Walter Scott

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The ideas of a time are like the clothes of a season: they are as arbitrary, as much imposed by some superior will which is seldom explicit. They are utilitarian and political, the instruments of smooth-running government.
Wyndham Lewis
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Portrait of Sir Walter Scott, by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (August 14, 1771September 21, 1832) was a prolific Scottish historical novelist and poet popular throughout Europe during his time.

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  • Still are the thoughts to memory dear.
    • Rokeby, Canto I, st. 33 (1813)
  • A mother's pride, a father's joy.
    • Rokeby, Canto III, st. 15 (1813)
  • Oh, Brignal banks are wild and fair,
    And Greta woods are green,
    And you may gather garlands there
    Would grace a summer's queen.
    • Rokeby, Canto III, st. 16 (1813)
  • O! many a shaft at random sent
    Finds mark the archer little meant!
    And many a word, at random spoken,
    May soothe or wound a heart that's broken!
    • The Lord of the Isles, Canto V, st. 18 (1815)
  • Randolph, thy wreath has lost a rose.
    • The Lord of the Isles, Canto VI, st. 18 (1815)
  • A lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; if he possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect.
  • Come as the winds come, when
    Forests are rended,
    Come as the waves come, when
    Navies are stranded.
    • Pibroch of Donald Dhu, St. 4 (1816)
  • War's a fearsome thing. They'll be cunning that catches me at this wark again.
    • Old Mortality, Volume II, Chapter XI (1816)
  • Time will rust the sharpest sword,
    Time will consume the strongest cord
    ;
    That which molders hemp and steel,
    Mortal arm and nerve must feel.
    • Harold the Dauntless, Canto I, st. 4 (1817)
  • My foot is on my native heath, and my name is MacGregor.
  • when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o' our ain, we could aye peeble them wi' stanes when they werena gude bairns - But naebody's nails can reach the length o' Lunnon.
    • The Heart of Midlothian', Ch. 4 (1818)
  • Jock, when ye hae naething else to do, ye may be ay sticking in a tree; it will be growing, Jock, when ye're sleeping.
    • The Heart of Midlothian', Ch. 8 (1818)
  • Revenge is the sweetest morsel to the mouth, that ever was cooked in hell.
    • The Heart of Midlothian', Ch. 30 (1818)
  • Vacant heart, and hand, and eye,
    Easy live and quiet die.
  • Oh, poverty parts good company.
  • Ah! County Guy, the hour is nigh,
    The sun has left the lea.
  • Fat, fair, and forty.
    • St. Ronan's Well, ch. 7 (1824)
O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
  • Tell that to the marines—the sailors won't believe it.
  • Rouse the lion from his lair.
  • Recollect that the Almighty, who gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit.
    • The Talisman, Ch. 24 (1825)
  • A miss is as good as a mile.
    • Journal (December 3, 1825)
  • The eye of the yeoman and peasant sought in vain the tall form of old Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley, as, wrapped in his laced cloak, and with beard and whiskers duly composed, he moved slowly through the aisles, followed be the faithful mastiff, or bloodhound, which in old time had saved his master by his fidelity, and which regularly followed him to church. Bevis indeed, fell under the proverb which avers, ‘He is a good dog, which goes to church’; for, bating an occasional temptation to warble along with the accord, he behaved himself as decorously as any of the congregation, and returned much edified, perhaps, as most of them.
  • If you keep a thing seven years, you are sure to find a use for it.
  • Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
    Come saddle your horses, and call up your men;
    Come open the West Port, and let me gang free,
    And it's room for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee!
    • The Doom of Devorgoil, Bonny Dundee, Chorus (1830)
  • One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum.
  • Thy hue, dear pledge, is pure and bright
    As in that well-remember'd night
    When first thy mystic braid was wove,
    And first my Agnes whisper'd love.

The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805)

  • The way was long, the wind was cold,
    The Minstrel was infirm and old;
    His withered cheek, and tresses gray,
    Seemed to have known a better day.
    • Introduction
  • Steady of heart, and stout of hand.
    • Canto I, st. 21
  • I cannot tell how the truth may be;
    I say the tale as 'twas said to me.
    • Canto II, st. 22
  • In peace, Love tunes the shepherd's reed;
    In war, he mounts the warrior's steed;
    In halls, in gay attire is seen;
    In hamlets, dances on the green.
    Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
    And men below, and saints above;
    For love is heaven, and heaven is love.
    • Canto III, st. 2
  • For ne'er
    Was flattery lost on poet's ear:
    A simple race! they waste their toil
    For the vain tribute of a smile.
    • Canto IV, conclusion
  • Call it not vain;—they do not err,
    Who say, that when the Poet dies,
    Mute Nature mourns her worshipper,
    And celebrates his obsequies.
    • Canto V, st. 1
  • True love's the gift which God has given
    To man alone beneath the heaven
    :
    It is not fantasy's hot fire,
    Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly;
    It liveth not in fierce desire,
    With dead desire it doth not die;
    It is the secret sympathy,
    The silver link, the silken tie,
    Which heart to heart, and mind to mind
    In body and in soul can bind.
    • Canto V, st. 13
  • Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
    Who never to himself hath said,
    This is my own, my native land!
    Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
    As home his footsteps he hath turn'd,
    From wandering on a foreign strand!
    If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
    For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
    High though his titles, proud his name,
    Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
    Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
    The wretch, concentred all in self,
    Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
    And, doubly dying, shall go down
    To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
    Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung.
    • Canto VI, st. 1
  • O Caledonia! stern and wild,
    Meet nurse for a poetic child!
    Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
    Land of the mountain and the flood!
    • Canto VI, st. 2
  • That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
    When heaven and earth shall pass away,
    What power shall be the sinner's stay?
    How shall he meet that dreadful day?
    • Canto VI, st. 31

