The Exemplary Novels of Cervantes/The Licentiate Vidriera
THE LICENTIATE VIDRIERA; OR, DOCTOR GLASS-CASE.
Two students were one day passing along the banks of the Tormes, when they found a boy, about eleven years old, dressed as a labourer, and sleeping under a tree. They sent a servant to wake him, and when he had well opened his eyes, they asked him whence he came, and what he was doing, to be lying asleep and defenceless in that lonely place. The boy replied, that he had forgotten the name of his birthplace, but was going to Salamanca, there to seek a master whom he might serve, on condition of being permitted and aided to pursue his studies.
The gentlemen then asked if he could read, and he replied that he could, and write also.
"It is not from want of memory, then, that you have forgotten the name of your country," remarked the students.
"Let the cause be what it may," replied the boy, "neither that nor the name of my parents shall be known to any one until I can do honour to them both."
"But in what manner do you propose to do them honour?" inquired the gentlemen.
"By the results of my studies," said the boy, "and when I have rendered myself famous by the learning I mean to acquire; for I have heard that some men have made themselves bishops by their studies."
This reply moved the two gentlemen to receive the lad into their service, and take him with them to Salamanca, giving him such facilities for studying as it is not unusual for masters to afford in that university to those who serve them.
The youth subsequently informed his masters, that they might call him Thomas Rodaja; whence the students judged him to be the son of some poor labourer. A day or two after their meeting, they caused him to be clothed in a suit of black; and, in the course of a few weeks, he gave proof of extraordinary talent. He was, besides, very grateful, and laboured so earnestly in the service of his masters, that although in fact exceedingly attentive to his studies, it might well have been thought that he did nothing but wait upon those he served.
Now the good service of the valet led the masters to treat him well; Thomas soon became their companion rather than servant, and, during eight years, all of which he passed with them, he acquired for himself so high a reputation in the university, by his great ability and excellent conduct, that he was beloved and esteemed by those of every rank.
The principal object of Rodaja's study was the law, but he was almost equally distinguished in polite learning, and his memory was matter of marvel to all; and the correctness of his views on all subjects was not less remarkable.
The time had now arrived when the studies of his masters were completed, and they returned to their birthplace, which was one of the most important cities of Andalusia. They took Rodaja with them, and he remained in their company for some time; but, assailed by a perpetual longing to return to his studies at Salamanca,—a city that enchains the will of all who have tasted the amenities of life in that fair seat of learning—he entreated permission of his masters to depart for that purpose. With their usual kindness, they accorded him the favour he desired, and took such measures in his behalf that by their bounty he was supplied with a sufficiency to support him in the university for three years.
Rodaja took his leave with manifest proofs of gratitude, and departed from Malaga, for that was the native city of his masters, without further delay. Descending the declivity of the Zambra on the road to Antequera, he chanced to encounter a gentleman on horseback, gaily accoutred in a rich travelling dress, and attended by two servants, also on horseback, whose company he joined; their journey thenceforward lay in the same direction, and the gentleman accepted Thomas as his comrade. They discoursed of various matters, and, in a short time, Rodaja gave such proof of his quality as much delighted his fellow-traveller; while the latter, on his part, soon proved himself to be a kind and courteous man. He told Rodaja that he was a captain of infantry in the service of the king, and that his ensign was then completing their company at Salamanca. He praised the life of a soldier in the highest terms, describing, with much encomium, the many cities and other places visited by those who lead that life. Among other themes of which he spoke were the beauty of Naples, the feasting and pleasures of Palermo, the rich abundance of Milan, and the frequent festivals held in other parts of Lombardy—not omitting the good cheer of the numerous hostelries—in the description of which he broke forth rapturously in the Tuscan language, discoursing of Macarela, Macarroni, and Polastri, with the most cordial goodwill. He expatiated largely on the free enjoyment of life in Italy, and on the pleasures of the soldier's life in general, which he exalted to the skies; but he did not say a word of the chilling night-watch, the perils of the assault, the terrors of battle, the hunger and privation endured in blockades and sieges, or the ruin caused by mines, with other matters of similar kind whereof he might have spoken, but which he passed over in silence—although there are those who would consider such things as having something to do with the life of the soldier, not to call them its principal features. In a word, he said so much on the subject, that the resolution of our Thomas Rodaja began to waver, and his inclination went near to fix itself on that life, which is so near a neighbour to death.
The captain, whose name was Don Diego de Valdivia, charmed, on his part, with the handsome looks, cheerful manners, and admirable abilities of Rodaja, entreated him to accompany the march into Italy, were it only for the purpose of seeing the country. He offered him his table, and even, if he would adopt the military life, he proposed to procure him a pair of colours; nay, he assured him that those of his own regiment would soon be vacant, and should be at his service.
But little persuasion was required to induce Rodaja's acceptance of a part of this offer. Weighing it in his mind, he considered that it would be well to see Italy and Flanders, to say nothing of other countries, since travel contributes to increase knowledge and discretion. He thought, too, that although he should spend three, or even four years in that occupation, yet these, added to the few he then counted, would not make him so old but that he might afterwards return to his studies. These and other considerations had their weight, and the opportunity being so much to his taste, Rodaja finally told the captain that he would go with him into Italy; but it must be on condition of being left at perfect liberty. He would not consent to enlist under his banner, nor to have his name enrolled in the books of the regiment, that he might not be subjected to the restraints of service. The captain represented that his being inscribed on the lists was a matter which involved no duty, and that he would thereby obtain all the appointments, with the regular pay accorded to his rank; while he, Don Diego, would take care that he should have leave of absence whenever he might demand it. Yet Rodaja was not to be moved from his determination. "For this," said he, "would be to act against the dictates of my conscience and of yours, señor captain; I would, besides, much rather go free than be attached to military service in any manner."
