Thursday, September 8, 2016

On Governing an Insula by Don Quixote

Just then Don Quixote came in, and learning what had happened and how quickly Sancho Panza was to leave for his governorship, with permission of the duke he took Sancho by the hand and went with him to his room, intending to advise him on how he was to behave as governor.

When they had entered his bedchamber, Don Quixote closed the door behind him and almost forced Sancho to sit down beside him, and in a tranquil voice he said:

"I give infinite thanks to heaven, Sancho my friend, that before and prior to my having found good luck, Fortune has come out to welcome and receive you. I, who had set aside a portion of my success as payment for your services, find myself at the very beginning of my advancement, and you, before it is time and contrary to the law of reasonable discourse, find yourself rewarded with all your desires. Others bribe, importune, solicit, are early risers, plead, persist, and do not achieve what they long for, and another comes along and without knowing how or why finds himself with the office and position that many others strove for: and here the saying certainly applies and is appropriate: aspirations are ruled by good and bad fortune. You, who in my opinion are undoubtedly a dolt, and who, without rising early or staying up late or making any effort whatsoever, with nothing more than the breath of knight errantry that has touched you, without further ado find yourself governor of an insula as if it were of no consequence. I say all this, O Sancho, so that you do not attribute the kindness you have received to your own merits, but give thanks first to heaven for disposing matters so sweetly, and then to the greatness that lies in the profession of knight errantry.

Now, with your heart disposed to believe what I told you, pay heed, my son, to your Cato, who wishes to advise you and be a polestar and guide that sets your course and leads you to a safe port on the tempestuous sea where you are about to set sail, for offices and great responsibilities are nothing more than a deep gulf of confusions.

First, my son, you must fear God, because in fearing Him lies wisdom, and if you are wise, you cannot err in anything. Second, you must look at who you are and make an effort to know yourself, which is the most difficult knowledge one can imagine. When you know yourself, you will not puff yourself up like the frog who wanted to be the equal of the ox, and if you can do this, the fact that you kept pigs at home will be like the ugly feet beneath the peacock's tail of your foolishness."

"It's true," responded Sancho, "but that's when I was a boy; later, when I was a little older, it was geese that I kept, not pigs. But this seems beside the point; not everybody who governs comes from the lineage of kings."

"That is true," replied Don Quixote, "and for that reason those who are not of noble origin should bring to the gravity of the position they hold a gentle mildness which, guided by prudence, may save them from the malicious gossip that no station in life can escape. Take pride in the humbleness of your lineage, and do not distain to say that you come from peasants, for seeing that you are not ashamed of it, no one will attempt to shame you; take more pride in being a humble virtuous man than in being a noble sinner. Innumerable men born of low family have risen to the highest pontifical and imperial dignity, and I could cite so many examples of his truth that you would grow weary.

Consider, Sancho, if you take virtue as your means, and pride in performing virtuous deeds, there is no reason to envy the means of princes and lords, because blood is inherited, and virtue is acquired, and virtue in an of itself has a value that blood does not. This being so, as it is, if one of your relatives comes to see you while you are on your insula, do not scorn or insult him; on the contrary, you should welcome, receive, and entertain him; in this way you will satisfy heaven, which does not wish anyone to scorn what it has created, and you will respond as you should to a well-ordered nature. If you bring your wife with you (because it is not a good idea for those who attend to governing for a long time to be without their own spouses), teach her, instruct her, and smooth away her natural roughness, because everything a wise governor acquires can be lost and wasted by a crude and foolish wife. If by chance you are widowed, which is something that can happen, and with your position you wish a better wife, do not take one to serve as your lure and fishing rod, and the hood for your I don't want it; because it is true when I tell you that for everything received by the judge's wife her husband will be accountable at the universal reckoning, when he will pay four times over in death for the ledger entries he ignored in life.

Never be guided by arbitrariness in law, which tends to have a good deal of influence on ignorant men who take pride in being clever. Let the tears of the poor find in you more compassion, but not more justice, than the briefs of the wealthy. Try to discover the truth in all the promises and gifts of the rich man, as well as in the poor man's sobs and entreaties. When there can and should be a place for impartiality, do not bring the entire vigor of the law the bear on the offender, for the reputation of the harsh judge is not better than that of the compassionate one. If you happen to bend the staff of justice, let it be with the weight not of a gift, but of mercy. If you judge the case of one of your enemies, put your injury out of your mind and turn your thoughts to the truth of the question.  Do not be blinded by your own passion in another's trial, for most of the time the mistakes you make cannot be remedied, and if they can, it will be to the detriment of your good name and even your fortune.  If a beautiful woman comes to you to plead for justice, turn your eyes from her tears and your ear from her sobs, and consider without haste the substance of what she is asking if you do not want your reason to be drowned in her weeping and your goodness in her sighs. If you must punish a man with deeds, do not abuse him with words, for the pain of punishment is enough for the unfortunate man without the addition of malicious speech. Consider the culprit who falls under your jurisdiction as a fallen man subject to the conditions of our depraved nature, and to the extent that you can, without doing injury to the opposing party, show him compassion and clemency, because although all the attributes of God are equal, in  our view mercy is more brilliant and splendid than justice.

If you follow these precepts and rules, Sancho, your days will be long, your fame eternal, your rewards overflowing, your joy indescribable; you will marry your children as you wish, they and their grandchildren will have titles, you will live in peace and harmony with all people, and in the final moments of your life, in a gentle and ripe old age ,the moment of your death will come and the tender, delicate hands of your great-grandchildren will close your eyes. What I have said to you so far are the teachings that will adorn your soul; now listen to the ones that will serve to adorn your body.  .  ."

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