Sunday, April 17, 2005

When Books Speak to Each Other

So I'm reading Don Quixote last night and really paying attention because the folks over at 400 Windmills with their interesting thoughts and questions are making me feel not quite up to snuff. And It dawns on me that Cervantes (1547-1616) and Montaigne (1533-1592) were more or less contemporaries. Montaigne died well before Don Quixote was published and it is unlikely that Cervantes read the Essays, but one never knows for sure. What made the light bulb go on last night was because earlier in the day I had read and posted about Montaigne's essay "On the Armour of the Parthians" which mentions muskets and how terrible they are. Then, that evening Don Quioxte himself obligingly elaborated on Montaigne and why muskets were bad:

Happy were those blessed times that lacked the horrifying fury of the diabolical instruments of artillery, whose inventor, in my opinion, is in hell, receiving the reward for his accursed invention, which allows an ignoble and cowardly hand to take the life of a valiant knight, so that not knowing how it comes, or from where, a stray shot is fired into the courage and spirit that inflame and animate a brave heart, sent by one who perhaps fled in fear at the bright flare when the damned machine discharged it, and it cuts off and ends in an instant the thoughts and life of one who deserved to enjoy many more long years. When I consider this, I am prepared to say that it grieves my very soul that I have taken up the profession of knight errant in an age as despicable as the one we live in now, for although no danger can cause me to fear, it still fills me with misgivings to think that powder and tin may deprive me of the opportunity to become famous and renowned throughout the known world for the valor of my arm and the sharp edge of my sword.
Montaigne was no knight errant, he was a French gentleman who fought in the "Wars of Religion," but I am sure he would agree whole heartedly with Don Quixote's assessment of the situation. I so love these serendipitous moments when books and ideas converse with one another.