A TEI Project

Chapter XIII

In which the end of the story of the shepherdess Marcela is revealed, along with other occurrences.

The first rays of dawn could just be seen along the balconies of the East when five of the six goatherds got up and went to waken don Quixote, and to tell him that if he still felt like going to see the notable burial of Grisóstomo, they would accompany him. Don Quixote, who wanted nothing else, got up and told Sancho to saddle the horse and donkey right away, which he did very quickly, and with that same speed they got on the road. They hadn’t gone a quarter of a league when, at a place where two paths crossed, they saw as many as six shepherds coming toward them dressed in black jackets and with garlands of cypress and oleander on their heads. Each one had a sturdy staff made of holly. Two men on horseback, well-equipped for travel, came along with them, with another three servants accompanying them on foot. When they met, they all greeted each other courteously, and asking which way each party was going, they found out that they were all headed toward the funeral, and so they began to ride together.

One of those on horseback said: “It seems to me, señor Vivaldo, that we should consider any delay well spent to see this celebrated burial, which can’t help but be remarkable, if the bizarre things these shepherds have told us about the dead shepherd as well as the murderous shepherdess are true.”

“That’s the way it seems to me,” responded Vivaldo, “and I’d delay not just one day, but four, to witness it.”

Don Quixote asked them what they’d heard about Marcela and Grisóstomo. The traveler said that early that morning they’d met those shepherds and that, seeing them in such sad garb, they’d asked them why they were dressed that way. One of them explained about the odd behavior and beauty of a shepherdess named Marcela, and about how many men loved and courted her, together with the death of that fellow Grisóstomo, whose funeral they were going to witness. In short, he told them everything that don Quixote had learned from Pedro.

The man who was called Vivaldo changed the subject and asked don Quixote what had caused him to travel about in armor through such a peaceful countryside.

To this don Quixote responded: “The calling that I practice neither allows nor permits me to go about any other way. A life of ease, pleasure, and repose was invented for insipid courtly knights. But toil, anxiety, and arms were invented and made for those the world calls knights errant, of whom I, although unworthy, am the least.”

When they heard this, everyone took him to be crazy. But to delve further and find out exactly what kind of madness don Quixote suffered from, Vivaldo asked him what he meant by «knights errant».

“Haven’t your graces read,” responded don Quixote, “in the annals and histories of England where it deals with the famous deeds of King Arthur, whom we always call «Rey Artús» in Spanish, about whom there’s an ancient and well-known tradition in the whole kingdom of Great Britain that this king didn’t die, but rather, through the art of enchantment, changed into a raven and that, with the passage of time, he’ll come back to rule and will recover his kingdom and scepter? That’s the reason it cannot be proven that any Englishman from that day until this has ever killed a raven. So, during the times of that good king, the celebrated order of chivalry known as the Knights of the Round Table, and the love between Lancelot of the Lake and Queen Guinevere, came about exactly as written, and their go-between who was also the queen’s confidante, was that honored lady Quintañona, from whom derived that well-known ballad that’s so prized in our Spain:

Oh, never surely was there a knight
So served by hand of dame,
As served was he, Sir Lancelot
When from Britain he came

and it continues by telling in a sweet and graceful way of his deeds in love and battle. Since then the order of chivalry has expanded and been handed down, extending and spreading itself to different parts of the world. And through this order the famous deeds of Amadís de Gaula were made known, with all his children, grandchildren, up to the fifth generation; and of the brave Felixmarte de Hyrcania; and of the never-sufficiently-praised Tirante el Blanco; and in our days, why, it’s as if we’ve actually seen, talked with, and listened to the invincible and brave knight don Belianís de Grecia. This is, señores, what it is to be a knight errant, and what I’ve described is the order of knighthood that I, as I’ve said, although I’m a sinner, have made my profession. The same things that these knights of old that I’ve mentioned professed, I also profess. Thus, I travel about this wilderness and these unpopulated areas seeking adventures, and I’m committed to offering my arm and my person in any perilous adventure that comes my way to help the weak and needy.”

