Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  IV. Of That Which One of the Goatherds Recounted to Those That Were with Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The Second Book

IV. Of That Which One of the Goatherds Recounted to Those That Were with Don Quixote

ABOUT this time arrived another youth, one of those that brought them provision from the village, who said, ‘Companions, do not you know what passeth in the village?’ ‘How can we know it, being absent?’ says another of them. ‘Then, wit,’ quoth the youth, ‘that the famous shepherd and student, Chrysostom, died this morning, and they murmur that he died for love of that devilish lass Marcela, William the Rich his daughter, she that goes up and down these plains and hills among us, in the habit of a shepherdess.’ ‘Dost thou mean Marcela?’ quoth one of them. ‘Even her, I say,’ answered the other; ‘and the jest is, that he hath commanded, in his testament, that he be buried in the fields, as if he were a Moor; and that it be at the foot of the rock, where the fountain stands off the cork-tree; for that, according to fame, and as they say he himself affirmed, was the place wherein he viewed her first. And he hath likewise commanded such other things to be done, as the ancienter sort of the village do not allow, nor think fit to be performed; for they seem to be ceremonies of the Gentiles. To all which objections, his great friend, Ambrosio the student, who likewise apparelled himself like a shepherd at once with him, answers, that all shall be accomplished, without omission of anything, as Chrysostom hath ordained; and all the village is in an aproar about this affair; and yet it is said that what Ambrosio and all the other shepherds his friends do pretend, shall in fine be done; and to-morrow morning they will come to the place I have named, to bury him with great pomp. And as I suppose it will be a thing worthy the seeing, at leastwise I will not omit to go and behold it although I were sure that I could not return the same day to the village.’ ‘We will all do the same,’ quoth the goatherds, ‘and will draw lots who shall tarry here to keep all our herds.’ ‘Thou sayst well, Peter,’ quoth one of them, ‘although that labour may be excused; for I mean to stay behind for you all, which you must not attribute to any virtue, or little curiosity in me, but rather to the fork that pricked my foot the other day, and makes me unable to travel from hence.’ ‘We do thank thee, notwithstanding,’ quoth Peter, ‘for thy good-will.’ And Don Quixote, who heard all their discourse, entreated Peter to tell him who that dead man was, and what the shepherdess of whom they spoke.

Peter made answer, that what he knew of the affair was, ‘that the dead person was a rich gentleman of certain village seated among those mountains, who had studied many years in Salamanca, and after returned home to his house, with the opinion to be a very wise and learned man; but principally it was reported of him, that he was skilful in astronomy, and all that which passed above in heaven, in the sun and the moon, for he would tell us most punctually the clipse of the sun and the moon.’ ‘Friend,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘the darkening of these two great luminaries is called an eclipse, not a clipse.’ But Peter, stopping not at those trifles, did prosecute his history, saying, ‘He did also prognosticate when the year would be abundant or estile.’ ‘Thou wouldst say sterile,’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Sterile or estile,’ said Peter, ‘all is one for my purpose. And I say that, by his words, his father and his other friends, that gave credit to him, became very rich; for they did all that he counselled them: who would say unto them, Sow barley this year, and no wheat; in this, you may sow peas, and no barley; the next year will be good for oil; the three ensuing, you shall not gather a drop.’ ‘That science is called astrology,’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘I know not how it is called,’ replied Peter; ‘but I know well he knew all this, and much more.

