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CHAPTER XVIII. (CONT'D)
Here, being summoned to dinner, they brought their colloquy to a close. Don Diego asked his son what he had been able to make out as to the wits of their guest. To which he replied, "All the doctors and clever scribes in the world will not make sense of the scrawl of his madness; he is a madman full of streaks, full of lucid intervals."
They went in to dinner, and the repast was such as Don Diego said on the road he was in the habit of giving to his guests, neat, plentiful, and tasty; but what pleased Don Quixote most was the marvellous silence that reigned throughout the house, for it was like a Carthusian monastery.
When the cloth had been removed, grace said and their hands washed, Don Quixote earnestly pressed Don Lorenzo to repeat to him his verses for the poetical tournament, to which he replied, "Not to be like those poets who, when they are asked to recite their verses, refuse, and when they are not asked for them vomit them up, I will repeat my gloss, for which I do not expect any prize, having composed it merely as an exercise of ingenuity."
"A discerning friend of mine," said Don Quixote, "was of opinion that no one ought to waste labour in glossing verses; and the reason he gave was that the gloss can never come up to the text, and that often or most frequently it wanders away from the meaning and purpose aimed at in the glossed lines; and besides, that the laws of the gloss were too strict, as they did not allow interrogations, nor 'said he,' nor 'I say,' nor turning verbs into nouns, or altering the construction, not to speak of other restrictions and limitations that fetter gloss-writers, as you no doubt know."
"Verily, Senor Don Quixote," said Don Lorenzo, "I wish I could catch your worship tripping at a stretch, but I cannot, for you slip through my fingers like an eel."
"I don't understand what you say, or mean by slipping," said Don Quixote.
"I will explain myself another time," said Don Lorenzo; "for the present pray attend to the glossed verses and the gloss, which run thus:
Could 'was' become an 'is' for me, Then would I ask no more than this; Or could, for me, the time that is Become the time that is to be!--
Dame Fortune once upon a day
To me was bountiful and kind;
But all things change; she changed her mind, And what she gave she took away. O Fortune, long I've sued to thee;
The gifts thou gavest me restore,
For, trust me, I would ask no more, Could 'was' become an 'is' for me.
No other prize I seek to gain,
No triumph, glory, or success,
Only the long-lost happiness, The memory whereof is pain. One taste, methinks, of bygone bliss
The heart-consuming fire might stay;
And, so it come without delay, Then would I ask no more than this.
I ask what cannot be, alas!
That time should ever be, and then
Come back to us, and be again, No power on earth can bring to pass; For fleet of foot is he, I wis,
And idly, therefore, do we pray
That what for aye hath left us may Become for us the time that is.
Perplexed, uncertain, to remain
'Twixt hope and fear, is death, not life;
'Twere better, sure, to end the strife, And dying, seek release from pain. And yet, thought were the best for me.
Anon the thought aside I fling,
And to the present fondly cling, And dread the time that is to be."
When Don Lorenzo had finished reciting his gloss, Don Quixote stood up, and in a loud voice, almost a shout, exclaimed as he grasped Don Lorenzo's right hand in his, "By the highest heavens, noble youth, but you are the best poet on earth, and deserve to be crowned with laurel, not by Cyprus or by Gaeta--as a certain poet, God forgive him, said--but by the Academies of Athens, if they still flourished, and by those that flourish now, Paris, Bologna, Salamanca. Heaven grant that the judges who rob you of the first prize--that Phoebus may pierce them with his arrows, and the Muses never cross the thresholds of their doors. Repeat me some of your long-measure verses, senor, if you will be so good, for I want thoroughly to feel the pulse of your rare genius."
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