From what he said, the travelers figured out that don Quixote was indeed crazy, and they saw the kind of madness that he had. They were as amazed as everyone else was who came into contact with him for the first time. As they were approaching the foot of the mountain where the burial was to take place, Vivaldo, who was a very witty and clever person, and of a merry disposition, wanted to give don Quixote a chance to go further with his nonsense, to relieve the tedium of the remaining distance that they had to travel, so he said: “It seems to me, señor, that your grace has undertaken one of the most austere professions in the whole world, and I tend to think that even the Carthusian monks don’t have a more rigorous one.”

“It might be as austere,” responded don Quixote, “but as to the Carthusian order being as necessary in the world, I’m very close to doubting, because, if the truth be known, the soldier who carries out what the captain orders does no less than the captain who gives the orders. What I mean is that the people of the Church, in all peacefulness and tranquillity, ask heaven for goodness on earth. But we soldiers and knights put into action what they ask for, defending the world through the strength of our arms and the edges of our swords, not under a roof, but rather out in the open, and targeted by unbearable rays of the sun in the summer and the rigorous freezing of winter. We are thus God’s ministers on earth, and we’re the arms by which heaven’s justice is administered. But since war and things pertaining to it can’t be carried out without sweat, travail, and labor, it follows that those who engage in it have, without a doubt, a greater task than those who in calm peacefulness and repose beg God to favor those who can’t defend themselves. I don’t mean, or even think for a moment, that a knight errant is somehow better than a cloistered monk. I only want to infer from what I undergo, that knights doubtless work harder, get more beaten up, suffer more hunger and thirst, and are more miserable, ragged, and covered with lice. And there’s no doubt that the knights errant of old endured much misfortune in the course of their lives. And if some of them rose to be emperors through the strength of their arm, it cost them a good deal of blood and sweat; and if those who rose to such a level lacked enchanters and wizards to help them, they would have been deprived of their desires and quite deceived in their hopes.”

“I agree completely,” replied the traveler, “but one thing, among many others, to which I take exception regarding knights errant is this—when they find themselves on the brink of a great and dangerous adventure in which it’s clear that they may lose their lives, as they begin their attack, it never occurs to them to commend themselves to God, as every Christian should do when at such risk. Instead, they commend themselves to their ladies with as much longing and devotion as if these ladies were their god, something that seems to me to smack of paganism.”

“Señor,” responded don Quixote, “that cannot be otherwise, and the knight-errant who did anything else would fare ill. It’s the custom in knight errantry for the knight about to undertake a great feat of arms, if his lady is present, to turn his eyes softly and lovingly toward her, as if his eyes were pleading for her favor and protection in the perilous battle he’s about to undertake. And even if she’s not there to hear him, he’s obliged to say a few words under his breath in which he commends himself to her with all his heart. We have an infinite number of examples of this in the histories. But this doesn’t mean that they fail to commend themselves to God as well, since there’s ample time and opportunity to do so as the adventure develops.”

“Even so,” replied the traveler, “I do have a qualm, and it’s this: many times I’ve read that an argument arises between two knights errant, and from one word to the next their anger grows and they wheel their horses around, face each other, and then without further ado, they rush toward each other at full tilt, and in the middle of their course they commend themselves to their ladies. And what typically happens is that one of them tumbles over the back of his horse, having been run through by his opponent’s lance, and the other, too, if he hadn’t held on to the horse’s mane, couldn’t have avoided crashing to the ground. I just don’t see how the dead man had time to commend himself to God in the course of this hurried battle. It would be better if the words he spoke during the run commending himself to his lady were used instead to discharge his duties and obligations as a Christian, especially since, at least in my opinion, not every knight errant has a lady to whom he can commend himself, because not every one is in love.”

