Saturday 29 December 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Feast of the Holy Family (Year C)

First reading
Ecclesiasticus 3: 2-6, 12-14

For God haes made the faither honourable tae the bairns:
an seekan the judgment o the mithers, haes confirmit it upon the bairns.
He at luves God, sal be forgien his sins bi prayer,
an sal refrain hissel frae thaim, an sal be haird i the prayer o days.
An he at honours his mither is as ane at gaithers a treisur.
He at honours his faither sal hae joy i his ain bairns,
an i the day o his prayer he sal be haird.
He at honours his faither sal enjoy a lang life:
an he at obeys the faither, sal be a comfort tae his mither.
Son, uphaud the auld age o thy faither,
an dinna fash him i his life;
an gin his wuts fails, hae patience wi him,
an dinna despise him whan thou is i thy strenth:
for the relievin o the faither salna be forgotten.
For guid sal be repaid tae thee for the sin o thy mither.

[Own translation, level 2 (20/12/18) methodology here]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 127: 1-5

Blissit ar thay that sit in Goddis dreid,
And leif in his commandement alway:
Of thy hand laubour thow sail eit, be not feird,
And fair weill thow sal euerie day.

Thy wyfe salbe as ane frutefulle wyne,
And sail weill ay incres thy hous;
Thy bairnis all sail to vertew inclyne,
As fair Oliue treis that be plenteous.

Quhen euer thow sittis at thy tabill,
Thy bairnis sall stand round about thé;
Sa will the Lord make thé abill,
And fill thy hous with honestie:

Sa sall God him euer blis,
That dreidis him ay in his leifing,
Always sall he be sicker of this,
That is neidful to want na thing.

Fra Syone sall the Lord blis thé ,
That thow may sé to thy greit weill,
How prosperous Jerusalem sall be,
And thow ressauit to eternall heill.

Ane profitabill lyfe sail be geuin thé
And God alway sall be thy freind:
Thy Childeris Childring thou sall se,
And peace in Israell sall thow find.

[Complete Psalm 127, from The Gude and Godlie Ballatis [1567] John Wedderburn et al., Alexander Ferrier (ed.) (1897), p.130 here]

Second reading
Colossians 3: 12-21

Pit ye on, than, as chosen anes o’ God, holie and weel-lo’ed, the tender-affections o’ compassion, graciousness, humbleness o’ mind, canniness, patience: tholin ane-anither, in tenderness forgiean ane-anither, gin aiblins ony ane has a compleent again ony; e’en as the Lord oot o’ love forgae you, sae do ye. But ower and aboon a’ thir things, hae ye love, whilk wull bind thegither a’ things in perfeteness. And lat the peace o’ Christ be Regent in yere hearts; till whilk ye war bidden, as ae body; and be ye thankfu’.

Be the word o’ Christ dwallin in ye richly; in a’ wyss teachin and admonishin o’ yersels, in psalms, in hymns, and godly sangs: liltin i’ yere hearts to God in yere gratitude. And in a’ things, whatsae’er ye be doin, in word or in wark, do a’ in the name o’ the Lord Jesus, giean thanks to yere God and Faither throwe him. Wives, submit yersels to yere husbands, as is fittin in the Lord. Husbands, lo’e yere wives, and be-na set again them. Bairns, be ye biddable to yere parents in a’ things, for this is weel-pleasin i’ the Lord. Faithers, wauken-na up ang’er in yere bairns, least they be disheartened.

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Gospel reading
Luke 2: 41-52

Noo his parents gaed yearly to Jerusalem, at the Feast o’ the Pasche. And whan be was twal-year auld, they gaed up to Jerusalem, as was the mainner o’ the Feast. And whan they had fulfilled the days, they returned; but the lad Jesus remained ahint in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mither kent-na. But, supposin him to be wi’ the ithers o’ the company, gaed a day’s journey, and they socht him amang their kin and acquaintance. And whan they faund-him-na, they gaed back to Jerusalem again, seekin him.

