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What "Don Quixote" Really Slew

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616).  Don Quixote, Part 1.

Slayer of windmills, rescuer of fair damsels in distress, eccentric Don Quixote, scores of years behind his time, set out on a mad quest of knight-errantry. Worlds of fun and killing satire are in this absorbing story of Cervantes.


VIII. Of the Good Success Don Quixote Had, in the Dreadful and Never-Imagined Adventure of the Windmills, with Other Accidents Worthy to Be Recorded

AS they discoursed, they discovered some thirty or forty windmills, that are in that field; and as soon as Don Quixote espied them, he said to his squire, ‘Fortune doth address our affairs better than we ourselves could desire; for behold there, friend Sancho Panza, how there appears thirty or forty monstrous giants, with whom I mean to fight, and deprive them all of their lives, with whose spoils we will begin to be rich; for this is a good war, and a great service unto God, to take away so bad a seed from the face of the earth.’ ‘What giants?’ quot…

First Problem Play Popular

Sophocles (c.496 B.C.–406 B.C.).  Antigone.

Antigone, an orphan princess, defies a king's mandate and risks her life to do her duty to her brother. What is this duty which her brother calls her to perform and the king forbids?
(Sophocles died at Athens, Jan. 30. 405 B. C.)


Dramatis Personæ

Creon, King of Thebes
Hæmon, son of Creon
Teiresias, a seer
Guard
First Messenger
Second Messenger
Eurydice, wife of Creon
Antigone
Ismene, daughters of Œdipus
Chorus of Theban Elders

SCENE—Thebes, in front of the Palace.


Enter ANTIGONE and ISMENE


ANTIGONE  ISMENE, mine own sister, dearest one;
Is there, of all the ills of Œdipus,
One left that Zeus will fail to bring on us,
While still we live? for nothing is there sad
Or full of woe, or base, or fraught with shame,
But I have seen it in thy woes and mine.
And now, what new decree is this they tell,
Our ruler has enjoined on all the state?
Know’st thou? hast heard? or is it hid from thee,
The doom of foes that comes upon thy friends?

Visits the Land of Fire

Charles Robert Darwin (1809–1882).  The Voyage of the Beagle.
South of Patagonia is Tierra del Fuego - "The Land of Fire." The natives of that primitive country are today almost extinct. Darwin made a careful and vitally interesting study of that land and its ill-fated inhabitants.  (Darwin married Emma Wedgewood, Jan. 29, 1839.)

Chapter X
Tierra del Fuego, first arrival—Good Success Bay—An Account of the Fuegians on board—Interview with the Savages—Scenery of the Forests—Cape Horn—Wigwam Cove—Miserable Condition of the Savages—Famines—Cannibals—Matricide—Religious Feelings—Great Gale—Beagle Channel—Ponsonby Sound—Build Wigwams and settle the Fuegians—Bifurcation of the Beagle Channel—Glaciers—Return to the Ship—Second Visit in the Ship to the Settlement—Equality of Condition amongst the Natives
DECEMBER 17th, 1832.—Having now finished with Patagonia and the Falkland Islands, I will describe our first arrival in Tierra del Fuego. A little after noon we doubled Cape St. Diego, a…

Man's Wings

Thomas à Kempis. (b. 1379 or 1380, d. 1471).  The Imitation of Christ.

A pure heart, says Thomas à Kempis, comprehends the very depths of Heaven and Hell. And it is by the wings of simplicity and purity that man is lifted above all earthly things.


Book II: Admonitions Concerning the Inner Life

IV. Of a Pure Mind and Simple Intention

BY two wings is man lifted above earthly things, even by simplicity and purity. Simplicity ought to be in the intention, purity in the affection. Simplicity reacheth towards God, purity apprehendeth Him and tasteth Him. No good action will be distasteful to thee if thou be free within from inordinate affection. If thou reachest after and seekest, nothing but the will of God and the benefit of thy neighbour, thou wilt entirely enjoy inward liberty. If thine heart were right, then should every creature be a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine. There is no creature so small and vile but that it showeth us the goodness of God.

Dante and Beatrice in Paradise

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321).  Purgatory, The Divine Comedy.

Dante fell madly in love with Beatrice at first sight; but it is doubted if he ever spoke to her in this world. He tells of his happy meeting with Beatrice in Paradise.
(Dante victim of political persecution in Florence, Jan. 27, 1302.)

Canto XXX

ARGUMENT.—Beatrice descends from Heaven, and rebukes the Poet.

