Mysticism and carnival in 'Don Quijote' I, 19-20.
Martin Fernandez de Navarrete was the first to launch the theory that Chapter XIX is a fictional reelaboration of contemporary accounts regarding the clandestine transfer of the remains of San Juan from Ubeda to Segovia in 1593. Navarrete begins by exploring the circumstances which led to the transfer:
A fines del ano de 1591 murio en su convento de Ubeda de calenturas
pestilentes S. Juan de la Cruz; y la especial devocion con que Dona Ana
de Mercado y su hermano D. Luis de Mercado, del Consejo Real, residentes
entonces en Madrid, habian fundado con su acuerdo el convento
de Segovia, los empeno en trasladar a el a todo trance su venerable
cuerpo, sin reparar en la oposicion que podria haber por la ciudad y sus
Having acquired permission from the highest authorities of the Carmelite order, the siblings commissioned an "alguacil de corte" to travel to Ubeda to bring the remains to Segovia with maximum secrecy. This first attempt was thwarted, however, when the party discovered that San Juan's corpse, despite having been buried nine months earlier, was "tan incorrupto, fresco y entero, y con tal fragancia y buen olor, que suspendieron por entonces la traslacion, cubriendole de cal y sierra pare que mas adelante se pudiese verificar sin inconveniente" (78).
A second attempt was made after a wait of nine months, and it is here where the strange events begin:
... hacia mediados de 1593 volvio el alguacil desde Madrid con el mismo
encargo; y encontrando el cadaver mas enjuto y seco, aunque fragante
siempre y odorifero, lo acomodo en una maleta pare mayor disimulo,
salio del convento y de la ciudad con otros guardas y companeros cuando
todos reposaban entre la oscuridad y el silencio; y pare no ser conocido
dejo el camino real de Madrid, y tomo varies veredas y rodeos hacia Jaen
y Martos, caminando por despoblados y desiertos en las horas mas
sosegadas de la noche. [...] Antes de llegar el alguacil a Martos, se
dice ... que en un cerro alto, no lejos del camino, se le aparecio
repentinamente un hombre que a grandes voces comenzo a decir: ?? adonde
llevais el cuerpo del Santo? dejadlo donde estaba; lo cual causo tan gran
susto y pavor en el alguacil y sus companeros, que se les espeluzaron los
cabellos. Otro lance semejante se cuenta haberles sucedido en un campo
adonde de improviso llego un hombre, y les pidio cuenta de lo que llevaban:
contestaron le ten er orden superior pare no ser reconocidos; pero in
sistiendo y porfiando el preguntante, fueron a darle dinero pare evitar su
molestia, y hallaron que se habia desaparecido. Continuaron sin embargosu
viage haste Madrid y Segovia; y contaba despues el conductor haber visto
durante el muchas veces unas luces muy brillantes en torno de la maleta
que cubria la venerable reliquia. (78-79)
Once the removal of the remains was made public, an enormous legal tug-of-war began between Ubeda and Segovia as to who had the rights to them. Although Pope Clemente VIII ordered that they be returned to Andalucia, a deal was finally struck which mandated an equitable division of the relics (Brenan 82-83).
Navarrete's account of the "traslado" should remind readers of certain aspects of Don Quijote's adventure in Chapter XIX. His own survey of the connections (see pp. 80-81) includes the cause of death ("calenturas pestilentes"), the isolated area through which the party travels, the starting point and destination of its journey (Baeza, very close to Ubeda, is a town where San Juan resided for an extended period), the unusual nocturnal setting, the lights surrounding the remains, the appearance of the mysterious "curioso impertinente" who demands to know what they are carrying, and the subsequent threat of excommunication levelled by the bachiller Alonso Lopez at don Quijote "`por haber puesto las manos violentamente en cosa sagrada'" (I, 19: 235). The pioneering biographer also points out that Cervantes was working in Andalusia when all of the events in question transpired, and very likely would have heard of them.
While Navarrete thought his theory irrefutable, reaction to it has varied since it was first put forward in 1819.(1) Whereas it seems a marvelous stroke of comic genius to "explain" the mysterious accosters by conflating them in the figure of Don Quijote, most Cervantes scholars would feel more comfortable if they were shown precise textual clues which would help to "close the case." In the pages that follow I hope to uncover those clues Cervantes may have been planting. To my knowledge, no critic or editor has pointed to them before. From there I will proceed to my own reading of the episode, working on the assumption that we are dealing, in fact, with a fictionalized version of the transfer of San Juan's remains.
Let us recall how Chapter XIX begins. Don Quijote and Sancho are analyzing the reasons behind their recent defeat in the battle of the sheep. Sancho expresses fears that the "fantasmas" who tossed him in the blanket at the inn might attack again. On that note the stage is set for their next adventure:
En estas y otras platicas les tomo la noche en mitad del camino, sin
tener ni descubrir donde aquella noche se recogiesen; y lo que no habia
de bueno en ello era que perecian de hambre; que con la falta de las
alforjas les falto toda la despensa y matolotaje. Y pare acabar de confirmar
esta desgracia, les sucedio una aventura que, sin artificio alguno,
verdaderamente lo parecia. Y fue que la noche cerro con alguna escuridad;
pero, con todo esto, caminaban, creyendo Sancho que, pues aquel
camino era real, a una o dos leguas, de buena razon hallaria en el alguna
venta. (I, 19: 229)
On reading the first sentence, one might wonder why it was necessary to repeat the word "noche." (That is, it could have read simply: "sin tener ni descubrir donde se recogiesen.") Stylistic "descuido" or not, the repetition reinforces the "night" motif right from the beginning of the episode.
Clemencin justifiably points out the oddness of following the phrase "les sucedio una aventura que, sin artificio alguno, verdaderamente lo parecia" with "Y fue que la noche cerro con alguna escuridad" (see p. 284). The darkening of night does not, in itself, constitute an "aventura." This term would seem to refer to the events soon to be narrated. Grammatically, however, the sentence does connect "aventura" with "Yfue que la noche cerro con alguna escuridad." Note, now, that this is the third mention of "noche" in the space of three sentences. The redundancy is mitigated somewhat by the addition of the adverbial phrase "con escuridad," which renders the scene more visually explicit (i.e., it could have been a clear night).
Let us look at how the scene continues: "Yendo, pues, desta manera, la noche escura, el escudero hambriento y el amo con gana de comer, vieron que por el mesmo camino que iban venian hacia ellos gran multitud de lumbres, que no parecian sino estrellas que se movian" (229). The count is now up to four times in four sentences. And having been informed in the previous sentence that "la noche cerro con alguna escuridad," do we now need the adjective "escura"? However stylistically sloppy Cervantes might have been, one cannot help but wonder whether the persistent reiteration of the fact that it is night and that it is dark would seem to be pointing somewhere. That "somewhere," lest the reader has missed it, is none other than the name of what is arguably San Juan's most famous poem, "Noche oscura."(2) If my theory is correct, we are looking at the very textual clue needed to consolidate the case for a "San Juan connection." Besides the general anecdotal parallels noted by Navarrete and others, we have a direct allusion not only to a key text of San Juan, but to a symbol which us at the very core of his mysticism.(3)
One might object that this theory presupposes Cervantes's familiarity with the poem, not published until 1618. As was the case with so much Golden Age poetry, however, San Juan's works (including the prose commentaries on them) circulated in manuscript form and were known long before they appeared in print.(4)
And what of the other depictions of night in Don Quijote? If there are others which are presented as equally "escuras," are we not stretching it somewhat by making the link with San Juan in this instance? Shortly after "la noche escura" leapt off the page at me, I went back through the entire text and can say unequivocally that this is by far the darkest night of the entire work, including Part II.(5) For as we will now see, the references to its darkness persist throughout the description.
We must remember, of course, that the encounter with the "encamisados" is not the only "adventure" which happens that night. While that of the "batanes" (in Chapter XX) would seem to be completely distinct from its predecessor, there is no ignoring the fact that both take place during the same "noche escura" begun pages earlier. And Cervantes seems intent on not letting us forget it, as we first see when Don Quijote and Sancho begin their search for water: "... comenzaron a caminar por el prado arriba a tiento, porque la escuridad de la noche no les dejaba ver cosa alguna ..." (1, 20: 237).
