A TEI Project

Chapter III

About the laughable conversation that took place between don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and the bachelor, Sansón Carrasco.

DON QUIXOTE was quite absorbed while waiting for the bachelor Carrasco, from whom he hoped to hear what it was they said about him in a book, as Sancho had reported, but he couldn’t persuade himself that such a history could exist since the blood on the blade of his sword from the enemies he’d slain wasn’t dry, and yet they were telling him that his high chivalric deeds were already circulating in print. With all this he imagined that some enchanter, either a friend or an enemy, through the art of enchantment, must have published them—if a friend, to magnify and exalt them over the most outstanding feats of knight errantry; if an enemy, to humble them and place them beneath the most despicable acts that had ever been written about a pathetic squire, although—he said to himself—deeds of squires were never written about. And yet if it was true there was really such a history, since it was about a knight errant, it had to be grandiloquent, noble, distinguished, magnificent, and true.

With this in mind, he was somewhat consoled, but it unsettled him to think that its author was a Moor, since his name was preceded by CIDE, and from the Moors you couldn’t expect anything true at all, because they’re all deceivers, liars, and troublemakers. He feared that the matter of his love might have been handled indecently, resulting in discredit to and detriment of señora Dulcinea del Toboso’s chastity. He hoped that the author would have declared the faithfulness and respect that he always kept for her, scorning queens, empresses, and maidens of every rank, and holding in check the impulses of his natural inclinations. And so, immersed and wrapped up in these and other thoughts, Sancho and Carrasco found him, and don Quixote received the latter with great courtesy.

The bachelor, who, although he was named Sansón, was not very big, although he was a great jokester, and his complexion a bit pallid, but he had a keen intelligence. He was about twenty-four years old, round-faced, snub-nosed, and with a large mouth, all of these features being signs of a mischievous personality and with a liking for jokes and jests, as he showed when he met don Quixote, kneeling in front of him and saying: “Give me your hands, your greatness, señor don Quixote de La Mancha. By the habit of Saint Peter I’m wearing, although I only have the first four orders, I swear your grace is one of the most famous knights errant there ever have been, or will ever be on the face of the earth. Blessed be Cide Hamete Benengeli who wrote the history of your great deeds, and blessed once more the curious fellow who took the care to have them translated from Arabic into our common Castilian for the universal enjoyment of all.”

Don Quixote made him stand up, and said: “So, it’s true that there’s a history about me and that it’s a Moor and a sage who wrote it?”

“It’s so true, señor,” said Sansón, “that I’m convinced that as of now there are more than twelve thousand copies of that history in print. And if you don’t believe it, just ask around in Portugal, Barcelona, and Valencia, where they were printed. There’s even a rumor that it’s being printed in Antwerp, and it seems to me that there will be no nation or language that will not have its own translation.”

“One of the things,” said don Quixote, “that must please a virtuous and eminent man the most is to see himself, while still living, spoken about with a good name by the tongues of men. I said WITH A GOOD NAME because if it were the opposite, no death would be its equal.”

“If it’s a question of good reputation and renown,” said the bachelor, “your grace takes the palm over all other knights errant, because the Moor in his language and the Christian in his, were careful to depict in a very lively way your gallantry, your courage in facing danger, your patience in adversity, and your sufferance in misfortunes and wounds, the chastity and restraint in your so Platonic love for your, and my lady doña Dulcinea del Toboso.”

“I’ve never,” said Sancho, “heard my lady Dulcinea referred to as DOÑA, only just THE LADY DULCINEA DEL TOBOSO, and in this the story has made a mistake.”

“That’s not a bad mistake,” responded Carrasco.

“Certainly not,” responded don Quixote. “But tell me, your grace, señor bachelor, what deeds of mine are most praised in this history?”

“Well,” responded the bachelor, “there are different opinions, as there are different tastes—some say the adventure of the windmills, which to your grace appeared Briaræuses and giants; others say it was the one of the fulling mills; this one, the description of the two armies, which appeared afterwards to be two flocks of sheep; that one extols the adventure of the dead body they were taking to Segovia to be buried; one says that the best one of all was the releasing of the galley-slaves; another says that than none equals the one about the two giant Benedictine monks, together with the battle with the brave Basque.”

“Tell me, señor bachelor,” said Sancho, “do they include the adventure of the Yangüesans, when our good Rocinante felt like asking for impossible things?”

