« AnteriorContinuar »
knight on the stage without the committal of anachronisms, he makes the hero of his tale a madman; and with a view to find a ready access for his lessons to all sorts of men, he makes the incidents connected with his hero truly ludicrous and satirical, by describing the knight throughout the work in the most ridiculous positions and embarrassed situations. These are generally conceived in a style of humor and wit which far outdoes any modern author. Not only are the expressions of the knight absurdly farcical, and therefore calculated to excite the mirth of the reader, but there is also a degree of depth and profundity in their construction which mark the power of an author who does not in these instances, like Mr. Dickens, call in the aid of either irony or slang. I will presently introduce a few sentences, in order to prove the correctness of this assertion.
For example, when the mad knight, on the road to his house, (whither he was going with the wise intention of providing himself with money and clean linen previous to a second and more important departure) meets the merchants, he thus declaims to the astonished
his lance in the rest, his shield before his breast, and his heart fully prepared for battle: 'Let every one beware if every one does not confess that there is not in the whole world a more beautiful maiden than the Empress of La Mancha, the unequalled Dulcinea del Toboso. “Todo el mundo se tenga si todo el mundo no confiesa que no hay en el mundo todo doncella mas hermosa que la Emperatriz de la Mancha, la sin par Dulcinea del Toboso.
This sort of proceeding, though to a somewhat less extravagant degree, was by no means uncommon in the histories of knight-errantry; and its peculiar absurdity, as applied to a later age, is strongly marked in the sequel to the adventure.
One of the merchants hearing the extraordinary menace of the knight, and marvelling at the strange and uncouth appearance of the madman, answered : “Señor Caballero, nosotros no conocemos quien es esa buena señora que decis; mostradnosla; que si ella fuere de tanta hermosura como significais, de buena gana y sin apremio alguno confesaremos la verdad que por parte vuestra nos es pedida.' 'Señor Caballero, we know not who is this good lady of whom you speak; show her to us, and if she be of so much beauty as you signify, we will confess the truth which you ask of us with great good-will, and without being at all forced thereto.
This answer of the merchant was reasonable, and therefore opposed to the principles of knight-errantry, as reason is frequently contrary to the ideas of persons who inculcate new dogmata, or support old fallacies, while they refuse or are unable to convince the world, which is unwilling blindly to lend its faith to doctrines unsupportable by proof. It is in ridicule of such enthusiasts that Cervantes makes his mad hero reply in the following abusive address : 'Si os la mostrara, qué hicierades vosotros en confesar una verdad tan notoria? La importancia está en que sin verla lo habeis de creer, confesar, afirmar, jurar, y defender; donde no, conmigo sois en batalla, gente descomunal y soberbia. "If I were to show her to you, what would be the merit in confessing so notorious a fact? The importance is, that without seeing her you have to believe, confess, affirm, swear, and assert it; otherwise you are at war with me, strange and proud people.'
The satire of the scene in ridicule of the class to which we have alluded, is too pointed to require farther reference.
Again, Don Quixote says to Sancho, his squire, when dining among the goat-herds: 'Quiero que aqui a mi lado y en compañia desta buena gente te sientes, y que seas una misma cosa conmigo que soy tu amo y natural señor, que comas en mi plato y bebas
bebiere, porque de la caballeria andante se puede decir lo mismo que del amor se dice quo todas cosas iguala.' 'Idesire that thou shouldst sit at my side here in the company of these good folks, and be one same thing with me who am thy master and natural lord, that you should eat from my plate, and drink where I drink, because it may be said of chivalry as of love, that it makes all things equal.'
Sancho, however, wisely objects to this, alleging that in his station of life he would be more comfortable eating by himself than sitting at the side of an emperor, even though he should have to content himself with his usual coarse fare, because he would be more at his ease in his accustomed manner than if overwhelmed with ceremonies to which he was not used,
This is an admirable reply, and a good lesson to levellers who pretend to be ignorant of social distinctions; but as usual, knight-errantry annuls by force that which it cannot destroy by reason, and Sancho is pulled down to a seat by his master, who coolly remarks : «Con todo eso has de sentar; porque a quien se humilia Dios le ensalza.' 'Notwithstanding all that, thou hast to sit down; for God raises up him who humiliates himself.'
