Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  XXII. Wherein the Discreet Discourse That Passed between Sancho Panza and His Lord Don Quixote Is Expressed

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

The Fourth Book

XXII. Wherein the Discreet Discourse That Passed between Sancho Panza and His Lord Don Quixote Is Expressed

‘HA,’ quoth Sancho, ‘have I caught you at last? This is that which I desired to know, as much as my soul or life. Come now, sir, and tell me, can you deny that which is wont to be said, when a body is ill-disposed, “I know not what ails such a one; for he neither eats nor drinks nor sleeps, nor answers directly to that which is demanded him, so as it seems that he is enchanted”? By which may be collected, that such as neither eat, drink, sleep, nor do the other natural things you wot of, are enchanted; but not those which have a desire as you have, and eat meat when they get it, and drink drink when it is given them, and answer to all that is propounded unto them.’ ‘Thou sayst true, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘but I have told thee already that there are divers sorts of enchantments, and perhaps they change with the times from one kind into another, and that now the enchanted use to do all that which I do, although they did not so in times past; and therefore there is no disputing or drawing of conclusions against the customs of the time. I know, and do verily persuade myself, that I am enchanted, and that is sufficient for the discharge of my conscience, which would be greatly burdened if I thought that I were not enchanted, and yet permitted myself to be borne away in this cage idly, and like a coward withholding the succour I might give to many distressed and needy persons, which even at this hour be like enough to have extreme want of mine aid and assistance.’ ‘Yet say I, notwithstanding,’ replied Sancho, ‘that for more abundant satisfaction, your worship might do well to attempt the getting out of this prison, the which I do oblige myself with all my power to facilitate, yea, and to get out, and then you may recount eftsoons on the good Rozinante, who also seems enchanted, so sad and melancholy he goes. And this being done, we may again essay the fortune of seeking adventures, which, if it have no good success, we have time enough to return to our cage; wherein I promise, by the faith of a good and loyal squire, to shut up myself together with you, if you shall prove so unfortunate, or I so foolish, as not to bring our designs to a good issue.’ ‘I am content to do what thou sayst, brother Sancho,’ replied Don Quixote; ‘and when thou seest opportunity offered to free me, I will be ruled by thee in everything; but yet thou shalt see how far thou art over-wrought in the knowledge thou wilt seem to have of my disgrace.’

The knight-errant and the ill-errant squire beguiled the time in those discourses, until they arrived to the place where the canon, curate, and barber expected them. And then, Sancho alighting, and helping to take down the cage, the wainman unyoked his oxen, permitting them to take the benefit of pasture in that green and pleasant valley, whose verdure invited not such to enjoy it as were enchanted like Don Quixote, but rather such heedful and discreet persons as was his man, who entreated the curate to license his lord to come out but a little while, for otherwise the prison would not be so cleanly as the presence of so worthy a knight as his lord was required. The curate understood his meaning, and answered that he would satisfy his requests very willingly, but that he feared when he saw himself at liberty, he would play them some prank or other, and go whither nobody should ever set eye on him after. ‘I will be his surety that he shall not fly away,’ quoth Sancho. ‘And I also, quoth the canon, ‘if he will but promise me, as he is a knight, that he will not depart from us without our consent.’ ‘I give my word that I will not,’ quoth Don Quixote, who heard all that they had said, ‘and the rather because that enchanted bodies have not free will to dispose of themselves as they list; for he that enchanted them may make them unable to stir from one place in three days; and if they make an escape, he can compel them to return flying; and therefore, since it was so, they might securely set him at liberty, especially seeing it would redound so much to all their benefits; for if they did not free him, or get farther off, he protested that he could not forbear to offend their noses.’ The canon took his hand (although it were bound), and [Don Quixote promised by] his faith and word that he would not depart, and then they gave him liberty; whereat he infinitely rejoiced, especially seeing himself out of the cage. The first thing that he did after was to stretch all his body, and then he went towards Rozinante, and, striking him twice or thrice on the buttocks, he said, ‘I hope yet in God and His blessed mother, O flower and mirror of horses! that we two shall see ourselves very soon in that state which our hearts desire; thou with thy lord on thy back, and I mounted on thee, and exercising the function for which God sent me into this world.’ And, saying so, Don Quixote with his squire Sancho retired himself somewhat from the company, and came back soon after a little more lightened, but greatly desiring to execute his squire’s designs.