And eftir thrie days they faund him i’ the Temple, sittin wi’ the Doctors, baith hearin them and speirin quaistens at them. And a’ that heard him war astonished ayont a’ things at his wisdom and his sayins. And seein him, they ferlied uncolie; and his mother says to him, "Son, why hae ye dune this till us? See! yere faither and I hae lookit for ye in pain!” And he said, “Hoo is’t that ye socht for me? Wist-ye-na, I maun needs be i’ my Faither’s hoose?” And they kent-na the meanin o’ what he spak to them.

And he gaed doon wi’ them, and cam till Nazareth, and obey’t them; but his mither laid up a’ thae things in her heart. And Jesus wax’t in wyssheid, and in stature, and in favor wi' God and wi’ man.

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Tuesday 25 December 2018

Merry Christmas!


Today's Mass readings in Scots here:
Isaiah 9: 1-7
Luke 2: 1-14

Trewly all devote Christin men and women hes gret cause to be blyth in God quhen thai hear this name. . . Eva zit being a virgin, consenting to the devil brocht the maledictioun of God and eternal dede upon us. But the glorious virgin Marie consenting to the messingeir of God restorit us
agane to the benedictioun of God and eternal lyfe. Be Eva than being a virgin disaivit be werkin of the serpent come all our calamities and daily miserie. Be the virgin Marie berand her sonne be wyrkin of the haly Spreit come all our joy and felicitie. Be Eva brekand the command of God, we are borne the sonnis of wraith and damnatioun. Be the virgin Marie submittand herself to God be perfite fayth and obediens we haif resavit Christ Jesus be quhom we ar borne agane the sonnis of God be adoptioun. Eva throch hir pride and disobediens tynt the grace of God quhairfor it was said to hir, In dolore paries filios tuos [In pain you will give birth to your sons]. . . Bot Marie throch hir meiknes fund grace of God and herd thir wordis said to hir, Ave Maria, &c.

[From Archbishop Hamilton's Catechism [1551] (1882), pp.xxvii-xxviii here]

Saturday 22 December 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year C)

First reading
Micah 5: 1-4

[The Laird says this:]
An ye, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
the laest amang the clans o Judah,
oot o ye ane wul cum ti me at is ti be ruler i Israel;
whaes gang oot hae been purposit frae time past,
frae the eternal days.
For this cause he wul gie thaim up
till the time whan she at is wi a bairn haes gien birth:
than the lave o his brithers wul cum back
ti the bairns o Israel.
An he wul tak his place an gie food til his flock
i the strenth o the Laird,
i the glore o the name o the Laird his God;
an thair restin-place wul be sauf: for nou he wul be gret
ti the ends o the yird.
An this wul be oor peace.

[Own translation, level 2 (20/12/18), methodology here]

Responsorial Psalm 
Psalm 79 (80): 2-3, 15-16, 18-19 (resp. v. 3)

Weise us hame again, O God o' hosts; gar yer face gie a glint, an' we're saif'd

Sheep-herd o' Israel, hearken: 
weisin Joseph on like a flock; 
sittin atween the cherubs, 
O will ye no glint furth! 

Weise us hame again, O God o' hosts; gar yer face gie a glint, an' we're saif'd

Hame again, O God o' hosts;
tak a leuk frae the lift, an' see; 
an' visit this vine: an the haddin yer right han' has plantit;
an' the growthe ye made stieve for yersel. 

Weise us hame again, O God o' hosts; gar yer face gie a glint, an' we're saif'd.

O gin yer han' war atowre, on the Man o' yer ain right han'; 
atowre on the ae son o' Adam, for yer ain ye ettled till stan'. 
Syne, frae thee, we suld ne'er fa' awa;
lat us live, an' we'll cry on yer name. 

