Bits from Ivanoe

“Good fruit, Sir Knight,” said the yeoman, “will sometimes grow on a sorry tree; and evil times are not always productive of evil alone and unmixed. Amongst those who are drawn into this lawless state, there are, doubtless, numbers who wish to exercise its license with some moderation, and some who regret, it may be, that they are obliged to follow such a trade at all.”


“Thou wouldst quench the pure light of chivalry, which alone distinguishes the noble from the base, the gentle knight from the churl and the savage; which rates our life far, far beneath the pitch of our honour; raises us victorious over pain, toil, and suffering, and teaches us to fear no evil but disgrace.”


“…Fair creature!” he said, approaching near her, but with great respect,—“so young, so beautiful, so fearless of death! and yet doomed to die, and with infamy and agony. Who would not weep for thee?—The tear, that has been a stranger to these eyelids for twenty years, moistens them as I gaze on thee. But it must be—nothing may now save thy life. Thou and I are but the blind instruments of some irresistible fatality, that hurries us along, like goodly vessels driving before the storm, which are dashed against each other, and so perish. Forgive me, then, and let us part, at least, as friends part. I have assailed thy resolution in vain, and mine own is fixed as the adamantine decrees of fate.”

Thus,” said Rebecca, “do men throw on fate the issue of their own wild passions. But I do forgive thee, Bois-Guilbert, though the author of my early death. There are noble things which cross over thy powerful mind; but it is the garden of the sluggard, and the weeds have rushed up, and conspired to choke the fair and wholesome blossom.”

[Emphasis mine]


from Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott

2 comments on “Bits from Ivanoe

  1. Fine.

    In a diluted an anti-poetic form, this idea of fate makes us the engineers of our own destruction.

    Yet it really is sluggardly in origin; to get off the track to disaster requires such an effort, and people would misunderstand us and criticize us and fight us.

    Bois-Guilbert perhaps fears the accusations of his peers, the consequent loss of his elevated status among other high status men and women, more than he wants to do the right thing.

    • outofsleep says:

      Bois-Guilbert uses “fate” as a rear-guard defense for his own ego. When he was trying to woo Rebecca (by kidnapping her, etc), he claims it’s all his manly prowess. When he fails, it is all the fault of fate.

      Rebecca’s grace throughout the whole book is lovely.

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