One reminder about how dark it is would seem sufficient. Yet three sentences later, after the two have first heard the terrible sound of crashing water, chains and rhythmic blows, we find the following:
Era la noche, como se ha dicho, escura, y ellos acertaron a entrar entre
unos arboles altos, cuyas hojas, movidas del blando viento, hacian un
temeroso y manso ruido; de manera que la soledad, la escuridad, el ruido
del ague con el susurro de las hojas, todo causaba horror y espanto, y mas
cuando vieron que ni los golpes cesaban, ni el viento dormia, ni la
manana llegaba; anadiendose a todo esto el ignorer el luger donde se
hallaban. (I, 20: 237-38, my emphasis)
The phrase "como se ha dicho" shows that Cervantes is conscious of the fact that he is repeating himself. And even after he essentially "excuses himself" for it, he comes back in the same sentence and mentions the darkness all over again.
Soon after it is the characters' turn to pick up the motifs of night and darkness: "`Bien notas, escudero fiel y legal, las tinieblas desta noche ...'" (I, 20: 23). "Tinieblas" is a term which appears often in San Juan's commentaries (Baruzi 309-13), but let us proceed further in the dialogue between the two. Sancho, fearful of the dangers ahead, counsels a prudent retreat:
"Senor, yo no se por que quiere vuestra merced acometer esta tan
temerosa aventura; ahora es de noche, aqui no nos vee nadie, bien
podemos torcer el camino y desviarnos del peligro, aunque no bebamos en
tres dias; y pues no hay quien nos vea, menos habra quien nos note de
cobardes...." (I, 20: 239)
Perhaps more important than the (gratuitous) reminder that it is nighttime is the phrase which follows, repeated in a slight variant in the same sentence. The reader will recall that the speaker in San Juan's poem, amid her own insistence on the darkness of the night, also points out that "nadie me veia." Later, the encounter with the Amado occurs "en parse donde nadie parecia."
When Sancho, using a technique putatively learned as a shepherd, tries to convince Don Quijote that dawn is only three hours away, his master responds: "`?? Como puedes tu, Sancho . . . ver donde trace esa linea, ni donde esta esa boca o ese colodrillo que dices, si trace la noche tan escura que no parece en todo el cielo estrella alguna?'" (I, 20: 240).
As dawn eventually breaks, we come upon some "scientific" details which help to explain the depth of that darkness, but not without helping to reinforce the seme: "Acabo en esto de descubrirse el alba, y de parecer distintamente las cosas, y vio don Quijote que estaba entre unos arboles altos; que ellos eran castanos, que hacen la sombra muy escura" (I, 20: 246). We have now encountered the adjective "escuro" and the noun "escuridad" a total of seven times (plus a single reference to "tinieblas"). Yet once that night is completely over, we find still one final retrospective reference to the "noche escura."
Don Quijote, depressed over the farce in which he participated, perks up on catching sight of a man approaching with something shiny on his head. After citing the proverb "Donde una puerta se cierra, otra se abre," Don Quijote continues: "`si yo no acertare a entrar por ella, mia sera la culpa, sin que la pueda afar a la poca noticia de los batanes, ni a la escuridad de la noche'" (I, 21: 252). A final daylight "coda," if you will, which seals the characterization of what had occurred the night before as a "noche escura."
It could be argued that to focus on these references to the "noche escura" once we have left the corpse behind is somewhat unjust. In response, I would point again to the important fact that we are still dealing with the same night, albeit divided into two adventures. More importantly, I would suggest that the "San Juan connection" extends far into Chapter XX, above and beyond the references to the "noche escura." Before looking at that connection, let us return to our "encamisados. "
From the beginning, emphasis is placed on the eerie, menacing quality of the spectacle they produce:
Pasmose Sancho en viendolas [the ""ran multitud de lumbres"], y don
Quidote no las tuvo sodas consigo.... [E]stuvieron quedos, mirando
atentamente lo que podia ser aquello, y vieron que las lumbres se iban acercando a ellos, y mientras mas se llegaban, mayores parecian; a cuya vista Sancho comenzo a temblar como un azogado, y los cabellos de la cabeza se le erizaron a don Quijote, el cual, animandose un poco, dijo:
--Esta, sin dude, Sancho, debe de ser grandisima y peligrosisima aventura, donde sera necesario que yo muestre todo mi valor y esfuerzo. [...] [D]e alli a muy poco descubrieron muchos encamisados, cuya temerosa vision de todo punto remato el animo de Sancho Panza, el cual comenzo a afar diente con diente ... y crecio mas el batir y dentellear cuando distintamente vieron lo que era, porque descubrieron haste veinte encamisados todos a caballo, con sus hachas encendidas en las manos, detras de los cuales venia una litera cubierta de luto, a la cual seguian otros seis a caballo, enlutados haste los pies de las mulas [...]. Iban los encamisados murmurando entre si, con una voz muy baja y compasiva. Esta estrana vision, a tales horas y en tal despoblado, bien bastaba pare poner miedo en el corazon de Sancho, y aun en el de su amo .... (I, 19: 229-30)
The first point worth making is that the strange lights have a natural explanation--a detail which may or may not be taken as a "scientific debunking" of the miraculous version of what occurred during the transport of San Juan's remains.(6) Second, in the emphasis on the "temerosa" and then "estrana vision," Cervantes seems to engage in an ironic commentary on the spectacle created by those who participated in the actual historical event. Whereas in the latter, the terrifying aspect was due to the mysterious figures who appeared, here it is the group transporting a corpse in the middle of night--clearly an uncommon occurrence. The fact that both the "litera" and the mules are covered with mourning adds a deathly aura to the group, as does their "murmuring." Equally significant, however, are the military overtones lent by the designation of its members as "encamisados." A tactic used in surprise attacks at night, the "camisas" only contribute to the threatening dimension of the scene.(7)
As would be expected, what our hidalgo sees is filtered through his literary prism: "Figurosele que la litera eran andas donde debia de ir algun mal ferido o muerto caballero, cuya venganza a el solo estaba reservada . . ." (I, 19: 230-31). As Clemencin and others have pointed out (MurillO, Don Quijote I, 19: 230-31), Don Quijote may be recalling an episode from Palmenn de Inglaterra (a copy of which was in his library, see I, 6: 115), entitled "De lo que acontecio a Florian del Desierto en aquella aventura del cuerpo muerto de las andas" (Chapter 77: 292).
One should point out, however, that there are enormous differences between what happens in Palmerin and what we find in Cervantes. First, the chivalresque episode takes place not during a "noche escura" but in broad daylight; and second, it does not end in an attack on those accompanying the cadaver (see Moraes Cabral 290-91). To the degree there is parody, it certainly is not a sustained one.
Yet there are details in the Palmerin episode which are potentially relevant for us. First, the name of its protagonist: Florian del Desierto. Readers familiar with Carmelite doctrine will remember the symbolic importance of the "desierto," especially among the "descalzos," whose asceticizing reform movement plunged San Juan and Santa Teresa, its leaders, into so much trouble. Indeed, the places of solitary, ascetic retreat favored by the "descalzos" were called "desiertos" (Brenan 88).
Cervantes's reelaboration of the "traslado" may be even more complex--and funny--than we suspected. What would be more fitting than having Don Quijote play out a role by a character whose very name embodies a central concept of the Carmelite reform movement? The appropriateness becomes even more patent when we take into account Don Quijote's own constant emphasis on the asceticism of "caballeria andante." And, indeed, his preferred milieu are "desiertos" and not towns and cities.(8)
We arrive here at a major stumbling block for the interpretation being developed. The corpse being carried is that of a "caballero," not a "fraile." Yet it may not be difficult to reconcile this point if we take into consideration the intense cross-fertilization which took place between mysticism and asceticism, on the one side, and chivalresque literature on the other. We are all familiar with the impact chivalresque models had on San Ignacio de Loyola and Santa Teresa, but we should not forget that similar traces can be seen in San Juan de la Cruz. As Luce Lopez Baralt has pointed out (271-75, 361-62), the notions of the "combate ascetico" and the "caballero espiritual" are found in his work. Nor should we forget the influence going in the opposite direction, including chivalresque novels "a lo divino."(9) The fact that the "cuerpo muerto" is that of a "caballero" should, therefore, not disqualify it from functioning as a fictionalized version of San Juan's. Not only was he a "caballero" in his internal battle of spiritual ascesis, but also in his battles to reform his order and to impose greater austerity on it.
