17 January 2011

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes BONUS: A Forgotten Fragment

My exhaustive research on Scott’s Ivanhoe has uncovered the following fragment. Although the author ultimately chose to excise this passage from his text, it gives a clear idea of his singular sense of dramatic pacing and characterful suspense.

Brian de Bois-Guilbert, the morally conflicted Templar, has taken Rebecca hostage, with the intention to rape her. At first, however, he is so struck by her intelligence and beauty that he offers to take her as a mistress, making a comparatively honest woman of her (as a Templar, he’s a Catholic priest), if only she’ll convert. In a series of interviews, Rebecca pleads eloquently for her honor and shows Bois-Guilbert the hypocrisy of his behavior.

He never gets around to raping her, and the following passage may help a reader to understand why.

[Brian de Bois-Guilbert is speaking.]
“Enough, wretched she-dog, I’ll discourse with thee no more, for the generosity of my patience is bounded as this isle of Britain is girt by the sea, and with thy peevish repulsion of my advances, thou art come at last to the Sleeve that wraps itself ’twixt England and France, and the noyade of thy liberty is due. Nay, though the sands drop in the hourglass of my gentle humour, it were not the limitless sands of Palestine but a lesser number, and thou hast marked the fall of the last grain, Jewess.

“Understand me well: I am decided to take thee in concubinage, and were thy words like unto arrows, they would not turn me back, nor would they pierce the armour of my resolve. I shall have that which I must have, if not by sweet argument of reason, then by force of these my arms, that have seen combat with infidels mightier than thou. No more words, Rebecca, but deeds shall henceforth distinguish our intercourse, and the hour of thy submission is at hand. I shall be swift but not hasty; yea, as the falcon doth seize the sparrow in the welkin, so shall I seize thee, roughly and never to let thee go ’til I have torn at thy flesh with my talons and supped ’til I am satiate.

“Think not to cry out, for this citadel is remote from any who might aid thee, and for that thou art a Jewess and I a Templar, there is no Christian would defend thee against the claim of my desire. Mine own ears shall be as stones, insensible to all thine entreaty, and the blows of thy fair hands in protest shall but goad me as spurs to the palfrey on my terrible course. I’ll tilt with thee no more, I say, but trade my tongue for another force, and though my charger is mounted and my lance at the ready, I command the lists to challenge thee in combat main à main and at close quarters, ’til thou dost fall to me.

“Hear me, Jewess? I see thy sweet face doth blench; the black gems of thine eyes shine not, but hide themselves ’neath heavy veils berimmed with sable; a gentle snore escapes thy ruby lips. No matter: I’ll come back tomorrow.”


Prof David Purdie said...

Mr Madison;
I'm the Editor of a new edition of Walter Scott'sIvanhoe, abridged and adapted, I trust, for the attention span of the modern reader - AND with attention to the past participles which energised you.
So, did you yourself write the 'Forgotten Fragment' - if so , my congratulations. Great Stuff !
David Purdie

William V. Madison said...

Professor, I'm prepared to take it as a most special compliment, if indeed you had to ask to be sure whether I wrote the fragment! Thanks for writing.