"A conscience so scrupulous is more suitable to the cowl of a monk than the helmet of a soldier," said Don Diego, laughing; "but let it be as you will, so we but remain comrades."
The first night of their journey they had passed at Antequera, and making long stages each day, they speedily arrived at the place where the captain was to join his company. All arrangements being completed, the company began its march with four others to Carthagena, quartering at such places as fell in their way.
And now Rodaja could not fail to remark the authority assumed by the commissaries; the intractable character of many among the captains; the rapacity of the quartermasters, and the unreasonable nature of their demands; the fashion in which the paymasters managed their accounts; the complaints of the people; the traffic in and exchange of billets; the insolence of the undisciplined troops; their quarrels with the other guests at the inns; the requisition of more rations and other stores than were rightful or necessary; and, finally, the almost inevitable consequences of all this. Much besides came under his observation, which he could not but see to be in every way wrong and injurious.
For Rodaja himself, he had now abandoned the garb of a student, and dressed himself parrot-fashion (as we say), conforming to such things as the life around him presented. The many books he had possessed were now reduced to the "Orisons of Our Lady," and a "Garcilaso without Comments," which he carried in two of his pockets.
The party with which he travelled arrived at Carthagena much earlier than he desired, for the varied life he led was very pleasant, and each day brought something new and agreeable. At Carthagena the troops embarked in four galleys for Naples; and in his cabin, also, Kodaja made many observations on the strange life passed in those maritime houses, where, for the most part, a man is devoured by vermin and destroyed by rats, vexed by the sailors, robbed by the galley-slaves, and tormented by the swell of the waters. He endured terrible fear from violent storms and tempests, more especially in the Gulf of Lyons, where they had two, by one of which they were cast on the Island of Corsica, while the other drove them back upon Toulon, in France. At last, weary and half-drowned, they reached land in the darkness of the night, and with great difficulty arrived at the most peaceful and beautiful city of Genoa.
Having disembarked, and hastily visited a church to return thanks for their safety, the captain with all his comrades adjourned to a tavern, where they quickly forgot past storms and tempests in present rejoicing and feasting.
Here they learned to appreciate the respective merits of the different wines presented to them by their active and voluble host; the delicacy of Trebbiano, the fine body of Montefiascone, the purity of Asperino, the generous spirit of the wines from Candia and Soma, and the strength of those from the Cincovinas, or Five Vineyards. Neither did they disregard the sweetness and amenity of the Señora Guarnacha, or the rustic bloom of the Centola, not forgetting even in this bright array the humble Romanesco, which likewise came in for its meed of praise.
The host having passed in review all these and other wines, of many various qualities, offered besides to place before his guests, without having any recourse to magic, and not as one marks down places on a map, but in all their vivid reality, Madriga, Coca, Alacjos, and the imperial, rather than royal city—that favourite abode of the god of smiles—Ciudad Real. He furthermore offered Esquibias, Alanis, Cazalla, Guadalcanal, and Membrilla, without forgetting the wines of Ribadavia or of Descargamaria. At a word, the host offered and even gave them more wines than Bacchus himself could have stored in all his cellars.
Nor was the good Thomas unmindful of the admiration due to the radiant locks of the Genoese maidens, renowned for those fair tresses, while he likewise appreciated the obliging and cheerful disposition of the male inhabitants, and was never weary of expatiating on the beauty of the city itself, which, as you look at it from the sea, appears to hold the houses enchased amidst the rocks, as diamonds are set in gold.
The day after their arrival, such of the companies as were destined for Piedmont were disembarked; Rodaja, however, had no wish to proceed thither, but determined to go from Genoa by land to Rome and Naples, and return by the way of Our Lady of Loretto to the great and magnificent Venice, and thence to Milan and Piedmont, where it was agreed that he should rejoin Don Diego, if the latter had not previously been compelled to set off for Flanders, as was expected.
Two days after these arrangements were made, Rodaja took leave of the captain, and in five days from that time he reached Florence, having first seen Lucca, a city which is small but very well built, and one where Spaniards are more kindly received and better treated than in any other part of Italy.
With Florence Rodaja was infinitely delighted, as well for the pleasantness of its position as for its sumptuous buildings, its fine river, agreeable streets, and cleanliness of aspect. He remained there but four days, and then departed for Rome, the queen of cities and mistress of the world, whose temples he visited, whose relics he adored, and whose grandeur he admired: and as from the claws of the lion you may judge of its mass and force, so did Rodaja infer the greatness of Rome from the fragments of her marbles—her statues, broken or entire—her arches, fallen or fractured—her baths, crumbled to ruin—her magnificent porticos and vast amphitheatres—her renowned and holy river, which ever fills the banks with water to the brim, while it blesses them with innumerable remains of the martyrs whose bodies have found a burial beneath its waves. Nor did our traveller fail to estimate the beauty of the bridges, which one might fancy to be admiring each other, or the streets, which, by their very names alone, claim authority and pre-eminence over those of all other cities in the world: the Via Flaminia, for example, the Via Julia, the Appia, and others of the same character.
No less was Rodaja satisfied with the division of those hills which exist within the city itself, the Cælian, the Quirinal, the Vatican, and the other four, whose very names bear evidence to the Roman greatness and majesty. He took careful note, moreover, of that authority which attaches to the College of Cardinals, and of the dignity represented in the person of the Supreme Pontiff; nor did he suffer to pass unnoticed that great concourse and variety of men from all nations ever congregated within the walls of the city.
All these things Rodaja admired, reflected on, and arranged in the order of their importance; and having made the station of the Seven Churches, confessed to a Penitentiary, and kissed the feet of his Holiness, he departed, well loaded with Agnus Deis and legends, determining thence to proceed to Naples.
