The Garden of Romance/The Story of Marcella
THE STORY OF MARCELLA
From Don Quixote
"Do you know what has happened in our town, comrades?" said one of the lads who brought them victuals from the village, entering the hut. When one of them answered, "How should we?" "Know then," continued he, "that the famous student Chrysostom died this morning; and it is murmured about, that his death was occasioned by his love for that devilish girl Marcella, daughter of William the rich; she that roves about these plains in the habit of a shepherdess." "For Marcella, said you?" cried one. "The same," answered the goatherd, "and it is certain that, in his last will, he ordered himself to be buried in the field, like a Moor (God bless us!), at the foot of the rock hard by the cork-tree spring; for, the report goes, and they say he said so himself, as how the first time he saw her was in that place; and he has also ordained many other such things, as the clergy say, must not be accomplished, nor is it right they should be accomplished; for truly, they seem quite heathenish. To all which objections his dear friend, Ambrosio the student, who also dressed himself like a shepherd, to keep him company, replies that he will perform everything without fail that Chrysostom has ordered; and the whole village is in an uproar about it. But it is believed, that everything, at last, will be done according to the desire of Ambrosio, and all the rest of the shepherds, his friends; and that to-morrow he will be interred with great pomp in the very spot I have mentioned. I am resolved, therefore, as it will be a thing well worth seeing, to go thither without fail, even though I thought I should not be able to return to the village that night." "We will do so too," replied the goatherds, "and cast lots to see which of us must stay and take care of our flocks." "You are in the right, Pedro," said one, "but, there will be no occasion to use that shift; for I myself will stay and take care of the whole, and you must not impute my tarrying to virtue, or the want of curiosity, but to the plaguy thorn that ran into my foot the other day, and hinders me from walking." "We are obliged to thee, however," answered Pedro, whom Don Quixote desired to tell him who that same dead shepherd and living shepherdess were.
To this question the goatherd replied, "All that he knew of the matter was, that the deceased was the son of a rich farmer, who lived in the neighbourhood of a village in these mountains; that he had studied in Salamanca many years, at the end of which he had returned to his family with the character of a great scholar; in particular, they said, he was very knowing in the science of the stars, and what passed betwixt the sun and moon, and the heavens; for, he had punctually foretold the clipse of them both!" "The obscuration of those two great luminaries," said the knight, "is called the eclipse, and not the clipse, friend." But Pedro, without troubling his head with these trifles, proceeded saying, "he likewise foresaw when the year would be plentiful or staril." "You mean sterile," said Don Quixote. "Sterile, or staril," replied Pedro, "comes all to the same purpose; and I say, that his father and his friends, taking his advice, became very rich; for, they gave credit to his words, and followed his counsel in all things. When he would say, this year you must sow barley, and no wheat; here you must sow carabances, but no barley; next year there will be a good harvest of oil; but for three years to come there will not be a drop." "That science," replied Don Quixote, "is called astrology." "I know not how it is called," replied Pedro, "but this I know, that he knew all this, and much more. In short, not many months after he came from Salamanca, he appeared all of a sudden in shepherd-weeds, with his woolly jacket, and a flock of sheep, having laid aside the long dress of a student. And he was accompanied by a friend of his in the same habit, whose name was Ambrosio, and who had been his fellow-student at college. I forgot to tell you, that Chrysostom the defunct was such a great man at composing couplets, that he made carols for Christmas-eve, and plays for the Lord's-day, which were represented by the young men in our village: and everybody said, that they were tip-top. When the people of the village saw the two scholars, so suddenly clothed like shepherds, they were surprised, and could not guess their reason for such an odd chance. About that time, the father of this Chrysostom dying, he inherited great riches, that were in moveables and in lands, with no small number of sheep more or less, and a great deal of money: all of which, this young man remained desolate lord and master; and truly he deserved it all; for he was an excellent companion, very charitable, a great friend to good folks, and had a most blessed countenance. Afterwards it came to be known, that his reason for changing his garb, was no other than with a view of strolling through the woods and deserts after that same shepherdess Marcella, whose name my friend mentioned just now, and with whom the poor defunct Chrysostom was woundily in love: and I will now tell you, for it is necessary that you should know who this wench is; for, mayhap, nay even without a mayhap, you never heard of such a thing in all the days of your life, though you be older than St. Paul." "Say Paul's," replied Don Quixote, offended at the goatherd's perverting of words. "St. Paul was no chicken," replied Pedro, "and if your worship be resolved to correct my words every moment, we shall not have done in a twelvemonth." "I ask your pardon, friend," said the knight; "I only mention this, because there is a wide difference between the person of St. Paul, and a church that goes by his name: but, however, you made a very sensible reply; for, to be sure, the saint lived long before the church was built: therefore go on with your story, and I promise not to interrupt you again."