Weise us hame again, O God o' hosts; gar yer face gie a glint, an' we're saif'd

[From Psalm 80, The Psalms: frae Hebrew intil Scottis P. Hately Waddell (1891) here

Second reading
Hebrews 10: 5-10

Whaur-for, comin intil the warld, he says, 

Sacrifeece and offeran thou willest-na, 
but a body didst thou prepare for me. 
In hail brunt-offerans, and offerans for sins, thou didst-na joy; 
Than said I, "Behauld, I am 
come - (at the heid o’ the buik it is 
written o’ me) - to do thy wull, O God !" 

Aboon, sayin, “Sacrifeeces and offerans, and haill brunt-offerans, and 
offerans for sin thou willest-na, naither didst joy in” - sic as, conform to the Law, are offer’t; than did he say, “Behauld! I am come to do thy wull!” He taks awa the first, that he may mak siccar the second. By the whilk wull we are made holie, tbrowe the offerin o’ the body o’ Jesus Christ ance for a’. 

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here

Gospel reading
Luke 1: 39-44

And i’ thae days, Mary raise, and gaed intil the hill-kintra wi’ haste, intil a citie o’ Judah; and enter’t intil the hoose o’ Zechariab, and salutit Elizabeth. And it cam aboot that as Elizabeth heard Mary’s salutation, the bairn in her womb rejoiced; and Elizabeth was fu' o’ the Holie Spirit, and raised her voice in lood exclamation, and said, “ Happy ye amang weemen! and blest is the frute o’ yere womb! And for what is this come to me, that the mither o’ my Lord soud come tae me? For behauld! as sune as the voice o’ yere salutation cam to my hearin, the bairn lap i’ my womb for joy. And happy she wha lippen’d! for thar sal be comin to pass o’ thae things spoken to her frae the Lord.”

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Saturday 15 December 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Third Sunday of Advent (Year C)

First reading
Zephaniah 3: 14-18

Mak melodie, O dochter o Sion;
gie a loud cry, O Israel;
be gled an lat yer hert be ful o joy,
O dochter o Jerusalem.
The Laird haes taen awa thaim at wes judgin ye,
he haes sent yer ill-wullers far awa:
the keing o Israel, e'en the Lord, is amang ye:
ye wul hae nae mair feir o evil.
I thon day it wul be said til Jerusalem,
hae nae feir: O Sion, latna yer haunds be wauch.
The Laird yer God is amang ye,
as a strang saviour:
he wul be gled ower ye wi joy,
he wul mak his luve new agen,
he wul mak a sang o joy ower ye
as i the time o a halie fest.

[Own translation: level 2 (version 8/12/18) methodology described here]

Responsorial Psalm
Isaiah 12: 2-6

Aye, God he's my stoop fu' strang;
I sal lippen, an' nane be fley'd:
for the Lord Jehovah's my strenth an' sang;
an' a stoop till me ay he sal bide.
Fu' blythely syne, as ye sloke yer drouth,
frae wal-ees o' welcome deep eneugh;

Ay sal ye say, intil siccan a day,
Till the Lord gie ye laud wi' a sugh!
Make a sugh o' his name;
an till folk far awa, gar tell the fame o' his warks sae braw;
mak record o' the same,
for that name o' his ain it's abune them a'.

O laud the Lord for sic wark wi' his han';
it's weel eneugh kent athort a' the lan'.
Lilt an' be blythe, wha at Zioun kythe;
for mighty eneugh, i' the mids o' yersel, is Himlane that's fu' lown intil Israel!