But the time was one of important changes and much disorder; this rendered the roads dangerous for all desiring to enter or travel out of Rome; and as he had come to the city by land, so he now resolved to depart by sea, wherefore, proceeding to the port of Ostia, he there embarked, and having reached Naples, added to the satisfaction which he had previously felt at seeing Rome, that of finding himself in a city, in his estimation, and in the opinion of all who have seen it, the finest in Europe, or even in the whole world.
From Naples, Rodaja proceeded to Sicily, where he visited Palermo and Messina; the first of these cities he admired for the advantages of its position and its beauty, and the second for the convenience of its port; while to the whole island he could not but offer the tribute of his praise for that abundance which causes it to be justly denominated the granary of all Italy.
Returning from Sicily to Naples and Rome, Rodaja thence proceeded to Our Lady of Loretto, in whose Holy Temple he could see neither walls nor partitions, since every part was covered with crutches, biers, shrouds, chains, padlocks, fetters, and locks of hair; with arms, hands, legs, or busts in wax, to say nothing of pictures and prints, all giving manifest indication of the mercies and favours innumerable which hundreds of men have received in that place from the hand of God, by the intercession of his Divine Mother, whose sacred Image (there preserved) He has been pleased to exalt and sanction by a vast number of miracles, which have been performed in recompense of the devotion of her votaries; for by them it is that the walls of her house have been adorned in the manner described.
Here Rodaja beheld that very chamber of the Virgin, wherein was delivered the most stupendous embassy ever heard or witnessed by all the heavens, all the angels, and all the archangels, or other inhabitants of the everlasting abodes.
From this place our traveller proceeded to Ancona, where he embarked and repaired to Venice, a city which, had Columbus never appeared in the world, would certainly be still supposed to have no equal; but, by the favour of heaven, and thanks to the great Fernando Cortez who conquered Mexico, the magnificent Venice has now found a city that may be compared to herself. The streets of these two renowned capitals, which are almost wholly of water, make them the admiration and terror of all mankind—that of Europe dominating the old world, and that of America the new. For of the former it would appear that her riches are infinite, her position impregnable, her government most wise, the abundance of her products inexhaustible; in a word, she is herself, as a whole, and in all her parts, entirely worthy of that fame for greatness and majesty which has penetrated to all the regions of the world: the justice of the praise bestowed on Venice is, besides, accredited by her renowned arsenal, wherein are constructed her potent galleys, with other vessels of which the number is not to be told.
To our curious traveller the delights and pastimes found in Venice had almost proved fatal as those of Calypso, since they had nearly caused him to forget his first intentions. Yet when he had passed a month in that enchanting place, he found resolution to continue his journey, passing by Ferrara, Parma, and Placentia, to Milan, that workshop of Vulcan—that grudge and despair of France—that superb city of which more wonders are reported than words can tell, her own grandeur being increased by that of her famous Temple, and by the marvellous abundance of all things necessary to human life that are to be found therein.
From Milan, Rodaja journeyed to Asti, where he arrived in very good time, since the regiment of Don Diego was to depart for Flanders on the following day. He was received very kindly by his friend the captain, with whom he passed into Flanders, and arrived at Antwerp, a city no less worthy of admiration than those which he had seen in Italy. He visited Ghent and Brussels likewise, finding the whole country preparing to take arms, and well disposed to enter on the campaign of the following year.
Rodaja having now seen all that he had desired to behold, resolved to return to his native Spain, and to the city of Salamanca, there to complete his studies. He had no sooner determined than he instantly put his purpose into execution, to the great regret of his friend, who, finding him resolved to depart, entreated him at least to write him word of his safe arrival, and likewise of his future success. This Rodaja promised to do, and then returned to Spain through France, but he did not see Paris, which was at that time in arms. At length he arrived at Salamanca, where he was well received by his friends, and with the facilities which they procured him, he continued his studies until he finally attained to the degree of doctor of laws.
Now it chanced that, about this time, there arrived in Salamanca one of those ladies who belong to all the points of the compass; she was besides well furnished with devices of every colour. To the whistle and bird-call of this fowler there instantly came flocking all the birds of the place; nor was there a vade mecum who refrained from paying a visit to that gay decoy. Among the rest our Thomas was informed that the Señora said she had been in Italy and Flanders when he, to ascertain if he were acquainted with the dame, likewise paid her a visit. She, on her part, immediately fell in love with Rodaja, but he rejected her advances, and never approached her house but when led thither by others, and almost by force. Attending much more zealously to his studies than his amusements, he did not in any manner return her affection, even when she had made it known to him by the offer of her hand and all her possessions.
Seeing herself thus scorned, and perceiving that she could not bend the will of Rodaja by ordinary means, the woman determined to seek others, which in her opinion would be more efficacious, and must, as she thought, ensure the desired effect. So, by the advice of a Morisca woman, she took a Toledan quince, and in that fruit she gave him one of those contrivances called charms, thinking that she was thereby forcing him to love her; as if there were, in this world, herbs, enchantments, or words of power, sufficient to enchain the free-will of any creature. These things are called charms, but they are in fact poisons: and those who administer them are actual poisoners, as has been proved by sundry experiences.
In an unhappy moment Rodaja ate the quince, but had scarcely done so when he began to tremble from head to foot as if struck by apoplexy, remaining many hours before he could be brought to himself. At the end of that time he partially recovered, but appeared to have become almost an idiot. He complained, with a stammering tongue and feeble voice, that a quince which he had eaten had poisoned him, and also found means to intimate by whom it had been given, when justice at once began to move in quest of the criminal; but she, perceiving the failure of her attempt, took care to hide herself, and never appeared again.