"Well then, my good master," said the goatherd, "there lived in our village a farmer, still richer than Chrysostom's father; his name was William, and God gave him, over and above great wealth, a daughter, who at her birth was the death of her mother, the most worthy dame in all the country. Methinks I see her now with that face of hers, which seemed to have the sun on one side, and the moon on the other; she was an excellent housewife, and a great friend to the poor, for which reason I believe her soul is enjoying the presence of God in paradise. Her husband died of grief for the loss of so good a wife, leaving his daughter Marcella, young and rich, to the care of an uncle, who has got a living in our village. The girl grew up with so much beauty, that she put us in mind of her mother, who had a great share, and yet it was thought it would be surpassed by the daughter's. It happened accordingly, for when she came to the age of fourteen or fifteen, nobody could behold her without blessing God for having made so beautiful a creature; and everybody almost grew desperately in love with her. Her uncle kept her up with great care; but, for all that, the fame of her exceeding beauty spread in such a manner, that both for her person and her fortune, not only the richest people in our town, but likewise in many leagues about, came to ask her in marriage of her uncle, with much importunity and solicitation. But he who, to give him his due, was a good Christian, although he wanted to dispose of her as soon as she came to an age fit for matrimony, would not give her away without her own consent; neither had he a view in deferring her marriage, to the gain and advantage which he might enjoy in managing the girl's fortune. And truly I have heard this spoken in more companies than one, very much to the praise of the honest priest. For I would have you know, sir traveller, that in these small towns, people intermeddle and grumble about everything. And this you may take for certain, as I know it to be so, that a clergyman must be excessively good indeed, if he can oblige his flock to speak well of him, especially in country villages." "You are certainly in the right," said Don Quixote, "and pray go on, for your story is very entertaining, and you, honest Pedro, relate it with a good grace." "May I never want God's grace," said the shepherd, "for, that is the main chance; and you must know, moreover, that though the uncle proposed to his niece, and described the good qualities of each in particular who asked her in marriage, desiring her to give her hand to some one, or other, and choose for herself; she never would give him any other answer, but that she did not choose to marry, for she was too young to bear the burden of matrimony. On account of these excuses, which seemed to have some reason in them, her uncle forbore to importune her, and waited till she should have more years and discernment to make choice of her own company; for, he said, and to be sure, it was well said, that parents should never dispose of their children against their own inclinations. But, behold, when we least thought of it, the timorous Marcella, one day, appeared in the habit of a shepherdess; and without imparting her design to her uncle, or anybody in the village, for fear they might have dissuaded her from it, she took to the field with her own flock, in company with the other damsels of the village. As she now appeared in public, and her beauty was exposed to the eyes of everybody, you cannot conceive what a number of rich youths, gentlemen, and farmers, immediately took the garb of Chrysostom, and went wooing her through the fields. One of these suitors, as you have heard, was the deceased, who, they say, left off loving to adore her; and you must not think, that because Marcella took this free and unconfined way of living, she brought the least disparagement upon her chastity and good name; on the contrary, such is the vigilance with which she guards her honour, that of all those who serve and solicit her, not one has boasted, nor indeed can boast with any truth, that she has given him the smallest hope of accomplishing his desire; for, though she neither flies, or avoids the company and conversation of the shepherds, but treats them in a courteous and friendly manner, whenever any of them comes to disclose his intention, let it be ever so just and holy, even marriage itself, she throws him from her, like a stone from a sling, and being of this disposition, does more damage in this country than if a pestilence had seized it; for, her affability and beauty allures all the hearts of those that converse with her to serve and love her, but her coyness and plain-dealing drives them even to the borders of despair; therefore, they know not what to say, but upbraid her with cruelty and ingratitude, and give her a great many such titles, as plainly show the nature of her disposition: and if your worship was but to stay here one day, you would hear these hills and dales resound with the lamentations of her rejected followers. Not far from this place there is a tuft of about a dozen of tall beeches, upon every one of which you may read engraved the name of Marcella, and over some a crown cut out in bark, as if her lover would have declared that Marcella wears, and deserves to wear, the crown of all earthly beauty. Here one shepherd sighs, there another complains; in one place you may hear amorous ditties, in another the dirges of despair; one lover sits musing through all the hours of the night, at the foot of some tall ash, or rugged rock, and there, without having closed his weeping eyes, shrunk up as it were, and entranced in his own reflections, he is found by the rising sun; a second, without giving respite or truce to his sighs, exposed to the heat of the most sultry summer's sun, lies stretched upon the burning sand, breathing his complaints to pitying heaven; and over this and that, and these and those, the free, the unconcerned, the fair Marcella triumphs. We who are acquainted with her disposition, wait with impatience to see the end of all this disdain, and long to know what happy man will tame such an unsociable humour, and enjoy such exceeding beauty. As everything that I have accounted is true to a tittle, I have no reason to doubt the truth of what our comrades said concerning the cause of Chrysostom's death; and therefore, I advise you, sir, not to fail being to-morrow at his burial, which will be worth seeing; for Chrysostom had a great many friends, and the spot in which he ordered himself to be buried is not more than half a league from hence."
"I will take care to be present," said the knight, "and thank you heartily for the pleasure you have given me in relating such an interesting story." "Oh! as for that," cried the goatherd, "I do not know one half of what has happened to the lovers of Marcella; but, to-morrow perhaps, we may light upon some shepherd on the road who is better acquainted with them. In the meantime you will do well to go to sleep under some cover, though the remedy I have applied is such, that you have nothing else to fear."