‘Finally, a few months after he came from Salamanca, he appeared one day apparelled like a shepherd, with his flock, and leather coat, having laid aside the long habits that he wore, being a scholar; and jointly with him came also a great friend of his and fellow-student, called Ambrosio, apparelled like a shepherd. I did almost forget to tell how Chrysostom, the dead man, was a great maker of verses; insomuch that he made the carols of Christmas Day at night, and the plays for Corpus Christi Day, which the youths of our village did represent, and all of them affirmed that they were most excellent. When those of the village saw the two scholars so suddenly clad like shepherds, they were amazed, and could not guess the cause that moved them to make so wonderful a change. And about this time Chrysostom’s father died, and he remained possessed of a great deal of goods, as well moveable as immoveable; and no little quantity of cattle, great and small, and also a great sum of money; of all which the young man remained a dissolute lord. And truly he deserved it all; for he was a good fellow, charitable, and a friend of good folk, and he had a face like a blessing. It came at last to be understood, that the cause of changing his habit was none other than for to go up and down through these deserts after the shepherdess Marcela, whom our herd named before; of whom the poor dead Chrysostom was become enamoured. And I will tell you now, because it is fit you should know it, what this wanton lass is; perhaps, and I think without perhaps, you have not heard the like thing in all the days of your life, although you had lived more years than Sarna.’ ‘Say Sarra,’ quoth Don Quixote, being not able any longer to hear him to change one word for another.

‘The Sarna, or Scab,’ quoth Peter, ‘lives long enough too. And if you go thus, sir, interrupting my tale at every pace, we shall not be able to end it in a year.’ ‘Pardon me, friend,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for I speak to thee by reason there was such difference between Sarna and Sarra. But thou dost answer well; for the Sarna or Scab lives longer than Sarra. And therefore prosecute thy history; for I will not interrupt thee any more.’ ‘I say, then, dear sir of my soul,’ quoth the goatherd, ‘that there was, in our village, a farmer that was yet richer than Chrysostom’s father, who was called William, to whom fortune gave, in the end of his great riches, a daughter called Marcela, of whose birth her mother died, who was the best woman that dwelt in all this circuit. Methinks I do now see her quick before me, with that face which had on the one side the sun and on the other side the moon; and above all, she was a thrifty housewife, and a great friend to the poor; for which I believe that her soul is this very hour enjoying of the gods in the other world. For grief of the loss of so good a wife, her husband William likewise died, leaving his daughter Marcela, young and rich, in the custody of his uncle, who was a priest, and curate of our village. The child grew with such beauty as it made us remember that of her mother, which was very great; and yet, notwithstanding, they judged that the daughter’s would surpass hers, as indeed it did; for when she arrived to the age of fourteen or fifteen years old, no man beheld her that did not bless God for making her so fair, and most men remained enamoured and cast away for her love. Her uncle kept her with very great care and closeness; and yet, nevertheless, the fame of her great beauty did spread itself in such sort that, as well for it as for her great riches, her uncle was not only requested by those of our village, but also was prayed, solicited, and importuned by all those that dwelt many leagues about, and that by the very best of them, to give her to them in marriage. But he (who is a good Christian, every inch of him), although he desired to marry her presently, as soon as she was of age, yet would he not do it without her goodwill, without ever respecting the gain and profit he might make by the possession of her goods whilst he desired her marriage. And, in good sooth, this was spoken of, to the good priest his commendation, in more than one meeting of the people of our village; for I would have you to wit, sir errant, that in these little villages they talk of all things, and make account, as I do, that the priest must have been too good who could oblige his parishioners to speak so well of him, and especially in the villages.’ ‘Thou hast reason,’ quoth Don Quixote; and therefore follow on, for the history is very pleasant, and thou, good Peter, dost recount it with a very good grace.’ ‘I pray God,’ said Peter, ‘that I never want our Herd’s; for it is that which makes to the purpose. And in the rest you shall understand, that although her uncle propounded, and told to his niece the quality of every wooer of the many that desired her for wife, and entreated her to marry and choose at her pleasure, yet would she never answer other but that she would not marry as then, and that, in respect of her over green years, she did not find herself able enough yet to bear the burden of marriage. With these just excuses which she seemed to give, her uncle left off importuning of her, and did expect until she were further entered into years, and that she might know how to choose one that might like her; for he was wont to say, and that very well, that parents were not place or bestow their children where they bore no liking. But, see here! when we least imagined it, he coy Marcela appeared one morning to become a shepherdess; and neither her uncle, nor all those of the village which dissuaded her from it, could work any effect, but she would needs go to the fields, and keep her own sheep with the other young lasses of the town. And she coming thus in public, when her beauty was seen without hindrance, I cannot possibly tell unto you how many rich youths, as well gentlemen as farmers, have taken on them the habit of Chrysostom, and follow, wooing of her, up and down those fields; one of which, as is said already, was our dead man, of whom it is said, that learning to love her, he had at last made her his idol. Nor is it to be thought that because Marcela set herself in that liberty, and so loose a life, and of so little or no keeping, that therefore she hath given the least token or shadow of dishonesty or negligence. Nay, rather, such is the watchfulness wherewithal she looks to her honour, that among so many as serve and solicit her, not one hath praised or can justly vaunt himself to have received, at her hands, the least hope that may be to obtain his desires; for, although she did not fly or shun the company and conversation of shepherds, and doth use them courteously and friendly, whensoever any one of them begin to discover their intention, be it ever so just and holy, as that of matrimony, she casts them away from her, as with a sling.

