Page:Don Quixote (Cervantes, Ormsby) Volume 2.djvu/44

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
22
DON QUIXOTE.

was no sage, but some ignorant chatterer, who, in a haphazard and heedless way, set about writing it, let it turn out as it might, just as Orbaneja, the painter of Ubeda, used to do, who, when they asked him what he was painting, answered, "What it may turn out." Sometimes he would paint a cock in such a fashion, and so unlike, that he had to write alongside of it in Gothic letters, 'This is a cock; ' and so it will be with my history, which will require a commentary to make it intelligible."

"No fear of that,"' returned Samson, "for it is so plain that there is nothing in it to puzzle over; the children turn its leaves, the young people read it, the grown men understand it, the old folk praise; in a word, it is so thumbed,[1] and read, and got by heart by people of all sorts, that the instant they see any lean hack, they say, 'There goes Rocinante.' And those that are most given to reading it are the pages, for there is not a lord's ante-chamber where there is not a 'Don Quixote' to be found; one takes it up if another lays it down; this one pounces upon it, and that begs for it. In short, the said history is the most delightful and least injurious entertainment that has been hitherto seen, for there is not to be found in the whole of it even the semblance of an immodest word, or a thought that is other than Catholic."

"To write in any other way," said Don Quixote, "would not be to write truth, but falsehood, and historians who have recourse to falsehood, ought to be burned, like those who coin false money; and I know not what could have led the author to have recourse to novels and irrelevant stories, when he had so much to write about in mine; no doubt he must have gone by the proverb 'with straw or with hay, etc.,'[2] for by merely setting forth my thoughts, my sighs, my tears, my lofty purposes, my enterprises, he might have made a volume as large, or larger than all the works of El Tostado would make up.[3] In fact, the conclusion I arrive at, señor bachelor, is, that to write histories, or books of any kind, there is need of great judgment and a ripe understanding. To give expression to humor, and write in a strain of graceful pleasantry, is the gift

  1. In the original, trillada, "thrashed," as wheat is in Spain, by having the trilla, a sort of harrow, dragged over it.
  2. Prov. 166. In full it runs, "with straw or with hay the mattress is filled."
  3. El Tostado was Alonso de Madrigal, Bishop of Avila, a prolific author of devotional works in the reign of John II.