Sancho Panza, who wished the goatherd's loquacity at the devil, earnestly entreated his master to go to sleep in Pedro's hut. This request the knight complied with, and spent the greatest part of the night in thinking of his lady Dulcinea, in imitation of Marcella's lovers; while Sancho Panza, taking up his lodging betwixt Rozinante and his ass, slept soundly, not like a discarded lover, but like one who had been battered and bruised the day before.
Scarce had Aurora disclosed herself through the balconies of the east, when five of the six goatherds arising, went to waken Don Quixote, and told him, that if he continued in his resolution of going to see the famous funeral of Chrysostom, they would keep him company. The knight, who desired nothing better, arose, and commanded Sancho to saddle his horse and pannel his ass immediately. This order was executed with great dispatch, and they set out without loss of time. They had not travelled more than a quarter of a league, when, upon crossing a path, they saw coming towards them six shepherds, clothed in jackets of black sheep-skin, and crowned with garlands of cypress, and bitter-bay, each having a club of holly in his hand. Along with them came also two gentlemen on horseback, very well equipped for travel, accompanied by three young men on foot.
When they advanced they saluted one another, and understanding, upon inquiry, that they were all bound to the place of interment, they joined company, and travelled together. One of the horsemen said to his companion, "Signor Vivaldo, we shall not have reason to grudge our tarrying to see this famous funeral, which must certainly be very extraordinary, by the strange account we have received from these people of the dead shepherd and the murderous shepherdess." "I am of the same opinion," answered Vivaldo, "and would not only tarry one day, but even four or five, on purpose to see it." Don Quixote asking what they had heard of Marcella and Chrysostom, the traveller replied, that early in the morning they had met with these shepherds, of whom inquiring the cause of their being clothed in such melancholy weeds, they had been informed of the coyness and beauty of a certain shepherdess called Marcella, and the hapless love of many who courted her, together with the death of that same Chrysostom to whose funeral they were going. In short, he recounted every circumstance of what Pedro had told Don Quixote before.
This conversation being ended, another began by Vivaldo's asking Don Quixote why he travelled thus in armour in a peaceable country? To this question the knight replied, "The exercise of my profession will not permit, or allow me to go in any other manner. Revels, feasting, and repose were invented by effeminate courtiers; but toil, anxiety, and arms are peculiar to those whom the world calls knights-errant, of which order I, though unworthy, and the least, am one." He had no sooner pronounced these words than all present took him for a madman: but, in order to confirm their opinion, and discover what species of madness it was, Vivaldo desired to know what he meant by "knights-errant." "What!" said Don Quixote, "have you never read the annals and history of England, which treat of the famous exploits of Arthur, who at present, in our Castilian language, is called King Artus, and of whom there is an ancient tradition, generally believed all over Great Britain, that he did not die, but was, by the art of enchantment, metamorphosed into a raven: and, that the time will come when he shall return, and recover his sceptre and throne. For which reason, it cannot be proved, that from that period to this, any Englishman has killed a raven. In the reign of that excellent king was instituted that famous order of chivalry, called the Knights of the Round Table; and those amours punctually happened, which are recounted of Don Lancelot of the Lake, with Queen Ginevra, by the help and mediation of that sage and venerable duenna Quitaniona; from whence that delightful ballad, so much sung in Spain, took its rise:
'For never sure was any knight,
So serv'd by damsel or by dame,
As Lancelot, that man of might,
When he at first from Britain came:'
with the rest of that most relishing and delicious account of his amours, and valiant exploits. From that time the order of knight-errantry was extended, as it were, from hand to hand, and spread through divers and sundry parts of the world, producing, among many other worthies celebrated for their achievements, the valiant Amadis de Gaul, with all his sons and nephews even to the fifth generation; the courageous Fleximarte of Hircania, the never-enough-to-be-commended Tirante the White, and he whom, in this our age, we have as it were seen, heard, and conversed with, the invincible and valorous knight Don Belianis of Greece. This, gentlemen, is what I meant by knight-errant; and such as I have described is the order of chivalry, which, as I have already told you, I, though a sinner, have professed, and the very same which those knights I mentioned professed, I profess also. On which account, I am found in these deserts and solitudes, in quest of adventures, fully determined to lift my arm, and expose my person to the greatest danger, that my destiny shall decree, in behalf of the needy and oppressed."
By this declaration, the travellers were convinced that the knight had lost his wits, and easily perceived the species of folly which had taken possession of his brain, and which struck them with the same surprise that always seizes those who became acquainted with our knight. Vivaldo, who was a person of discretion, and a great deal of archness, in order to travel agreeably the rest of the road which they had to go, till they should come to the place of interment, wanted to give him an opportunity of proceeding in his extravagance, and in that view said to him, "Sir knight-errant, methinks your worship professes one of the strictest orders upon earth, nay, I will affirm, more strict than that of the Carthusian friars."
