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From The Heart of Midlothian…

July 2, 2009

They aren’t much to represent a 500+ page novel as complex and exquisite as Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian, but these quotes stood out to me as representing Scott’s character Douce David Deans, Scottish Covenanter, and his theology, as well as Scott’s own Calvinism. I trust you can make the gist of the Gaelic.

But I will bear my cross with the comfort, that whatever showed like goodness in me or mine, was but like the light that shines frae creeping insects, on the brae-side, in a dark night — it kythes bright to the ee, because all is dark around it; but when the morn comes on the mountains, it is but a puir crawling kail-worm after a’.

He was engaged in his devotions, and Jeanie could distinctly hear him use these words: ‘And for the other child thou hast given me to be a comfort and stay to my old age, may her days be long in the land, according to the promise thou hast given to those who shall honor father and mother; may all her purchased and promised blessings be multiplied upon her; keep her in the watches of the night, and in the uprising of the morning, that all in this land may know that thou hast not utterly hid thy face from those that seek thee in truth and in sincerity.’ He was silent, but probably continued his petition in the strong fervency of mental devotion.

‘…we wad rather gie a pund Scots to buy an unguent to clear our auld rannell-trees and our beds o’ the English bugs as they ca’ them, than we wad gie a plack to rid the land of the swarm of Arminian caterpillars, Socinian pismires, and deistical Miss Katies, that ascended out of the bottomless pit, to plague this perverse, insidious, and lukewarm generation.’

But the human mind is so strangely capricious, that, when freed from the pressure of real misery, it becomes open and sensitive to the apprehension of ideal calamities.

…the great truth, that guilt, though it may attain temporal splendour, can never confer real happiness; that the evil consequences of our crimes long survive their commission, and, like the ghosts of the murdered, for ever haunt the steps of the malefactor; and that the paths of virtue, though seldom those of worldly greatness, are always those of pleasantness and peace.

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2 Comments
  1. Laura permalink
    July 2, 2009 7:32 pm

    I enjoyed these snippets, though they do give one an idea of why the book is renowned for its difficulty! As for this–“But the human mind is so strangely capricious, that, when freed from the pressure of real misery, it becomes open and sensitive to the apprehension of ideal calamities.” —it could have come from Calvin himself. (I take it he means “ideal” in an antiquated sense, like “imaginary”?)

  2. July 3, 2009 5:57 am

    Take heart; there is a glossary. And ideal does carry the meaning of mere mental image or imaginary — at least it still did as of my 1928 dictionary.

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