Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  I. Wherein Is Related the Events of the Fearful Battle Which the Gallant Biscaine Fought with Don Quixote

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

The Second Book

I. Wherein Is Related the Events of the Fearful Battle Which the Gallant Biscaine Fought with Don Quixote

WE left the valorous Biscaine and the famous Don Quixote, in the First Part, with their swords lifted up and naked, in terms to discharge one upon another two furious cleavers, and such, as if they had lighted rightly, would cut and divide them both from the top to the toe, and open them like a pomegranate; and in that so doubtful a taking the delightful history stopped and remained dismembered, the author thereof leaving us no notice where we might find the rest of the narration. This grieved me not a little, but wholly turned the pleasure I took in reading the beginning thereof into disgust, thinking how small commodity was offered to find out so much as in my opinion wanted of this so delectable a tale. It seemed unto me almost impossible, and contrary to all good order, that so good a knight should want some wise man that would undertake his wonderful prowess and feats of chivalry: a thing that none of those knights-errant ever wanted, of whom people speak; for each of them had one or two wise men, of purpose, that did not only write their acts, but also depainted their very least thoughts and toys, were they never so hidden. And surely so good a knight could not be so unfortunate as to want that wherewith Platyr and others his like abounded; and therefore could not induce myself to believe that so gallant a history might remain maimed and lame, and did rather cast the fault upon the malice of the time, who is a consumer and devourer of all things, which had either hidden or consumed it. Methought, on the other side, seeing that among his books were found some modern works, such as the Undeceiving of Jealousy, and the Nymphs and Shepherds of Henares, that also his own history must have been new; and if that it were not written, yet was the memory of him fresh among the dwellers of his own village and the other villages adjoining. This imagination held me suspended, and desirous to learn really and truly all the life and miracles of our famous Spaniard, Don Quixote of the Mancha, the light and mirror of all Manchical chivalry, being the first who, in this our age and time, so full of calamities, did undergo the travels and exercise of arms-errant; and undid wrongs, succored widows, protected damsels that rode up and down with their whips and palfreys, and with all their virginity on their backs, from hill to hill and dale to dale; for, if it happened not that some lewd miscreant, or some clown with a hatchet and long hair, or some monstrous giant, did force them, damsels there were in times past that at the end of fourscore years old, all which time they never slept one day under a roof, went as entire and pure maidens to their graves as the very mother that bore them. Therefore I say, that as well for this as for many other good respects, our gallant Don Quixote is worthy of continual and memorable praises; nor can the like be justly denied to myself, for the labour and diligence which I used to find out the end of this grateful history, although I know very well that, if Heaven, chance, and fortune had not assisted me, the world had been deprived of the delight and pastime that they may take for almost two hours together, who shall with attention read it. The manner, therefore, of finding it was this:

Being one day walking in the exchange of Toledo, a certain boy by chance would have sold divers old quires and scrolls of books to a squire that walked up and down in that place, and I, being addicted to read such scrolls, though I found them torn in the streets, borne away by this my natural inclination, took one of the quires in my hand, and perceived it to be written in Arabical characters, and seeing that, although I knew the letters, yet could I not read the substance, I looked about to view whether I could perceive any Moor turned Spaniard thereabouts, that could read them; nor was it very difficult to find there such an interpreter; for, if I had searched one of another better and more ancient language, that place would easily afford him. In fine, my good fortune presented one to me; to whom telling my desire, and setting the book in his hand, he opened it, and, having read a little therein, began to laugh. I demanded of him why he laughed; and he answered, at that marginal note which the book had. I bade him to expound it to me, and with that took him a little aside; and he, continuing still his laughter, said: ‘There is written there, on this margin, these words: “This Dulcinea of Toboso, so many times spoken of in this history, had the best hand for powdering of porks of any woman in all the Mancha.”’ When I heard it make mention of Dulcinea of Toboso, I rested amazed and suspended, and imagined forthwith that those quires contained the history of Don Quixote. With this conceit I hastened him to read the beginning, which he did, and, translating the Arabical into Spanish in a trice, he said that it begun thus: ‘The History of Don Quixote of the Mancha, written by Cid Hamete Benengeli, an Arabical historiographer.’ Much discretion was requisite to dissemble the content of mind I conceived when I heard the title of the book, and preventing the squire, I bought all the boy’s scrolls and papers for a real; and were he of discretion, or knew my desire, he might have promised himself easily, and also have borne away with him, more than six reals for his merchandise. I departed after with the Moor to the cloister of the great church, and I requested him to turn me all the Arabical sheets that treated of Don Quixote into Spanish, without adding or taking away anything from them, and I would pay him what he listed for his pains. He demanded fifty pounds of raisins and three bushels of wheat, and promised to translate them speedily, well, and faithfully. But I, to hasten the matter more, lest I should lose such an unexpected and welcome treasure, brought him to my house, where he translated all the work in less than a month and a half, even in the manner that it is here recounted.