"The order of the Carthusians," answered Don Quixote, "may be as strict, but that it is as beneficial to mankind, I am within a hair's-breadth of doubting; for, to be plain with you, the soldier who executes his captain's command, is no less valuable than the captain who gave the order: I mean, that the monks pray to God for their fellow-creatures in peace and safety: but, we soldiers and knights put in execution that for which they pray, by the valour of our arms, and the edge of our swords; living under no other cover than the cope of heaven, set up in a manner as marks for the intolerable heat of the sun in summer, and the chilling breath of frosty winter: we are therefore God's ministers, and the arms by which he executes his justice upon earth; and as the circumstances of war, and what has the least affinity and concern with it, cannot be accomplished without sweat, anxiety, and fatigue; it follows, that those who possess it are doubtless more subject to toil than those who, in rest and security, implore the favour of God for persons who can do nothing for themselves: not that I would be thought to say, or imagine, the condition of a knight-errant is equal to that of a recluse monk; I would only infer from what we suffer, that it is without doubt more troublesome, more battered, more famished, more miserable, ragged, and lousy; for, the knights-errant of past times certainly underwent numberless misfortunes in the course of their lives: and if some of them came to be emperors by the valour of their arms, considering the blood and sweat it cost them, in faith, it was a dear purchase; and if those who attained such a supreme station, had been without their sage enchanters to assist them, they might have been defrauded of their desires, and grievously baulked of their expectations."
"I am very much of your opinion," answered the traveller, "but there is one thing among you knights-errant that I cannot approve of, and that is, when any great and dangerous adventure occurs, in which you run a manifest risk of losing your lives, in the instant of engagement, you never think of recommending your souls to God, as every Christian ought to do on such occasions; but, on the contrary, put up your petitions to your mistresses, with as much fervour and devotion as if they were your deities; a circumstance which, in my opinion, smells strong of paganism." "Sir," replied Don Quixote, "that practice must in no degree be altered; and woe be to that knight-errant who should do otherwise; for, according to the practice and custom of chivalry, every knight, when he is upon the point of achieving some great feat, must call up the idea of his mistress, and turning his eyes upon her with all the gentleness of love, implore, as it were, by his looks, her favour and protection in the doubtful dilemma in which he is about to involve himself: nay, even though nobody should hear him, he is obliged to mutter between his teeth an ejaculation, by which he heartily and confidently recommends himself to her good wishes: and of this practice we have innumerable examples in history; but I would not have you think, that we are to forbear recommending ourselves to God also; there will be time and opportunity enough for that duty, in the course of action."
"But, nevertheless," said the traveller, "I have still one scruple remaining, which is, that I have often read of a dispute between two knights, which proceeding to rage from one word to another, they have turned about their steeds, to gain ground for a good career, and then without any more ceremony, returned to the encounter at full gallop, recommending themselves to their mistresses by the way; and the common issue of such an engagement is, that one of them is thrown down over his horse's crupper, stuck through and through with his adversary's lance, while the other with difficulty avoids a fall by laying hold of his horse's mane: now, I cannot comprehend how the dead man could have time to recommend himself to God in the course of so sudden an attack; surely it would have been better for his soul if, instead of the words he uttered in his career, he had put up a petition to heaven, according to the duty and obligation of every Christian; especially, as I take it for granted, that every knight-errant has not a mistress, for all of them cannot be in love." "That's impossible," answered Don Quixote: "I affirm that there never could be a knight-errant without a mistress; for to be in love is as natural and peculiar to them as the stars are to the heavens. I am very certain, that you never read an history that gives an account of a knight-errant without an amour; for he that has never been in love would not be held as a legitimate member, but some adulterate brood, who had got into the fortress of chivalry, not through the gate, but over the walls, like a thief in the night."
"Yet, notwithstanding," said the traveller, "I have read that Don Galaor, brother of the valiant Amadis de Gaul, never had any known mistress to whom he could recommend himself: and he was not disregarded, but looked upon as a very valiant and famous knight." "Signor," answered our hero Don Quixote, "one swallow makes not a spring: besides, to my certain knowledge, that knight was privately very much in love: indeed he made love to every handsome woman who came in his way; for that was his natural disposition, which he by no means could resist: in short, it is very well attested that he had one mistress, whom he enthroned as sovereign of his heart, and to whom he recommended himself with great caution and privacy, because he piqued himself upon being a secret knight."
"Since then it is essential to every knight to be in love, we may conclude that your worship being of that profession, is no stranger to the passion; and if you do not value yourself upon being as secret a knight as Don Galaor, I earnestly entreat you, in behalf of myself and the rest of the company, to tell us the name, country, station, and qualities of your mistress, who must think herself extremely happy in reflecting that all the world knows how much she is beloved and adored by so valiant a knight as your worship appears to be."
Here Don Quixote uttered a grievous sigh, saying: "I am not positively certain, whether or not that beauteous enemy of mine, takes pleasure in the world's knowing I am her slave; this only I can say, in answer to the question you asked with so much civility, that her name is Dulcinea; her native country, a certain part of Valencia called Toboso; her station must at least be that of a princess, since she is queen and lady of my soul; her beauty, supernatural, in that it justifies all those impossible and chimerical attributes of excellence, which the poets bestow upon their nymphs; her hair is of gold, her forehead the Elysian fields, her eyebrows heavenly arches, her eyes themselves suns, her cheeks roses, her lips of coral, her teeth of pearl, her neck alabaster, her breast marble, her hands ivory, her skin whiter than snow, and those parts which decency conceals from human view are such, according to my belief and apprehension, as discretion ought to enhance above all comparison."