The advice, however, which Don Quixote gives to Sancho on his departure from the Duke's palace to take possession of his government, is full of profound wisdom and excessive goodness; so much so, indeed, that Cervantes has excused his putting such language into the month of a madman by saying, 'Quien oyera el pasado razonamiento de Don Quixote que no le tuviera por persona muy cuerda y mejor intencionada ? Pero como muchas veces en el progreso desta grande historia queda dicho, solamente disparaba en tocandole en la caballeria, y en los demas discursos mostraba tener clara y desenfadado entendimiento. Who could hear the above reasoning of Don Quixote without supposing him sane and prudent person? But as has been many times repeated in the course of this great history, he wandered only on subjects of chivalry, and on all other matters he manifested the possession of a clear and undisturbed judgment. Among his principal items of advice to Sancho, we find the following:
* Firstly, my son, thou must fear God, because in fearing Him there is wisdom, and being wise, thou wilt not be able to err in any thing.
Secondly, thou must set thy eyes on whom thou art, endeavoring to know thyself, which is the most difficult knowledge that can be imagined. From knowing thyself will proceed thy not swelling thyself like the frog which wished to equalize himself with the ox; for if thou dost this, the recollection of having tended pigs in thine own land will come to be ugly feet for the tail of thy madness.
"Glory in the humility of thy lineage, and do not take shame to thyself to say that thou camest of peasants, because, seeing that thou dost not depreciate thyself, no one will attempt to depreciate thee; and pride thyself more on being a virtuous humble man than a proud sinner.
'See, Sancho, if thou takest virtue as thy means, and art proud of virtuous deeds, there is no reason to have envy of those who hold them *princes' and 'lords;' because virtue is acquired, and blood is inherited; and virtue of itself is worth what blood is not worth.
* This being so, as so it is, if perchance any one of thy relations should come to see thee when thou art in thine island, do not send him forth nor affront him; rather must thou invite and regale him, for with this wilt thou satisfy HEAVEN, who wills that none dislike what HEAVEN made, and thou wilt respond to what thou owest to well-regulated nature.
'If thou takest thy wife with thee, (for it is not well that those who assist governments for a long while should be without their own,) teach her, indoctrinate her, and remove from her her natural roughness, because all that a prudent governor can acquire, a foolish and rustic wife may undo.
'Let the tears of the poor find in thee more compassion, but not more justice, than the complaints of the rich.
Endeavor to discover the truth from among the promises and bribes of the rich, as from among the lamentations and importunities of the poor.
When equity can and should have sway, do not load the delinquent with all the rigor of the law, for the fame of the rigorous judge is not better than that of the compassionate one.
• When it happens to thee to judge the law-suit of thine enemy, remove thy thoughts from thine own injury, and place them on the truth of the case.
'Do not ill-treat him with words whom thou hast to punish with acts; for the pain of punishment is sufficient to the unfortunate, without the addition of reproaches.
•If thou desirest to dress six pages, dress three and other three poor ones, and thus thou wilt have pages for heaven and the earth.
"Speak slowly, but not in such a manner that it may appear that thou listenest to thyself, for all affectation is evil.
.Be temperate in thy drink, considering that too much wine neither keeps a secret nor fulfils a promise.'
The wisdom and general intelligence in these items of sage advice, manifest an extremely vigorous mind, which would be wholly at variance with the folly of a maniac, did not our author consistently preserve, throughout his work, the fact that the wandering of Don Quixote's mind, how great soever on the exciting subject of chivalry, amounted after all only to monomania.
It is particularly to be remembered that Cervantes' opinions on the subject of chivalry should not induce his readers to imagine that he depreciated moral courage properly directed, or devotion to country even to the extreme of capability. It is perhaps not hazarding too much in his favor to say that a braver man never lived. He proved his possession of that noble description of courage which enables a good and high-minded man to oppose an unbending front to the shafts of malice, prejudice, and envy. He was ever constant in his valor as in his good
faith; and that he highly valued the rare virtue of esteeming his life little when weighed against the interest of his country, is testified by his famous expression after being severely wounded in a naval engagement which occurred on the seventh October, 1571, and resulted in a victory in favor of the side for which he fought: 'El soldado mas bien parece muerto en la batalla que sano en la fuga. “Better appears the soldier dead on the field of battle than safe in flight.'
And now with becoming respect let us approach the consideration of that squire of squires, that pink of attendants and wisest of governors, Sancho Panza, father of Sanchito of that ilk, husband of the rustic but clever Teresa Panza, and man-at-arms to the ever-remembered and famous Hidalgo, Don Quixote de la Mancha.