“That’s impossible,” responded don Quixote. “I say it’s impossible for there to be a knight errant without a lady, because it’s as proper and natural for them to be in love as it is for the sky to have stars. And it’s certain that a history has not been found where there’s a knight who’s not in love, for the simple reason that if he were without a love he wouldn’t be considered legitimate, but rather counterfeit, one who entered the fortress of chivalry not through the front door, but over the walls, like a robber and a thief.”

“Nevertheless,” said the traveler, “it seems to me, if I remember right, I read that don Galaor, the brother of the brave Amadís de Gaula, never had a particular lady to whom he could commend himself, and he certainly wasn’t esteemed any less, for he was a brave and famous knight.”

To which our don Quixote responded: “«One swallow doesn’t make a summer», especially since I know that he was secretly very much in love; aside from that, his propensity for falling in love with all who seemed attractive to him was a natural tendency he couldn’t control. But, in short, it’s certain that there was one special lady whom he made the mistress of his heart, to whom he commended himself very frequently and very much in secret, because he prided himself as being a discreet knight.”

“So, if it’s essential for every knight errant to be in love,” said the traveler, “it can be assumed that your grace also is, since you belong to that order. And if you don’t take pride in being as secretive as don Galaor, as earnestly as I can, I beg you, on behalf of all these people and myself, to tell us the name, birthplace, rank, and beauty of your lady, for she’ll consider herself fortunate for everyone to know that she’s loved and served by such a knight as you appear to be.”

Don Quixote heaved an enormous sigh at this point and said: “I can’t affirm whether my sweet enemy is pleased or not for everyone to know I serve her. I can only say, to answer what has so politely been asked, that her name is Dulcinea; her place of birth El Toboso, a village in La Mancha; her rank must be at least that of princess, since she’s my queen and mistress; her beauty superhuman, since in her are made real all the impossible and chimerical attributes of beauty that poets give to their ladies: her hair is gold, her forehead is the Elysian Fields, her eyebrows rainbows, her eyes suns, her cheeks roses, her lips coral, pearls her teeth, alabaster her neck, marble her bosom, ivory her hands, her whiteness snow, and the parts that decency has hidden from human view are such, according to what I think and understand, as only circumspect contemplation can extol but not compare.”

“We would like to know about her lineage, ancestry, and family,” replied Vivaldo.

To which don Quixote responded: “She’s not of the Curtii, Caii, or Scipiones of Ancient Rome; nor of the modern Colonas or Ursinos; nor of the Moncadas or Requesenes of Catalonia; and certainly not the Rebellas or Villanovas of Valencia; nor Palafoxes, Nuzas, Rocabertis, Corellas, Lunas, Alagones, Urreas, Foces or Gurreas of Aragón; nor Cerdas, Manriques, Mendozas, or Guzmanes of Castile; nor Alencastros, Pallas, or Meneses of Portugal; but rather of those from El Toboso de La Mancha, a lineage that, although modern, can give a generous beginning to the most illustrious families for centuries to come. And let no one contradict me in this, except on the conditions that Cervino put at the bottom of the trophy of Orlando’s armor, which said: ‘Let no one move them who doesn’t want to battle with Roland.’ ”

“Although my lineage is of the Cachopines of Laredo,” responded the traveler, “I wouldn’t dare compare it with El Toboso of La Mancha, although, to tell the truth, I’ve never heard that name before.”

“What do you mean you’ve never heard it before!?” retorted don Quixote.

Everyone listened attentively to the conversation of the two of them, and even the shepherds and goatherds themselves perceived our don Quixote’s delusion. Only Sancho Panza thought that everything his master said was true, knowing who he was, and having known him since his own birth. What he had lingering doubts about was that business about the fair Dulcinea del Toboso, because neither that name nor anything about that princess had ever come to his attention, even though he lived so close to El Toboso.

They were still conversing when they saw about twenty shepherds coming through a mountain pass, all dressed in black woolen jackets and crowned with garlands of, as it later appeared, yew and cypress. Six of them carried a litter covered with many different flowers and bouquets.

When one of the goatherds saw this, he said: “Those people coming from over yonder are bringing Grisóstomo’s body, and at the foot of that mountain is the place where he asked to be buried.”