"I wish we knew her lineage, race, and family," replied Vivaldo. To this hint the knight answered, "She is not descended of the ancient Caii, Curtii, and Scipios of Rome, nor of the modern Colonas and Ursini, nor of the Moncadas and Requesnes of Catalonia, much less of the Rebellas and Villanovas of Valencia: or the Palafaxes, Nucas, Rocabertis, Corellas; Lunas, Alagones, Urreas, Fozes and Gurreas of Arragon, or the Cerdas, Manriquez, Mendozas and Gusmans of Castile, or the Alencastros, Pallas and Menesis of Portugal: but she sprung from the family of Toboso de la Mancha, a lineage which, though modern, may give a noble rise to the most illustrious families of future ages; and let no man contradict what I say, except upon the conditions expressed in that inscription placed by Cerbino under the trophy of Orlando's arms—
"Although I myself am descended from the Cachopines of Laredo," said the traveller, "I won't presume to compare with that of Toboso de la Mancha; though, to be plain with you, I never before heard of any such generation." "How, not heard?" replied Don Quixote. The rest of the company jogged on, listening with great attention to this discourse, and all of them, even the very goatherds, by this time, were convinced, that our knight's judgment was grievously impaired. Sancho alone believed that everything his master said was true; because he knew his family, and had been acquainted with himself from his cradle. The only doubt that he entertained was of this same beautiful Dulcinea del Toboso; for never had such a name, or such a princess, come within the sphere of his observation, although he lived in the neighbourhood of that place.
While they travelled along, conversing in this manner, they perceived about twenty shepherds descending through a cleft made by two high mountains. They were all clad in jackets of sheep-skin, covered with black wool, and each of them crowned with a garland, which was composed, as it afterwards appeared, partly of cypress, and partly of yew: six of the foremost carried a bier, upon which they had strewed a variety of branches and flowers. And this was no sooner perceived by one of the goatherds, than he said, "These are the people who carry the corpse of Chrysostom, and the foot of that mountain is the place where he ordered himself to be interred."
Upon this information they made haste, and came up just at the time that the bearers, having laid down the body, began to dig the grave with pick-axes on one side of a flinty rock. They received our travellers with great courtesy, and Don Quixote, with his company, went towards the bier, to look at the dead body, which was covered with flowers, clad in shepherd's weeds, and seemingly thirty years old. Notwithstanding he was dead, they could plainly perceive that he had been a man of an engaging aspect, and genteel stature; and could not help wondering at the sight of a great many papers, both sealed and loose, that lay round him in the coffin.
While the new comers were observing this phenomenon, and the shepherds busied in digging a grave, a wonderful and universal silence prevailed, till such time as one of the bearers said to another: "Consider, Ambrosio, if this be the very spot which Chrysostom mentioned, that his last will may be punctually fulfilled." "This," answered Ambrosio, "is the very place in which my unhappy friend has often recounted to me the story of his misfortunes. Here it was he first beheld that mortal enemy of the human race; here also did he first declare his amorous and honourable intention; and here, at last, did Marcella signify her disgust and disdain, which put an end to the tragedy of his wretched life: and in this place, as a monument of his mishap, did he desire to be deposited in the bowels of eternal oblivion."
Then addressing himself to Don Quixote and the travellers, he thus proceeded: "This corse, gentlemen, which you behold with compassionate eyes, was the habitation of a soul, which possessed an infinite share of the riches of heaven: this is the body of Chrysostom, who was a man of unparalleled genius, the pink of courtesy and kindness; in friendship a very phœnix, liberal without bounds, grave without arrogance, gay without meanness; and, in short, second to none in everything that was good, and without second in all that was unfortunate. He loved, and was abhorred; he adored, and was disdained; he implored a savage; he importuned a statue; he hunted the wind; cried aloud to the desert; he was a slave to the most ungrateful of women; and the fruit of his servitude was death, which overtook him in the middle of his career; in short, he perished by the cruelty of a shepherdess, whom he has eternalised in the memory of all the people in this country; as these papers which you gaze at would show, if he had not ordered me to commit them to the flames as soon as his body shall be deposited in the earth."
"You will use them then with more cruelty and rigour," said Vivaldo, "than that of the author himself; seeing it is neither just nor convenient to fulfil the will of any man, provided it be unreasonable. Augustus Cæsar would have been in the wrong had he consented to the execution of what the divine Mantuan ordered on his death-bed. Wherefore, Signor Ambrosio, while you commit the body of your friend to the earth, you ought not likewise to consign his writings to oblivion; nor perform indiscreetly, what he in his affliction ordained: on the contrary, by publishing these papers, you ought to immortalise the cruelty of Marcella, that it may serve as an example in time to come, and warn young men to shun and avoid such dangerous precipices; for I, and the rest of this company, already know the history of that enamoured and unhappy friend, the nature of your friendship, the occasion of his death, together with the orders that he left upon his death-bed; from which lamentable story, it is easy to conclude how excessive must have been the cruelty of Marcella, the love of Chrysostom, the faith of your friendship, and the check which those receive, who precipitately run through the path exhibited to them by idle and mischievous love. Last night, we understood the death of Chrysostom, who, we are informed, was to be buried in this place; and therefore, out of curiosity and concern, have turned out of our way, resolving to come, and see with our eyes, what had affected us so much in the hearing: and in return for that concern, and the desire we felt in remedying it, if it had been in our power, we entreat thee, O discreet Ambrosio! at least, for my own part, I beg of thee not to burn these papers, but allow me to preserve some of them."
