A chivalrous failure and a Broadway hit

“En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo” …

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen …They will have it his surname was Quixada or Quesada (for here there is some difference of opinion among the authors who write on the subject), although from reasonable conjectures it seems plain that he was called Quexana. This, however, is of but little importance to our tale; it will be enough not to stray a hair’s breadth from the truth in the telling of it.

So begins one of my favorite books, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha.  A fifty-ish something Spanish gentleman, who revels in tales of knights on horseback, fighting evil for the sake of their chosen lady-fair. He invests so much time and energy into reading and studying these medieval romances and histories that he goes a bit mad, and imagines he himself is a courageous knight, off to set the world right again.  Of course, we all know how well that went. 

The ‘sane’ people in his hometown hunted Don Quixote down and brought him back to reality through, ironically, a battle of chivalry with the Knight of the White Moon, who is in reality a young man from Quixote’s home village.  When he is defeated in this ‘battle,’ Don Quixote must accept the prearranged terms -that he give up his crusade and return home.  Once there, Sr. Quexana or Quesada wakes from a dream, fully sane, despite the urgings of Sancho Panza.

So, in the real world, we now call any idealistic, rashly impractical or highly romantic venture that is doomed to failure:  QUIXOTIC.  It’s usually meant unkindly, as a put-down or insult, not as a compliment.

Personally, I prefer Don Quixote’s attitude – he sees a wrong and wants to do something about it. He strives to be as noble a hero as D’Artagnan or Galahad.  Not a bad ambition!

Hear me now, oh, thou bleak and unbearable world
Thou art base and debauched as can be
And a knight with his banners all bravely unfurled
Now hurls down his gauntlet to thee…

Hear me heathens and wizards and serpents of sin
All your dastardly doings are past
For a holy endeavor is now to begin
And virtue shall triumph at last

Oh, I am I, Don Quixote, the Lord of La Mancha
My destiny calls and I go.
And the wild winds of fortune will carry me onward
Oh, whither so ever they blow
Whither so ever they blow, onward to glory I go…

JOE DARION, MITCH LEIGH  (from The Man of La Mancha)

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