“The enchanter left nothing in the inkwell,” responded Sansón, “He says and notes everything, even the capers that the good Sancho cut in the blanket.”

“I cut no capers in the blanket,” said Sancho. “In the air, yes, and even more than I would have liked.”

“The way I imagine it,” said don Quixote, “there’s no history in the world that doesn’t have its ups and downs, especially those that deal with chivalry, which are never filled only with favorable outcomes.”

“Yet some readers,” responded the bachelor, “who have read the history say that they’d have preferred it if the author had left out some of the infinite thwacks that señor don Quixote received on several occasions.”

“There’s where the truth of the story comes in,” said Sancho.

“Out of fairness, they didn’t need to mention them all,” said don Quixote, “since there’s no reason to write about actions that don’t alter the truth of the history, if they’re likely to redound to the derision of the hero. I mean, Æneas wasn’t as pious as Virgil describes him, and Ulysses wasn’t as judicious as Homer portrays him.”

“That’s right,” replied Sansón, “but it’s one thing to write as a poet and another thing as a historian. The poet can relate or sing things not as they were but as they should have been, but the historian must write things not as they should have been but rather as they were, without adding or taking away anything at all.”

“Well, if this Moor is supposed to tell the truth,” said Sancho, “it must be that among the thwacks given to my master, mine doubtless are mentioned there as well, because they never measured his grace’s shoulders without measuring my whole body. But there’s no reason for me to marvel at that since, as my master says, the rest of the body has to feel the pain in the head.”

“You’re a jokester, Sancho,” responded don Quixote, “I swear your memory doesn’t fail you when you want to remember something.”

“Even if I wanted to forget those thwacks with a club they gave me,” said Sancho, “the welts, which are still fresh on my ribs, won’t let me.”

“Hush, Sancho,” said don Quixote, “and don’t interrupt the señor bachelor, whom I ask to continue telling me what the history tells about me.”

“And about me,” said Sancho, “for they say I’m one of the main parsonages in it.”

“Personages, not parsonages, friend Sancho,” said Sansón.

“Here’s another critic of words,” said Sancho, “and if that keeps up we won’t finish in my lifetime.”

“By golly, Sancho,” responded the bachelor, “if you aren’t the second most important person in the history, and there are people who prefer to hear you talk over the best of them, but there are others who say you were too gullible in believing it was true that you’d get the government of the ínsula promised by señor don Quixote.”

“There’s still time,” said don Quixote, “and as Sancho gets older, with the experience afforded by his years, he’ll be more suited and able to be a governor, more so than now.”

“By God, señor,” said Sancho, “if I can’t govern the ínsula now at my age, I won’t be able to govern it when I’m as old as Methuselah. The trouble is that the ínsula in question is out there somewhere—I don’t know where—and not that I don’t have the brains to govern it.”

“Put it in God’s hands,” said don Quixote. “Everything will turn out fine, and perhaps better than you think—for the leaves on the trees don’t stir unless God so wills it.”

“That’s the truth,” said Sansón. “If God pleases, Sancho won’t lack a thousand islands to govern, not to mention just one.”

“I’ve seen governors,” replied Sancho, “who, in my opinion, don’t reach the sole of my shoe, and even so they’re called LORDSHIP, and they’re served on silver plates.”

“Those aren’t governors of ínsulas,” replied Sansón, “but rather of other more manageable governments—governors of ínsulas at least need to know grammar.”

“I know something about GRAMS, said Sancho, “but I don’t have any idea about MYRRH, because I don’t know what it is. But leaving the matter of the government in the hands of God, who can send me wherever he pleases. I say, señor bachelor Sansón Carrasco, it pleases me infinitely that the author of the history has spoken about me in a way that what is told about me offends no one. I swear as a good squire that if he’d said things unbefitting the Old Christian that I am, the deaf would have heard about it.”

“That would be working miracles,” responded Sansón.

“Miracles or not,” said Sancho, “everyone should be careful with what they say or write about people, and not say willy-nilly the first thing that comes to mind.”

“One of the blemishes say the story has,” said the bachelor, “is that its author included a novella called «The Ill-Advised Curiosity». Not that it’s bad or poorly written, but because it’s out of place and doesn’t have anything to do with the history of señor don Quixote.”

“I’ll bet,” replied Sancho, “that the son of a dog has mixed everything up.”