Six months did Thomas remain confined to his bed; and during that time he not only became reduced to a skeleton, but seemed also to have lost the use of his faculties. Every remedy that could be thought of was tried in his behalf; but although the physicians succeeded in curing the physical malady, they could not remove that of the mind; so that when he was at last pronounced cured, he was still afflicted with the strangest madness that was ever heard of among the many kinds by which humanity has been assailed. The unhappy man imagined that he was entirely made of glass; and, possessed with this idea, when any one approached him he would utter the most terrible outcries, begging and beseeching them not to come near him, or they would assuredly break him to pieces, as he was not like other men but entirely of glass from head to foot.
In the hope of rousing him from this strange hallucination, many persons, without regard to his prayers and cries, threw themselves upon him and embraced him, bidding him observe that he was not broken for all that. But all they gained by this was to see the poor creature sink to the earth, uttering lamentable moans, and instantly fall into a fainting fit, from which he could not be recovered for several hours; nay, when he did recover, it was but to renew his complaints, from which he never desisted but to implore that such a misfortune might not be suffered to happen again.
He exhorted every one to speak to him from a great distance; declaring that on this condition they might ask him what they pleased, and that he could reply with all the more effect, now he was a man of glass and not of flesh and bones, since glass, being a substance of more delicate subtlety, permits the soul to act with more promptitude and efficacy than it can be expected to do in the heavier body formed of mere earth.
Certain persons then desiring to ascertain if what he had said were true, asked him many questions of great difficulty respecting various circumstances; to all these he replied with the utmost acuteness, insomuch that his answers awakened astonishment in the most learned professors of medicine and philosophy whom that university could boast. And well they might be amazed at seeing a man who was subject to so strange an hallucination as that of believing himself to be made of glass, still retain such extraordinary judgment on other points as to be capable of answering difficult questions with the marvellous propriety and truth which distinguished the replies of Rodaja.
The poor man had often entreated that some case might be given to him wherein he might enclose the brittle vase of his body, so that he might not break it in putting on the ordinary clothing. He was consequently furnished with a surplice of ample width, and a cloth wrapper, which he folded around him with much care, confining it to his waist with a girdle of soft cotton, but he would not wear any kind of shoes. The method he adopted to prevent any one from approaching him when they brought him food, was to fix an earthen pot into the cleft of a stick prepared for that purpose, and in this vessel he would receive such fruits as the season presented. He would not eat flesh or fish; nor would he drink anything but the water of the river, which he lapped from his hands.
In passing through the streets, Rodaja was in the habit of walking carefully in the middle of them, lest a tile should fall from the houses upon his head and break it. In the summer he slept in the open air, and in the winter he lodged at one of the inns, where he buried himself in straw to his throat, remarking that this was the most proper and secure bed for men of glass. When it thundered, Rodaja trembled like an aspen leaf, and would rush out into the fields, not returning to the city until the storm had passed.
His friends kept him shut up for some time, but perceiving that his malady increased, they at last complied with his earnest request that they would let him go about freely; and he might be seen walking through the streets of the city, dressed as we have described, to the astonishment and regret of all who knew him.
The boys soon got about him, but he kept them off with his staff, requesting them to speak to him from a distance, lest they should break him, seeing that he, being a man of glass, was exceedingly tender and brittle. But far from listening to his request, the boys, who are the most perverse generation in the world, soon began to throw various missiles and even stones at him, notwithstanding all his prayers and exclamations. They declared that they wished to see if he were in truth of glass, as he affirmed; but the lamentations and outcries of the poor maniac induced the grown persons who were near to reprove and even beat the boys, whom they drove away for the moment, but who did not fail to return at the next opportunity.
One day, that a horde of these tormentors had pursued him with more than their usual pertinacity, and had worn out his patience, he turned to them, saying—"What do you want with me you varlets? more obstinate than flies, more disgusting than Chinches, and bolder than the boldest fleas. Am I, perchance, the Monte Testacio of Rome, that you cast upon me so many potsherds and tiles?" But Rodaja was followed by many who kept about him for the purpose of hearing him reply to the questions asked, or reprove the questioner, as the case might be. And after a time, even the boys found it more amusing to listen to his words than to throw tiles at him; when they gave him, for the most part, somewhat less annoyance.
The maniac Bodaja was one day passing through the Ropery at Salamanca, when a woman who was working there accosted him, and said, "By my soul, Señor Doctor, I am sorry for your misfortune, but what shall I do for you, since, try as I may, I cannot weep?" To which Rodaja, fixedly regarding her, gravely replied, "Filiæ Jerusalem, plorate super vos et super filios vestros." The husband of the ropeworker was standing by, and comprehending the reply, he said to Rodaja, "Brother Glasscase, for so they tell me you are to be called, you have more of the rogue than the fool in you!" "You are not called on to give me an obolus," rejoined Rodaja, "for I have not a grain of the fool about me!" One day that he was passing near a house well known as the resort of thieves and other disorderly persons, he saw several of the inhabitants assembled round the door, and called out, "See, here you have baggage belonging to the army of Satan, and it is lodged in the house of hell accordingly."
A man once asked him what advice he should give to a friend whose wife had left him for another, and who was in great sorrow for her loss. "You shall bid him thank God," replied Rodaja, "for the favour he has obtained, in that his enemy is removed from his house."
"Then you would not have him go seek her?" inquired the other.
"Let him not even think of doing so," returned Rodaja, "for if he find her, what will he have gained but the perpetual evidence of his dishonour?"
"And what shall I do to keep peace with my own wife?" inquired the same person.
"Give her all that she can need or rightfully claim," said the maniac, "and let her be mistress of every person and thing thy house contains, but take care that she be not mistress of thyself."