[From Isaiah frae Hebrew intil Scottis, by P. Hately Waddell 1879 (Amazon US here; Amazon UK here)]

Second reading
Philippians 4: 4-7

Be glad i’ the Lord aye; and again I say, “Be glad!” Lat yere reasonableness be kent to a’ men: the Lord is at haun. For naething be ye trauchl’t i’ yere minds; but in a’ things by prayer and supplication, wi’ gean o’ thanks, lat yere needs be made kent to God. And the peace o’ God that is aboon a’ oor thocht, sal keep yere hearts and yere thochts in Christ Jesus.
[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Gospel reading
Luke 3: 10-18

And the pepile askit him, and said, "Quhat than sal we do?" He ansuerd and said to thame, "He that has ij cotis, geue to him that has nane; and he that has metis, do in like maner." And puplicanis com to be baptizit, and thai said to him, "Maistire, quhat sal we do?" And he said to thame, "Do ye nathing maire than that that is ordanit to you." And knychtis askit him, and said, "Quhat sal alsa we do?" And he said to thame, "Smyte ye wrangwislie na man, nouthir mak ye fals challange; and be ye contentit with your souldis."

Quhen al the pepile gessit, and almen thoucht in thar hartis of Johnne, or perauenture he war Crist; Johnne ansuerd and said to almen, "I baptize you in watire; bot a mychtiare than I sal cum eftir me, of quham I am nocht worthie to louse the thwang of his schoone: he sal baptize yow in the Haligast and fire: quhais windewing clathe is in his hand, and he sal purge his cornflure, and sal gader the quhete into his berne; but the caffis he sal birne with fire vnsloknabile." And mony vthir thingis alsa he spak and prechit to the pepile.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Saturday 8 December 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Second Sunday of Advent (Year C)

Gospel reading
Luke 3: 1-6

In the XV yere of the impire of Tiberie Cesare, quhen Pilat of Pounce gouernit Judee, and Herode was prince of Galilee, and Phillip his bruther was prince of Iturie and of the cuntre of Traconye, and Lysanye was prince of Abiline, vndir the princis of preestis, Annas and Caiphas, the word of the Lord was made on Johnne, the sonn of Zacharie in desert. And he com into al the cuntre of Jordan, and prechit baptyme of pennance into remissioun of synnys; as it is writtin in the buke of the wordis of Esaie the prophet,

The voce of a criere in desert,
Mak ye reddy the way of the Lord,
mak ye his roddis richt.
Ilk valey salbe fulfillit,
and euiry hill and litil hill salbe made law;
and schrewit thingis salbe into dressit thingis,
and scharp thingis into playn wayis;
And euiry flesch sal se the heil of God.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Sunday 2 December 2018

Mass readings in Scots: First Sunday of Advent (Year C)


Second reading
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

And the Lord multiplie you, and mak your charitee to be plenteouse of ilk to vthir, and into almen, as alsa we in you; that your hartis be confermit without playnt in halynes, before God and our fadere, in the cummyng of our Lord Jesu Crist with all his Sanctis. Amen.

Tharfor, brether, hyne forwart we pray you, and beseke in the Lord Jesu, that as ye haue resauet of vs, how it behuvis you to ga and to plese God, sa walk ye, that ye abonnd the maire. For ye wat quhat comandmentis I haue gevin to you be the Lord Jesu.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1903) vol 2 here]

Gospel reading
Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

[Jesus said to his discipilis:] "And taknis salbe in the sonn and moone, and in the sternis; and in erde the ouirlaying of folkis, for confusioun of the sound of the see and of fludes: for men sal wax dry for dreed and abiding that sal cum to al the warld; for the virtues of heuenis salbe mouet. And than thai sal se mannis sonn cumming in a cloude, with gret power and maiestee. Ande quhen thir thingis begynnis to be made, behald ye, and raise ye your hedis; for your redemptioun neres.

"Bot tak ye hede to your self, or perauentur your hart be grevit with glotony, and drunkinnes, and besynes of this lif, and that ilk day cum sodanlie on you. For as a girn it sal cum on almen that sittis on the face of all erde. Tharfore walk ye, prayand in al tyme, that ye be had worthi to flee al thir thingis that ar to cum, and to stand before mannis sonn."