Accordingly, without staying for an answer, he reached out his hand, and took some of those that were nearest him: which Ambrosio perceiving, said, "Out of civility, Signor, I will consent to your keeping what you have taken up; but to think that I will fail to burn the rest, is a vain supposition." Vivaldo being desirous of seeing the contents, immediately opened one entitled "A Song of Despair," which Ambrosio hearing, said, "That is the last poem my unhappy friend composed; and that you may see, Signor, to what a pass his misfortunes had reduced him, read it aloud, and you'll have time enough to finish it before the grave be made!" "That I will do with all my heart," said Vivaldo, and everybody present being seized with the same desire, they stood around him in a circle, and he read what follows, with an audible voice:—
A SONG OF DESPAIR.
"Since then thy pleasure, cruel maid!
Is, that thy rigour and disdain
Should be from clime to clime convey'd;
All hell shall aid me to complain!
The torments of my heart to tell,
And thy achievements to record,
My voice shall raise a dreadful yell,
My bowels burst at every word:
Then listen to the baleful sound
That issues from my throbbing breast,
Thy pride, perhaps, it may confound,
And yield my madd'ning soul some rest.
Let the snake's hiss and wolf's dire howl,
The bull's harsh note, the lion's roar,
The boding crow and screeching owl,
The tempest rattling on the shore,
The monster's scream, the turtle's moan,
The shrieks of the infernal crew,
Be mingled with my dying groan,
A concert terrible and new!
The hearer's senses to appal,
And reason from her throne depose;
Such melody will suit the gall
That from my burning liver flows!
Old Tagus with his yellow hair,
And Betis with her olive wreath,
Shall never echo such despair,
Or listen to such notes of death,
As here I'll utter and repeat,
From hill to dale, from rock to cave,
In wilds untrod by human feet,
In dungeons dreary as the grave.
The beasts of prey that scour the plain,
Shall thy more savage nature know,
The spacious earth resound my strain;
Such is the privilege of woe!
Disdain is death, and doubt o'erturns
The patience of the firmest mind;
But, jealousy still fiercer burns,
Like all the flames of hell combin'd.
The horrors of that cursed fiend,
In absence to distraction rage,
And all the succour hope can lend,
The direful pangs will not assuage.
Such agonies will surely kill;
Yet, 'spite of absence, doubts, and scorn,
I live a miracle, and still
Those deadly flames within me burn!
Hope's shadow ne'er refresh'd my view,
Despair attends with wakeful strife;
The first let happier swains pursue,
The last my comfort is for life.
Can hope and fear at once prevail,
When fear on certainty is fed?
To shut mine eyes will not avail,
When thunder bursts around my head.
When cold disdain in native dye,
Appears, and falsehood's cunning lore
Perverts the tale of truth, shall I
Against despondence shut the door?
O jealousy! love's tyrant lord,
And thou soul-chilling, dire disdain!
Lend me the dagger and the cord,
To stab remembrance, strangle pain.
I die bereft of hope in death,
Yet still those are the freest souls,
(I'll vouch it with my latest breath)
Whom love's old tyranny controls.
My fatal enemy is fair,
In body and in mind, I'll say,
And I have earn'd the woes I bear:
By rigour love maintains the sway.
With this opinion let me fall
A prey to unrelenting scorn:
No fun'ral pomp shall grace my pall,
No laurel my pale corse adorn.
O thou! whose cruelty and hate
The tortures of my breast proclaim,
Behold how willingly to fate
I offer this devoted frame.
If thou, when I am past all pain,
Should'st think my fall deserves a tear,
Let not one single drop distain
Those eyes so killing and so clear.
No! rather let thy mirth display
The joys that in thy bosom flow;
Ah! need I bid that heart be gay
Which always triumph'd in my woe.
Come then, for ever barr'd of bliss,
Ye, who with ceaseless torment dwell,
And agonising, howl and hiss
In the profoundest shades of hell;
Come, Tantalus, with raging thirst,
Bring, Sisyphus, thy rolling stone,
Come, Tityus, with thy vulture curst,
Nor leave Ixion rack'd, alone:
The toiling sisters, too, shall join,
And my sad, solemn dirge repeat,
When to the grave my friends consign
These limbs denied a winding sheet;
Fierce Cerberus shall clank his chain,
In chorus with chimæras dire:
What other pomp, what other strain
Should he who dies of love, require?
Be hush'd, my song, complain no more
Of her whose pleasure gave thee birth;
But let the sorrows I deplore
Sleep with me in the silent earth."
