Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XII. Wherein Are Prosecuted the Pranks Played by Don Quixote in His Amorous Humours in the Mountains of Sierra Morena

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

The Third Book

XII. Wherein Are Prosecuted the Pranks Played by Don Quixote in His Amorous Humours in the Mountains of Sierra Morena

AND, turning to recount what the knight of the ill-favoured face did when he was all alone, the history says that, after Don Quixote had ended his frisks and leaps, naked from girdle downward, and from that upward apparelled, seeing that his squire Sancho was gone, and would behold no more of his mad pranks, he ascended to the top of a high rock, and began there to think on that whereon he had thought oftentimes before, without ever making a full resolution therein, to wit, whether were it better to imitate Orlando in his unmeasurable furies, than Amadis in his melancholy moods: and, speaking to himself, would say, ‘If Orlando was so valorous and good a knight as men say what wonder, seeing in fine he was enchanted, and could not be slain, if it were not by clapping a pin to the sole of his foot, and therefore did wear shoes still that had seven folds of iron in the soles? although these his draughts stood him in no stead at Roncesvalles against Bernardo del Carpio, which, understanding them, pressed him to death between his arms. But, leaving his valour apart, let us come to the losing of his wits, which it is certain he lost through the signs he found in the forest, and by the news that the shepherd gave unto him, that Angelica had slept more than two noontides with the little Moor, Medoro of the curled locks, him that was page to King Argamante. And if he understood this, and knew his lady had played beside the cushion, what wonder was it that he should run mad. But how can I imitate him in his furies, if I cannot imitate him in their occasion? for I dare swear for my Dulcinea of Toboso, that all the days of her life she hath not seen one Moor, even in his own attire as he is, and she is now right as her mother bore her; and I should do her a manifest wrong, if, upon any false suspicion, I should turn mad of that kind of folly that did distract furious Orlando. On the other side, I see that Amadis de Gaul, without losing his wits, or using any other raving trick, gained as great fame of being amorous as any one else whatsoever. For that which his history recites was none other than that, seeing himself disdained by his lady Oriana, who had commanded him to withdraw himself from her presence, and not appear again in it until she pleased, he retired himself, in the company of a certain hermit, to the Poor Rock, and there crammed himself with weeping, until that Heaven assisted him in the midst of his greatest cares and necessity. And this being true, as it is, why should I take now the pains to strip myself all naked, and offend these trees, which never yet did me any harm? Nor have I any reason to trouble the clear waters of these brooks, which must give me drink when I am thirsty. Let the remembrance of Amadis live, and be imitated in everything as much as may be, by Don Quixote of the Mancha; of whom may be said what was said of the other, that though he achieved not great things, yet did he die in their pursuit. And though I am not contemned or disdained by my Dulcinea, yet it is sufficient, as I have said already, that I be absent from her; therefore, hands to your task; and, ye famous actions of Amadis, occur to my remembrance, and instruct me where I may best begin to imitate you. Yet I know already, that the greatest thing he did use was prayer, and so will I. And, saying so, he made him a pair of beads of great galls, and was very much vexed in mind for want of an Eremite, who might hear his confession and comfort him in his afflictions; and therefore did entertain himself walking up and down the little green field, writing and graving in the rinds of trees, and on the smooth sands, many verses, all accommodated to his sadness, and some of them in the praise of Dulcinea; but those that were found thoroughly finished, and were legible after his own finding again in that place, were only these ensuing:

  • ‘O ye plants, ye herbs, and ye trees,
  • That flourish in this pleasant site,
  • In lofty and verdant degrees,
  • If my harms do you not delight,
  • Hear my holy plaints, which are these,
  • And let not my grief you molest,
  • Though it ever so feelingly went,
  • Since here for to pay your rest,
  • Don Quixote his tears hath addrest,
  • Dulcinea’s want to lament
  • Of Toboso.
  • ‘In this very place was first spied
  • The loyallest lover and true,
  • Who himself from his lady did hide;
  • But yet felt his sorrows anew,
  • Not knowing whence they might proceed.
  • Love doth him cruelly wrest
  • With a passion of evil descent
  • Which robb’d Don Quixote of rest,
  • Till a pipe with tears was full prest,
  • Dulcinea’s want to lament
  • Of Toboso.
  • ‘He, searching adventures, blind,
  • Among these dearn woods and rocks.
  • Still curseth on pitiless mind;
  • For a wretch amidst bushy locks
  • And crags may misfortunes find.
  • Love with his whip, wounded his breast,
  • And not with soft hands him pent,
  • And when he his noddle had prest,
  • Don Quixote his tears did forth wrest,
  • Dulcinea’s want to lament
  • Of Toboso.’
  • The addition of Toboso to the name of Dulcinea did not cause small laughter in those which found the verses recited; because they imagined that Don Quixote conceived that if, in the naming of Dulcinea, he did not also add that of Toboso, the rime could not be understood; and in truth it was so, as he himself did afterward confess. He composed many others; but as, we have related, none could be well copied or found entire, but these three stanzas. In this, and in sighing, and invoking the fauns and sylvans of these woods, and the nymphs of the adjoining streams, with the dolorous and hollow echo, that it would answer and they comfort and listen unto him, and in the search of some herbs to sustain his languishing forces, he entertained himself all the time of Sancho his absence; who, had he stayed three weeks away, as he did but three days, the Knight of the Ill-favoured Face should have remained so disfigured as the very mother that bore him would not have known him.

