From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 7.2 (1987): 85-89.
Copyright © 1987, The Cervantes Society of America


“Tate, tate, follonzicos . . . ” Once Again: The Metamorphosis of a Locution*


READERS OF Don Quijote recall historian Cide Hamete Benengeli's charge to his pen in chapter seventy-four, the last in Part II. The pen, Cide Hamete said, should keep at a distance any presumptuous or malignant historians —an allusion to Avellaneda, the author of the spurious sequel to Part I— from profaning it by unhanging it from the rack on which Cide Hamete has hung it up, and from usurping the subject Don Quijote so as to write yet another sequel to the knight's adventures.
     This is the text of Cide Hamete's words to his pen, taken from the 1615 Princeps edition: “Tate tate, follonzicos, de ninguno sea tocada, porque estâ impressa buen Rey, para mi estava guardada.” We shall offer translations presently. What annotators emend and translators translate in place of estâ impressa (está impresa in modern spelling) is esta empresa. Está impresa means is printed. Esta empresa means this emprise, undertaking, deed, adventure and, also, device on a shield. Although Cervantes writes Cide Hamete's words as prose, their rhythm falls into an eight-syllable verse-line quatrain reminiscent of another quatrain by

     * Helena Percas de Ponseti wrote a subsequent note entitled “A Revision: Cervantes's Writing” [Cervantes 9.2 (1989): 61-65], which prompted a response by Daniel Eisenberg, “‘Esta empressa,’ no ‘está impressa’” [Cervantes 13.2 (1993): 125-26], to which she replied with “Nota a la nota sobre una nota: ‘impressa,’ no ‘empressa’” [Cervantes 15.1 (1995): 164-66]. -FJ.



Ginés Pérez de Hita, quoted by Bowle and then by Rodríguez Marín.l For this reason Spanish editions as well as English translations write the charge as a quatrain. Let us see how it has been rendered in three of the most widely used English translations:

1.   Hands off, o'erweening ones!
Let it by none attempted be;
For this emprise, my lord the King,
Hath been reserved for me.2
2. “Beware, beware, you scoundrels,
I may be touched by none:
This is a deed, my worthy king,
Reserved for me alone.”3
3. Beware, ye cowards; stay your hands!
Let it be touched by none
For this adventure, O good king,
Was meant for me alone.4

All italics are mine; they are intended to point out that each of these translations resolves in a different way an ambiguity in the Spanish text about the object that must not be touched (“de ninguno sea tocada”): the pen, the “pluma,” or the emprise, the “empresa.” To touch the empresa with the meaning of device on a knight's shield meant to be obligated to accept a confrontation with him. Cervantes is, indeed, referring to a literary confrontation, and certainly, this is one of the meanings of “de ninguno sea tocada.” But in the context of Cide Hamete's hanging away his pen just before the charge, it is just as logical to think that the object of “de ninguno sea tocada” is the pen. All three translations, therefore, are good, for the ambiguity is untranslatable. Yet, Cervantes' ambiguity is a trick necessary to further a third

“‘Aquesa empresa, señor,
para mí estaba guardada
que mi señora la Reina
ya me la tiene mandada.’”

This quatrain appears in Historia de las guerras civiles de Granada. See El ingenioso hidalgo “Don Quijote de la Mancha.” Nueva edición crítica de Francisco Rodríguez Marín (Madrid: 1948) vol. 8, p. 267, note 7.
     2 Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. A New Translation From the Spanish with a critical text based on the first editions of 1605 and 1615 . . . by Samuel Putnam (New York: Viking Press, 1949), p. 988.
     3 The Adventures of Don Quixote. Translated by J. M. Cohen (Middlesex, England: The Chaucer Press, First edition, 1950; 1973), p. 939.
     4 Don Quixote. The Ormsby translation, revised; edited by Joseph R. Jones and Kenneth Douglas (New York-London: Norton Critical Editions, 1981), p. 830.

7.2 (1987) “Tate, tate, follonzicos . . . ” 87

meaning that comes out of a spelling anomaly in the locution esta empresa on which an accent has been added and a vowel has been changed so it reads está impresa. The cause of the anomaly is that while the Moorish translator is translating, or the narrator-editor is editing Cide Hamete's charge to his pen, the now personified Pen takes over and places an accent on the adjective esta, this, to turn it into a verb, está, is; and changes the first vowel of the noun empresa from an a to an i making out of this noun an adjectival participle impresa, printed. It is the pen's locution that we read in the original 1615 edition, before annotators took it upon themselves to “correct” the text, and to turn “está impresa” into “esta empresa.” The reader sensitive to the visual language of the original text, or who has an auditive image of the original locution, because he has heard it or has read it aloud, as was often the case in seventeenth-century Spain and still is today, could easily superimpose on Cide Hamete's contextual meaning of esta empresa, this deed, undertaking, adventure, or device, the Pen's phonetically derived meaning: has been printed. The result is a baciyelmista significance of the felicitous phoneme, esta empresa está impresa, to the effect that the deed, emprise, undertaking, or adventure of writing the story of the Knight's wanderings has already been set to print, that is, has been brought to an irrevocable end as when written by Destiny: Cervantes. The three meanings in Cide Hamete's charge add up to something like this in content and tone:

Beware, beware; hands off, hands off,
Ye fiendly little rascals!
Let me be touched by none
(Let it be touched by none!):
This enterprise, my worthy King,
Reserved for me alone,
Is cast in print, is cast in print,
Forevermore, forevermore.