This ditty of Chrysostom was approved by all the hearers: but he who read it observed, that it did not seem to agree with the report he had heard of Marcella's virtue and circumspection; inasmuch as the author complained of jealousy, absence, and suspicion, which tended to the prejudice of her morals and reputation. To this objection Ambrosio, as one that was acquainted with the most secret sentiments of his friend, answered, "Signor, for your satisfaction in this point, it is necessary you should know, that the forlorn shepherd composed this song in the absence of Marcella, from whose presence he had gone into voluntary exile, in order to try if he could reap the usual fruits of absence, and forget the cause of his despair; and as one in that situation is apt to be fretted by every circumstance, and invaded by every apprehension, poor Chrysostom was harassed by groundless jealousy and imaginary fears, which tormented him as much as if they had been real; for which reason, this circumstance ought not to invalidate the fame of Marcella's virtue, against which, exclusive of her cruelty, arrogance, and disdain, envy itself hath not been able to lay the least imputation."
"That may be very true," replied Vivaldo, who, being about to read another of the papers he had saved from the flames, was diverted from this purpose by a wonderful vision, for such it seemed, that all of a sudden presented itself to their eyes. This was no other than the shepherdess Marcella, who appeared upon the top of the rock, just above the grave they were digging, so beautiful that she surpassed all report. Those who had never seen her before, gazed with silent admiration; nor were the rest who had been accustomed to see her, less astonished at her appearance. But no sooner did Ambrosio perceive her than, with indignation in his looks, he cried:
"Comest thou hither, fierce basilisk of these mountains! to see if the wounds of this unhappy youth, whom thy cruelty hath slain, will bleed at thy approach? or art thou come to rejoice in the exploits of thy barbarity, and from the top of that mountain behold, like another Nero, the flames which thy impiety hath kindled? or inhumanly to trample upon this unfortunate corse, as the unnatural daughter insulted the dead body of her father Tarquin? Tell us, at once, the cause of thy approach, and deign to signify thy pleasure, that I, who know how devoutly Chrysostom obeyed thee, when alive, may, now that he is dead, dispose his friends to yield the same obedience."
"I come not," answered Marcella, "for any of the purposes you have mentioned, Ambrosio; but rather personally to demonstrate how unreasonably I am blamed for the death and sufferings of Chrysostom. I beg, therefore, that all present will give me the hearing, as it will be unnecessary to spend much time, or waste many words, to convince those that are unprejudiced, of the truth. Heaven, you say, hath given me beauty, nay, such a share of it as compels you to love me, in spite of your resolutions to the contrary; from whence you draw this inference, and insist upon it, that it is my duty to return your passion. By the help of that small capacity which nature has bestowed upon me, I know that which is beautiful is lovely; but I can by no means conceive why the object, which is beloved for being beautiful, is bound to be enamoured of its admirer; more especially, as it may happen that this same admirer is an object of disgust and abhorrence; in which case, would it be reasonable in him to say, 'I love thee because thou art beautiful, and thou must favour my passion, although I am deformed'? But, granting the beauty equal on both sides, it does not follow that the desires ought to be mutual; for all sorts of beauty do not equally affect the spectator; some, for example, delighting the eye only, without captivating the heart. And well it is for mankind that things are thus disposed, otherwise there would be a strange perplexity and confusion of desires, without power of distinguishing and choosing particular objects; for beauty, being infinitely diversified, the inclination would be infinitely divided, and I have heard that true love must be undivided and unconstrained; if this be the case, as I believe it is, why should I constrain my inclination, when I am under no other obligation so to do, but your saying that you are in love with me? Otherwise tell me, if heaven that made me handsome had created me a monster of deformity, should I have had cause to complain of you for not loving me? Besides, you are to consider that I did not choose the beauty I possess; such as it is, God was pleased of His own free will and favour to bestow it upon me, without any solicitation on my part. Therefore, as the viper deserves no blame for its sting, although it be mortal, because it is the gift of nature; neither ought I to be reviled for being beautiful; for beauty in a virtuous woman is like a distant flame and a sharp sword afar off, which prove fatal to none but those who approach too near them. Honour and virtue are the ornaments of the soul; without which the body, though ever so handsome, ought to seem ugly; if chastity, then, be one of the virtues which chiefly adorns and beautifies both body and soul, why should she that is beloved, lose that jewel for which she is chiefly beloved, merely to satisfy the appetite of one who, for his own selfish enjoyment, employs his whole care and industry to destroy it? I was born free, and to enjoy that freedom have I chosen the solitude of these fields. The trees on these mountains are my companions; and I have no other mirror than the limpid streams of these crystal brooks. With the trees and the streams I share my contemplation and my beauty: I am a distant flame and a sword afar off: those whom my eyes have captivated, my tongue has undeceived: and if hope be the food of desire, as I gave none to Chrysostom or to any other person, so neither can his death, nor that of any other of my admirers, be justly imputed to my cruelty, but rather to their own obstinate despair. To those who observe that his intentions were honourable, and that, therefore, I was bound to comply with them, I answer, when he declared the honesty of his designs in that very spot where now his grave is digging, I told him my purpose was to live in perpetual solitude, and let the earth alone enjoy the fruits of my retirement, and the spoils of my