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Saturday 24 November 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Final Sunday of the Year, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King (Year B)

Gospel reading
John 18: 33-37

Than Pilate gaed intil the Judgment ha’ again, and ca’d Jesus, and quo' he to him, "Are ye the King o’ the Jews?” Jesus answer’t, “Say ye this o’ yere ain sel, or did ithers tell ye me?” Quo’ Pilate, "Am I a Jew? Yere ain folk and the Heigh-priests hae gien ye up to me: what hae ye dune?” Jesus answer’t, "My Kingdom isna o’ this warld: gin my Kingdom was o’ this warld, my servants wad fecht, that I soudna be gien up to the Jews: but noo is my Kingdom no frae here?” Quo’ Pilate to him, "Are ye a King, than?” Jesus answer’t, "Ye weel say I am a King. For this end was I born, and for this end cam I to the warld, to gie witness o’ the truth. Ilka ane wha is o’ the Truth hears my voice.”

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Sunday 18 November 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Thirty-third Sunday of the Year (Year B)

First reading
Daniel 12: 1-3

"An at thon time Michael will tak up his place, the great angel, wha is the supporter o the children o yer people: an thare will be a time o trouble, such as thare niver wis from the time thare wis a nation e'en till thon same time: an at thon time yer people will be kept safe, everyone wha is recordit i the Book. An a number o thae wha are sleepin i the dust o the yird will come oot o their sleep, some tae eternal life an some tae eternal shame. An thae wha are wise will be shinin like the licht o the outstretchit sky; an thae bi whom numbers have been turnit tae richteousness will be like the stars for iver an iver."

[Own translation, level 1, 5/11/21. Methodology here]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 15 (16): 5, 8-11, (resp. v.1)

Waird me weel, O God, I lippen till yerlane.

The Lord himsel's the fow o' my ha'din an' my caup; 
my luck yerlane hae lucken'd.
The Lord evirmair hae I set fornenst mysel:
for he's at my right han', I sal ne'er be sair steerit.

Waird me weel, O God, I lippen till yerlane.

Wharthro' my heart 's fu' fain, an' my gudeliheid fu' blythe is: 
na, my vera bouk itsel bides in tryst.
For my saul ye winna lea' i' the lang hame dead; 
ye winna gie yer dearest ane till see the sheugh o' dule.

Waird me weel, O God, I lippen till yerlane.

Yersel sal gar me ken the vera gate o' life
rowth o' joies afore thy face is; 
pleasurs thrang at thy right han' evir mair.

Waird me weel, O God, I lippen till yerlane.

Second reading
Hebrews 10: 11-14, 18

Ilka priest stans ilka day, meenisterin an offerin ower an ower again e same aul sacrifeeces att can dee naethin tae tak awa ill-deeins. Bit iss Chiel efter he hid offert the ae sacrifeece for ill-deeins for ivver, sat himsel doon at e richt han o God, far he wytes till his faes are made intill his fitsteel. Throw att ae offerin, he's made perfeck for aa time ilka een fa he maks haily. E Haily Speerit himsel confirms iss till hiz, fan he says ov aa,

            'Iss is e covenant A'll mak wi them efter att days, says e Lord;
             A'll pit ma laas on their herts
             An scrieve them inno their minds'.

An syne he says,

            'An their ill-deeins an coorseness A'll myn nae mair aboot'.

Sae fan ill-deeins hiv been forgien, there's nae need for ony mair offerins.

[From The Doric New Testament (2012), rendered in Doric by Gordon M. Hay, published by G. M. Hay, Longside, ISBN 978-0-9573515-0-9, author's website, Amazon UK here, Amazon US here.]

Gospel reading
Mark 13: 24-32

[Jesus said to his disciples:] “But in thae days, eftir that dool and stour, the sun sal be darken’t, and the mune sanna gie oot her licht, and the starns sal fa’ frae the lift, and the pooers abune sal be shaken. And than sal they see the Son o’ Man comin i’ the clude, wi’ unco pooer and glorie. And than sal he send oot his Angels, and sal gaither thegither his chosen anes frae the fowr winds, frae the ootermaist pairt o’ the yirth to the ootermaist o’ heeven.