‘And with this manner of proceeding she does more harm in this country than if the plague had entered into it by her means; for her affability and beauty doth draw to it the hearts of those which do serve and love her, but her disdain and resolution do conduct them to terms of desperation. And so they know not what to say unto her, but to call her with a loud voice cruel and ungrateful, with other titles like unto this, which do clearly manifest the nature of her condition; and, sir, if you stayed here but a few days, you should hear these mountains resound with the lamentations of those wretches that follow her. There is a certain place not far off, wherein are about two dozen of beech-trees, and there is not any one of them in whose rind is not engraven Marcela’s name, and over some names graven also a crown in the same tree, as if her lover would plainly denote that Marcela bears it away, and deserves the garland of all human beauty. Here sighs one shepherd, there another complains; in another place are heard amorous ditties; here, in another, doleful and despairing laments. Some one there is that passeth over all the whole hours of the night at the foot of an oak or rock, and, without folding once his weeping eyes, swallowed and transported by his thoughts, the sun finds him there in the morning; and some other there is, who, without giving way or truce to his sighs, doth, amidst the fervour of the most fastidious heat of the summer, stretched upon the burning sand, breathe his pitiful complaints to heaven. And of this, and of him, and of those, and these, the beautiful Marcela doth indifferently and quietly triumph. All we that know her do wait to see wherein this her loftiness will finish, or who shall be so happy as to gain dominion over so terrible a condition, and enjoy so peerless a beauty. And because all that I have recounted is so notorious a truth, it makes me more easily believe that our companion hath told, that is said of the occasion of Chrysostom’s death; and therefore I do counsel you, sir, that you do not omit to be present tomorrow at his burial, which will be worthy the seeing; for Chrysostom hath many friends, and the place wherein he commanded himself to be buried is not half a league from hence.’ ‘I do mean to be there,’ said Don Quixote; ‘and do render thee many thanks for the delight thou hast given me by the relation of so pleasant a history.’ ‘Oh,’ quoth the goatherd, ‘I do not yet know the half of the adventures succeeded to Marcela’s lovers; but peradventure we may meet some shepherd on the way to-morrow that will tell them unto us. And for the present you will do well to go take your rest under some roof, for the air might hurt your wound, although the medicine be such that I have applied to it that any contrary accidents need not much to be feared.’ Sancho Panza, being wholly out of patience with the goatherd’s long discourse, did solicit, for his part, his master so effectually as he brought him at last into Peter’s cabin, to take his rest for that night; whereinto, after he had entered, he bestowed the remnant of the night in remembrances of his Lady Dulcinea, in imitation of Marcela’s lovers. Sancho Panza did lay himself down between Rozinante and his ass, and slept it out, not like a disfavoured lover, but like a man stamped and bruised with tramplings.