Accordingly, they hurried to get there, and arrived soon after the shepherds had laid the litter on the ground. Four of them with sharp pick-axes were digging the grave near a boulder. They all greeted each other courteously, and then don Quixote and those with him went to look at the litter, and on it they saw a dead body covered with flowers. He was dressed as a shepherd and appeared to be thirty years old. And although he was dead, his body showed that when he was alive he’d been quite handsome, with a gallant appearance. Some books and many papers were strewn all around him on the litter.

All the onlookers, as well as those who were digging the grave and everyone else, were keeping perfectly quiet, until one of the litter-bearers said to another: “Make sure, Ambrosio, that this is the place that Grisóstomo specified, since you want to comply strictly with the provisions of his will.”

“This is the place,” responded Ambrosio, “where he told me the story of his misfortunes many times. He told me that this is where he saw the mortal enemy of the human race for the first time, and here is also where he declared his intentions, as pure as they were filled with love. And this is where Marcela finally rebuked and disdained him, which ended the tragedy of his wretched life. And here, in testimony of so much misfortune, is where he wanted us to bury him, in the depths of eternal oblivion.”

And turning toward don Quixote and the other travelers, he went on, saying: “This body, señores, that you’re looking at with pious eyes, was the repository of a soul in which heaven put an infinite share of its bounty. This is the body of Grisóstomo, who was unequaled in wit, stood alone in courtesy, extreme in refinement, a phœnix in friendship, generous without measure, grave without being vain, jovial without vulgarity, and second to none in misfortune. He loved with devotion and was hated in return; he adored and was disdained. He courted a beast, he implored a block of marble, he chased the wind, he shouted to deaf ears, he served ingratitude, and as a reward all he got was the spoils of death in the prime of life, murdered by a shepherdess whom he tried to immortalize so that she would live on in the memory of all people. These papers that you see could well prove it, if he hadn’t told me to commit them to the flames once we placed his body in the ground.”

“You would deal with them more harshly and cruelly,” said Vivaldo, “than their owner himself, since it’s not right to comply with the will of someone who goes contrary to all that’s reasonable in what he orders. Cæsar Augustus wouldn’t have acted within reason if he’d consented to do what the Divine Mantuan had ordered in his will. So, señor Ambrosio, you’re consigning his body to the earth, but please don’t consign his writings to oblivion. If he ordered it as a person aggrieved, don’t comply with it in a moment of folly. Rather, give life to these papers so that Marcela’s cruelty will serve as an example to future generations of the living, so they’ll know to flee from such dangerous undertakings. I, and the rest of us who have come here, know the tale of your loving and despairing friend, and we know of your friendship and the cause of his death and what he asked to be done after his death. And from that lamentable history we can gather the extent of Marcela’s cruelty, Grisóstomo’s love, your faithful friendship, and the end that’s in store for those who ride recklessly along the path of unrestrained love. Last night we learned of Grisóstomo’s death and that he’d be buried in this place, and out of curiosity and compassion, we detoured from our planned itinerary and decided to see with our eyes what had aroused our pity when we heard it. In recompense for our compassion and the desire we had to relieve yours, we beg you, discreet Ambrosio, at least I beg you on my own, not to burn these papers, and let me take some of them.”

And without waiting for the shepherd to respond, he reached out and took some of the papers that were closest by. When Ambrosio saw this he said: “Out of courtesy, I’ll let you keep what you’ve taken, but it’s futile to think that I won’t burn the rest, señor.”

Vivaldo wanted to see what the papers said, so he opened one of them right away and saw that it was titled «Song of Despair». When Ambrosio heard the title he said: “That’s the last thing that the unfortunate fellow wrote, and so that you can see the extent to which his misfortunes had brought him, read it so that you can be heard. You’ll have time while the grave is being dug.”

“I’ll do it with pleasure,” said Vivaldo.

And since everyone present had the same wish, they gathered around him, and reading in a clear voice, he saw that it said:


Date: June 1, 2009
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