In the Cradle of Civilization

Herodotus. An Account of Egypt: Being the Second Book of His Histories Called Euterpe

A king who entombed his daughter in a golden cow - the worship of the bull and the cat - scandal of the court and the gossip of the temples is given by Herodotus in his delightful story of old Egypt.

  Down to the time when Rhampsinitos was king, they told me there was in Egypt nothing but orderly rule, and Egypt prospered greatly; but after him Cheops became king over them and brought them to every kind of evil: for he shut up all the temples, and having first kept them from sacrifices there, he then bade all the Egyptians work for him. So some were appointed to draw stones from the stone-quarries in the Arabian mountains to the Nile, and others he ordered to receive the stones after they had been carried over the river in boats, and to draw them to those which are called the Libyan mountains; and they worked by a hundred thousand men at a time, for each three months continually. Of this oppression t…

A Field Mouse Made Famous

Robert Burns (1759–1796). To A Mouse, Poems and Songs.

A humble Scotchman, plowing his fields, turns over the nest of a frightened mouse. He apologizes with the deepest sincerity and explains how "the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley."


WEE, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
                    Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
                    Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
                    Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
                    An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
                    ’S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
                    An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win…

Odysseus Silenced the Sirens

Homer (fl. 850 B.C.). Book XII, The Odyssey.When his ship approached the siren's rock, Odysseus stuffed the ears of his crew with wax and had himself bound to the mast that he might hear the alluring voice of the siren and yet not wreck his ship on the enchanted rock.

Odysseus, his passage by the Sirens, and by Scylla and Charybdis. The sacrilege committed by his men in the isle Thrinacia. The destruction of his ships and men. How he swam on a plank nine days together, and came to Ogygia, where he stayed seven years with Calypso.
‘NOW after the ship had left the stream of the river Oceanus, and was come to the wave of the wide sea, and the isle Aeaean, where is the dwelling place of early Dawn and her dancing grounds, and the land of sunrising, upon our coming thither we beached the ship in the sand, and ourselves too stept ashore on the sea beach. There we fell on sound sleep and awaited the bright Dawn.

Pascal Knew Men and Triangles

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662).  The Art of Persuasion, Minor Works.

(Pascal publishes "Provincial Letters," Jan. 23, 1656.)
Pascal, the keen-minded philosopher and mathematician, fathomed the human traits of man's nature with the same accurate measurements which made him famous in the realm of geometry. Read his searching analysis of man's conceit.


THE ART of persuasion has a necessary relation to the manner in which men are led to consent to that which is proposed to them, and to the conditions of things which it is sought to make them believe.

  No one is ignorant that there are two avenues by which opinions are received into the soul, which are its two principal powers: the understanding and the will. The more natural is that of the understanding, for we should never consent to any but demonstrated truths; but the more common, though the one contrary to nature, is that of the will; for all men are almost led to believe not of proof, but by attraction. This way is base…

A King's Pleasure Now Yours

Pierre Corneille (1606–1684).  Polyeucte

The classic plays of French literature are produced to-day precisely as when they were given for the resplendent kings they were written to please. We are fortunate to have in English, excellent translations of these noble plays.


POLYEUCTE.  NEARCHUS

Nearchus.
SHALL woman’s dream of terror hurl the dart?
Oh, feeble weapon ’gainst so great a heart!
Must courage proved a thousand times in arms
Bow to a peril forged by vain alarms?

  POLY.  I know that dreams are born to fade away,
And melt in air before the light of day;
I know that misty vapours of the night
Dissolve and fly before the morning bright.
The dream is naught—but the dear dreamer—all!
She has my soul, Nearchus, fast in thrall;
Who holds the marriage torch—august, divine,
Bids me to her sweet voice my will resign.
She fears my death—tho’ baseless this her fright,
Pauline is wrung with fear—by day—by night;
My road to duty hampered by her fears,
How can I go when all undried her tears?

The Nightingale's Healing Melody

Hans Christian Andersen. (1805–1875)  The Nightingale, from Tales.

The Emperor of China lies on his deathbed grieving for the song of his favorite bird. Hark, the song! It charms, coaxes, and bribes Death to depart. It brings new life to the master.


IN China, you must know, the Emperor is a Chinaman, and all whom he has about him are Chinamen too. It happened a good many years ago, but that’s just why it’s worth while to hear the story, before it is forgotten. The Emperor’s palace was the most splendid in the world; it was made entirely of porcelain, very costly, but so delicate and brittle that one had to take care how one touched it. In the garden were to be seen the most wonderful flowers, and to the costliest of them silver bells were tied, which sounded, so that nobody should pass by without noticing the flowers. Yes, everything in the Emperor’s garden was admirably arranged. And it extended so far, that the gardener himself did not know where the end was. If a man went on and on,…

"Ah! It Is St. Agnes. Eve-"

John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes
(St. Agnes' Eve, Jan. 20.) At midnight on the eve of St. Agnes there were certain solemn ceremonies which all virgins must perform to have "visions of delight and soft adorings from their loves." Porphyro took ad?vantage of this custom to win his bride.