A boy one day said to him, "Señor Glasscase, I have a mind to run away from my father, and leave my home for ever, because he beats me." "I would have thee beware, boy," replied Rodaja; "the stripes given by a father are no dishonour to the son, and may save him from those of the hangman, which are indeed a disgrace."
Intelligence of his peculiar state, with a description of the replies he gave, and the remarks he uttered, was much spread abroad, more especially among those who had known him in different parts, and great sorrow was expressed for the loss of a man who had given so fair a promise of distinction. A person of high rank then at Court wrote to a friend of his at Salamanca, begging that Rodaja might be sent to him at Valladolid, and charging his friend to make all needful arrangements for that purpose. The gentleman consequently accosted Vidriera the next time he met him, and said, "Señor Glasscase, you are to know that a great noble of the Court is anxious to have you go to Valladolid;" whereupon Rodaja replied, "Your worship will excuse me to that nobleman, and say that I am not fit to dwell at Court, nor in the Palace, because I have some sense of shame left, and do not know how to flatter." He was nevertheless persuaded to go, and the mode in which he travelled was as follows: a large pannier of that kind in which glass is transported was prepared, and in this Rodaja was placed, well defended by straw, which was brought up to his neck, the opposite pannier being carefully balanced by means of stones, among which appeared the necks of bottles, since Rodaja desired it to be understood that he was sent as a vessel of glass. In this fashion he journeyed to Valladolid, which city he entered by night, and was not unpacked until he had first been carefully deposited in the house of the noble who had requested his presence.
By this gentleman he was received with much kindness, and the latter said to him, "You are extremely welcome, Doctor Glasscase; I hope you have had a pleasant journey." Rodaja replied, that no journey could be called a bad one if it took you safe to your end, unless indeed it were that which led to the gallows.
Being one day shown the Falconry, wherein were numerous falcons and other birds of similar kind, he remarked that the sport pursued by means of those birds was entirely suitable to great nobles, since the cost was as two thousand to one of the profit.
When it pleased Rodaja to go forth into the city, the nobleman caused him to be attended by a servant, whose office it was to protect him from intrusion, and see that he was not molested by the boys of the place, by whom he was at once remarked; indeed but few days had elapsed before he became known to the whole city, since he never failed to find a reply for all who questioned or consulted him.
Among those of the former class, there once came a student, who inquired if he were a poet, to which Rodaja replied, that up to the moment they had then arrived at, he had neither been so stupid nor so bold as to become a poet. "I do not understand what you mean by so stupid or so bold, Señor Glasscase," rejoined the student; to which Rodaja made answer, "I am not so stupid as to be a bad poet, nor so bold as to think myself capable of being a good one." The student then inquired in what estimation he held poets, to which he answered that he held the poets themselves in but little esteem; but as to their art, that he esteemed greatly. His hearer inquiring further what he meant by that, Rodaja said that among the innumerable poets, by courtesy so called, the number of good ones was so small as scarcely to count at all, and that as the bad were not true poets, he could not admire them: but that he admired and even reverenced greatly the art of poetry, which does in fact comprise every other in itself, since it avails itself of all things, and purifies and beautifies all things, bringing its own marvellous productions to light for the advantage, the delectation, and the wonder of the world, which it fills with its benefits. He added further, "I know thoroughly to what extent, and for what qualities, we ought to estimate the good poet, since I perfectly well remember those verses of Ovid, wherein he says:—
"'Cura ducum fuerunt olim regumque poetæ,
Præmiaque antiqui magna tulere chori.
Sanctaque majestas, et erat venerabile nomen
Vatibus; et largæ sæpe dabantur opes.'
And still less do I forget the high quality of the poets whom Plato calls the interpreters of the Gods, while Ovid says of them—
"'Est deus in nobis; agitante calescimus illo.'
"'At sacri vates et divum cura vocamur.'
"These things are said of good poets; but, as respects the bad ones—the gabbling pretenders—what can we say, save only that they are the idiocy and the arrogance of the world.
"Who is there that has not seen one of this sort when he is longing to bring forth some sonnet to the ears of his neighbours? How he goes round and round them with—'Will your worships excuse me if I read you a little sonnet, which I made one night on a certain occasion; for it appears to me, although indeed it be worth nothing, to have yet a certain something—a je ne scai quoi of pretty, and pleasing.' Then shall he twist his lips, and arch his eyebrows, and make a thousand antics, diving into his pockets meanwhile and bringing out half a hundred scraps of paper, greasy and torn, as if he had made a good million of sonnets; he then recites that which he proffered to the company, reading it in a chanting and affected voice.
"If, perchance, those who hear him, whether because of their knowledge or their ignorance, should fail to commend him, he says, 'Either your worships have not listened to the verses, or I have not been able to read them properly, for indeed and in truth they deserve to be heard;' and he begins, as before, to recite his poem, with new gestures and varied pauses.
"Then to hear these poetasters censure and tear one another to pieces! And what shall I say of the thefts committed by these cubs and whelps of modern pretence on the grave and ancient masters of the art, or of their malevolent carpings at those excellent persons of their own day in whom shines the true light of poetry; who, making a solace and recreation of their arduous labours, prove the divinity of their genius and the elevation of their thoughts to the despite and vexation of these ignorant pretenders, who presume to judge that of which they know nothing, and abhor the beauties which they are not able to comprehend? What will you have me esteem in the nullity which seeks to find place for itself under the canopy spread for others—in the ignorance which is ever leaning for support on another man's chair?"
Rodaja was once asked how it happened that poets are always poor; to which he replied, "That if they were poor, it was because they chose to be so, since it was always in their power to be rich if they would only take advantage of the opportunities in their hands. For see how rich are their ladies," he added; "have they not all a very profusion of wealth in their possession? Is not their hair of gold, their brows of burnished silver, their eyes of the most precious jewels, their lips of coral, their throats of ivory and transparent crystal? Are not their tears liquid pearls, and where they plant the soles of their feet do not jasmine and roses spring up at the moment, however rebellious and sterile the earth may previously have been? Then what is their breath but pure amber, musk, and frankincense? Yet to whom do all these things belong, if not to the poets? They are, therefore, manifest signs and proofs of their great riches."
In this manner he always spoke of bad poets; as to the good ones, he was loud in their praise, and exalted them above the horns of the moon.
Being at San Francisco, he one day saw some very indifferent pictures, by an incapable hand; whereupon he remarked that the good painters imitate nature, while the bad ones have the impertinence to daub her face.
Having planted himself one day in front of a bookseller's shop with great care, to avoid being broken, he began to talk to the owner, and said, "This trade would please me greatly, were it not for one fault that it has." The bookseller inquiring what that might be, Rodaja replied, "It is the tricks you play on the writers when you purchase the copyright of a book, and the sport you make of the author if, perchance, he desire to print at his own cost. For what is your method of proceeding? Instead of the one thousand five hundred copies which you agree to print for him, you print three thousand; and when the author supposes that you are selling his books, you are but disposing of your own."
One of those men who carry sedan-chairs, once standing by while Rodaja was enumerating the faults committed by various trades and occupations, remarked to the latter, "Of us, Señor Doctor, you can find nothing amiss to say." "Nothing," replied Rodaja, "except that you are made acquainted with more sins than are known to the confessor; but with this difference, that the confessor learns them to keep all secret, but you to make them the public talk of the taverns."
A muleteer who heard this, for all kinds of people were continually listening to him, said aloud, "There is little or nothing that you can say of us, Señor Phial, for we are people of great worth, and very useful servants to the commonwealth." To which the man of glass replied, "The honour of the master exalts the honour of the servant. You, therefore, who call those who hire your mules your masters, see whom you serve, and what honour you may borrow from them; for your employers are some of the dirtiest rubbish that this earth endures.
"Once, when I was not a man of glass, I was travelling on a mule which I had hired, and I counted in her master one hundred and twenty-one defects, all capital ones, and all enemies to the human kind. All muleteers have a touch of the ruffian, a spice of the thief, and a dash of the mountebank. If their masters, as they call those they take on their mules, be of the butter-mouthed kind, they play more pranks with them than all the rogues of this city could perform in a year. If they be strangers, the muleteers rob them; if students, they malign them; if monks, they blaspheme them; but if soldiers, they tremble before them. These men, with the sailors, the carters, and the arrieros or pack carriers, lead a sort of life which is truly singular, and belongs to themselves alone.
"The carter passes the greater part of his days in a space not more than a yard and a half long, for there cannot be much more between the yoke of his mules and the mouth of his cart. He is singing for one half of his time, and blaspheming the other; and if he have to drag one of his wheels out of a hole in the mire, he is more aided, as it might seem, by two great oaths than by three strong mules.
"The mariners are a pleasant people, but little like those of the towns, and they can speak no other language than that used in ships. When the weather is fine they are very diligent, but very idle, when it is stormy. During the tempest they order much and obey little. Their ship, which is their mess-room, is also their god, and their pastime is the torment endured by sea-sick passengers.
"As to the mule-carriers, they are a race which has taken out a divorce from all sheets, and has married the pack-saddle. So diligent and careful are these excellent men, that to save themselves from losing a day, they will lose their souls. Their music is the tramp of a hoof; their sauce is hunger; their matins are an exchange of abuse and bad words; their mass is—to hear none at all."
While speaking thus, Rodaja stood at an apothecary's door, and turning to the master of the shop, he said, "Your worship's occupation would be a most salutary one if it were not so great an enemy to your lamps."
"Wherein is my trade an enemy to my lamps?" asked the apothecary.
"In this way," replied Rodaja; "whenever other oils fail you, immediately you take that of the lamp, as being the one which most readily comes to hand. But there is, indeed, another fault in your trade, and one that would suffice to ruin the most accredited physician in the world." Being asked what that was, he replied that an apothecary never ventured to confess, or would admit, that any drug was absent from his stock; and so, if he have not the medicine prescribed, he makes use of some other which, in his opinion, has the same virtues and qualities; but as that is very seldom the case, the medicine, being badly compounded, produces an effect contrary to that expected by the physician.
Rodaja was then asked what he though, of the physicians themselves, and he replied as follows: "Honora medicum propter necessitatem, etenim creavit cum altissimus: à Deo enim est omnis medela, et a rege accipiet donationem: disciplina medici exaltavit caput illius, et in conspectu magnatum collaudabitur. Altissimus de terra creavit medicinam, et vir prudens non abhorrebit illam. Thus," he added, "speaketh the Book of Ecclesiasticus, of Medicine, and good Physicians; but of the bad ones we may safely affirm the very contrary, since there are no people more injurious to the commonwealth than they are. The judge may distort or delay the justice which he should render us; the lawyer may support an unjust demand; the merchant may help us to squander our estate, and, in a word, all those with whom we have to deal in common life may do us more or less injury; but to kill us without fear and standing quietly at his ease; unsheathing no other sword than that wrapped in the folds of a recipe, and without being subject to any danger of punishment, that can be done only by the physician; he alone can escape all fear of the discovery of his crimes, because at the moment of committing them he puts them under the earth. When I was a man of flesh, and not of glass, as I now am, I saw many things that might be adduced in support of what I have now said, but the relation of these I refer to some other time."
