A TEI Project

Chapter XLII

About the advice that don Quixote gave Sancho before he went to govern the ínsula, with other well-thought-out matters.

AFTER THE happy and amusing outcome of the adventure of the Distressed One, the duke and duchess were so pleased they decided to keep on playing tricks, seeing that they had a perfect subject who would consider their jokes to be real. So, having instructed their servants and vassals how to behave with Sancho in his government of the promised ínsula, the day following the flight of Clavileño, the duke told Sancho to prepare himself and get ready to go to be a governor, for his islanders were waiting for him like the showers in May.

Sancho bowed and told him: “Since I came back down from the sky, and saw the earth so small from that high place, my desire to be a governor has diminished somewhat, because what greatness is it to be in control of a mustard seed, or what dignity or power is there in governing half a dozen men—that’s how many there appeared to me to be—no bigger than hazel nuts? If your lordship were able to give me a piece of heaven, even though it would be no bigger than half a league, I would prize it more than the best ínsula in the world.”

“Look, Sancho, my friend,” responded the duke, “I can’t give a piece of heaven to anybody, even if it’s no bigger than a fingernail. These favors and privileges are reserved exclusively to God. What I can give you I am giving you—a real and true ínsula; a round and well-proportioned one, bounteously and abundantly fertile, where, if you’re clever enough, through the riches of the earth you can gain the riches of heaven.”

“All right, then,” responded Sancho, “let the ínsula come. I’ll try to be such a governor who, in spite of all the rascals, will go to heaven. It’s not from greed that I want to go where I don’t belong nor try to make myself greater than others, but rather because I want to see what it’s like to be a governor.”

“If you try it once, Sancho,” said the duke, “you’ll eat your hands off after it, because it’s so sweet to be in command and to be obeyed. Certainly when your master gets to be an emperor—which he surely will be, the way things have been going his way—it won’t be easy to take it away from him, and he’ll lament in his soul all the time he wasn’t one.”

“Señor,” replied Sancho, “I imagine it’s nice to be in command, even if it’s only over a herd of cattle.”

“May they bury me next to you, Sancho, for you know everything,” responded the duke, “and I hope that you’ll be as good a governor as your good judgment promises. And let it rest there. I want you to know that tomorrow morning you’ll leave for the government of the ínsula, and this afternoon they’ll fit you for the proper suit to wear, and furnish all the things you’ll need for when you leave.”

“Dress me,” said Sancho, “however you want. No matter how I’m dressed I’ll still be Sancho Panza.”

“That’s the truth,” said the duke, “but clothing has to fit the office or title you’re practicing. It wouldn’t be right for a professor of law to dress like a soldier, or a soldier like a priest. You, Sancho, will be dressed partly as a man of letters and partly as a captain, because in the ínsula that I’m giving you, arms are as necessary as letters, and letters are as necessary as arms.”

“Of letters,” responded Sancho, “I have few, because I still don’t know the ABCs, but it’s enough for me to have the Christus in my memory to be a good governor. Of arms, I’ll use whatever they give me until I fall, with the help of God.”

“With such a good memory,” said the duke, “Sancho won’t err in anything.”

Just then don Quixote arrived, knowing what was going on, and the swiftness with which Sancho was to leave for his government, with the permission of the duke, he took him by the hand, and went with him to his room with the intention of advising him how he needed to comport himself in his office.

Once they were in the room, then, he closed the door after them and practically forced Sancho to sit next to him, and with a calm voice, said: “I give infinite thanks to heaven, Sancho, my friend, because before I found good luck myself, it has come to find you. I had thought that my good fortune would pay you for your services, but I still see myself at the door of advancement, whereas you, before it’s time, and contrary to all the laws of reason, have found yourself rewarded with what I wanted for you. Others bribe, beg, request, get up early, plead, importune, and they never get what they hope to. And another one comes along, and without knowing why, finds himself with the position that many others wanted. And here’s where the saying fits very well that says: «merit can accomplish much, but good luck can accomplish more». You, who, as far as I’m concerned, are a blockhead—without getting up early or burning the midnight oil, and without making any preparations, only with the breath of knight errantry—find yourself a governor of an ínsula, just like that. I say all this, Sancho, so you won’t attribute the favor received to what you deserve, but rather that you should give thanks to heaven, which quietly takes care of things; and after that give thanks to the greatness the profession of knight errantry encompasses. Now that your heart is ready to believe what I’ve told you, be attentive, my son, to your Cato, who wants to be your advisor, north star, and guide, who will place you on the road leading to a safe harbor in this tempestuous sea that could otherwise engulf you. Offices and great responsibilities are nothing other than a deep sea of confusion.

“First, my son, you must fear God, because in fearing Him lies wisdom, and if you’re wise you will err in nothing.”

“Second, you must realize who you are, trying to get to know yourself, which is the most difficult knowledge that can be imagined. When you know yourself, you will not get all puffed up like the frog who wanted to make himself as big as an ox. If you do this, when you consider that you had been a swineherd back home it will be the ugly feet of the train of your folly.”

“That’s true,” responded Sancho, “but I was a lad then. Afterwards, as a young man, it was geese that I kept and not pigs. But this doesn’t seem to me to be pertinent. Not everyone who governs comes from royal stock.”

“That’s true too,” replied don Quixote, “and for that reason, those not of noble descent must moderate the serious nature of their office with leniency, which, when tempered with wisdom, will save them from the malicious gossip from which no realm is free.”

“Be proud, Sancho, of the humbleness of your lineage, and don’t be loath to say that your lineage comes from peasants. Because when they see that you’re not ashamed, no one will try to shame you; and take pride in being more humble and virtuous than an arrogant sinner. Innumerable are those who come from a low lineage and have risen to pontifical or imperial dignity, and I could bring so many examples of this truth to mind it would tire you out.

“Take care, Sancho, to guide your life on the path of virtue, and if you take pride in doing virtuous acts, there’s no reason to be envious of princes and lords. Because blood is inherited and virtue is acquired. Virtue is precious in itself, and blood in itself is worth nothing.

“This being as it is, if one of your relatives should come to visit you on your ínsula, don’t scorn or offend him, rather you must receive, honor, and entertain him, and with this you will satisfy heaven, because it will please God, who doesn’t want anyone to spurn what He has made, and you will comply with what you owe to the well-ordered plan of Nature.

“If you take your wife with you—because it isn’t good for those who have to attend to governments to be without their womenfolk—teach her, instruct her, and trim away her natural rough edges, because what a prudent governor attains can be ruined by a rustic and slow-witted wife.

“If you should become a widower—this can happen—and because of your position you get a better wife, don’t use her as a hook and a fishing pole, and as one who says: ‘I won’t take a bribe—put the money in my hood instead.’ Because in truth I tell you that everything the wife of a judge receives, her husband has to account for on Judgment Day, where he’ll pay fourfold in death for the things he refused responsibility for in life.

“Never let yourself be guided by arbitrary law, which is so favored by the ignorant who think they’re so clever.

“Let the tears of the poor find in you more compassion, but no more justice, than the testimony of the rich.

“Try to discover the truth among the promises and gifts of the rich, as well as among the sobs and pleadings of the poor.

“When equity can and should find favor, don’t put the whole weight of the law on the delinquent, because the fame of the severe judge is no more than that of the compassionate one.

“If you should bend the rod of justice, let it not be because of the weight of a gift, but rather because of mercy.

“If it happens you’re judging the case of some enemy of yours, don’t consider previous injuries, and concentrate on the truth of the case.

“Don’t let your passion blind you on someone else’s behalf. Errors that you make that way are often not fixable, and if they’re discovered, they may be to your discredit and may even affect your position.

“If some beautiful woman comes to ask justice of you, pay no attention to her tears and her sighs and consider carefully the substance of what she’s asking, if you don’t want to drown your judgment in her weeping and your virtue in her sighs.

“If you have to punish someone, don’t humiliate him as well, because the pain of punishment is sufficient without abusive words.

“Consider the guilty person who comes under your jurisdiction as a poor wretch, subject to the frailty of our depraved nature, and insofar as you can, without doing harm to the prosecution, show yourself to be pious and clement, because, although the attributes of God are equal, mercy flourishes and is more resplendent than justice.

“If you keep these precepts and heed these rules, Sancho, your days will be many, your fame eternal, your rewards bounteous, your happiness inexpressible; you’ll marry your children however you want; they and your grandchildren will have titles, you’ll live in peace and with the approval of the people, and in the last moments of your life, death will find you at a sweet and ripe old age, and tender and delicate hands of your great-grandchildren will close your eyes.

“Up to now, I’ve given you instructions as to how to adorn your soul. Listen now to what you should do to adorn your body.”


Date: June 1, 2009
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