    But now it is congruent that, leaving him swallowed in the gulfs of sorrow and versifying, we turn and recount what happened to Sancho Panza in his embassage; which was that, issuing out to the highway, he presently took that which led towards Toboso, and arrived the next day following to the inn where the disgrace of the coverlet befel him; and scarce had he well espied it, but presently he imagined that he was once again flying in the air; and therefore would not enter into it, although his arrival was at such an hour as he both might and ought to have stayed, being dinner-time, and he himself likewise possessed with a marvellous longing to taste some warm meat—for many days past he had fed altogether on cold viands. This desire enforced him to approach to the inn, remaining still doubtful, notwithstanding, whether he should enter into it or no. And as he stood thus suspended, there issued out of the inn two persons which presently knew him, and the one said to the other, ‘Tell me, master licentiate, is not that horseman that rides there Sancho Panza, he whom our adventurer’s old woman said departed with her master for his squire?’ ‘It is,’ quoth the licentiate, ‘and that is our Don Quixote his horse.’ And they knew him so well, as those that were the curate and barber of his own village, and were those that made the search and formal process against the books of chivalry; and therefore, as soon as they had taken full notice of Sancho Panza and Rozinante, desirous to learn news of Don Quixote, they drew near unto him; and the curate called him by his name, saying, ‘Friend Sancho Panza, where is your master?’ Sancho Panza knew them instantly, and, desirous to conceal the place and manner wherein his lord remained, did answer them, that his master was in a certain place, withheld by affairs for a few days, that were of great consequence, and concerned him very much, and that he durst not, for both his eyes, discover the place to them. ‘No, no,’ quoth the barber, ‘Sancho Panza, if thou dost not tell us where he sojourneth, we must imagine (as we do already) that thou hast robbed and slain him, specially seeing thou comest thus on his horse; and therefore thou must, in good faith, get us the horse’s owner, or else stand to thine answer.’ ‘Your threats fear me nothing,’ quoth Sancho; ‘for I am not a man that robs or murders any one. Every man is slain by his destiny, or by God that made him. My lord remains doing of penance in the midst of this mountain, with very great pleasure.’ And then he presently recounted unto them, from the beginning to the end, the fashion wherein he had left him, the adventures which had befallen, and how he carried a letter to the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso, who was Lorenzo Corcuelo his daughter, of whom his lord was enamoured up to the livers.

    Both of them stood greatly admired at Sancho’s relation; and although they knew Don Quixote’s madness already, and the kind thereof, yet as often as they heard speak thereof, they rested newly amazed. They requested Sancho to show them the letter that he carried to the Lady Dulcinea of Toboso. He told them that it was written in tablets, and that he had express order from his lord to have it fairly copied out in paper, at the first village whereunto he should arrive. To which the curate answered, bidding show it unto him, and he would write out the copy very fairly.

    Then Sancho thrust his hand into his bosom, and searched the little book, but could not find it, nor should not, though he had searched till Doomsday; for it was in Don Quixote’s power, who gave it not to him, nor did he ever remember to demand it. When Sancho perceived that the book was lost, he waxed as wan and pale as a dead man, and, turning again very speedily to feel all the parts of his body, he saw clearly that it could not be found; and therefore, without making any more ado, he laid hold on his own beard with both his fists, and drew almost the one half of the hair away, and afterward bestowed on his face and nose, in a memento, half a dozen such cuffs as he bathed them all in blood; which the curate and barber beholding, they asked him what had befallen him, that he entreated himself so ill. ‘What should befall me,’ answered Sancho, ‘but that I have lost at one hand, and in an instant, three colts, whereof the least was like a castle?’ ‘How so,’ quoth the barber. ‘Marry,’ said Sancho, ‘I have lost the tablets wherein were written Dulcinea’s letter, and a schedule of my Lord’s, addressed to his niece, wherein he commanded her to deliver unto me three colts, of four or five that remained in his house.’ And, saying so, he recounted the loss of his grey ass. The curate comforted him, and said that, as soon as his lord were found, he would deal with him to renew his grant, and write it in paper, according to the common use and practice, forasmuch as those which were written in tablets were of no value, and would never be accepted nor accomplished.

    With this Sancho took courage, and said, if that was so, he cared not much for the loss of Dulcinea’s letter; for he knew it almost all by rote. ‘Say it, then, Sancho,’ quoth the barber, ‘and we will after write it.’ Then Sancho stood still and began to scratch his head, to call the letter to memory; and now would he stand upon one leg, and now upon another. Sometimes he looked on the earth, other whiles upon heaven; and after he had gnawed off almost the half of one of his nails, and held them all the while suspended, expecting his recital thereof, he said, after a long pause: ‘On my soul, master licentiate, I give to the devil anything that I can remember of that letter, although the beginning was this: “High and unsavoury lady.”’ ‘I warrant you,’ quoth the barber, ‘he said not but “superhuman” or “sovereign lady.”’