Marmion (1808)

  • November’s sky is chill and drear,
    November’s leaf is red and sear.
    • Canto I, introduction, st. 1
  • Stood for his country’s glory fast,
    And nail’d her colours to the mast!
    • Canto I, introduction, st. 10
  • But search the land of living men,
    Where wilt thou find their like again?
    • Canto I, introduction, st. 11
  • And come he slow, or come he fast,
    It is but Death who comes at last.
    • Canto II, introduction, st. 30
  • Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the West,
    Through all the wide Border his steed was the best.
    • Canto V, st. 12 (Lochinvar, st. 1)
  • So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
    There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
    • Canto V, st. 12 (Lochinvar, st. 1)
  • For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
    Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.
    • Canto V, st. 12 (Lochinvar, st. 2)
  • She look'd down to blush, and she look'd up to sigh,
    With a smile on her lips, and a tear in her eye.
    • Canto V, st. 12 (Lochinvar, st. 5)
  • Heap on more wood!-the wind is chill;
    But let it whistle as it will,
    We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
    • Canto VI, introduction, st. 1
  • England was merry England, when
    Old Christmas brought his sports again.
    ‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
    ‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
    A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
    The poor man’s heart through half the year.
    • Canto VI, introduction, st. 3
  • And darest thou then
    To beard the lion in his den,
    The Douglas in his hall?
    • Canto VI, st. 14
  • O, what a tangled web we weave,
    When first we practise to deceive!
    • Canto VI, st. 17
  • O, Woman! in our hours of ease,
    Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
    And variable as the shade
    By the light quivering aspen made;
    When pain and anguish wring the brow,
    A ministering angel thou!
    • Canto VI, st. 30
  • A light on Marmion’s visage spread,
    And fired his glazing eye:
    With dying hand, above his head,
    He shook the fragment of his blade,
    And shouted "Victory!-
    Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!"
    Were the last words of Marmion.
    • Canto VI, st. 32
  • To all, to each, a fair good-night,
    And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light!
    • L'Envoy

The Lady of the Lake (1810)

  • The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
    Where danced the moon on Monan's rill,
    And deep his midnight lair had made
    In lone Glenartney's hazel shade.
    • Canto I, st. 1
  • With head upraised, and look intent,
    And eye and ear attentive bent,
    And locks flung back, and lips apart,
    Like monument of Grecian art,
    In listening mood, she seemed to stand,
    The guardian Naiad of the strand.
    • Canto I, st. 17
  • On his bold visage middle age
    Had slightly pressed its signet sage,
    Yet had not quenched the open truth
    And fiery vehemence of youth;
    Forward and frolic glee was there,
    The will to do, the soul to dare,
    The sparkling glance, soon blown to fire,
    Of hasty love or headlong ire.
    • Canto I, st. 21
  • Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
    Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;
    Dream of battled fields no more,
    Days of danger, nights of waking.
    • Canto I, st. 31
  • Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!
    • Canto II, st. 19
  • Some feelings are to mortals given
    With less of earth in them than heaven;
    And if there be a human tear
    From passion's dross refined and clear,
    A tear so limpid and so meek
    It would not stain an angel's cheek,
    'Tis that which pious fathers shed
    Upon a duteous daughter's head!
    • Canto II, st. 22
  • Like the dew on the mountain,
    Like the foam on the river,
    Like the bubble on the fountain,
    Thou art gone, and forever!
    • Canto III, st. 16 (Coronach, st. 3)
  • Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
    From its firm base as soon as I.
    • Canto V, st. 10
  • Respect was mingled with surprise,
    And the stern joy which warriors feel
    In foeman worthy of their steel.
    • Canto V, st. 10
  • Where, where was Roderick then!
    One blast upon his bugle-horn
    Were worth a thousand men.
    • Canto VI, st. 18

The Antiquary (1816)

  • It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives.
    • Volume I, Ch. 11

On the postal service

Chapter 15 opens at a small Scottish post office, "Mrs. Mailsetter's shop, —a source more famous for the circulation of news than for their accuracy."

  • ...We beg leave to transport the reader to the back-parlour of the post-master's house at Fairport, where his wife, he himself being absent, was employed in assorting for delivery the letters which had come by the Edinburgh post. This is very often in country towns the period of the day when gossips find it particularly agreeable to call on the man or woman of letters, in order, from the outside of the epistles, and, if they are not belied, occasionally from the inside also, to amuse themselves with gleaning information, or forming conjectures about the correspondence and affairs of their neighbours. Two females of this description were, at the time we mention, assisting, or impeding, Mrs. Mailsetter in her official duty.