The canon beheld him very earnestly, and with admiration, wondering to see the strangeness of his fond humour, and how that he showed, in whatsoever he uttered, a very good understanding, and only left the stirrups (as is said before) when any mention was made of chivalry; and therefore, moved to compassion, after they were all laid down along upon the grass, expecting their dinner, he said unto him, ‘Gentleman, is it possible that the idle and unsavoury lecture of books of knighthood hath so much distracted your wit as thus to believe that you are carried away enchanted, with other things of that kind, as much wide from truth as untruths can be from verity itself? Or how is it possible that any human understanding can frame itself to believe that in this world there have been such an infinity of Amadises, such a crew of famous knights, so many emperors of Trapisonda, such a number of Felixmartes of Hircania; so many palfreys, damsels-errant, serpents, robbers, giants, battles, unheard-of adventures, sundry kinds of enchantments, such immeasureable encounters, such bravery of apparel, such a multitude of enamoured and valiant princesses, so many squires, earls, witty dwarfs, viragoes, love-letters, amorous dalliances; and finally, so many, so unreasonable and impossible adventures as are contained in the books of knighthood?

‘Thus much I dare avouch of myself, that when I read them, as long as I do not think that they are all but toys and untruths, they delight me; but when I ponder seriously what they are, I throw the very best of them against the walls, yea, and would throw them into the fire if they were near me, or in my hands, having well deserved that severity, as false impostors and seducers of common sense, as broachers of new sects and of uncouth courses of life, as those that give occasion to the ignorant vulgar to believe in such exorbitant untruths as are contained in them; yea, and are withal so presumptuous, as to dare to confound the wits of the most discreet and best descended gentlemen; as we may clearly perceive by that they have done to yourself, whom they have brought to such terms as it is necessary to shut you up in a cage and carry you on a team of oxen, even as one carries a lion or tiger from place to place, to gain a living by the showing of him. Therefore, good Sir Don Quixote, take compassion of yourself, and return into the bosom of discretion, and learn to employ the most happy talent of understanding and abundance of wit, wherewith bountiful Heaven hath enriched you, to some other course of study, which may redound to the profit of your soul; and advancement of your credit and estate. And if, borne away by your natural disposition, you will yet persist in the reading of warlike and knightly discourses, read in the Holy Scripture the Acts of Judges, for there you shall find surpassing feats and deeds, as true as valorous. Portugal had a Viriathus; Rome a Caesar; Carthage a Hannibal; Greece an Alexander; Castile an Earl Fernan Gonzalez; Valencia a Cid; Andalusia a Gonzalo Hernandez; Estremadura a Diego Garcia de Paredes; Xerez a Garcia Perez de Vargas; Toledo a Garcilaso de la Vega; Seville a Don Manuel de Leon: the discourses of whose valorous acts may entertain, teach, delight, and make to wonder the most sublime wit that shall read them. Yea, this were indeed a study fit for your sharp understanding, my dear Sir Don Quixote, for by this you should become learned in histories, enamoured of virtue, instructed in goodness, bettered in manners, valiant without rashness, bold without cowardice; and all this to God’s honour, your own profit, and renown of the Mancha, from whence, as I have learned, you deduce your beginning and progeny.’

Don Quixote listened with all attention unto the canon’s admonition, and perceiving that he was come to an end of them, after he had looked upon him a good while he said, ‘Methinks, gentleman, that the scope of your discourse hath been addressed to persuade me that there never were any knights-errant in the world, and that all the books of chivalry are false, lying, hurtful, and unprofitable to the commonwealth, and that I have done ill to read them, worse to believe in them, and worst of all to follow them, by having thus taken on me the most austere profession of wandering knighthood, whereof they entreat; denying, moreover, that there were ever any Amadises, either of Gaul or Greece; or any of all the other knights wherewith such books are stuffed.’

‘All is just as you have said,’ quoth the canon: whereto Don Quixote replied thus, ‘You also added, that such books had done me much hurt, seeing they had turned my judgment, and immured me up in this cage, and that it were better for me to make some amendment, and alter my study, reading other that are more authentic, and delight and instruct much better.’

‘It is very true,’ answered the canon.