“I think,” said don Quixote, “that the author of my history wasn’t an enchanter but some ignorant chatterbox who just began writing at random and without any plan, no matter how it would turn out, like Orbaneja, the painter from Úbeda, who, when they asked him what he was painting, would say: ‘Whatever turns out.’ Perhaps he’d paint a rooster in such a way and so badly that he’d have to print next to it in Gothic letters: «THIS IS A ROOSTER». That’s what my history must be like—it’ll need commentary to understand it.”

“No, not that,” responded Sansón, “because it’s so clear that there isn’t anything difficult in it. Children rummage through it, young people read it, adults understand it, and old people praise it. Finally it’s so well-worn, so widely read, and so well-known by all types of people, that hardly will they see some skinny nag when they’ll say: ‘There goes Rocinante,’ and those who have read it the most are the pages. There’s no antechamber of a lord where a Don Quixote isn’t found. Some take it when others leave it; these seize it and those ask for it. Finally, that history is among the most pleasurable and least harmful entertainment that has ever been seen, because in the whole thing you won’t find even a hint of an unchaste word or a thought that isn’t Catholic.”

“Writing any other way,” said don Quixote, “wouldn’t be writing truths, but lies—and historians who use lies, should be burned like counterfeiters. I don’t know what moved the author to use irrelevant novellas and stories when he had so much to write just about me. He doubtless was thinking of the proverb «whether with straw or with hay, » In truth, just to record my thoughts, my sighs, my tears, my good intentions, and my undertakings, it would take a volume of work larger than, or at least as big as the works of El Tostado. Indeed, what I think, señor bachelor, is that it requires fine judgment and a mature understanding to write histories and books of any kind—and to write with grace and wit requires great talent. The shrewdest character in a play is the fool, because the person who wants to be taken for a fool must not be one himself. History is like a sacred thing, because it has to be true, and where truth is, God is as well, insofar as the truth goes. Aside from this, there are some who write books and crank them out like doughnuts.”

“There’s no book so bad,” said the bachelor, “that it doesn’t have something good in it.”

“There’s no doubt about that,” replied don Quixote. “But frequently it happens that authors who have deservedly won and attained great reputation through their manuscripts, when they have them published, they lose their reputation, or at least damage it somewhat.”

“The reason for this,” said Sansón, “is that since printed works can be read slowly, it’s easy to see their defects. And the more famous the author is, the more his works are scrutinized. People who are famous through their talent—great poets, illustrious historians—always, or most of the time, are envied by those who get both pleasure and entertainment from critiquing the writings of others, without having brought any of their own to the light of day.”

“This is not surprising,” said don Quixote, “because there are many theologians who are not good in the pulpit, but are very good at seeing the defects or excesses of those who do preach.”

“All that is correct, señor don Quixote,” said Carrasco, “but I’d like for censors to be more merciful and less hypercritical, without stressing the spots on the brilliant sun they’re criticizing, because if aliquando dormitat Homerus, they should consider how much time he spent awake to give light to his work with as little shadow as he could, and perhaps it might be that what seems bad to them could be moles that at times increase the beauty of the face that has them. And I say therefore that the person who decides to publish a book puts himself at great risk, since it’s impossible to write one in such a way that will satisfy and please everyone who reads it.”

“The book about me,” said don Quixote, “must have pleased few.” “On the contrary, since Stultorum infinitus est numerus, there’s an infinite number who like that history. And some have found fault with the memory of the author since he forgot to say who the thief was who stole Sancho’s donkey, because it’s not mentioned there, and you can only infer from the context that it’s been stolen. Then a while later we see Sancho riding on his donkey’s back, before it was returned. They also say that the author failed to set down what Sancho did with those hundred escudos he found in the Sierra Morena, because he never mentions it, and many want to know what he did with them, or what he spent them on, and that’s one of the serious omissions in the work.”

Sancho replied: “I, señor Sansón, am not about to get into accountings or explanations. My stomach is growling, and if I don’t take care of it with a couple of swallows of wine, I’ll get punctured by St. Lucy’s thorn. I have some at home, my wife is waiting for me, and after I eat I’ll come back and will answer all your questions about the loss of the donkey as well as what I spent the hundred escudos on.”

And without waiting for a response or saying another word, he went home. Don Quixote asked and even begged the bachelor to stay and take pot luck with him. The bachelor accepted the invitation and stayed. A couple of pigeons were added to the usual lunch. They spoke about chivalry over the meal, Carrasco went along with his state of mind, they slept the siesta, Sancho came back, and the previous conversation continued.


Date: June 1, 2009
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