    ‘It is so,’ quoth Sancho, ‘and presently followed, if I well remember: “He that is wounded and wants sleep, and the hurt man doth kiss your worship’s hands, ingrate and very scornful fair”; and thus he went roving until he ended in, “Yours until death, the Knight of the Ill-favoured Face.”’ Both of them took great delight to see Sancho’s good memory, and praised it to him very much, and requested him to repeat the letter once or twice more to them, that they might also bear it in memory, to write it at the due season. Sancho turned to recite it again and again, and at every repetition said other three thousand errors. And after this he told other things of his lord, but spoke not a word of his own tossing in a coverlet, which had befallen him in that inn into which he refused to enter. He added besides, how his lord, in bringing him a good despatch from his Lady Dulcinea of Toboso, would forthwith set out to endeavour how he might become an emperor, or at the least a monarch; for they had so agreed between themselves both, and it was a very easy matter for him to become one, such was the valour of his person and strength of his arm; and that when he were one, he would procure him a good marriage; for by that time he should be a widower at the least; and he would wive him one of the emperor’s ladies to wife, that were an inheritrix of some great and rich state on the firm land, for now he would have no more islands. And all this was related so seriously by Sancho, and so in his perfect sense, he scratching his nose ever and anon as he spoke, so as the two were stricken into a new amazement, pondering the vehemence of Don Quixote’s frenzy, which carried quite away with it in that sort the judgment of that poor man, but would not labour to dispossess him of that error, because it seemed to them that, since it did not hurt his conscience it was better to leave him in it, that the recital of his follies might turn to their greater recreation: and therefore exhorted him to pray for the health of his lord; for it was a very possible and contingent thing to arrive in the process of time to the dignity of an emperor, as he said, or at least to that of an archbishop, or other calling equivalent to it.

    Then Sancho demanded of them, ‘Sirs, if fortune should turn our affairs to another course, in such sort as my lord, abandoning the purpose to purchase an empire, would take in his head that of becoming a cardinal, I would fain learn of you here, what cardinals-errant are wont to give to their squires?’ ‘They are wont to give them,’ quoth the curate, ‘some simple benefice, or some parsonage, or to make them clerks or sextons, or vergers of some church, whose living amounts to a good penny-rent, beside the profit of the altar, which is ofttimes as much more.’ ‘For that it is requisite,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that the squire be not married, and that he know how to help mass at least; and if that be so, unfortunate I! that both am married, and knows not besides the first letter of the A B C, what will then become of me, if my master take the humour to be an archbishop, and not an emperor, as is the custom and use of knights errant?’ ‘Do not afflict thy mind for that, friend Sancho,’ quoth the barber; ‘for we will deal with thy lord here, and we will counsel him, yea, we will urge it to him as a matter of conscience, that he become an emperor, and not an archbishop; for it will be more easy for him to be such a one, by reason that he is more valorous than learned.’

    ‘So methinks,’ quoth Sancho, ‘although I know he hath ability enough for all. That which I mean to do for my part is, I will pray unto our Lord to conduct him to that place wherein he may serve Him best, and give me greatest rewards.’ ‘Thou speakest like a discreet man,’ quoth the curate, ‘and thou shalt do therein the duty of a good Christian. But that which we must endeavour now is, to devise how we may win thy lord from prosecuting that unprofitable penance he hath in hand, as thou sayst; and to the end we may think on the manner how, and eat our dinner withal, seeing it is time, let us all enter into the inn.’ Sancho bade them to go in, and he would stay for them at the door, and that he would after tell them the reason why he had no mind to enter, neither was it in any sort convenient that he should; but he entreated them to bring him somewhat forth to eat that were warm, and some provand for Rozinante. With that they departed into the lodging, and within a while after the barber brought forth unto him some meat. And the curate and the barber, after having pondered well with themselves what course they were to take to attain their design, the curate fell on a device very fit both for Don Quixote’s humour, and also to bring their purpose to pass; and was, as he told the barber, that he had bethought him to apparel himself like a lady adventuress, and that he therefore should do the best that he could to fit himself like a squire, and that they would go in that habit to the place where Don Quixote sojourned, feigning that he was an afflicted and distressed damsel, and would demand a boon of him, which he, as a valorous knight errant, would in no wise deny her, and that the gift which he meant to desire, was to entreat him to follow her where she would carry him, to right a wrong which a naughty knight had done unto her; and that she would besides pray him not to command her to unmask herself, or inquire anything of her estate, until he had done her right against that bad knight. And by this means he certainly hoped that Don Quixote would grant all that he requested in this manner. And in this sort they would fetch him from thence and bring him to his village, where they would labour with all their power to see whether his extravagant frenzy could be recovered by any remedy.