There was painted, in the first quire, very naturally, the battle betwixt Don Quixote and the Biscaine; even in the same manner that the history relateth it, with their swords lifted aloft, the one covered with his buckler, the other with the cushion; and the Biscaine’s mule was delivered so naturally as a man might perceive it was hired, although he stood farther off than the shot of a cross-bow. The Biscaine had a title written under his feet that said, ‘Don Sancho de Azpetia,’ for so belike he was called; and at Rozinante his feet there was another, that said ‘Don Quixote.’ Rozinante was marvellous well portraited; so long and lank, so thin and lean, so like one labouring with an incurable consumption, as he did show very clearly with what consideration and propriety he had given unto him the name Rozinante. By him stood Sancho Panza, holding his ass by the halter; at whose feet was another scroll, saying, ‘Sancho Zancas,’ and I think the reason thereof was, that, as his picture showed, he had a great belly, a short stature, and thick legs; and therefore, I judge, he was called Panza, or Zanca; for both these names were written of him indifferently in the history. There were other little things in it worthy noting; but all of them are of no great importance, nor anything necessary for the true relation of the history; for none is ill, if it be true. And if any objection be made against the truth of this, it can be none other than that the author was a Moor; and it is a known propriety of that nation to be lying: yet, in respect that they hate us so mortally, it is to be conjectured that in this history there is rather want and concealment of our knight’s worthy acts than any superfluity; which I imagine the rather, because I find in the progress thereof, many times, that when he might and ought to have advanced his pen in our knight’s praises, he doth, as it were of purpose, pass them over in silence; which was very ill done, seeing that historiographers ought and should be very precise, true, and unpassionate; and that neither profit nor fear, rancour nor affection, should make them to tread awry from the truth, whose mother is history, the emulatress of time, the treasury of actions, the witness of things past, the advertiser of things to come. In this history I know a man may find all that he can desire in the most pleasing manner; and if they want anything to be desired, I am of opinion that it is through the fault of that ungracious knave that translated it, rather than through any defect in the subject. Finally, the Second Part thereof (according to the translation) began in this manner:

The trenchant swords of the two valorous and enraged combatants being lifted aloft, it seemed that they threatened heaven, the earth, and the depths, such was their hardiness and courage. And the first that discharged his blow was the Biscaine, which fell with such force and fury, as if the sword had not turned a little in the way, that only blow had been sufficient to set an end to the rigorous contention, and all other the adventures of our knight. But his good fortune, which reserved him for greater affairs, did wrest his adversary’s sword awry in such sort, as though he struck him on the left shoulder, yet did it no more harm than disarm all that side, carrying away with it a great part of his beaver, with the half of his ear; all which fell to the ground with a dreadful ruin, leaving him in very ill case for a good time. Good God! who is he that can well describe, at this present, the fury that entered in the heart of our Manchegan, seeing himself used in that manner. Let us say no more, but that it was such that, stretching himself again in the stirrups, and gripping his sword fast in both his hands, he discharged such a terrible blow on the Biscaine, hitting him right upon the cushion, and by it on the head, that the strength and thickness thereof so little availed him, that, as if a whole mountain had fallen upon him, the blood gushed out of his mouth, nose, and ears, all at once, and he tottered so on his mule, that every step he took he was ready to fall off, as he would indeed if he had not taken him by the neck; yet, nevertheless, he lost the stirrups, and, losing his grip of the mule, it being likewise frighted by that terrible blow, ran away as fast as it could about the fields, and within two or three winches overthrew him to the ground. All which Don Quixote stood beholding with great quietness; and as soon as he saw him fall, he leaped off his horse, and ran over to him very speedily; and, setting the point of his sword on his eyes, he bade him yield himself, or else he would cut off his head. The Biscaine was so amazed as he could not speak a word; and it had succeeded very ill with him, considering Don Quixote’s fury, if the ladies of the coach, which until then had beheld the conflict with great anguish, had not come where he was, and earnestly besought him to do them the favour to pardon their squire’s life. Don Quixote answered, with a great loftiness and gravity: ‘Truly, fair ladies, I am well apaid to grant you your request, but it must be with this agreement and condition, that this knight shall promise me to go to Toboso, and present himself, in my name, to the peerless Lady Dulcinea, to the end she may dispose of him as she pleaseth.’ The timorous and comfortless lady, without considering what Don Quixote demanded, or asking what Dulcinea was, promised that her squire should accomplish all that he pleased to command. ‘Why, then, quoth Don Quixote, ‘trusting to your promise, I’ll do him no more harm, although he hath well deserved it at my hands.’