As it turns out, the body being transported in the Palmerin episode was that of Fortibran el Esforzado, who was killed in an act of treachery (see p. 263). Florian del Desierto offers to avenge his death and travels on with this party. Don Quijote, too, assumes that foul play is involved and decides to punish those responsible. Unlike Florian, however, our hero ends up attacking the very people who are accompanying the corpse. In his initial interrogation of the "encamisados" Don Quijote does not rule out the possibility that they are the ones who have committed the "desaguisado" (thus putting them in the role of the killers of Fortibran). As we discover later, the "encamisados" are not responsible for the death of the "caballero"; rather, God has "killed" him with "calenturas pestilentes" (i.e., the same natural causes which brought San Juan's life to an end). But let us go back to the circumstances surrounding the death of our saint.
At the end of his years San Juan had fallen into disfavor once again, victim of a concerted campaign of defamation. In consequence, he was sent off to an "internal exile" at a small isolated monastery in the Sierra Morena. When San Juan came down with the fever and his leg became infected, he was moved to a monastery in Ubeda. There he had the misfortune of finding himself under the control of Fray Francisco Crisostomo, the grim-faced prior of the monastery and one of his declared enemies (VO 318). This individual was extremely cruel to San Juan, even hindering the nursing efforts of one of the other monks (VO 327-28). Eventually news reached the provincial of the region, and there was an attempt to provide better care. By then, however, the infection had spread too far.... An act of treachery committed by a fellow churchman? Perhaps not, but Fray Crisostomo certainly did not help with the uncharitable treatment he gave to his fellow Carmelite.(10)
If we are dealing with a fictionalized version of the transfer, there is clear motivation in Don Quijote's actions. He attacks the very group which, metonymically, is responsible for many of the abuses perpetrated against San Juan, including the inadequate care which contributed to his early death. It is also worth noting that the group is lent a sinister air from the very beginning, even by the narrator ("temerosa" and "extrana vision"). Not only do they display a deathly quality (their "luto"), but also an aggressiveness, emblematized by the "camisas." One is tempted to suggest that there is almost an "inquisitorial" dimension present (including the "hachas"). Indeed, the ritual punishments designed by the Inquisition had very much as their objective the inspiring of awe and fear in those who witnessed them.(11)
This is precisely the reaction produced in Don Quijote and Sancho. Our "caballero andante" thinks that this party may itself responsible for the "mal ferido o muerto caballero" carried in the litter. We have already seen them affiliated with "fantasmas" by Sancho, and later Don Quijote, in trying to explain his behavior, tells the bachiller Alonso Lopez that he thought they were devils:
"El dano estuvo . . . en venir . . . de noche, vestidos con aquellas
sobrepellices, con las hachas encendidas, rezando, cubiertos de luto, que
propiamente semejabades cosa male y del otro mundo ...." (I, 19: 233)
Note that Don Quijote fixes on the negative, otherworldly quality of the image they evinced, including the fact they were praying and were dressed in mourning. This clarification comes, of course, after the rout of the clergymen, and it is to this key event we now must turn our attention.
Like Don Quijote's other battles, this one is the stuff of pure farce. Having been discourteously brushed off by one of the "encamisados," Don Quijote grabs the bit of his mule:
Era la mula asombradiza, y al tomarla el freno se espanto de manera
que, alzandose en los pies, dio con su dueno por las ancas en el suelo. Un
mozo que iba a pie, viendo caer al encamisado, comenzo a denostar a
don Quijote, el cual, ya encolerizado, sin esperar mas, enristrando su
lanzon, arremetio a uno de los enlutados, y, mal ferido, dio con el en
sierra; y revolviendose por los demas, era cosa de ver con la presteza que
los acometia y desbarataba [ . . . ]. Todos los encamisados era gente
medrosa y sin armas, y asi, con facilidad, en un momento dejaron la
refriega y comenzaron a correr por aquel campo, con las hachas encendidas,
que no parecian sino a los de las mascaras que en noche de
regocijo y fiesta corren. Los enlutados asimesmo, revueltos y envueltos en
sus faldamentos y lobas, no se podian mover; asi que, muy a su salvo, don
Quijote los apaleo a todos y les hizo dejar el sitio, mal de su grado,
porque todos pensaron que aquel no era hombre, sino diablo del infierno
que les salia a quitar el cuerpo muerto que en la litera llevaban.
(I, 19: 231-32)(12)
After all the supernatural build-up to the conflict, what occurs is a comical anticlimax. Its very comicity, however, fits into a semiotic system which pervades the entire work.
Inspired by the pioneering work by Bakhtin, critics (Redondo, Cros) have begun to study the carnivalesque dimension of Cervantes's work. While the task of fully analyzing how this episode fits into the problematic of Carnival will have to wait,(13) I will point out several key connections. I do so because it would be otherwise impossible to grasp the precise implications of Cervantes's inclusion of San Juan's corpse in a farcical passage of Don Quijote.
Bakhtin identifies a series of general principles which govern the semiotic system of popular-festive culture, and then, a gamut of specific practices.(14) The most essential characteristic involves an operation of symbolic inversion in which different facets of "high," "serious," and "official" culture associated with the dominant social strata--the aristocracy and the Church--are comically degraded by affiliation with what Bakhtin calls the "material bodily lower stratum" (i.e., the "inferior" parts of the body having to do with digestion, reproduction, and defecation), thereby producing a comic effect. By extension, it involves any operation in which high and low switch places (the topos of the "world-upside-down"). These grotesque inversions and parodies generate a very special variety of laughter, one which simultaneously degrades and renews. As for the specific practices which fit into the overall "logic" of Carnival, Bakhtin identifies a wide variety, extending from obscene parodies of religious rituals to slapstick beatings of figures representing authority. They all lend to a dispelling of fear, a victory--albeit temporary--of Carnival over Lent.(15)
There are, indeed, many ways in which Don Quijote and Sancho Panza fit into the semiotic system of Carnival, as Bakhtin himself was the first to point out (see 20, 22-23, 65, 103-04, 201, 209, 275, 434): the comic duo of the fat man and the skinny one, Sancho's constant "rethinking" of his master's exalted chivalry through his "panza." Their adventures also embody in many ways the logic of Carnival, not the least of which is the one we are analyzing.
The very image the "encamisados" project is one full of supernatural, punitive, religious and deathly overtones. All in all, a very "Lenten" combination, emblematized best by the fact they are transporting a memento mori. Along come Don Quijote and Sancho, carnivalesque inversions of knight and squire, who proceed to parody an episode from a book of chivalry, bringing the procession to a halt. What occurs in quick succession is a case-book example of the logic of Carnival. The instrument with which Don Quijote attacks the "encamisados" is not a "lanza," but a "lanzon"--i.e., an implement used for guarding vineyards and melon patches (Murillo, Don Quijote I, 17: 211). In sum, nothing more typical than the "misappropriation" of everyday objects as part of Carnival disguise. (It is a comic version of a key symbol of knighthood and is associated metonymically with wine.)(16) Don Quijote's initial assault provokes a fall of one of the "enlutados": nothing more typical of the "deep structure" of Carnival than downward movement and contact with the earth of a "serious" entity.
As Don Quijote proceeds to rout the "encamisados," they lose their fearful, quasi-military (and perhaps inquisitorial) aura and become slapstick cowards: "Todos los encamisados era gente medrosa y sin armas...." Rather than producing anxiety, they incite laughter, particularly after they are revealed to be not warriors, but clergymen, and clergymen who end up tripping over the very sartorial symbols of their profession. Their inability to flee allows our knight to thrash them. Few things could be more quintessentially carnivalesque than a beating applied to a group of clergymen wearing mourning clothes ("lobas") by the likes of a Don Quijote. Indeed, their belief that he is a "diablo del infierno" intent on stealing their corpse is also relatable to popular-festive culture: the "diablillos" running about and hitting people with inflated bladders were a sine qua non of many celebrations (Caro Baroja, El Carnaval).
