Don Quixote "Strike While The Iron Is Hot"

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

"Strike While The Iron Is Hot"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Don Quixote de la Mancha, disordered in mind, is out with his squire, Sancho Panza, in search of adventures to perform for the honor of his lady, Dulcinea del Toboso. Despairing of his sanity, one of his friends, Samson Carrasco, disguised as a knight, defeats Don Quixote and demands that he discontinue his adventures for a year. On their way home, Don Quixote and Sancho discuss the recent defeat. Sancho is disgusted because "Altisidora had bilk'd him of the Smocks she promised him." Feeling that he should do penance with 3300 lashes delivered by himself upon his own back, Don Quixote promises to pay Sancho for this self-imposed contrition. Because he needs the money, Sancho accedes. He hides among the trees, and after beating himself for a while, starts pounding the trees and groaning. Don Quixote finally makes Sancho stop for a time. But Sancho wants to finish his job while he has trees to hide among. So he pleads with his master. The proverbial advice used by Cervantes was also used by Publilius Syrus (Maxim 262), by John Heywood in Proverbes (1546), Part I, chapter 2, by Rabelais in Book II (1534), chapter 31, and by numerous other writers. Sancho says:

There's nothing like striking while the Iron is hot, for Delay breeds Danger: 'Tis best Grinding at the Mill before the Water is past: Ever take while you may have it: A Bird in Hand is worth two in the Bush.