they deigned to make a kind of verse in Candaya then in use, called roundelays, there was your dancing of souls, and tickling with laughter and unquietness of the body; and, finally, the quicksilver of all the senses. So, my masters, let me say, that such rithmers ought justly to be banished to the Island of Lizards; but the fault is none of theirs, but of simple creatures that commend them, and foolish wenches that believe in them; and, if I had been as good a waiting —  woman as I ought to have been, his over-night’s conceits would not have moved me, neither should I have given credit to these kind of speeches : “I live dying,” “I burn in the frost,” “I shake in the fire,” “I hope hopeless,” “I go and yet I stay,” with other impossibilities of this scum, of which his writings are full; and then, your promising the phoenix of Arabia, Ariadne’s crown, the locks of the sun, the pearls of the south, the gold of Tiber, and balsamum of Pancaia; and here they are most liberal in promising that which they never think to perform. But whither, ay me unhappy! do I divert myself? What folly or what madness makes me recount other folk’s faults, having so much to say of mine own? Ay me again, unfortunate! for not the verses, but my folly, vanquished me; not his music, but my lightness, my ignorance softened me; that and my ill foresight opened the way and made plain the path to Don Clavixo, for this is the aforesaid gentleman’s name; so that, I being the bawd, he was many times in the chamber of the (not by him, but me) betrayed Antonomasia, under colour of being her lawful spouse; for, though a sinner I am, I would not have consented that, without being her husband, he should have come to the bottom of her shoe-sole. No, no, matrimony must ever be the colour in all these businesses that shall be treated of by me. Only there was one mischief in it, that Don Clavixo was not her equal, he being but a private gentleman, and she such an inheritrix. Awhile this juggling was hid and concealed, with the sagacity of my wariness, till a kind of swelling in Antonomasia’s belly at last discovered it, the fear of which made us all three enter into counsel, and it was agreed that before the mishap should come to light Don Clavixo should demand Antonomasia for wife before the vicar, by virtue of a bill of her hand, which she had given him to be so; this was framed by my invention so forcibly, that Samson himself was not able to break it. The matter was put in practice, the vicar saw the bill, and took the lady’s confession: who [having] confessed plainly, he committed her prisoner to a sergeant’s house.’

‘Then,’ quoth Sancho, ‘have you sergeants too in Candaya, poets, and roundelays? I swear I think the world is the same everywhere. But make an end, Madam Trifaldi; for it is late, and I long to know the end of this large story.’

‘I will,’ answered the countess.

1 The word in Spanish importing so.
Zorra, in Spanish, a fox.
3 A fustian speech on purpose and so continued.
4 Sancho strives to answer in the same key.
5 Old ballad verses; the author speaks here satirically.

Gavilan College celebrates 400 years of Don Quijote

The History of Don Quixote - The Second Part

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