But the most direct Carnival connection is alluded to in a phrase I have passed over. As the "encamisados" begin to flee with their previously intimidating torches, the text makes a very important comparison: "no parecian sino a los de las mascaras que en noche de regocijo y fiesta corren" (231). What before had been a "temerosa vision" is transformed into its opposite: a night of masquerade and celebration. And as it turns out, there existed at the time a nocturnal festivity called an "encamisada" (see Caro Baroja, El estio festivo, 145-48), which Covarrubias relates to the previously described military tactic: "`sobre las armas se ponen camisas, porque con la escuridad de la noche no se confundan con los contrarios; de aqui vino llamar encamisada la fiesta que se haze de noche con hachas por la ciudad en senal de regozijo'" (ibid. 145-46). Clearly this is the precise comparison Cervantes had in mind.
For the bachiller Alonso Lopez, the night could not have turned out less festive; yet even his misfortune fits into the carnivalesque system. His fall has left him under his mule, a further aspect of the symbolic inversion in play. His broken leg, within the festive context, is related to the tendency toward comic dismemberment typical of Carnival culture (Bakhtin). And finally, having Don Quijote's "lanzon" hovering over his face signals the victory of the festive impulse over "Lenten" seriousness.
Lopez's warning to Don Quijote about committing a "gran sacrilegio" were he to kill him highlights an important aspect of the problematic being developed. The routing of the unarmed clergymen is "sacrilegious" in a sense, as the bachiller points out later, citing the appropriate text from the Council of Trent as he tells Don Quijote that he is excommunicated for his deeds.(17) But let us not forget the ludic air prevailing here, this being an attack of a buffoonish madman, not enraged Lutheran peasants. Sacrilegiousness is literally "built into" Carnival culture and remained so even after the Council of Trent. Clergymen, especially from the lower ranks, participated in Carnival antics, often being physically abused in the process (Heers 153-63).
And if we look at how our hidalgo reacts to the accusation against him, we can see to what degree Carnival has taken over. First, Don Quijote is completely dismissive toward the use of Latin, the sacred language, by the bachiller. "`No entiendo ese latin...,'" he responds. He then retreats into a comically legalistic defense, invoking the following "technicality": `" mas yo se bien que no puse las manos, sino este lanzon . . . `" (I, 19: 235). He then points out that he is a "`catolico y fiel cristiano'" who loves the Church and that what he thought he was attacking were "`fantasmas y vestiglos del otro mundo'"--that is, something frightening and sombrous, precisely what is subject to ridicule in Carnival. Then, in his closing argument, Don Quijote says he does not care if he is excommunicated, citing the (legendary) case of the Cid Ruy Diaz, who was excommunicated for smashing a chair in front of the Pope. A more "sacrilegious" act than that would be difficult to imagine, but as Don Quijote points out, with excommunication and all, "`anduvo aquel die el buen Rodrigo de Vivar como muy honrado y valiente caballero'" (I, 19: 236). In brief, Don Quijote does not give a fig about being excommunicated.
Now, where does the cadaver of San Juan de la Cruz fit in all this? First, the gloomy, menacing group accompanying it, symbolic of that stern clergy that rejected his "deterritorializing" mysticism and punished him for it, is itself "punished" (a variation on the topos of the "world-upside-down").(18) In a sense, San Juan is "freed" by Don Quijote and "avenged"; his solemn tormentors are run off the field by our grotesque knight-errant, turning the "gothic" spectacle into a "noche de regocijo y fiesta."
One might say, however, that there is a negative side to Don Quijote's "liberation" of San Juan's remains. It is not entirely clear what happens to them in the middle of the battle, though they are definitely left behind by the stampeded clerics. Are they simply dropped to the ground? If so, they, too, are subjected to the logic of Carnival, traveling downward to make contact with the earth.(19) We should recall that such contact is not entirely degrading, that the exalted is brought downward in a symbolic act which also renews it--potentially significant if we are dealing with the remains of Juan de Yepes. The action of our fool Don Quijote "enlivens" the latter at a certain level, putting them in contact with the earth amid nature rather than in some garish tomb.
And curious as our fool is, he wants to check the condition of the corpse: "Quisiera don Quijote mirar si el cuerpo que venia en la litera eran huesos o no; pero no lo consintio Sancho . . ." (I, 19: 236). One cannot help wondering whether this is yet another oblique comical allusion to all the activities surrounding the disinterment of Fray Juan. I noted earlier that the original attempt to move the remains was thwarted when the "alguacil de corte" discovered that the body had barely decomposed and emitted a wonderful fragrance. Might this not be another ironic wink to the reader familiar with the stories?
The removal of San Juan's remain was, of course, motivated by the importance attached to relics by the Catholic Church. I would tend to agree with Cary-Elwes and Sarmiento that the subsequent squabbling over the relics may well have been one of the principal targets of Cervantes's barbs, but I do not think they really saw the matter in its entirety.(20)
On hearing his master's desire to inspect the condition of the corpse, Sancho counsels him against it: "`El jumento esta como conviene, la montana cerca, la hambre carga, no hay que tracer sino retirarnos con gentil compas de pies, y, como dicen, vayase el muerto a la sepultura y el vivo a la hogaza'" (236). From his own perspective Sancho, too, levels a de facto critique against the relichunters. Speaking from the "panza," as it were, he ends up affirming life, the duty of the living to eat and go about their business, even in the face of death. This pragmatic irreverence for mortal remains is at the very core of carnivalesque ideology.(21)
Don Quijote follows Sancho's advice for perhaps the very first time, and retreats to an "espacioso y escondido valle" located between "dos montanuelas" (I, 19: 236). Settling themselves in on the "verde yerba," they proceed to partake of the spoils of their battle:
. . . almorzaron, comieron, merendaron y cenaron a un mesmo punto,
satisfaciendo sus estomagos con mas de una fiambrera que los senores
clerigos del difunto--que pocas veces se dejan mal pasar--en la acemila
de su repuesto traian. (1, 19: 236)
As it turns out, the solemn mourners are very well-stocked with food. The contrast between the first image they present and their bulging saddlebags comes as a shock.
The exact phrasing of the comment would seem to be an indictment of the entire clergy in its propensity to eat well. This is perhaps the most open criticism of the clergy in all of Cervantes, delivered, I should add, directly by the narrator and not by a character. We should, of course, take into account that the culinary enthusiasm of friars in particular was very much a popular stereotype and need not be interpreted as a sign of "heterodoxy," Erasmian or otherwise. But within the context of our San Juan reading, this detail takes on special significance.
Part of the saint's reform efforts was aimed precisely at returning his order to its ascetic origins, thus earning him the enmity of the majority of his brothers who preferred the status quo. If we return to our assumption that the "encamisados" are the "stand-ins" for those members of the order who abused him, there is even more rough poetic justice in Don Quijote's and Sancho's operation against them. Those who are "officially" ascetic and otherworldly, but who "pocas veces se dejan mal pasar," are stripped of their abundant provisions. Inadvertently, Don Quijote, "ascetic" in his own comical way, strikes a blow in favor of San Juan's attempt at reform, or rather, punishes his tormentors who refused to give up their earthly comforts, even during a "noche escura."(22)
Thus, things are ultimately put aright by Don Quijote's "sacrilegious" assault: the pair associated with Carnival end up stuffing themselves ("el vivo a la hogaza") whereas the group nominally representing austere living and which goes along saying prayers in the middle of the night, accompanying a corpse no less, are forcefully returned to the ascetic values they are supposed to embody.
I have insisted earlier that the references to the "noche escura" are repeated throughout Chapter XX. If they occurred in complete isolation, with no apparent connection to the San Juan story, one might be hesitant about using them in the analysis of this chapter. But in a rather quirky way, the fictionalized encounter with the saint's body does indeed extend through the rest of the night.
What is missing from the magnificent feast in which our Carnival figures indulge themselves is something to drink, leaving them "acosados de la sed." Sancho, an ax-shepherd, cannot help noting the "verde y menuda yerba" surrounding them:
"No es posible, senor mio, sino que estas yerbas den testimonio de que
por aqui cerca debe de ester alguna fuente o arroyo que estas yerbas
humedece, y asi, sera bien que vamos un poco mas adelante; que ya
toparemos donde mitigar esta terrible sed que nos fatiga, que, sin dude,
cause mayor pena que la hambre. (I, 20: 237)
For those familiar with the mystical tradition in general and San Juan in particular, references to an implacable thirst and the search for a hidden spring can only attract attention.(23) The encounter with San Juan's remains provokes an enormous thirst (augmented by the consumption of "mas de una fiambrera") which forces the two characters into another intertext, namely into another well-known poem by the saint: the "Canter de el alma que se goza de conocer a Dios por fee."
Que bien se yo la fonte que mane y corre,
aunque es de noche.
Aquella eterna fonte esta escondida.
Que bien se yo do tiene su manida,
aunque es de noche.
[En esta noche oscura de esta vida,
que bien se yo por fe la fonte frida,
aunque es de noche.]
Se que no puede ser cosa tan belle,
y que cielos y sierra beben della,
aunque es de noche.
Se ser tan caudalosas sus corrientes
que infiernos, cielos riegan, y a las gentes,
aunque es de noche.
El corriente que nace desta fuente
bien se que es tan capaz y omnipotente,
aunque es de noche.
Aqui se esta llamando a las criaturas
porque desta ague se harten, aunque a
porque es de noche.
The search for water, in conjunction with the previously studied motif of darkness, would seem to place us squarely in the middle of the symbolic terrain delineated in San Juan's poem. Note that in the deep darkness they proceed upward ("comenzaron a caminar por el prado arriba"), a direction charged with symbolic overtones within San Juan's mystical schema (Subida al monte Carmelo is the name of the first set of commentaries on "Noche oscura"). When they do finally begin to hear the sound of water, it makes them happy ("Alegroles el ruido. . ."), but at the same time there is stress on its frightening, overpowering quality, independent of the rhythmic pounding with which it is accompanied. The "ruido del ague" is enumerated as being part of what causes their "horror y espanto" (see my p. 244), and which Don Quijote later refers to as "'el temeroso ruido de aquella ague en cuya busca venimos, que parece que se despena y derrumba desde los altos montes de la Luna'" (I, 20: 238, my emphasis).
San Juan's "eterna fonte" is by no means a picturesque little spring; to the contrary, "no puede ser cosa tan belle" and its powerful current waters heaven, earth, and hell. This would seem to be the kind of thundering water source toward which Don Quijote and Sancho march. Could the ominous pounding and the "cierto crujir de hierros y cadenas", both evocative of punishment, be related to the reference to hell in San Juan's poem, and the "montes de la Luna" to the "cielos" mentioned?(24)
Any attempt by the two to draw nearer to the water requires an act of courage on their part, given the "horror y espanto" the circumstances of the search induce. In his commentaries on his poems, San Juan makes it clear that the process through which one goes during the "noche oscura" is not for the faint-hearted.(25) One has to have faith that the morning, whose light symbolizes God and truth, will come,(26) but until it does, the believer goes through much travail.
Here, as well, the fact that "ni la manana llegaba" (I, 20: 237) is mentioned as one of the sources of the "horror y espanto." As Don Quijote initiates his heroic speech, this detail, along with all the others seen so far, contextualizes his words in such a way that they, too, begin to sound paramystical. After repeating that he was born "`por querer del cielo, en esta nuestra edad de hierro, pare resucitar en ella la de oro, o la dorada'" (I, 20: 238), Don Quijote synthesizes all that which makes his decision to go forward toward the crashing water an heroic act ("`Bien notes . . . '"). While it is an act of worldly heroism in which he will engage, his language would also seem to be charged with connotations of "caballeria espiritual" of the type found in San Juan and others, especially in view of what follows: "`Pues todo esto que yo te pinto son incentivos y despertadores de mi animo, que ya trace que el corazon se reviente en el pecho, con el deseo que tiene de acometer esta aventura, por mas dificultosa que se muestra'" (I, 20: 238).
This overwhelming feeling of urgency would again seem to refer us to that soul "con ansias en amores inflamada" of "Noche oscura" or to that desperation depicted in "Cantico espiritual." Even more so, when he later says "`Digs . . . me ha puesto en corazon de acometer esta tan no vista y tan temerosa aventura'" (I, 20: 240).
Sancho, as to be expected, reacts in a drastically different way. Anchored as he is in the flesh, all the frightful circumstances inciting Don Quijote forward have absolutely the reverse effect on him (see my p. 244). Night, for Sancho, simply provides a good cover for avoiding involvement in anything dangerous. The "terrible sea" can simply be ignored. Particularly significant is his invocation of the conventional priestly wisdom provided by Pero Perez in his sermons: "` . . . cuanto mas que yo he oido predicar al cure de nuestro lugar [ . . . ] que quien busca el peligro perece en elf as', que no es bien tentar a Dios acometiendo tan desaforado hecho . . . '" (I, 20: 239).
The resistance to the mystical adventure embarked upon by San Juan and Santa Teresa was fierce on the part of many clergy and theologians. The notion of a direct merging of the individual soul with God before death smelled of "alumbrismo" and represented a potential danger to the institutional framework of the Church. Appropriately enough, Pero Perez will soon pursue Don Quijote to bring him back to his "lugar de la Mancha." Our protagonist, like San Juan, needs to be "reterritorialized" by whatever means necessary.(27)
Hearing his master's resolve to press forward, Sancho resorts to tying Rocinante's feet with the "cabestro de su asno" (I, 20: 240). A kind of Carnival ruse, the act also emblematizes the resistance of the flesh to the pretensions of the soul as it tries to unite with the divine. Don Quijote is literally "anchored" by Sancho Panza.
Thus begins their nocturnal vigil to await dawn's arrival. Taking into account what the latter symbolizes in San Juan, Don Quijote's words also resonate accordingly: "`Pues asi es, Sancho, que Rocinante no puede moverse, yo soy contento de esperar a que ria el alba, aunque yo llore lo que tardare en venir'" (I, 20: 241, my emphasis) . Don Quijote rejects Sancho's advice about the need to sleep before taking on the final adventure: "`?? Soy yo, por venture, de aquellos caballeros que toman reposo en los peligros? Duerme tu, que naciste pare dormir [ . . . ], que yo hare lo que viere que mas viene con mi pretension'" (I, 20: 241). Don Quijote will act in fittingly ascetic fashion, carrying out a vigil atop his horse.
To pass the time, Sancho begins to tell his notorious "cuento de nunca acabar." The story involves Torralba, a lovesick shepherdess who, disdained by her beloved, begins to pursue him as he leaves with his flock to Portugal. Avalle-Arce is right in seeing this as a burlesque version of the story of Rosaura and Grisaldo in La Galatea (La Galatea xvi-xvii). This story also sounds reminiscent, however, of another cross-country chase in which a female tries to reach her elusive and fleeing beloved.
What we are seeing, it seems, is a suitably Panzesque version of the "Cantico espiritual" (and by extension, the Song of Songs). The voice of the "Esposa" is that of a shepherdess, and she, like Torralba, is determined to find her beloved:
?? Adonde te escondiste,
Amado, y me dejaste con gemido?
Como el ciervo huiste,
sali tras ti clamando, y eras ido.
Pastores, los que fuerdes
alla por las majadas al otero:
si por venture vierdes
aquel que yo mas quiero,
decilde que adolezco, peno y muero.
Buscando mis amores
ire por eves montes y riberas,
ni cogere las flores,
ni temere las fieras,
y pasare los fuertes y fronteras.
Our story ends on the banks of the Guadiana river, but who can doubt Torralba's willingness to cross the frontier in pursuit of her Lope Ruiz?
In establishing the links with "Noche oscura" and "Aunque es de noche," I passed over a number of elements which evoke the "Cantico," preparing the way for Sancho's burlesque version of it. We began our analysis of this section in a "prado . . . colmado de verde y menuda yerba" in an "espacioso y escondido valle" between "dos montanuelas" (I, 19: 236); two hundred steps later "acertaron a entrar entre unos arboles altos, cuyas hojas movidas del blando viento, hacian un temeroso y manso ruido, de manera que la soledad, el sitio, la escuridad, el ruido del ague con el susurro de las hojas...." If we examine the "Cantico," we find such details as the following:
?? Oh bosques y espesuras,
plantadas por la mano del Amado!,
?? oh prado de verduras
de flores esmaltado ??;
Mi Amado, las montanas,
los valles solitarios nemerosos,
las insulas extranas,
los rios sonorosos,
el silbo de los aires amorosos;
La noche sosegada,
en par de los levantes del aurora,
la musica callada,
la soledad sonora,
la cena que recrea y enamora.
montes, valles, riberas,
agues, aires, ardores,
y miedos de las noches veladores:
y vamonos a ver en tu hermosura
al monte y al collado,
do mane el ague pure;
entremos mas adentro en la espesura.
