WHO COULD have listened to the speech just made by don Quixote and not considered him to be a person of sound judgment and sounder intellect? But as has been set down many times in the course of this great history, he only spoke nonsense in matters of chivalry, but in other areas he had clear and confident understanding, so that at every step along the way his works contradicted his words and his words his works. But in the matter of the second set of advice that he gave to Sancho, he showed great acuity of mind and intelligence, and you could see both his wisdom and his madness at very high levels.
Sancho listened most attentively to him, and tried to store all his advice in his memory, planning to keep it, and by use of it to bring the pregnancy of his government to a happy birth.
So don Quixote went on and said: “Insofar as how to govern yourself and your household, the first thing that I charge you to do is to be clean, and cut your fingernails without letting them grow, as some do, who through their ignorance consider that long nails beautify their hands, thinking that uncut growth was fingernails, but they’re really claws of a lizard-catching hawk—a foul and unnatural abuse.
“Don’t go about, Sancho, without a belt, wearing loose-fitting clothing, because slovenly attire seems to indicate a careless spirit, unless shabby appearance and negligence was intentional, as was supposedly the case of Julius Cæsar. “Take the pulse wisely of what your office can afford. If it will allow, give uniforms—more in good taste and useful than showy and flashy—to your servants, and divide them between your servants and the poor. I mean, if you want to give uniforms to six pages, dress just three of them and then dress three poor people. In that way, you’ll have pages in heaven and on earth. This novel way of giving uniforms is not known to the arrogant.
“Don’t eat garlic or onions, so people won’t be able to tell your low birth by the way you smell. Walk slowly and speak with deliberation, but in such a way so that it won’t appear that you’re listening to yourself, because all affectation is bad.
“Eat little at lunch and at eat even less dinner because the health of the body is forged in the workshop of the stomach.
“Be restrained in your drinking, considering that too much wine keeps neither secrets nor its word.
“Be careful not to eat with food in both cheeks, nor to eruct in front of anyone.”
“I don’t understand this eruct business,” said Sancho.
And don Quixote said to him: “To eruct means to belch. This is one of the crudest words in the Spanish language, although it’s quite charged with meaning, so diligent people have gone to Latin, and instead of saying belch they say eruct, and instead of saying belches they say eructations. If some people don’t understand these terms, it matters little, because in time they will, when usage will accustom them. This will enrich the language, that custom and the common man control.”
“In truth, señor,” said Sancho, “one of the pieces of advice that I plan to keep in my memory will be that business of belching because I do it frequently.”
“Eructing, Sancho, and not belching,” said don Quixote.
“Yes, eructing is what I’ll say from now on,” responded Sancho, “and I swear I won’t forget.”
“Also, Sancho, you must not mix the multitude of proverbs that you know into your conversation as you always do. Although proverbs distill the wisdom of the ages, you often drag them in by their hair and they seem more like foolishness than maxims.”
“God will have to provide a remedy for this,” responded Sancho, “because I know more proverbs than are in a book and they come to my mouth so jumbled together when I speak they fight with each other to get out. But my tongue throws out the first one it finds, even though it may not fit the situation exactly. I’ll be careful from now on to say only those that conform to the gravity of my office, because «in a full house supper is soon cooked» and «the one who shuffles doesn’t cut» and «the man who sounds the alarm is safe» and «to give and to retain requires a good brain».”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” said don Quixote, “you insert, string together, and pile up proverbs. No one can stop you! «My mother punishes me and I make fun of her!» I’m trying to tell you to stop using proverbs and in an instant you’ve tossed out a long list of them that fit into what we’re talking about as well as «over the hills of Úbeda». Look, Sancho, I’m not saying that an appropriate proverb isn’t a good thing. But to heap and string proverbs together willy-nilly makes for a dull and coarse conversation.
“When you get on horseback, don’t sit way back in the saddle, nor with your legs stiff and sticking out, away from the body of the horse, nor slouch the way you do on the donkey. Riding horses makes some look like horsemen and others like stable boys.
“Be moderate in your sleep, for «he who doesn’t wake up with the sun doesn’t enjoy the day». And be aware, Sancho, that «industry is the mother of good luck» and its contrary, laziness, never accomplishes what good desires demand.
“This last bit of advice I want to give you now—although it doesn’t deal with the adornment of your body—I want you to keep it lodged in your memory, and I think it’ll be no less useful than those that I’ve given you up to now, and it’s this: never get involved with questioning lineages; at least comparing them, since invariably one will turn out better, and you’ll be hated by the person you put down, and you’ll never be rewarded by the one you praised.
“You should wear long pants and a jacket, and a cape that is a bit longer. As for those loose-fitting pants, don’t even consider it! They’re not good either for knights or for governors. “This is all I have to advise you about for the moment, Sancho. With the passage of time, and depending on the circumstances, if you tell me how things are going, I’ll be giving you more instructions.”