     Let us consider now, for a moment, whether the locution está impresa could possibly be a printing error in the 1615 Princeps edition, and unjustified such a perception as is suggested above.
     The adjectival participle impresa, printed, derived from imprimir, to print, has in seventeenth-century Spain no alternate spelling with an initial e, empresa. This word simply does not exist with that meaning; and neither does empresor for printer; it is impresor. However, emprimir, to print, is listed as an obsolete form of imprimir both in the Diccionario de


Autoridades5 and in the Diccionario enciclopédico de la lengua castellana,6 although amazingly enough not in the 1611 Covarrubias dictionary. In other words, in seventeenth-century Spain one could say or write emprimir, to print, in lieu of imprimir; emprenta, printing press, in lieu of imprenta; but not empreso-a, printed, in lieu of impreso-a; nor empresor, printer, in lieu of impresor.
     As for empresa meaning emprise, deed, undertaking, adventure, or device, derived from emprender, to undertake, it is never spelled impresa. In his Vocabulario de Cervantes,7 Carlos Fernández Gómez has a single example for his entry impresa with the meaning of emprise, deed, undertaking, or adventure; the example it registers is precisely the very locution we are elucidating here.
     What is Cervantes' practice throughout the Quijote and other novelistic works? He consistently writes the various derivatives of imprimir, to print, with an i, including impresión, imprint. For printing press he chooses emprenta with an e, the alternate spelling of imprenta. And empresa invariably means emprise, deed, undertaking, adventure, and device.8
     Could Cervantes or his printers have made an error this once when setting down the locution está impresa? Absolutely not, for the accent on the verb está indicates that an adjectival participle must follow, and this adjectival participle could not be empresa, a term that does not exist, but impresa. There is, therefore, no room for doubt that over Cide Hamete's contextual meaning of esta empresa, this emprise, deed, undertaking, adventure, device, there is a deliberate superimposed meaning of está impresa, to proclaim that there is nothing further to add to the life of Don Quijote because all that needed to be said has been said and printed. As a matter of fact, this very thought takes up the concluding paragraph of the novel.
     The locution está impresa has not survived two of the most distinguished annotators of Don Quijote: Diego Clemencín and Francisco Rodríguez Marín. Clemencín does not even question the possibility

     5 Diccionario de la lengua castellana called de Autoridades. A. de Pagés—J. Pérez Hervás (Barcelona, n.d.), p. 944.
     6 Composed by Elías Zerolo and other Spanish and Latin American Writers (Paris: Garnier Hermanos, n.d.) p. 939.
     7 (Madrid: Real Academia Española, 1962) p. 547.
     8 For easy reference, I am giving the page numbers of the Princeps edition of Cervantes' complete works collected in facsimile by the Real Academia Española, 7 vols. (Madrid: 1917). The Roman numerals refer to the volume; the Arabic numbers to the pages: II, 4, 62, 288, 303; III, 14, 42, 56, 104, 222, 242, 243; IV, 2, 39, 48, 77, 107, 118, 119, 141, 193, 264.

7.2 (1987) “Tate, tate, follonzicos . . . ” 89

that the original text might be correct, and emends it without a notation. Rodríguez Marín notes the anomaly impresa in the Princeps edition but misses the accent on está. Therefore, he too, misreads and misinterprets the locution.
     If we list in chronological order some of the editions of Don Quijote, Part II printed between 1615 and 1655, we find a curious metamorphosis of the locution in question:

      1615     Juan de la Cuesta, Madrid edition: estâ impressa
1616 Huberto Antonio, Brussels edition: està impressa
1616 Pedro Patricio Mey, Valencia edition: esta impresa (with the misspelling of the noun empresa meaning emprise, undertaking, or deed)
1617 Jorge Rodríguez, Lisbon edition: està impressa

Don Quijote Parts I and II together:

      1617     Bautista Sorita, Barcelona edition: esta impresa (with the misspelling of empresa)
1637 Domingo González, Madrid edition: esta empresa
1647 Juan Antonio Bonet y Francisco Serrano, Madrid edition: esta empresa
1655 Mateo de la Bastida, Madrid edition: esta empresa

This is as far as I have checked in the Biblioteca d'Estudis Catalans, but the list above suffices to show how the locution has evolved into the one found today in most Spanish editions of Don Quijote.


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