“Noo learn ye a parable frae the fig-tree: whane’er her branch is bein ten’er, and the leaves comin on, ye ken simmer is nar-haun; sae ye, whane’er ye see thir things comin on, tak tent that it is nar -at the vera doors! Truly say I t’ye, this generation passes-na awa, till a’ thir things sal be! Heeven and Yirth sal pass awa; but my words sal-na pass awa!

“But, o’ that day and that ’oor kens nane; no e’en the angels in Heeven; nor the Son; but the Faither."

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Saturday 10 November 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Thirty-second Sunday of the Year (Year B)

First reading
1 Kings 17:10-16

And he rase and yede into Sarepta of Sidonijs. And quhen he had cummin to the yet of the citee, a woman wedou gaderand stickis apperit to him, and he callit hir, and said to hir, "Geue thou to me a litil of watir in a veschell, that I drink." And quhen scho yede to bring, he crijt behind hir bak, and said, "I beseke, bring thou to me alsa a morsele of brede in thi hand." And scho ansuerde, "Thi Lord God leevis, for I haue na brede, nocht bot als mekile of mele in a pot as a neef may tak, and a lidl of oile in a veschell: lo! I gader ij stickis, that I entir and mak it to me, and to my sonn, that we ete and dee." And Helie said to hir, "Will thou nocht dreed, bot ga, and mak as thou said. Neuirtheles, mak thou first to me of that litil mele a litil brede bakin vndir assis, and bring thou to me; suthlie thou sal mak eftirwart to the and to thi sonn." Forsuthe the Lord God of Israel sais thir thingis, 

'The pot of mele sal nocht failye, 
and the veschel of oile sal nocht be made lesse,
till to the day in quhilk the Lord sal geue 
ra3m on the face of the erde.' 

And scho yede and did be the word of Helie; and he ete, and scho, and hir hous: and fra that day the pot of mele failyeit nocht, and the veschel of oile was nocht slakit, be the word of the Lord quhilk he had spokin in the hand of Helie.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1905) vol 3, pp.307-8 here]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 145 (146): 7-10 (resp. v.2)

Gie laud till the Lord, O my saul!

[It is the Lord] wha bides by the trewth evir mair:
wha rights amang sair-tholin folk; 
wha ay ettles bread for the hungry, 
the Lord lats the thirl-bun' gang.

Gie laud till the Lord, O my saul!

The Lord, he can lighten the blin'; 
the Lord, he can straught the twa-fauld; 
the Lord loes the rightous weel:
The Lord keeps haud o' the frem; 

Gie laud till the Lord, O my saul!

the orph'lin an' widow, he stoops; 
bot the gate o' ill-doers, he dings.
The Lord sal be King for ay! 
That God o' yer ain, O Zioun, is frae ae folk's time till anither: 
Laud till the Lord gie ye!

Gie laud till the Lord, O my saul!

[From Psalm 146, The Psalms: frae Hebrew intil Scottis P. Hately Waddell (1891) here]

Second reading
Hebrews 9: 24-28

For no intil Holies made-wi’-hauns did Christ gang in -that war but figures o’ the true Holies- but
intil Heeven itsel, noo to come plainly afore the face o’ God for us. Nor yet that aft-times soud he
be offerin his sel ; like as the Heigh-priest enters the Holie-Place, year by year, wi’ ithers’ blude. Else had it been needfu’ for him aften to suffer, frae the beginnin a’ the warld. But noo, ance at the end o’ the time has he been schawn, for the settin-by o’ sin, throwe his sacrifeece. And, inasmuckle as it is laid up for men ance to dee, and eftir this the Judgment, sae Christ, haein ance for a’ been offer’t, and carry’t the sin o’ mony, sal appear a second time, apairt frae sin, to thae that fain wait for him, for their salvation.

