There is nothing so subject to the inconstancy of fortune as war


Thou art but little acquainted with adventures. I tell thee they are giants.

“Pray, look better, sir,” quoth Sancho; “those things yonder are no giants, but windmills, and the arms you fancy, they are sails, which, being whirled about by the wind, make the mill go.” “It is a sign,” cried Don Quixote, “thou art but little acquainted with adventures. I tell thee they are giants; and therefore, if thou art afraid, go aside and say thy prayers, for I am resolved to engage in a dreadful, unequal combat against them all.” This said, he …rushed with Rozinante’s utmost speed upon the first windmill he could come at, and, running his lance into the sail, the wind whirled around with such swiftness, that the rapidity of the motion presently broke the lance into shivers, and hurled away both knight and horse along with it, til down he fell, rolling a good way off in the field. Sancho Panca ran as fast as his ass could drive to help his master, whom he found lying, and not able to stir, such a blow he and Rozinante had received. “Mercy on me!” cried Sancho, “…did I not tell you they were windmills, and that nobody could think otherwise, unless he had also windmills in his head?” “Peace, friend Sancho,” replied Don Quixote: “there is nothing so subject to the inconstancy of fortune as war. I am verily persuaded, the cursed necromancer Freston, who carried away my study and books, and has transformed these giants into windmills…”

by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra (September 29, 1547 – April 23, 1616)
from Don Quixote
Chapter VIII
this translation by P. A. Motteux
image – Jonathan Gill

Are you feeling quixotic today?

Sometimes posting here every day seems quixotic, or at least impractical, but being a little on the extravagantly romantic side when it comes to literacy can have its up points. Unpredictable flashes of insight come to those who have been up past bedtime, reading under the covers, as far back as memory goes and then some. Never mind that we may be half dreaming, or that the “flash” may be from dropping the flashlight: a vision is a vision, even a vision of tilting at windmills.

Speaking of quixotic, this is September 29th, the birthday of Miguel De Cervantes, author of “Don Quixote,” a book often cited as the first modern novel. The hero of the novel is an aging farmer who is obsessed with reading fanciful tales of chivalry, every word of which he believes to be true. Others believe he has lost his mind because of lack of sleep, but Alonso Quixano isn’t the least bit interested in conforming to their reality. He begins to act as if he is really living in a romanticized dream world. Alonso Quixano declares himself to be Don Quixote, knight-errant in search of adventure, illuminated by his dreamstruck heart and whatever heroic details his desperately dedicated mind can muster.

Can you imagine writing a protagonist who is so memorable that he becomes his own adjective?

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3 Responses to “There is nothing so subject to the inconstancy of fortune as war”

  1. Richard Stone Says:

    I too have this image of Don Quixano and how I race through life – to dream the impossible dream, to reach the unreachable star and etc.
    Life is good and I march along.

  2. E. A. Able Says:

    “Life is good and I march along.”
    Yes, indeed.

  3. We love only what we do not wholly possess - Marcel Proust Says:

    […] Will there also be a turning point back to trust? Changing the situation might change the outcome, but when emotional investment is not focused on accepting reality, any change will carry with it the same insecurity – or impossibility. You might even call it tilting at windmills. […]