I've been reading Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake to my nine-year-old daughter over the last couple of weeks. I didn't know the first thing about Scott, but I recently read somewhere that Mark Twain hated him. Since I hate Mark Twain, that was all the recommendation I needed.
Wikipedia has a pretty good synopsis of the story. Last night, we reached the point where Roderick Dhu calls the highland Scots to war. The message reaches a young man in the middle of his own wedding procession:
Yet slow he laid his plaid aside,
And, lingering, eyed his lovely bride,
Until he saw the starting tear
Speak woe he might not stop to cheer;
Then, trusting not a second look,
In haste he sped him up the brook,
Nor backward glanced, till on the heath
Where Lubnaig's lake supplies the Teith
-- What in the racer's bosom stirr'd?
The sickening pang of hope deferr'd,
And memory, with a torturing train,
Of all his morning visions vain,
Mingled with love's impatience, came
The manly thirst for martial fame;
The stormy joy of mountaineers,
Ere yet they rush upon the spears;
And zeal for Clan and Chieftain bring,
And hope, from well-fought field returning,
With war's red honors on his crest,
To clasp his Mary to his breast.
Stung by such thoughts, o'er bank and brae,
Like fire from flint he glanced away,
While high resolve, and feeling strong,
Burst into voluntary song.
"The heath this night must be my bed,
The bracken curtain for my head,
My lullaby the warder's tread,
Far, far from love and thee, Mary:
"To-morrow eve, more stilly laid,
My couch may be my bloody plaid,
My vesper song, thy wail, sweet maid!
It will not waken me, Mary!
"I may not, dare not, fancy now
The grief that clouds thy lovely brow,
I dare not think upon thy vow,
And all it promised me, Mary.
"No fond regret must Norman know;
When bursts Clan-Alpine on the foe,
His heart must be like bended bow,
His foot like arrow free, Mary.
"A time will come with feeling fraught,
For, if I fall in battle fought,
Thy hapless lover's dying thought
Shall be a thought on the, Mary.
"And if return'd from conquer'd foes,
How blithely will the evening close,
How sweet the linnet sing repose,
To my young bride and me, Mary!
Φ: "So, what does this passage say?"
Γ: "Mmmm . . . ."
Φ: "What does the young man think about being called away to war?"
Γ: "He's sad."
Φ: "What else does he think?"
Γ: "He wants fame. He wants to get famous by fighting."
Φ: "Wow, good! You're all over it."
Γ: "But why does he want to fight?"
Φ: "Mmmm . . . . It's something boys do, I guess. If you ever marry a soldier, and he's called away to war, this will probably be his attitude. He'll miss you terribly, but he will hunger for the thrill of combat."
Γ: "But, why would he be called away?"
Φ: "Because his clan calls him! His country calls him."
Γ: "So . . . why are we fighting in Afghanistan?"
Φ: "Mmmm . . . . That's a good question. I suppose if the president were here, he'd say that we have to civilize the Pashtuns. He'd say we have to teach them democracy and human rights."
Γ: "Well . . . that sounds like a really dumb reason!"
Φ: "Okay, well, let's not ask anymore questions and just listen to the poem."