ST. AGNES’ EVE!—Ah, bitter chill it was!   The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;   The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,   And silent was the flock in woolly fold:   Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told   His rosary, and while his frosted breath,   Like pious incense from a censer old,   Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death, Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

Poe on Poetry

Edgar Allen Poe, The Poetic Principle

Regarded in Europe as one of America's greatest writers, Poe originated the detective story, perfected the mystery short story, and produced America.s first great poems. Here he unravels the fabric of which all poetry is woven.


IN speaking of the Poetic Principle, I have no design to be either thorough or profound. While discussing, very much at random, the essentiality of what we call Poetry, my principal purpose will be to cite for consideration some few of those minor English or American poems which best suit my own taste, or which upon my own fancy have left the most definite impression. By “minor poems” I mean, of course, poems of little length. And here in the beginning permit me to say a few words in regard to a somewhat peculiar principle, which, whether rightfully or wrongfully, has always had its influence in my own critical estimate of the poem. I hold that a long poem does not exist. I maintain that the phrase, “a long poem,” is sim…

Origin of Yale "Brekekekex-Ko-ax"

Aristophanes (c.448 B.C.–c.388 B.C.).  The Frogs.

"Shall I crack any of those old jokes, master, at which the audience never fails to laugh?" Like an up-to-date vaudeville team, Xanthias and Dionysus start off a dialogue that mingles wit and poetry with humor and keen satire.


XANTHIAS.  SHALL I crack any of those old jokes, master,
At which the audience never fail to laugh?

DIONYSUS.  Aye, what you will, except I’m getting crushed:
Fight shy of that: I’m sick of that already.

XAN.  Nothing else smart?

DIO.  Aye, save my shoulder’s aching.

XAN.  Come now, that comical joke?

DIO.  With all my heart.
Only be careful not to shift your pole.
And—  XAN. What?  DIO. And vow that you’ve a belly-ache.

XAN.  May I not say I’m overburdened so
That if none ease me, I must ease myself?

DIO.  For mercy’s sake, not till I’m going to vomit.

Franklin's Family Tree

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
Good middle-class people, Franklin boasts, were his ancestors. Some have attributed his genius to his being the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations. In his famous auto?biography, he reveals quaint family history.


TWYFORD, at the Bishop of St. Asaph’s,  1771.
DEAR SON: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to  you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week’s uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world, a…

The Old Woman and the Wine Jar

Æsop. (Sixth century B.C.) Fables.
An old woman once found a wine jar, but it was empty. She sniffed at the mouth of the jar and said: "What memories cling 'round the instruments of our pleasure."
Editor's Note: Other fables are included in today's reading as indicated by the prompts in Eliot's original reading guide.

The Two Pots
TWO Pots had been left on the bank of a river, one of brass, and one of earthenware. When the tide rose they both floated off down the stream. Now the earthenware pot tried its best to keep aloof from the brass one, which cried out: “For nothing, friend, I will not strike you.”
“But I may come in contact with you,” said the other, “if I come too close; and whether I hit you, or you hit me, I shall suffer for it.” “THE STRONG AND THE WEAK CANNOT KEEP COMPANY.”

"The Moving Finger Writes"

Edward Fitzgerald (1809–1883), "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" 

Omar Khayyam laughed and enjoyed the good things of life. His "Rubaiyat," the most popular philosophic poem, is the best of all books to dip into for an alluring thought.


I

WAKE!  For the Sun behind yon Eastern height
Has chased the Session of the Stars from Night;
    And to the field of Heav’n ascending, strikes
The Sulta´n’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.

II

Before the phantom of False morning died,
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
    “When all the Temple is prepared within,
Why lags the drowsy Worshipper outside?”

III

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted—“Open then the Door!
    You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more.”

The First Step Toward Independence

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, adopted Jan. 14, 1639

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut is "the first written constitution as a permanent limitation on governmental power, known in history." It is the work of the Connecticut Yankee.