“Señor,” responded Sancho, “I see that everything you’ve told me is good, virtuous, and beneficial. But what good will it do me if I can’t remember a single thing. It’s true I won’t forget the business of not letting my fingernails grow, and of getting married again if the occasion arises. But all that other tangled misch-masch of things I can’t remember, nor will I remember any more of them than I would the snows of yesteryear, so you’ll have to give them to me in written form. Because although I can’t read or write, I’ll give them to my confessor so that he can pass them on to me and remind me as needed.”
“Ah, sinner that I am,” responded don Quixote, “how bad it seems when governors can’t read or write! You should know, Sancho, that not being able to read or being left-handed indicates one of two things—either he was a child of parents who were too humble or he was so mischievous and bad that he couldn’t be taught good customs or what he needed to know. It’s a grave defect that you have, and I’d like you at least to learn to sign your name.”
“I can sign my name,” responded Sancho, “because when I was a steward in my town, I learred to make some letters like they use to mark on bales, and they said that it was my name. Besides, I can pretend that my right hand is maimed and I can have someone else sign for me. «There’s a remedy for everything except death», and «holding the power and the staff, I’ll do whatever I want». And what’s more, «he who has a bailiff for a father…» And since I’ll be governor, which is higher than bailiff, come on and we’ll see what happens! Let them scorn and slander me! «They’ll come for wool and go back shorn» and «the lucky man has nothing to worry about». And «the foolish remarks of the rich man pass for wisdom in the world». And being governor and liberal at the same time, as I plan to be, they’ll think I’m flawless. «Make yourself into honey and the flies will eat you up». As my grandmother used to say: «you’re worth as much as you have». And «you can’t take vengeance on the landed gentry».”
“May God curse you, Sancho!” said don Quixote. “May sixty thousand devils haul you and your proverbs off! It’s been an hour since you started stringing them together and torturing me with each one. I can assure you that these proverbs will lead you to the gallows one day. Because of them your vassals will take away your government, or it will cause them to revolt against you. Tell me, you ignoramus, where do you find them? or how to you apply them, you idiot? For me to say a single one and apply it well, I sweat and work as if I were digging a ditch.”
“Before God, señor our master,” replied Sancho, “you’re complaining about very little. Why the devil do you get angry because I’m using my heritage, since it’s all I have? My only wealth is proverbs and more proverbs. And right now four of them come to mind that fit the situation exactly, «like peaches in a basket». But I won’t say them, because «good silence is called Sancho».
“That’s not you,” said don Quixote, “because not only are you not ‘good silence,’ you’re ‘bad speech’ and obstinate as well. But even so, I’d like to find out which four proverbs just came to you that fit the situation so well. I’ve been ransacking my brain, and I can’t think of a single one that’s à propos.”
“What better ones are there than «never put your thumbs between your wisdom teeth», and «to ‘leave my home’ and ‘what do you want with my wife?’ there’s nothing to answer», and «if the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hits the pitcher, it’s bad for the pitcher»? All of them fit perfectly. No one should take on their governor, nor anyone who’s in charge, because he’ll come out hurt, just like someone who puts his finger between his wisdom teeth, and even if they’re not the wisdom teeth, as long as they’re molars it doesn’t make any difference. And no matter what the governor asks, there’s nothing to say, just like «‘leave my house’ and ‘what do you want with my wife’?» And the one about the pitcher and the rock, a blind man can see it. So, «why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye with never a thought for the plank in your own», lest it be said of him: «the dead woman was frightened to see another with a slit throat». And your grace already knows the one about «the fool knows more in his own house than the wise man in someone else’s».”
“Not so, Sancho,” responded don Quixote, “for the fool in his own house or in anyone else’s doesn’t know anything because on the foundation of foolishness you can’t build the edifice of intelligence. And let’s let it go here, Sancho, because if you govern badly, «yours will be the blame and mine will be the shame». But I can console myself in that I’ve done what I should by advising you with truths and with whatever discretion I could. With that I’m discharged from my obligation and promise. May God guide you, Sancho, and may He govern you in your government, and take from me the misgiving that I have that you might wind up with the ínsula flat on its back, something that I could prevent by revealing to the duke who you are, telling him that the little fat person that you are is nothing more than a sack filled with proverbs and mischief.”
“Señor,” replied Sancho, “if your grace thinks that I’m not right for this government, I’ll give it up right now. I love the tiniest part of my soul more than my whole body, and I’ll survive simply as Sancho with bread and onions than a governor with partridges and capons. And what’s more, «when they’re asleep, everyone is the same—the grandees and the little folk, the rich and the poor», and if you think about it, you’ll see that you alone made me start to think about being a governor. I don’t know any more about governing ínsulas than a vulture does, and if you think that if I become a governor the devil will carry off my soul, I’d prefer to go to heaven as Sancho than to hell as a governor.”
“By God, Sancho,” said don Quixote, “with just these last words you’ve said, I judge that you deserve to be governor of a thousand ínsulas. You have a good instinct, without which knowledge is worthless. Commend yourself to God, and try not to err in your main purpose. I mean that you should always keep a firm intent and purpose to do right in all things because «heaven supports worthy aims». Let’s go eat now, because these people are waiting for us.”