Que nadie lo miraba . . .
Aminadab tampoco parecia;
y el cerco sosegaba,
y la caballeria
a vista de las agues descendia.
I am not arguing that exact parallels exist between what we find in these verses and what is found in the novel, but rather, that a general ambience is generated which includes enough elements to justify consideration of a shorthand parody. We have the "bosques y espesuras" ("habiendo andado una buena pieza por entre aquellos castanos y arboles sombrios," I, 20: 247); the "prado de verduras"; the "valles solitarios nemerosos," the "montanas" ("montanuelas," and later, "altas penas"); the "rigs sonorosos" and the place "do mane el ague pure" ("el ruido del agua"); the "silbo de los aires amorosos," the "soledad sonora," the nocturnal setting and the approaching dawn. We can press further: there is "la cena que recrea" (the sumptuous meal just consumed), the "miedos de las noches veladores" (the fear produced by the night, the thundering water and the chains), the "ardores" (Don Quijote's heart is about to burst), the absence of observers and attackers (the "encamisados," associated with "satanases del infierno" [p. 233], are gone).(28) There are even multiple uses of the cultismo "insulas" in both (see I: 20, 247 and 250). Is all of this a mere coincidence, especially if we accept the San Juan allusions in Chapter XIX?(29)
The telling of the tale of the cross-country amorous pursuit is not the only event which enlivens the nocturnal vigil:
En esto, parece ser, o que el frio de la manana, que ya venia, o que
Sancho hubiese cenado algunas cosas lenitives, o que fuese cosa
natural . . . , a el le vino en voluntad y deseo de tracer lo que otro no
pudiera tracer por el . . . . (I, 20: 245, my italics)
Cervantes's description of what follows is enormously detailed, showing a desire to exploit the visual comedy to the hilt. Sancho, the reader will recall, is ultimately unable to repress those sounds which would give away what he is doing:
. . . con sodas esas diligencias, fue tan desdichado, que, al cabo al cabo,
vino a tracer un poco de ruido, bien diferente de aquel que a el le ponia
tanto miedo. Oyolo don Quidote, y dijo:
-- ?? Que rumor es ese, Sancho?
--No se, senor [ . . . ]. Alguna cosa nueva debe de serf que las aventuras
y desventuras nunca comienzan por poco.
Torno a probar venture, y sucediole tan bien, que . . . se hello libre de
la carga que tanta pesadumbre le habia dado. (I, 20: 245)
In this brief interlude Sancho Panza fulfills his carnivalesque role to perfection. Engaging in one of the most representative acts of the "material bodily lower stratum," Sancho, through his response to Don Quijote's inquiry, manages to "degrade" the key category of "aventura." Affiliated quintessentially with knightly heroism, here it is recast at the level of the digestive organs. "Aventuras" and flatulence are symbolically merged. The implications for our "paramystical" reading would also seem to loom large. Insofar as all that we are seeing has been coded, albeit parodically, as an instance of "caballeria espiritual," Sancho's association of "aventura" with flatulence constitutes a symbolic inversion of the most devastatingly comic sort.
One could argue that the inversion began earlier. We already noted that Sancho does not want to advance towards the resounding water. As a representative of the body, he literally "weighs down" Don Quijote using trickery. Those familiar with the writings of San Juan and other mystics will recall that the first stage of the process is the so-called via purgativa--that series of ascetic practices which allows the soul to cut its ties with the flesh and matter itself. The body is persistent in its efforts to retain the soul, even engaging in duplicity.(30)
In this extended context, Sancho's actions would seem to comprise a grotesque parody of the via purgativa. Note that the narrator himself points to the possibility that Sancho has consumed "algunas cosas lenitives" during the dinner that night. His fear is such that he will not distance himself from his master: "era tanto el miedo que habia entrado en su corazon, que no osaba apartarse un negro de una de su amo" (I, 20: 245). When he drops his pants, "se le quedaron como grillos"--evocative of the body as prison. His desire to relieve himself is described as wanting to "salir de aquel terrible aprieto y angustia"--the burden of earthly existence. When Sancho has finished, "se hello libre de la carga que tanta pesadumbre le habia dado."
As a creature of Carnival, this is the only exercise in the via purgativa of which Sancho Panza is capable. If he is to free himself of matter, it can only take place in the form of a comic act of defecation. And even in successfully carrying this out, he cannot help but adversely affect his master. In aptly iconic fashion, Don Quijote is located above Sancho Panza; as a result, he finds himself directly to the path of the "vapores [que subian] hacia arriba" "cast por linea recta" (I, 20: 246). An unpleasant reminder of earthly ties, indeed. Don Quijote pinches his nose and accuses Sancho of cowardice:
--Pareceme, Sancho, que tienes mucho miedo.
--Si tengo . . . mas, ?? en que lo echa de ver vuestra merced ahora mas
--En que ahora hueles, y no a amber [ . . . ].
--Bien podra ser-dijo Sancho--, mas yo no tengo la culpa, sino
vuestra merced, que me tree a deshoras y por estos no acostumbrados paves.
--Retirate tres o cuatro alla, amigo--dijo don Quidote, todo esto sin
quitarse los dedos de las narices--, y desde aqui en adelante ten mas
cuenta con tu persona y con lo que debes a la mia; que la mucha conversacion
que tengo contigo ha engendrado este menosprecio. (I, 20: 246,
This appears to be none other than a burlesque dialogue between "body" and "soul." "Panza" fears going forward in this process (described by San Juan as "amarga y terrible" and "horrenda y espantable"--see note 25). Indeed, Sancho refers to "estos no acostumbrados pasos" (i.e., ascetic practice) and alludes to the nocturnal setting ("a deshoras"). Don Quijote, sitting on his "high horse," refers to the especially disagreeable odor emanating from Panza and requests that he distance himself: He attributes this act of disdain to his having been overly familiar with his matter-bound servant, who no longer respects him.
After the parody of the via purgativa has reached its farcical conclusion, we are now ready for the final phase of the adventure:
En estos coloquios y otros semejantes pasaron la noche amo y mozo.
Mas, viendo Sancho que a mas andar se venia la manana, con mucho
tiento desligo a Rocinante y se ato los calzones. [ . . . ] Viendo,
pues, don Quijote que ya Rocinante se movie, lo tuvo a buena
senal, y creyo que lo era de que acometiese aquella temerosa aventura.
Acabo en esto de descubrirse el alba, y de parecer distintamente las
cosas.... (I, 19: 246, emphasis mine)
As night ends, Sancho, appropriately, lets Rocinante loose; the latter's movements seem to indicate that it is now time to proceed with the "temerosa aventura." Preparing to advance, Don Quijote orders Sancho to wait for him for three days, "y que, si al cabo cellos no hubiese vuelto, tuviese por cierto que Dios habia sido servido de que en aquella peligrosa aventura se le acabasen sus dies" (I, 20: 24-47). Once more, we would seem to be within paramystical perimeters as Don Quijote (the burlesque "soul") invokes the possibility that God might finally take him into His bosom, allowing him to "die." The final stage of the mystical process is, in fact, a kind of "death," the soul being subsumed in the divine.
