03 January 2013

History of a Knight-Errant

Suddenly there is presented to his sight a strong castle (or gorgeous palace) with walls of massy gold, turrets of diamond and gates of jacinth; in short, so marvelous is its structure that though the materials of which it is built are nothing less than diamonds, carbuncles, rubies, pearls, gold, and emeralds, the workmanship is still more rare.

And after having seen all this, what can be more charming than to see how a bevy of damsels comes forth from the gate of the castle in gay and gorgeous attire, such that, were I to set myself now to depict it as the histories describe it to us, I should never have done; and then how she who seems to be the first among them all takes the bold knight (who plunged into the boiling lake) by the hand, and without addressing a word to him leads him into the rich palace (or castle,) and strips him as naked as when his mother bore him, and bathes him in lukewarm water, and anoints him all over with sweet-smelling unguents, and clothes him in a shirt of the softest sendal, all scented and perfumed, while another damsel comes and throws over his shoulders a mantle which is said to be worth at the very least a city, (and even more?).

How charming it is, then, when they tell us how, after all this, they lead him to another chamber where he finds the tables set out in such style that he is filled with amazement and wonder; to see how they pour out water for his hands distilled from amber and sweet-scented flowers; how they seat him on an ivory chair; to see how the damsels wait on him all in profound silence; how they bring him such a variety of dainties so temptingly prepared that the appetite is at a loss which to select; to hear the music that resounds while he is at table, by whom or whence produced he knows not.

And then when the repast is over and the tables removed, for the knight to recline in the chair, (picking his teeth perhaps as usual,) and a damsel, much lovelier than any of the others, to enter unexpectedly by the chamber door, (and herself by his side,) and begin to tell him what the castle is, and how she is held enchanted there, and other things that amaze the knight and astonish . . .

* * *

But I will not expatiate any further upon this, as it may be gathered from it that whatever part of whatever history of a knight-errant one reads, it will fill the reader, whoever he be, with delight and wonder; and take my advice, sir, and, as I said before, read these books and you will see how they will banish any melancholy you may feel and raise your spirits should they be depressed.

Miguel de Cervantes; Don Quixote; translated by John Ormsby

Painting: John Everett Millais (1829 - 1896), The Knight Errant