An express has arrived at the office, and which must now rise to the challenge of delivering it.

  • "I'm no gaun to let naebody see the letter," sobbed the boy, "till I gie't to Mr. Lovel, for I am a faithfu' servant o' the office—if it werena for the powny."
    "Very right, my little man," said Ochiltree, turning the reluctant pony's head towards Monkbarns; "but we'll guide him atween us." ...
    [They met Lovel on the way,] and Davie, who insisted upon a literal execution of his commission by going on to Monkbarns, was with difficulty prevailed upon to surrender the packet to its proper owner, although he met him a mile nearer than the place he had been directed to. "But my minnie said, I maun be sure to get twenty shillings and five shillings for the postage, and ten shillings and sixpence for the express—there's the paper."
    "Let me see—let me see," said Oldbuck, putting on his spectacles, and examining the crumpled copy of regulations to which Davie appealed. "Express, per man and horse, one day, not to exceed ten shillings and sixpence. One day? why, it's not an hour—Man and horse? why, 'tis a monkey on a starved cat!"
    • Vol. I, Ch.15

Ivanhoe (1819)

  • Pride and jealousy there was in his eye, for his life had been spent in asserting rights which were constantly liable to invasion; and the prompt, fiery, and resolute disposition of the man, had been kept constantly upon the alert by the circumstances of his situation.
    • Ch. 3
  • He’s expected at noon, and no wight till he comes
    May profane the great chair, or the porridge of plums;
    For the best of the cheer, and the seat by the fire,
    Is the undenied right of the Barefooted Friar.
    • Ch. 17, One of the verses of the ballad "The Barefooted Friar", sung by Friar Tuck to the Black Knight.
  • Her haughtiness and habit of domination was, therefore, a fictitious character, induced over that which was natural to her, and it deserted her when her eyes were opened to the extent of her own danger, as well as that of her lover and her guardian; and when she found her will, the slightest expression of which was wont to command respect and attention, now placed in opposition to that of a man of a strong, fierce, and determined mind, who possessed the advantage over her, and was resolved to use it, she quailed before him.
    • Ch. 23
  • "Alas! fair Rowena," returned De Bracy, "you are in presence of your captive, not your jailor; and it is from your fair eyes that De Bracy must receive that doom which you fondly expect from him."
    • Ch. 23, De Bracy's vain attempt to woo Rowena using the language of courtly love.
  • Pax vobiscum will answer all queries. If you go or come, eat or drink, bless or ban, Pax vobiscum carries you through it all. It is as useful to a friar as a broom-stick to a witch, or a wand to a conjuror.
    • Ch. 26, Wamba explaining to Cedric how to get away with impersonating a priest. Pax vobiscum means "peace be with you."
  • Norman saw on English oak.
    On English neck a Norman yoke;
    Norman spoon to English dish,
    And England ruled as Normans wish;
    Blithe world in England never will be more,
    Till England's rid of all the four.
    • Ch. 27, Proverb recited by Wamba to De Bracy and Front-de-Boeuf.
  • "What remains?" cried Ivanhoe; "Glory, maiden, glory! which gilds our sepulchre and embalms our name."
    • Ch. 29, Ivanhoe to Rebecca, who questions the value of chivalry and has asked what remains for knights when death takes them.
  • Chivalry!-why, maiden, she is the nurse of pure and high affection-the stay of the oppressed, the redresser of grievances, the curb of the power of the tyrant-Nobility were but an empty name without her, and liberty finds the best protection in her lance and her sword.
    • Ch. 29, Ivanhoe explains to Rebecca the virtues of chivalry.
  • Saint George and the Dragon!-Bonny Saint George for Merry England!-The castle is won!
    • Ch. 31, Wamba celebrates their victory.
  • For he that does good, having the unlimited power to do evil, deserves praise not only for the good which he performs, but for the evil which he forbears.
    • Ch. 33, The Black Knight speaking to Locksley.
  • Women are but the toys which amuse our lighter hours-ambition is the serious business of life.
    • Ch. 36, Malvoisin speaking to De Bois-Guilbert.
  • 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.
    • Ch. 39, De Bois-Guilbert speaking to Rebecca.
  • There is yet spirit in him, were it well directed- but, like the Greek fire, it burns whatever approaches it.
    • Ch. 43, Malvoisin to Mont-Fitchet
  • You have power, rank, command, influence; we have wealth, the source both of our strength and weakness; the value of these toys, ten times multiplied, would not influence half so much as your slightest wish.
    • Ch. 44, Rebecca speaking to Rowena.

The Monastery (1820)

  • The happy combination of fortuitous circumstances.
    • Answer of the Author of Waverley to the Letter of Captain Clutterbuck
  • As old as the hills.
    • Ch. 9
  • Within that awful volume lies
    The mystery, of mysteries!
    • Ch. 12
  • And better had they ne'er been born,
    Who read to doubt, or read to scorn.
    • Ch. 12
  • Spur not an unbroken horse; put not your plowshare too deep into new land.
    • Ch. 25

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