Considering what follows, one wonders whether there is not some immensely ironic play involved in the anticlimax to this adventure. Rather than anything resembling the divine, what the two discover at the end of the nocturnal vigil, full of tense anticipation for Don Quijote, is a vulgar mechanism used in textile production (31)
With the arrival of daylight, our pair's "noche escura" finally ends. Or so it seems .... I am willing to argue that the strange encounter with San Juan produces a series of "after-shocks" in much of what follows in Part I. It would seem that Cervantes, having played the "Noche oscura" theme, either consciously or unconsciously elaborates variations on it. "Noche oscura" joins the many other intertexts woven together in such intricate and camouflaged fashion that we will probably never be able to identify them all. It is not that Cervantes possesses an overall master plan into which the San Juan connection fits in a preconceived fashion; rather, it simply becomes part of an essentially directionless process. Certain principles govern the process, particularly those relating to Carnival, but the most variegated materials--including religious ones--get thrown into it, thus contributing to that gigantic monument to "literary recycling" which is Don Quijote de la Mancha.(32)
The precise contours of Cervantes's religiosity have yet to be identified, in my opinion. In suggesting that we have a parody of various texts by San Juan, I do not wish to turn Cervantes into a disenchanted converso making fun of Catholicism or a free-thinking nineteenth-century liberal avant la lettre. For a variety of reasons, I think our author could actually have been sympathetic toward a San Juan de la Cruz always running the risk of being accused of "alumbrismo" (Brenan 77-78; Lopez-Baralt 355). If Cervantes was, minimally, a "fellow traveler" of Erasmus, as many scholars have argued, San Juan's intense inner religiosity might have been very attractive to him.(33)
But once Cervantes imports the saint and his mysticism into his own text, it by no means signifies that he would be incapable of poking fun at them at the same time he pays homage. Vicente Gaos's reading of Don Quijote's first "salida" and of Maritornes's search for her "arriero" as parodies of "Noche oscura" is very pertinent. As he says apropos of the latter: "la trasformacion de la mistica en picaresca, parecera irreverente, pero pare mi es includable, y prueba que el genio parodico de Cervantes no se extendio solo a los libros caballerescos y pastoriles" (74).
This is exactly the point. And since Cervantes probably harbored affection, at a certain level, for the very genres he parodied, why cannot the same hold true when he turns his attention to mystical texts? Subjecting them to the antics of a Don Quijote and a Sancho Panza might rough them up a bit, but compared to the treatment San Juan de la Cruz endured during his lifetime, the carnivalesque battering they receive is fairly innocuous, and even fun!
(1) Editors of the stature of Rodriguez Marin (217-20) and Cortejon (94-102) accept his arguments, and cite more sources to corroborate them. Alberto Sanchez is also favorably disposed (17, 20-21), but Juan Avalle-Arce, in a note to his edition of Don Quijote (229), rejects out of hand any connection whatsoever with an historical precedent. Other editors are more circumspect on the entire subject, limiting themselves to a reference to the San Juan theory without supporting or refuting it (Clemencin 284-85; Schevill and Bonilla 483; Gaos, Don Quijote 372).
(2) The poem runs as follows at the beginning of the prose commentary, Noche oscura:
En una noche escura,
con ansias, en amores inflamada,
?? oh dichosa ventura!,
sali sin ser notada,
estando ya mi case sosegada;
a escuras y segura
por la secrete escala, disfrazada,
?? oh dichosa venture!,
a estando y en celada,
estando ya mi case sosegada;
en la noche dichosa,
en secreto, que nadie me veia
ni yo miraba cosa,
sin otra luz y guia
sino la que en el corazon ardia.
Aquesta me guiaba
mas cierto que la luz de mediodia
a donde me esperaba
quien yo bien me sabia,
en parse donde nadie parecia.
Oh noche que guiaste!,
oh noche amable mas que el alborada!,
?? oh noche que juntaste
Amado con amada,
amada en el amado transformada!
En mi pecho florida,
que entero pare el se guardaba,
alli quedo dormido
y yo le regalaba,
y el ventalle de cedros aire daba.
El aire del almena
cuando yo sus cabellos esparcia,
con su mano serena
en mi cuello heria,
y todos mis sentidos suspendia.
Quedeme y olvideme,
el rostro recline sobre el Amado,
ceso todo y dejeme,
dejando mi cuidado
entre las azucenas olvidado.
(Note that there are many spelling variations in the manuscripts of the poem, where we find oscuro, obscuro, and escuro, as well as ascuras instead of a escuras.)
(3) See Jean Baruzi's monumental study of San Juan, particularly 308-32, where he says, for example: "Tout se passe en effect comme si le symbole de la nuit avait ete choisi pour que pussent etre fondues, en une unite superieure, les plus riches diversites de l'experience mystique" (313). (See also Hatzfeld 75-95.)
(4) For an idea of the proliferation of manuscript versions of San Juan's poems and commentaries, see the information provided in the "Guion bibliografico" in VO 1009-23. We should also take into account that Cervantes's older sister, Luisa, became a Carmelite nun (Luisa de Belen) in Alcala de Henares in 1565 (Canavaggio 37). San Juan himself spent key years there, becoming rector of a newly founded college of Discalced Carmelites at the university in 1571 (VO 86). Cervantes apparently maintained cordial relations with Luisa: he traveled to Alcala in July 1613 to take vows as a novice of the "Orden Tercera" in her presence (Canavaggio 205). Would his sister, eventually the prioress of her convent, be unfamiliar with the works of the famous Carmelite friar who worked so closely with Santa Teresa? Might she have introduced her younger brother to his work? In sum, we can only speculate.
(5) There are no close competitors in Part I, where we have relatively few nocturnal scenes. In Part II, those where the key terms "escuro" and "escuridad" appear are found in the following chapters and pages: II, 8: 92; 8: 99; 34: 308; 34: 310; 55: 454; 68: 551-52; 69: 557. Nonetheless, these scenes cannot match up with the one being analyzed in terms of the darkness evoked.
(6) In view of the critique of the lack of verisimilitude in the books of chivalry and the pastoral, it is conceivable that Cervantes also is playful when it comes to popular piety of this sort.
(7) "Era artificio, usado por militares, ponerse unas camisas encima del traje militar en un asalto de sorpresa, especialmente de noche, pare distinguirse los asaltantes del enemigo" (Murillo, Don Quijote I, 19: 230).
(8) As Sancho says later on: "` . . . de algunos dias a esta parte, he considerado cuan poco se gana y granjea de andar buscando estas aventuras que vuestra merced busca por estos desiertos y encrucijadas de caminos . . . '" (I, 21: 258).
(9) See the comments of Menendez y Pelayo on this phenomenon (461-64), especially those dedicated to Jeronimo de San Pedro's Caballeria celestial de la Rosa Fragante (1554). Readers will remember that the idea of "caballeria a lo divino" was shared by Don Quijote himself. In his discussion with Sancho as to whether they should become "frailes" or not, Don Quijote says: "` . . . pero no todos podemos ser frailes, y muchos son los caminos por donde lleva Dios a los suyos al cielo: religion es la caballeria; caballeros santos hay en la gloria" (II, 8: 98-99). After seeing the "retablos" of different saints in Part II, Don Quijote says: "` . . . estos santos y caballeros profesaron lo que yo profeso, que es el ejercicio de las armas; sino que la diferencia que hay entre mi y ellos es que ellos fueron santos y pelearon a lo diving, y yo soy pecador y peleo a lo humano"' (II, 58: 473).
(10) Nor should we forget the nighttime surprise attack by Calced Carmelite friars on December 2, 1577 in which Fray Juan was "disappeared" (complete with blindfold) (VO 116-17).
(11) Henry Kamen describes the specifically nocturnal facet of the typical auto: "La noche anterior al auto se organizaba una procesion especial, conocida como procesion de la Cruz Verde, durante la cual familiares [i.e., officials of the Inquisition] y otras personas llevaban la cruz del Santo Oficio haste el lugar de la ceremonia. Durante toda la noche se hacian oraciones y preparativos . . ." (203-04). Brenan (77-78, 89-90) gives a brief account of San Juan's very real difficulties with the Inquisition, even after his death.
(12) In the accounts cited by Rodriguez Marin (219), we find that the person in charge of the body thought that the first figure who berated them for carrying it away was actually the devil: "`Y que el dicho Juan de Medina, espantado de esto, entendio que here el diablo, porque de los que iban en su compania, ni otra persona alguna, sabian lo que alli llebaban . . . '" Another humoristic touch by Cervantes?
(13) I am currently at work on a book in which I take a closer look at the episode from this perspective.
(14) To save space, I will not quote from Rabelais and His World. Since this work is so well-known, I trust the reader will already be relatively familiar with the points to be mentioned.