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Gospel reading
Mark 12: 38-44

And in his teachin, [...] Jesus said, “Tak tent o' the Scribes! wha like to gang aboot in lang goons, and lo’e compliments i’ the merkits,  and preferred seats i’ the kirk, and heid places at feasts: wha devoor weedows’ hames, and i’ their deceit mak lang prayers: thir sal hae the deeper condemnation.”

And he set his sel doon fornent the Treasury; and a hantle o’ them that war rich cuist in muckle. And thar cam ane, a puir weedow; and she cuist in twa mites, that mak a fardin. And he ca’d till him his ain disciples, and quo’ he, “Truly say I t’ye, this puir weedow has cuisten in mair than a’ they that are castin intil the Treasury. For a’ they, oot o’ their owercome hae cuisten in; but she oot o’ her poortith did cast in a’ she had -e’en a’ her leevin!”

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Wednesday 7 November 2018

On not being sure what to say: parrhesia and the entertainment society

Watching the last episode of The Walking Dead, I was struck by how declamatory the acting had become: character after character would give a short speech revealing what they were thinking or just what their character was. This may well be simply a sign of writing that has lost its way, but nevertheless performance is, essentially, about making transparent characters: if someone or something cannot be observed by an audience, then it is not a performance. Even more subtle writing has to reveal in some way what a character is about, even if the character within the work is unaware of this herself.

I am increasingly struck by how our cultural world is dominated by the entertainer as paradigm. In particular, the concept of performance and transparency in speech dominates an awful lot of our interactions. Quite apart from explicit references, the concept of parrhesia seems to be behind much that we value online and personally. Putting aside more careful analyses, the idea of free and truthful speech is one that seems to serve as an ideal (we aim for it) and as a description (our speech is regarded as free and truthful and we are held to account on that basis). Twitter is particularly bad (or clear) here. Academics and commentators declaim certain truth; others are held to account on the basis of what they have said, quite apart from any protestations of other intentions or simple confusion.

And that's all rather odd because, in most of our lives, most of what we say doesn't express or reveal anything important about ourselves or the world. We mumble; we say things simply for the sake of saying them. We have no idea what we said and even less of why we said it. The daily currency of speech is less parrhesia as some ideal of authentic expression and much more the apology, forgetfulness and the shrug: 'What did I say? Good grief: I have no idea why I said that.' Part of what is going on here is the opacity of our selves to ourself: only in a society dominated by the idea of performance would that opacity be overlooked or wished away.

In Catholic practice, one of the chief ways out of the muddied self is through speaking revealed text: we find ourselves most truly ourselves by uttering, for example, the psalms in the Daily Office rather than expressing whatever feverish thoughts are clogging up our brains. Secular society ought not to recognise the possibility of inspired speech and yet it seems perversely committed to its existence and indeed its universality: we are all prophets; we are all authentic truth tellers -or at least, we should be held to those standards. But why? As Plato might put it, in the absence of divine inspiration (as in the Ion) or without the long, hard process of philosophical illumination (as in the Republic), why should we expect ordinary speech by the ordinary to be much more than empty sounds?

If this is anything like right, then we need a profound cultural shift, certainly online, but more generally, to taking speech lightly. Most of what is said, in most fora, is babble. To create worthwhile parrhesia is extremely difficult and part of intellectual life should be constantly to remind ourselves of this essential human failure. Instead, we seem set on a path where we forget the muddiedness of ourselves and the consequent muddiedness of our utterances, and instead strut around convinced of our transparency and the importance of our speech.

Saturday 3 November 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Thirty-first Sunday of the Year (Year B)

First reading
Deuteronomy 6: 2-6

[Moses said tae the people:] "Sae that, leevin in the fear o the Laird yer God, ye haud aw his laws an his orders A gie ye: yersel an yer son an yer son's son, aw the days o yer life; an sae that yer life is lang. Sae tak tent, O Israel, an mynd an dae this; sae that it is weel for ye, an ye is unco eikit, as the Laird the God o yer faithers haes gien ye his wird, in a laund fleetin wi milk an hinny.