beauty. Wherefore, if he, notwithstanding this my explanation, persevered without hope, and sailed against the wind, it is no wonder that he was overwhelmed in the gulf of his rashness. Had I cajoled him, I should have been perfidious; had I gratified his inclination, I should have acted contrary to my own reason and resolution. But, because he persisted after I had explained myself, and despaired before he had cause to think I abhorred him, I leave you to judge whether or not it be reasonable to lay his misfortune at my door. Let him whom I have deceived complain, and let him despair to whom I have broke my promise: if I call upon any man, he may depend upon me: if I admit of his addresses, he may rejoice in his success; but why should I be styled a barbarous homicide by him whom I never soothed, deceived, called, or admitted? Hitherto Heaven has not thought fit that I should love by destiny, and the world must excuse me from loving by election. Let this general declaration serve as an answer to all those who solicit me in particular, and henceforward give them to understand, that whosoever dies for me perishes not by jealousy or disdain, for she who never gave her love, can never give just cause of jealousy; neither ought her plain-dealing to be interpreted into disdain. Let him who terms me a fierce basilisk, shun me as an evil being; if any man thinks me ungrateful, let him refuse his services when I ask them. If I have disowned any one, let him renounce me in his turn; and let him who has found me cruel, abandon me in distress: this fierce basilisk, this ungrateful, cruel, supercilious wretch, will neither seek, serve, own, nor follow you in any shape whatever. If Chrysostom perished by the impatience of his own extravagant desire, why should my innocent reserve be inveighed against? If I have preserved my virginity in these deserts, why should he that loves me, wish me to lose it among mankind? I have riches of my own, as you all know, and covet no man's wealth. I am free, and will not be subjected: I neither love nor hate any man; I do not cajole this one, nor teaze that; nor do I joke with one or discourse with another, but amuse myself with the care of my goats, and the innocent conversation of the shepherdesses belonging to the neighbouring villages. My desires are bounded by these mountains; or if my meditation surpasses these bounds, it is only to contemplate the beauty of the heavens, those steps by which the soul ascends to its original mansion." So saying, without waiting for any reply, she turned her back and vanished into a thicket on a neighbouring mountain, leaving all that were present equally surprised with her beauty and discretion.
Some of the bystanders being wounded by the powerful shafts that were darted from her fair eyes, manifested an inclination to follow her, without availing themselves of the ingenious declaration they had heard, which, being perceived by Don Quixote, who thought this a proper occasion for exercising his chivalry in defence of distressed damsels, he laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword, and in a lofty and audible voice pronounced, "Let no person, of whatsoever rank or degree, presume to follow the beautiful Marcella, on pain of incurring my most furious indignation. She has demonstrated, by clear and undeniable arguments, how little, if at all, she is to be blamed for the death of Chrysostom, and how averse she is to comply with the desires of any of her admirers; for which reason, instead of being pursued and persecuted, she ought to be honoured and esteemed by all virtuous men, as the only person in the universe who lives in such a chaste and laudable intention." Whether it was owing to these menaces of the knight, or to the advice of Ambrosio, who desired them to perform the last office to their deceased friend, not one of the shepherds attempted to stir from the spot, until the grave being finished, and the papers burnt, the body of poor Chrysostom was interred, not without abundance of tears shed by his surviving companions. The grave was secured by a large fragment of the rock which they rolled upon it, till such time as a tombstone could be made, under the direction of Ambrosio, who was resolved to have the following epitaph engraved upon it—
"The body of a wretched swain,
Kill'd by a cruel maid's disdain,
In this cold bed neglected lies.
He liv'd, fond hapless youth! to prove
The inhuman tyranny of love,
Exerted in Marcella's Eyes."
Having strewed the place with a profusion of flowers and branches, everybody present condoled, and took leave of the afflicted executor; and Don Quixote bade farewell to his kind landlords, as well as to the travellers.
- In the original Spanish, the goatherd, instead of saying as old as Sarah, says as old as Sarna, which in that language signifies the itch; but as it is impossible to preserve these mistakes in the translation, I have substituted another in its room, which I apprehend is equally expressive. [S.]
- When a knight challenged the whole world, he wore an emprize, consisting of a gold chain, or some other badge of love and chivalry; and sometimes this emprize was fixed in a public place to attract the attention of strangers: when any person accepted the challenge for a trial of chivalry, called the combat of courtesy, he touched this emprize; but, if he tore it away, it was considered as a resolution to fight the owner to extremity or outrance. The combat of courtesy is still practised by our prize-fighters and boxers, who shake hands before the engagement, in token of love.
But no defiance of this kind could be either published or accepted without the permission of the prince, at whose court the combatants chanced to be. Accordingly we are told by Oliver de la Marche, that the lord of Ternant having published a defiance at the court of Burgundy, in the year 1445, Galiat asked the duke's permission to touch the challenger's emprize, which, being granted, he advanced and touched it, saying to the bearer, while he bowed very low, "Noble knight, I touch your emprize, and, with God's permission, will do my utmost to fulfil your desire either on horseback or on foot." The lord of Ternant humbly thanked him for his condescension, said he was extremely welcome, and promised to send him that same day a cartel, mentioning the arms they should use.
- Cachopines is the name given to Europeans by the Indians of Mexico.