Amid the pleasantries of Sancho, his innumerable proverbs, his unfailing credulity, his keen matter-of-fact observations, who has failed to discover one of the most truthful sketches of original character which ever fell from the pen of a gifted writer? Thoughtless alike of ambition and personal aggrandizement as of romantic and chivalric feeling, he is induced to follow the fortunes of his seignorial lord, only in the hope of serving his own mundane interests, by securing for himself and his family a income which would for ever shield them from the dishonorable dependence which was then, as it is now, only the too common lot of the Spanish peasant. Actuated by these feelings, he consents to roam the world with his master in search of adventures, only in the hope of obtaining the great desideratum which is held out to him in all sincerity by the Don, namely, the governorship of an island which the valor of the knight is to conquer in an incredibly short space of time. The monomania of the master induces him to promise promptly and conscientiously that which the man accepts, in prospective, readily and in all good faith. Sancho, however, does not accompany his agreement to his master's terms with any expression of pleasure at the pride and glory which would attend his advancement; nor does he feel any. His ideas of the head of an island government are connected only with the certain prospect of obtaining a livelihood for those who are near and dear to him. Pride is a feeling which be does not possess beyond that small measure which teaches him to respect his own position in life, and to honor it by his probity. Glory is equally a stranger to the plain, honest laborer, who, notwithstanding his lack of the world's learning, and his ignorance of even the first law of letters, sees through the flimsiness of vain-glory, and knows fame to be above his capacity, while he feels it to be superior to his inclinations. The 'government, therefore, is only regarded by him as a boon of somewhat the same character as that which a compliance with the demand of Micky Free, for the office of a gauger, would have appeared to that admirably-depicted worthy. Sancho accordingly follows Don Quixote with the confidence of a squire, and the natural buffoonery of a rustic clown.
The many ludicrous adventures in which these two heroes engaged are already matters of history. The story of the windmills has furnished our own language with a proverb. The tossing of Sancho in a blanket; his being beaten at the inn which his master believed to be a castle; the battle with the skins of wine; the conversation of Sancho with the duchess; and his judgments in the island of Barrataria; are all too well known and admired to need farther allusion here. Not so, however, with the words of wisdom which the common sense of the honest Sancho frequently induced him to advance in opposition to his master's folly. For Sancho was not mad; he was only simple and unsophisticated. Don Quixote was entirely theoretical; Sancho was eminently practical. Don Quixote imagined a world of his own, and behaved as if that world did really exist. Sancho on the other hand could distinguish between reality and supposition; and not knowing the world by experience, he made it a rule to take it as he found it. The master represented the world to Sancho in a light in which it had never before appeared to the squire, and the latter gave full credence to the picture because he knew no better, and had no reason to doubt the promises of the Hidalgo, or to question the correctness of his statements. Don Quixote's sincerity, Sancho knew, was unquestionable; and he never doubted the knight's sanity until Don Quixote mistook a windmill for a giant, a flock of sheep for an army of troops, and a barber's basin for a helmet. Sancho's judgment or common sense rebelled against such an unusual conglomeration of ideas, for which he was at a loss to account. But when Don Quixote explained these apparent deceptions by assuring Sancho that it was enchantment alone which prevented him from seeing that he was wrong and his master right, the squire believed, because he could not disbelieve, not knowing what enchantment meant.
A brief allusion to a few of the scenes in which the heroes of Cervantes' history are coëqually distinguished may serve to explain their respective characteristics.
On their first sallying forth in company to 'seek adventures, redress wrongs, etc., Sancho reminds his master of the promised island which is to be given to him to be governed, and which he asserts he can rule .for as large as it may be;' to which Don Quixote replies that it is an old custom among knights-errant to confer islands on their squires, and that far from abrogating it he will improve upon it, by conferring a government on Sancho on the earliest occasion, instead of waiting, as was in ancient times the observance, until the squire was old and gray.
'In which case,' replies Sancho, 'if I become king by one of the miracles of which your worship speaks, Juana Gutierrez would come to be queen, and my children Infantes.'
• Who doubts it?' answers Don Quixote. 'I doubt it,' replies Sancho, “because I hold that though God were to rain kingdoms upon the earth, none would sit well on the head of Mari Gutierrez. Know, your worship, that for a queen she is not worth two maravedis. A countess would suit her much better, and even then God
A whole volume, had Cervantes thought fit to spend his time on this branch of the subject, could not have given his readers a better idea of the candid and practical, though clownish nature of Sancho Panza. And on another occasion, Sancho declares, 'I am an old Christian, and to be a count is quite enough for me. So far for his thoughts on royalty and aristocracy. The next example gives some idea of his personal courage.
The Don exhorts Sancho never to make any attempt to aid him in any