Considering Lymond, flat now on the bed in wordless communion with the ceiling, Richard spoke. ‘My dear, you are only a boy. You have all your life still before you.’
On the tortoise-shell bed, his brother did not move. But there was no irony for once in his voice when he answered. ‘Oh, yes, I know. The popular question is, For what?’
"I am telling you now that you did right with Robin Stewart and I am telling you that the error you made came later, when you took no heed of his call. It was too late then, I know it. But he should have been in your mind. He was your man. True for you, you had withdrawn the crutch from his sight, but still it should have been there in your hand, ready for him. For you are a leader - don’t you know it? I don’t, surely, need to tell you? - And that is what leadership means. It means fortifying the fainthearted and giving them the two sides of your tongue while you are at it. It means suffering weak love and schooling it till it matures. It means giving up your privacies, your follies and your leisure.
It means you can love nothing and no one too much, or you are no longer a leader, you are the led.”
"And that, you think, I should find easy," Lymond said; and even to himself his voice sounded odd.
Patriotism, like honesty, is a luxury with a very high face value which is quickly pricing itself out of the spiritual market altogether. …
It is an emotion as well, and of course the emotion comes first. A child’s home and the ways of its life are sacrosanct, perfect, inviolate to the child. Add age; add security; add experience. In time we all admit our relatives and our neighbours, our fellow townsmen and even, perhaps, at last our fellow nationals to the threshold of tolerance. But the man living one inch beyond the boundary is an inveterate foe.
Patriotism is a fine hothouse for maggots. It breeds intolerance; it forces a spindle-legged, spurious riot of colour. A man of only moderate powers enjoys the special sanction of purpose, the sense of ceremony; the echo of mysterious, lost and royal things; a trace of the broad, plain childish virtues of myth and legend and ballad. He wants advancement-what simpler way is there? He’s tired of the little seasons and looks for movement and change and an edge of peril and excitement; he enjoys the flowering of small talents lost in the dry courses of daily life. For all these reasons, men at least once in their lives move the finger which will take them to battle for their country…
Patriotism. It’s an opulent word, a mighty key to a royal Cloud-Cuckoo-Land. Patriotism; loyalty; a true conviction that of all the troubled and striving world, the soil of one’s fathers is noblest and best. A celestial competition for the best breed of man; a vehicle for shedding boredom and exercising surplus power or surplus talents or surplus money; an immature and bigoted intolerance which becomes the coin of barter in the markets of power —
These are not patriots but martyrs, dying in cheerful self-interest as the Christians died in the pleasant conviction of grace, leaving their example by chance to brood beneath the water and rise, miraculously, to refresh the centuries. The cry is raised: Our land is glorious under the sun. I have a need to believe it, they say.
It is a virtue to believe it; and therefore I shall wring from this unassuming clod a passion and a power and a selflessness that otherwise would be laid unquickened in the grave.
And who shall say they are wrong?
There are those who will always cleave to the living country, and who with their uprooted imaginations might well make of it an instrument for good.
Is it quite beyond us in this land? Is there no one will take up this priceless thing and say, Here is a nation, with such a soul; with such talents; with these failings and this native worth? In what fashion can this one people be brought to live in full vigour and serenity, and who, in their compassion and wisdom, will take it and lead it into the path?
Francis Crawford, Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
There it is: Lymond’s entire speech about patriotism. I’ve excised all the expostion — the stage directions, rather: Lymond lacing his fingers and looking at his palms, the cadence of his voice — as well as the one interjection from another character. The first ellipsis indicates where the speech was interrupted briefly, and the rest indicate only important pauses.
While searching for this online (I don’t have my copy of the book right now) I found what appears above as the third paragraph (“a fine hothouse for maggots”) quoted in many, many, many places. The end, though, where Dunnett strikes the ringing blow, starting with “these are not patriots but martyrs” — and let us refrain from a long discussion on the ways in which the rising chord is her usual endpoint, even in Knights and Pawn, that exhortation is her interest as much as criticism — the end was more difficult to find. I was a bit sad that I found as a notable quotable bit the counterexample rather than the argument.
To me, “Who is to say they are wrong?” is the “We are here” of this book — really, I think, “We are here” answers the very question he poses above. “We will work together” answers it. I have said before and will say again, no doubt, how much I love the thesis of this series, raised again and again, unfolded over all those pages: the view of love, of ethics, the soul of man and man as the soul of his nation: the final words of Checkmate are the equal of this, and the response to it. The whole series is in some ways a lovely essay: begin your argument with a question, explore it, meditate on it, and conclude with your answer.
I should do it in any case. It won’t help you," said Scott.
“Nothing ever does. That’s why I help myself so frequently.
Right?" said Lymond. "You pathetic, maladroit nincompoop, you’re never right; but this time you can squat in your misconceptions like duck’s meat in a ditch, and let them choke you.
There is nothing very jolly about being locked in a cellar with a man whom, in every possible sense, you have just stabbed in the back.
15 days of lotr
15. the end
We set out to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me.
Oh, God!" said Molly, and raised heavenly blue eyes to the rafters. "That hair! He was born to wreck us, body and soul, that one.
"Look," Lymond was saying bitterly, "at the dirt on your pauldrons. And your doublet."
"Your sword’s filthy. And your dagger: how d’you expect a rusty blade to bite?"
"… declare—I can’t help that!" said the guard excitedly, abandoning formalities. "Robin! Davie! Move a step and I’ll spit you!"
"Well, if you do," said Lymond resignedly, "for God’s sake use someone else’s sword."
Scott covered a burning eye with one hand. ‘You mean Lymond told you I’d be asking for volunteers to go to Hume with me?’ It was, of course, impossible. He had only decided yesterday to contradict Lymond’s own express orders not to go to the castle.
From the stews and alleyways of Europe with a taste for play acting—yes—and killing and treason and crimes, they say, nameless and enticingly erotic. Haven’t I been worth five years’ excellent gossip to you? Are you not all waiting agog to see me seize my sister-in-law by the hair? When I think of it, damn it, I’m a public benefactor.
I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.
And, long since ashore with his men and his booty, Crawford of Lymond, man of wit and crooked felicities, bred to luxury and heir to a fortune, rode of serenely to Midculter to break into his new sister-in-law’s castle.
If you wish, you may run ahead screaming. It makes no difference now, although five minutes ago we were in something of a hurry…the servants to be tied up…the silver to collect…Richard’s personal hoard to recover from its usual cache. A man of iron habit, Richard.
My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins.