I am currently reading Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saaverda. It is lighthearted and free-spirited in much the same way as Sterne’s Tristram Shandy or Diderot’s Jacques is, so I have found myself laughing heartily along the way. But the book is, to say it plainly, about a madman who, when faced with windmills, sees giants, and to whom flocks of sheep appear as so many valorous knights. He routinely loses himself in wild fantasies and imaginations, and performs the most outrageous follies to commend himself to his love Dulcinea del Toboso, who doesn’t as such exist, and who nevertheless is oblivious to señor Quixana and his amorous devotion. I am troubled, as I read, only by this: that I live my life in much the way that the Don Quixote lives his. Many of my exploits, motivated by strange and unaccountable fancies or imagination gone horribly awry, are carried out in hopes of commending myself to some half-imaginary woman who will remain forever ignorant of my efforts. I am a constant hero in the narrative constantly running through my brain, but the castles in which I pass my nights are likely no more than paltry inns and fieldhouses, and I have little doubt that I have donned a basin or two as a helmet in my time. It is difficult reading, this story of Don Quixote, because Cervantes paints his portrait with a bit too much integrity, and the madness has too much method in’t.

A salve for my spirits—to find a perfect expression of my pain. A snippet from Ernest Dowson’s poem “To a Lost Love” :

from “To a Lost Love”

I knew the end before the end was nigh:
   The stars have grown so plain;
   Vainly I sigh, in vain
For things that come to some,
But unto you and me will never come.

On a wholly unrelated note, also from Dowson, his poem “To His Mistress” :

To His Mistress

There comes an end to summer,
   To spring showers and hoar rime;
His mumming to each mummer
   Has somewhere end in time,
And since life ends and laughter,
   And leaves fall and tears dry,
Who shall call love immortal,
   When all that is must die ?

Nay, sweet, let’s leave unspoken
   The vows the fates gainsay,
For all vows made are broken,
   We love but while we may.
Let’s kiss when kissing pleases,
   And part when kisses pall,
Perchance, this time to-morrow,
   We shall not love at all.

You ask my love completest,
   As strong next year as now,
The devil take you, sweetest,
   Ere I make aught such vow.
Life is a masque that changes,
   A fig for constancy!
No love at all were better,
   Than love which is not free.

NP: Depeche Mode, Shake the Disease