[These “Orders” were adopted by a popular convention of the three towns of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield, on January 14, 1639. They form, according to historians, “the first written constitution, in the modern sense of the term, as a permanent limitation on governmental power, known in history, and certainly the first American constitution of government to embody the democratic idea.”] FORASMUCH as it hath pleased the Almighty God by the wise disposition of his divine providence so to Order and dispose of things that we the Inhabitants and Residents of Windsor, Harteford and Wethersfield are now cohabiting and dwelling in and upon the River of Connecticut and the Lands thereunto adjoining; And well knowing where a people are gathered…

Rousseau Seeks Sanctuary in England

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778). On the Inequality among Mankind.
Rousseau taught that men were not created free and equal. To substantiate his daring beliefs he traced man's history back to his primitive beginnings. For his teachings, Rousseau was forced to seek refuge in England.

Political writers argue in regard to the love of liberty with the same philosophy that philosophers do in regard to the state of nature; by the things they see they judge of things very different which they have never seen, and they attribute to men a natural inclination to slavery, on account of the patience with which the slaves within their notice carry the yoke; not reflecting that it is with liberty as with innocence and virtue, the value of which is not known but by those who possess them, though the relish for them is lost with the things themselves. I know the charms of your country, said Brasidas to a satrap who was comparing the life of the Spartans with that of the Persepolites; but you can …

What Is Good Taste?

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). On Taste.
A Turkish sultan, relates Burke, when shown a picture of the beheaded John the Baptist, praised many things, but pointed out one gruesome defect. Did this observation show the sultan to be an inferior judge of art?


ON a superficial view, we may seem to differ very widely from each other in our reasonings, and no less in our pleasures: but notwithstanding this difference, which I think to be rather apparent than real, it is probable that the standard both of reason and taste is the same in all human creatures. For if there were not some principles of judgment as well as of sentiment common to all mankind, no hold could possibly be taken either on their reason or their passions, sufficient to maintain the ordinary correspondence of life. It appears indeed to be generally acknowledged, that with regard to truth and falsehood there is something fixed. We find people in their disputes continually appealing to certain tests and standards, which are allowe…

Hamilton - Father of Wall Street

Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, No. 1 and 2
Hamilton organized the Treasury Department. He penned most of the Federalist papers, which were greatly influential in bringing New York into the Union - the first step toward its eminent position in national and world finance.

For the Independent Journal The Federalist, No. I By Alexander Hamilton

To the People of the State of New York: AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliverate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences, nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether soci…

Where Love Lies Waiting

Euripides (480 or 485–406 B.C.). The Bacchæ.
King Pantheus of Thebes contended against Dionysus, the God, for the adoration of the Theban women. The god was winning by bewitching the women when the king interceded. Euripides tells the story in a masterpiece of Greek drama.

A Treasure Hunt in Nombre de Dios

Philip Nichols, Sir Francis Drake Revived
With only fifty-two men, Sir Francis Drake conceives the idea of attacking his archenemy, Spain, at her most vulnerable point the treasure at Nombre de Dios.
(Drake died at Nombre de Dios, Jan. 9, 1596.)


Thus having parted (23rd July) from our company: we arrived at the island of Cativaas, being twenty-five leagues distant, about five days afterward (28th July). There we landed all in the morning betimes: and our Captain trained his men, delivering them their several weapons and arms which hitherto he had kept very fair and safe in good caske [casks]: and exhorting them after his manner, he declared “the greatness of the hope of good things that was there! the weakness of the town, being unwalled! and the hope he had of prevailing to recompense his wrongs! especially now that he should come with such a crew, who were like-minded with himself; and at such a time, as he should be utterly undiscovered.”

Trying the Patience of Job

The Book of Job
God was pleased with the piety of Job, but Satan accredited the piety to Job's prosperity and happiness. So a trial was made. See how each succeeding affliction visited on Job shook the depths of his nature, and how he survived.

[1] THERE was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil. [2] And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. [3] His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the children of the east.

If He Yawned, She Lost Her Head!

Stories from The Thousand and One Nights (Introduction)
The Sultan had a habit of beheading each dawn his beautiful bride of the night before, until he encountered Scheherazade. Cleverly she saved her life a thousand and one mornings.

PRAISE be to God, the Beneficent King, the Creator of the universe, who hath raised the heavens without pillars, and spread out the earth as a bed; and blessing and peace be on the lord of apostles, our lord and our master Mohammad, and his Family; blessing and peace, enduring and constant, unto the day of judgment.
To proceed:—The lives of former generations are a lesson to posterity; that a man may review the remarkable events which have happened to others, and be admonished; and may consider the history of people of preceding ages, and of all that hath befallen them, and be restrained. Extolled be the perfection of Him who hath thus ordained the history of former generations to be a lesson to those which follow. Such are the Tales of a Thousand and One…