(15) I am aware that intelligent criticism has been levelled at Bakhtin's perhaps excessive emphasis on the emancipatory dimension of Carnival (e.g., Stallybrass and White, Bristol). While I agree with much that these authors have to say, I believe that Cervantes's mobilization of the carnivalesque in Don Quijote is actually quite close to what Bakhtin describes. (I will deal with this question more thoroughly in my book in progress.)
(16) See, for example, Quevedo's description of Mars and Bacchus at the beginning of La Hora de todos y la Fortuna con seso: "Marte, don Quijote de las deidades, entry con sus armas y capacete, y la insignia de vinadero enristrada, echando chuzos, y a su lado, el panarra de los dioses, Baco . . ." (149-50). (The editors clarify in a note that the "insignia de vinadero" is the "lanzon.")
(17) "`Olvidabaseme de decir que advierta vuestra merced que queda descomulgado, por haber puesto las manos violentamente en cosa sagrada, juxta illud: Si quis suadente diabolo, etc.'" (I, 19: 235).
(18) I use the term "deterritorializing" (and the correlative "reterritorializing") in essentially the same way as Deleuze and Guattari in their brilliant A Thousand Plateaus (e.g. 508-10).
(19) One should argue--as did Navarrete--that the threat of excommunication against Don Quijote is actually related to the treatment of the remains rather than the physical attack on the clergymen.
(20) "Undoubtedly, Cervantes is having some fun at the expense of the Alguacil's party and, in his version, ultimately at the Segovia friars and their patrons and, in general, relic-hunters" (128).
(21) See Bakhtin (349-52) on the comic approach to relics in popular-festive culture.
(22) We should note that this is the moment at which Don Quijote takes on the name "Caballero de la Triste Figura" (I, 19: 234). While on the one hand it highlights his status as a grotesque Carnival creature, on the other, it tends to allude to his "ascetic" dimension, as Sancho clarifies when Don Quijote asks why he has referred to him that way: "verdaderamente tiene vuestra merced la mas mala figura, de poco aca, que jamas he visto; y debelo de haber causado, o ya el cansancio deste combate, o ya la falta de muelas y dientes'" (I, 19: 236). It may be pertinent to remember the custom of novices' changing names when joining a religious order. After his "liberation" of San Juan, Don Quijote adopts this name with "asceticizing" overtones.
(23) See, for example, all of San Juan's comments on "sequedades" in Chapters 8 and 9 of Book I of Noche oscura ( VO 552-56) ("y cuando mas claro a su parecer les luce el sol de los divinos favores, escurecelos Dios toda esta luz y cierrales la puerta y manantial de la dulce ague espiritual que andaban gustando en Dios sodas las veces y todo el tiempo que querian" - VO 553). On the subject of water, fountains, etc., see Alonso (48-56), Lopez-Baralt (261-66, 359-61), Hatzfeld (56-69).
(24) I realize that the phrase "montes de la Luna" alludes to the belief that the source of the Nile River was at the "monte de la Luna" in Ethiopia (Murillo, Don Quijote I, 20: 238). Nevertheless, the name does have "celestial" overtones.
(25) "La primera purgacion o noche es amarga y terrible pare el sentido [ . . . ]; la segunda no tiene comparacion, porque es horrenda y espantable pare el espiritu [ . . . ] " (Noche oscura, Libro primero, Capitulo 8: VO 552). The adjective "horrenda" appears repeatedly in conjunction with "noche" throughout this work.
(26) A typical example from the prose commentary on the "Cantico": "Y llama bien propiamente aqui a esta luz divine levantes de la aurora, que quiere decir la manana, porque, asi como los levantes [ . . . ] despiden la escuridad de la noche y descubren la luz del dia, asi este espiritu sosegado y quieto en Dios es levantado de las tinieblas del conocimiento natural a la luz matutinal del conocimiento sobrenatural de Dios . . ." (Cantico espiritual, VO 670). On the whole relationship between nocturnal darkness and morning light, see Alonso (56-65), Lopez-Baralt (236-49, 353-59), as well as Baruzi (pages cited earlier).
(27) We might ask ourselves whether there is a pun in Sancho's use of the phrase "tentar a Dios." Taking into account that it also means "to touch," one could read it as Sancho Panza's (and Pero Perez's) warning not to try to "touch God"--to reach the via unitiva, as it were.
(28) "El qual Aminadab en el Escriptura divina significa el demonio adversario de el alma esposa. . ." (Cantico, VO 821).
(29) I am aware that I may be accused of making too much of what is a "standardized" pastoral landscape. However, we should take into account the enormous impact Boscan and Garcilaso (via Sebastian de Cordoba's version "a lo divino"--Alonso 24-77) had on San Juan's works. Given all that we are seeing in these chapters, why is it not possible that Cervantes is playing with San Juan's "a lo divino" transformation of pastoral motifs rather than with Garcilaso's original?
(30) The specific references to the via purgativa are found in San Juan's commentaries. Manuscript versions did circulate prior to the 1618 publication, but given the large number of ascetic and mystically oriented works available at the time, Cervantes would not have needed to see San Juan's own precise formulation of the notion to engage in a parody of it.
(31) It is intriguing to note that Santa Teresa and San Juan used various images of "controlled water" ("canos," "arcaduces," etc.) in their works (Lopez-Baralt 359-60). The parody could extend even this far, substituting "batanes" for the more traditional images.
(32) For reasons of space, I will not pursue the "San Juan connection" any further for the moment. Suffice it to say that the aftermath of the "noche escura" is seen more vividly once we enter the Sierra Morena. Its edges were the paramystical scenario for the "batanes" episode, of course, and certain motifs which appeared there now bloom fully as our hidalgo reacts to what he sees around him
Asi como don Quijote entro por aquellas montanas, se le alegro corazon,
pareciendole aquellos lugares acomodados pare las aventuras que buscaba.
Reduciansele a la memoria los maravillosos acaecimientos que en semejantes
soledades y asperezas habian sucedido a caballeros andantes. Iba pensando
en estas cosas, tan embebicido y transportado en ellas,
que di ninguna otra se acordaba. (1, 23: 278-80; my italics)
As he enters the mountains, the key component of the "Cantico" ("mi Amado, las montanas"), Don Quijote goes into what could almost be described as a trance. He sees its "soledades y asperezas" as the quintessential environment for chivalresque adventure, although both are also sine qua non elements for San Juan's mystical experience (remember the "desiertos"). The saint, it should be stressed, lived his last days in the very midst of the Sierra Morena, in a small monastery at a place called . . . la Penuela (i.e., a "pena pobre"!). It was there where he was sent by the authorities of his order, living in archetypally ascetic fashion (VO 307-08) until he contracted the "calenturas pestilentes" that forced him to move to Ubeda.
It would be surprising if, having introduced the San Juan episode earlier, Cervantes now failed to remember that the saint spent his last days precisely in the same mountain range where Don Quijote decides to imitate Beltenebros and his life at the Pena Pobre. (The fusion of "bello" and "tenebroso," in conjunction with extreme asceticism, should, needless to say, draw our attention again.) As Murillo points out (I, 25: 304), the topos of the knight who goes off to live in solitude as a result of amorous misfortune is, in fact, related to legends of saints and anchorites of the early Middle Ages. Thus, Don Quijote is imitating the ascetic behavior of a character who, in turn, is imitating that of religious recluses....
(33) See Castro's text on Irasmianism Hacia Cervantes as well as Vilanova's Erasmo y Cervantes (much augmented over the earlier text of the same name). We might want to remember Don Quijote's curious highlighting of the book entitled Luz del alma in the episode at the printing shop in Barcelona (see II, 62: 520). Castro (236-51) shows in detail the Erasmian affinities of this work by Fr. Felipe de Meneses (first published in 1554). As regards Cervantes's attitude toward mysticism tout court, we should not overlook "Los extasis de la Beata Madre Teresa de Jesus" (Cervantes 52), a poem written on the occasion of Santa Teresa's beatification in 1614. In it we find a Cervantes in open sympathy with the notion of authentic mystical experience, "arrobos" included.
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Vilanova, Antonio. Erasmo y Cervantes. Barcelona: Editorial Lumen, 1989.
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|Date:||Mar 1, 1995|
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