‘Why, then,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘I find, by mine accounts, that the enchanted and senseless man is yourself, seeing you have bent yourself to speak so many blasphemies against a thing so true, so current, and of such request in the world, as he that should deny it, as you do, merits the same punishment which as you say you give to those books when the reading thereof offends you; for to go about to make men believe that Amadis never lived, nor any other of those knights wherewith histories are fully replenished, would be none other than to persuade them that the sun lightens not, the earth sustains not, nor the ice makes anything cold. See what wit is there in the world so profound, that can induce another to believe that the history of Guy of Burgundy and the Princes Floripes was not true? Nor that of Fierabras, with the Bridge of Mantible, which befel in Charlemagne’s time, and is, I swear, as true as that it is day at this instant? And if it be a lie, so must it be also that ever there was an Hector, Achilles, or the war of Troy; the Twelve Peers of France; or King Arthur of Britain, who goes yet about the world in the shape of a crow, and is every foot expected in his kingdom. And they will as well presume to say that the History of Guarino Mezquino and of the quest of the Holy San Greal be lies; and that for the love between Sir Tristram and La Bella Ysoude, and between Queen Guenevor and Sir Lancelor Dulake, we have no sufficient authority; and yet there be certain persons alive which almost remember that they have seen the Lady Queintanonina, who was one of the best skinkers of wine that ever Great Britain had; and this is so certain, as I remember that one of my grandmothers of my father’s side was wont to say unto me, when she saw my matron, with a long and reverend kerchief or veil, “My boy, that woman resembles very much Lady Queintanonina.” From which I argue, that either she knew her herself, or at the least had seen some portraiture of hers. Who can, moreover, deny the certainty of the history of Peter of Provence and the beautiful Magalona, seeing that, until this very day, one may behold, in the king’s armoury, the pin wherewith he guided and turned anyway he listed the horse of wood whereupon he rode through the air, which pin is a little bigger than the thill of a cart; and near unto it is also seen Babieca his saddle; and in Roncesvalles there yet hangs Orlando’s horn, which is as big as a very great joist, whence is inferred that there were Twelve Peers, that there was a Pierres of Provence, that also there were Cids, and other such knights as those which the world terms adventurers. If not, let them also tell me, that the valiant Lusitanian, John de Melo, was no knight-errant, who went to Burgundy, and in the city of Ras fought with the famous lord of Charni, called Mosen Pierres, and after with Mosen Henry of Ramestan, in the city of Basilea, and bore away the victory in both the conflicts, to his eternal fame; and that there was no such curres as the adventures and single combats begun and ended in Burgundy by the valiant Spaniards, Pedro Garba and Guttierre Quixada (from whom I myself am lineally descended), who overcame the Earl of Saint Paul’s sons. They may also aver unto me that Don Fernando de Guevarra went not to seek adventures in Germany, where he fought with Micer George, a knight of the Duke of Austria his house. Let them likewise affirm that Suero de Quinonnes of the Pass his jousts were but jests; as also the enterprise of Mosen Louis de Falses against Don Gonzalo de Guzman, a gentleman of Castile, with many other renowned acts, done as well by Christian knights of this kingdom as of other foreign lands, which are all so authentic and true, as that I am compelled to reiterate what I said before, which is, that whosoever denies them is defective of reason and good discourse.’

Full of admiration remained the good canon to hear the composition and medley that Don Quixote made of truths and fictions together, and at the great notice he had of all things that might anyway concern his knighthood-errant; and therefore he shaped him this answer: ‘I cannot deny, Sir Don Quixote, but that some part of that which you have said is true, especially touching those Spanish adventurers of whom you have spoken, and will likewise grant you that there were Twelve Peers of France, but I will not believe that they have accomplished all that which the Archbishop Turpin hath left written of them; for the bare truth of the affair is, that they were certain noblemen chosen out by the kings of France, whom they called peers, because they were all equal in valour, quality, and worth; or if they were not, it was at least presumed that they were; and they were not much unlike the military orders of Saint James or Calatrava, were in request, wherein is presupposed that such as are of the profession are, or ought to be, valourous and well-descended gentlemen: and as now they say a knight of Saint John or Alcantara, so in those times they said a knight of the Twelve Peers, because they were twelve equals, chosen to be of that military order. That there was a Cid and a Bernard of Carpio is also doubtless; that they have done the acts recounted of them I believe there is very great cause to doubt. As touching the pin of the good Earl Pierres, and that it is by Babieca his saddle in the king’s armoury, I confess that my sin hath made me so ignorant, or blind, that although I have viewed the saddle very well, yet could I never get a sight of that pin, how great soever you affirm it to be.’

‘Well, it is there without question,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘and for the greater confirmation thereof, they say it is laid up in a case of neat’s leather to keep it from rusting.’ ‘That may very well so be,’ said the canon; ‘yet by the orders that I have received, I do not remember that ever I saw it: and although I should grant it to be there, yet do I not therefore oblige myself to believe the histories of all the Amadises, nor those of the other rabblement of knights which books do mention unto us; nor is it reason that so honourable a man, adorned with so many good parts and endowed with such a wit as you are, should believe that so many and so strange follies as are written in the raving books of chivalry can be true.’