Three Quotations

(March 10th to 16th)


1. "Strong you think yourself? May your strength be a curse to you to dhrive you into the divil’s hands against your own will! Clear-eyed you are? May your eyes see clear evry step av the dark path you take till the hot cindhers av hell put thim out! May the ragin’ dry thirst in my own ould bones go to you that you shall niver pass bottle full nor glass empty. God preserve the light av your onderstandin’ to you, my jewel av a bhoy, that ye may niver forget what you mint to be an’ do, whin you’re wallowin’ in the muck!" This is from "The Courting of Dinah Shadd" in Life's Handicap.

Mulvaney is recalling how in his youth he was nearly trapped into marrying a worthless girl. Here her mother curses him for rejecting her, a curse that would haunt him and Dinah Shadd for ever after.


2. I was to lead him down th’ ladder-way to th’ drift where Jesse Roantree was workin’, and why shouldn’t he slip on th’ ladder, wi’ my feet on his fingers till they loosed grip, and I put him down wi’ my heel? If I went fust down th’ ladder I could click hold on him and chuck him over my head, so as he should go squshin’ down the shaft, breakin’ his bones at ev’ry timberin’ as Bill Appleton did when he was fresh, and hadn’t a bone left when he wrought to th’ bottom. Niver a blasted leg to walk from Pately. Niver an arm to put round ’Liza Roantree’s waist. Niver no more—niver no more.’ This is from "On Greenhow Hill" in Life's Handicap.

Learoyd remembers how as a young miner he had loved a girl in the hills of Yorkshire. His rival was a preacher of the church, small but quick and fluent, where Learoyd was slow of speech and massive. Here he had brutal imaginings of klling the preacher down in the pit. What he didn't know iwas that his girl was dying. He went for a soldier to forget her.


3. ‘I’m a Tommy—a bloomin’, eight-anna, dog-stealin’ Tommy, with a number instead of a decent name. Wot’s the good o’ me? … I’m on’y a Tommy—a Bloomin’, Gawdforsaken, Beer-swillin’ Tommy. “Rest on your harms—’versed Stan’ at—hease; ’Shun. ’Verse—harms. Right an’ lef’—tarrn. Slow—march. ’Alt—front. Rest on your harms—’versed. With blank-cartridge—’load.” An’ that’s the end o’ me.’ He was quoting fragments from Funeral Parties’ Orders. This is from "The Madness of Private Ortheris" in Plain Tales from the Hills.

Here, in a dark moment, Stanley Ortheris is overcome by feeling that he is worthless, only a Tommy.