Thursday, March 11, 2004

Cervantes, Don Quixote and the Windmills


Cervantes and the Windmills

Don Quixote gets better as time goes along.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote (translation by Samuel Putnam, Viking Press, New York, 1949), which is regarded by numerous literary critics to be the first "modern" novel. Don Quixote is also ranked by many as the world's finest novel and we quote from it as follows for its relevance to all of us in fighting the many-armed opponents we must each face in the course of a lifetime:

"[S]aid Don Quixote: 'He is a wise enchanter, a great enemy of mine, who has a grudge against me because he knows by his arts and learning that in the course of time I am to fight in single combat with a knight whom he favors, and that I am to be the victor and he can do nothing to prevent it. For this reason he seeks to cause me all the trouble that he can, but I am warning him that it will be hard to gainsay or shun that which Heaven has ordained.'

'Who could doubt that it is so?' said the niece. 'But tell me, uncle, who is responsible for your being involved in these quarrels? Would it not be better to remain peacefully here at home and not go roaming through the world in search of better bread than is made from wheat, without taking into consideration that many who go for wool come back shorn?'

'My dear niece,' replied Don Quixote, 'how little you understand of these matters! Before they shear me, I will have plucked and stripped the beards of any who dare to touch the tip of a single hair of mine.'" p. 60

[somewhat later, fighting the windmills, p. 63]
'Do not seek to flee, cowards and vile creatures that you are, for it is but a single knight with whom you have to deal!'...
'Though you flourish as many arms as did the giant Briareus...you still shall have to answer to me.'


Cervantes is telling us that life is a battle - indeed, in battles of our own choosing, in wars which WE select, against enemies of our own creation. Or, we can stay at home. That is the game.

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