A certain person asked him what he should do to avoid envying another, and Rodaja bade him go to sleep, for, said he, "While you sleep you will be the equal of him whom you envy."
It happened on a certain occasion that the Criminal Judge passed before the place where Rodaja stood. There was a great crowd of people, and two alguazils attended the magistrate, who was proceeding to his court, when Rodaja inquired his name. Being told, he replied, "Now, I would lay a wager that this judge has vipers in his bosom, pistols in his inkhorn, and flashes of lightning in his hands, to destroy all that shall come within his commission. I once had a friend who inflicted so exorbitant a sentence in respect to a criminal commission which he held, that it exceeded by many carats the amount of guilt incurred by the crime of the delinquents. I inquired of him wherefore he had uttered so cruel a sentence, and committed so manifest an injustice? To which he replied that he intended to grant permission of appeal, and that in this way he left the field open for the Lords of the Council to show their mercy by moderating and reducing that too rigorous punishment to its due proportions. But I told him it would have been still better for him to have given such a sentence as would have rendered their labour unnecessary, by which means he would also have merited and obtained the reputation of being a wise and exact judge."
Among the number of those by whom Rodaja, as I have said, was constantly surrounded, was an acquaintance of his own, who permitted himself to be saluted as the Señor Doctor, although Thomas knew well that he had not taken even the degree of bachelor. To him, therefore, he one day said, "Take care, gossip mine, that you and your title do not meet with the Fathers of the Redemption, for they will certainly take possession of your doctorship as being a creature unrighteously detained captive."
"Let us behave well to each other, Señor Glasscase," said the other, "since you know that I am a man of high and profound learning."
"I know you rather to be a Tantalus in the same," replied Rodaja; "for if learning reach high to you, you are never able to plunge into its depths."
He was one day leaning against the stall of a tailor, who was seated with his hands before him, and to whom he said—
"Without doubt, Señor Maeso, you are in the way to salvation."
"From what symptom do you judge me to be so, Señor Doctor?" inquired the tailor.
"From the fact that, as you have nothing to do, so you have nothing to lie about, and may cease lying, which is a great step."
Of the shoemakers he said, that not one of that trade ever performed his office badly; seeing that if the shoe be too narrow, and pinches the foot, the shoemaker says, "In two hours it will be as wide as an alpargate;" or he declares it right that it should be narrow, since the shoe of a gentleman must needs fit closely; and if it be too wide, he maintains that it still ought to be so, for the ease of the foot, and lest a man should have the gout.
Seeing the waiting-maid of an actress attending her mistress, he said she was much to be pitied who had to serve so many women, to say nothing of the men whom she also had to wait on; and the bystanders requiring to know how the damsel, who had but to serve one, could be said to wait on so many, he replied, "Is she not the waiting-maid of a queen, a nymph, a goddess, a scullery-maid, and a shepherdess? besides that she is also the servant of a page and a lackey? for all these, and many more, are in the person of an actress."
Some one asked Rodaja, who had been the happiest man in the world? To which he answered—"Nemo, seeing that Nemo novit patrem—Nemo sine crimine vivit—Nemo sua sorte contentus—Nemo ascendit in coelum," &c. &c.
Of the fencing masters he said, that they were professors of an art which was never to be known when it was most wanted, since they pretended to reduce to mathematical demonstrations, which are infallible, the angry thoughts and movements of a man's adversaries.
To such men as dyed their beards, Rodaja always exhibited a particular enmity; and one day observing a Portuguese, whose beard he knew to be dyed, in dispute with a Spaniard, to whom he said, "I swear by the beard that I wear on my face," Rodaja called out to him, "Halt there, friend; you should not say that you wear on your face, but that you dye on your face." To another, whose beard had been streaked by an imperfect dye, Doctor Glasscase said, "Your beard is of the true dust-coloured pieball." He related, on another occasion, that a certain damsel, discreetly conforming to the will of her parents, had agreed to marry an old man with a white beard, who, on the evening before his marriage was to take place, thought fit to have his beard dyed, and whereas he had taken it from the sight of his betrothed as white as snow, he presented it at the altar with a colour blacker than that of pitch.
Seeing this, the damsel turned to her parents and requested them to give her the spouse they had promised, saying that she would have him, and no other.
They assured her, that he whom she there saw was the person they had before shewn her, and given her for her spouse: but she refused to believe it, maintaining, that he whom her parents had given her was a grave person, with a white beard: nor was she, by any means, to be persuaded that the dyed man before her was her betrothed, and the marriage was broken off.
Towards Duennas he entertained as great a dislike as towards those who dyed their beards—uttering wonderful things respecting their falsehood and affectation, their tricks and pretences, their simulated scruples and their real wickedness,—reproaching them with their fancied maladies of stomach, and the frequent giddiness with which they were afflicted in the head; nay, even their mode of speaking, was made the subject of his censure; and he declared that there were more turns in their speech than folds in their great togas and wide gowns; finally, he declared them altogether useless, if not much worse.
Being one day much tormented by a hornet which settled on his neck, he nevertheless refused to take it off, lest in seeking to catch the insect he should break himself; but he still complained woefully of the sting. Some one then remarked to him, that it was scarcely to be supposed he would feel it much, since his whole person was of glass. But Rodaja replied, that the hornet in question must needs be a slanderer, seeing that slanderers were of a race whose tongues were capable of penetrating bodies of bronze, to say nothing of glass.
A monk, who was enormously fat, one day passed near where Rodaja was sitting, when one who stood by ironically remarked, that the father was so reduced and consumptive, as scarcely to be capable of walking. Offended by this, Rodaja exclaimed, "Let none forget the words of Holy Scripture, 'Nolite tangere Christos meos;' and, becoming still more heated, he bade those around him reflect a little, when they would see, that of the many saints canonised, and placed among the number of the blessed by the Church within a few years in those parts, none had been called the Captain Don Such a one, or the Lawyer Don So and So, or the Count Marquis, or Duke of Such a Place; but all were brother Diego, brother Jacinto, or brother Raimundo: all monks and friars, proceeding, that is to say, from the monastic orders." "These," he added, "are the orange-trees of heaven, whose fruits are placed on the table of God." Of evil-speakers Rodaja said, that they were like the feathers of the eagle which gnaw, wear away, and reduce to nothing, whatever feathers of other birds are mingled with them in beds or cushions, how good soever those feathers may be.
Concerning the keepers of gaming-houses he uttered wonders, and many more than can here be repeated—commending highly the patience of a certain gamester, who would remain all night playing and losing; yea, though of choleric disposition by nature, he would never open his mouth to complain, although he was suffering the martyrdom of Barabbas, provided only his adversary did not cut the cards. At a word, Rodaja uttered so many sage remarks, that, had it not been for the cries he sent forth when any one approached near enough to touch him, for his peculiar dress, slight food, strange manner of eating, and sleeping in the air, or buried in straw, as we have related, no one could have supposed but that he was one of the most acute persons in the world.
He remained more than two years in this condition; but, at the end of that time, a monk of the order of St. Jerome, who had extraordinary powers in the cure of lunacy, nay, who even made deaf and dumb people hear and speak in a certain manner; this monk, I say, undertook the care and cure of Rodaja, being moved thereto by the charity of his disposition. Nor was it long before the lunatic was restored to his original state of judgment and understanding. When the cure was effected, the monk presented his patient with his previous dress of a doctor of laws, exhorting him to return to his earlier mode of life, and assuring him that he might now render himself as remarkable for the force of his intellect, as he had before done for his singular folly.
Thomas returned accordingly to his past pursuits; but, instead of calling himself Rodaja, as before, he assumed the name of Rueda. He had scarcely appeared in the street, before he was recognised by the boys; but seeing him in a dress so different from that he had before worn and been known by, they dared not cry after him or ask him questions, but contented themselves with saying, one to another, "Is not this the madman, Doctor Glasscase? It is certainly he; and though he now looks so discreet, he may be just as mad in this handsome dress as he was in that other. Let us ask him some questions, and get rid of our doubts."
All this was heard by Thomas, who maintained silence, but felt much confused, and hurried along more hastily than he had been wont to do before he regained his senses. The men at length made the same remarks as the boys and before he had arrived at the courts he had a train of more than two hundred persons of all classes following him, being more amply attended than the most popular professor of the university.
Having gained the first court, which is that of the entrance, these people ended by surrounding him completely; when, perceiving that he was so crowded on as no longer to have the power of proceeding, he finally raised his voice, and said—
"Señores, it is true that I am Doctor Glass-case, but not he whom you formerly knew. I am now Doctor Rueda. Misfortunes such as not unfrequently happen in this world, by the permission of heaven, had deprived me of my senses, but the mercy of God has restored them; and by those things which you have heard me say when I was mad, you may judge of what I shall say now that I am become sane. I am a doctor in laws of the university of Salamanca, where I studied in much poverty, but raised myself through all the degrees to that I now hold; but my poverty may serve to assure you that I owe my rank to industry and not to favour. I have come to this great sea of the Court, hoping to swim and get forward and gain the bread of my life; but if you do not leave me I shall be more likely to sink and find my death. For the love of God, I entreat that you follow me no further, since, in doing so, you persecute and injure me. What you formerly enquired of me in the streets, I beg you now to come and ask me at my house, when you shall see that the questions to which I before replied, impromptu, shall be more perfectly answered now that I shall take time to consider."
All listened to him, many left him as he desired, and he returned to his abode with a much smaller train. But it was every day the same: his exhortations availed nothing; and Thomas finally resolved to repair to Flanders, there to support himself by the strength of his arm, since he could no longer profit by that of his intellect.
This resolution he executed accordingly, exclaiming as he departed—"Oh, city and court! you by whom the expectations of the bold pretender are fulfilled, while the hopes of the modest labourer are destroyed; you who abundantly sustain the shameless Buffoon, while the worthy sage is left to die of hunger; I bid you farewell." That said, he proceeded to Flanders, where he finished in arms the life which he might have rendered immortal by letters, and died in the company of his friend the Captain Don Diego, leaving behind him the reputation of a most valiant soldier and upright man.
- Don Augustin de Arrieta, a Spanish commentator of our author, informs us that the camarada not only journeyed and lived with his companion of the way, but even slept in the same chamber, and not unfrequently in the same bed.
- The ex-votos, or pictures and figures here described, are too familiar to the visitor of Catholic churches to need any explanation.
- Student: they are so called from the name given to the portfolio in which they carry their books and papers to the university, and which they always have with them.
- The reader will be pleased to guess the name of that insufferable insect which the Spaniards denominate Chinche, and with the English equivalent of which I am unwilling to offend his eyes. Happy, indeed, if he cannot guess; but then he cannot have seen either Seville or Granada, and one might almost encounter an acquaintance with the animal called Chinche rather than renounce them.
- Such of our readers as have visited Rome, will remember that enormous mound which is seen rising on the right hand as you leave the city, by the Porta Salaria, and is said to have been formed by the numberless fragments of pottery cast on the spot from time immemorial.
- Here Rodaja spoke mockingly, an impure Portuguese, and not Spanish (olhay, homen, naon, digais, teno, sino tino). The spirit of the remark (as in some other passages omitted for that reason) consists in a play on words resembling each other in sound, though not in sense, and is necessarily lost in translation.