"Tak tent, O Israel: the Laird oor God is ae Laird: an the Laird yer God is tae be luved wi aw yer hert an wi aw yer saul an wi aw yer strenth. Haud thir wirds A say tae ye this day deep in yer herts."

[From The Old Testament in Scots, vol. 1, The Pentateuch, [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Nummers, Deuteronomy] trans. Gavin Falconer and Ross G. Arthur (2014) (translation into Plain Scots under the auspices of the Ullans Academy) ISBN 978-1-78324-005-0. Amazon US here. Amazon UK here.]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 17: 2-4, 47, 51

A will gie ye ma luve, O Laird, ma strenth.
The Laird is ma Fundament, ma wawed toun an ma saviour;
ma God, ma Fundament, in him A will pit ma faith;
ma breestplate, an the horn o ma salvation an ma heich touer.
A will cry on the Laird, that is tae be ruised;
sae will A be sauft frae ma unfreends.

The Laird is leevin; ruise be tae ma Fundament,
an lat the God o ma salvation be honourt.
Great salvation he gies tae his keeng;
he haes mercy on the keeng o his wale, Dauvit, an on his strynd for aye.

[From The Old Testament in Scots, vol. 3, The Books of Wisdom, [Job, Psaums, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sang o Sangs] trans. Gavin Falconer and Ross G. Arthur (2014) (translation into Plain Scots under the auspices of the Ullans Academy) ISBN 978-1-78324-006-7. Amazon US here. Amazon UK here.]

Second reading
Hebrews 7: 23-28

And truly, in lairger numbers hae they been made priests, for that on accoont o’ death they coudna bide; but he, in that he bides for aye, ever-constant hauds the priesthood. Sae is he able to sauf to a’ extremitie thae that come throwe him to God; leevin aye, to intercede in their behauf.

For siccan a Heigh-Priest as this for us was aye meet, wha was holie, innocent, uncorrupt, sindry frae sinners, and made to be aboon the heevens. Wha has nae need, day by day, to be offerin up sacrifeeces, like thae Heigh-priests, for his ain sins, and than for thae o’ the folk. For this he did, ance for a’, whan his ain sol he offer’t! For the Law appointit men Heigh-priests. haein weakness; but the word o’ the aith-takin (whilk was eftir the Law) appoints the Son, wha is consecrate for evermair.
 [From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Gospel reading
Mark 12: 28-34

An stannin, lïstenin tae whut wus gaun on, wus yin o tha maistèrs o tha Laa. He heerd whut a guid answer Jesus haed gien, an he axt hïm thïs: "O aa tha commauns, whut yin ïs tha maist impoartin?" An Jesus answert bak, "Tha maist impoartin ïs thïs: 'An tak heed, O Israel, tha Loard oor God ïs tha yin an onlie God, an ye maun love tha Loard yer God wi aa yer hairt an yer sowl, an aa yer mine, micht an main!' [Thïs ïs tha furst commaun.] An tha saicont yin ïs thïs: 'Ye maun love yer nighber jist as much as yersel.' Nae ither commauns ïs abain these twa." An tha maistèr o tha Laa saed tae hïm, "Weel saed, Maistèr,  ït's tha truith ye spake, fer thair ïs yin God, an nane ither but hïm! An tae love God wi aa yer hairt an mine, micht an main, an yer nighber as yersel, ïs mair impoartin than aa tha brunt offerins an secryfices ye cud mak!" Whaniver Jesus heerd tha sense tha man wus taakin, he saed tae hïm, "Ye ir no faur awa frae tha Kïngdom o God!" Eftèr that, naebodie wud dar pit onie mair questions tae hïm.

[From Tha Fower Gospels  (2016) (Ulster-Scots), Ullans Press, ISBN: 978-1-905281-25-1, Amazon UK here,  Amazon US here.)]

Thursday 1 November 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Feast of All Saints

First reading
Apocalypse 7: 2-4, 9-14

And I [Jhone] saw ane vthir angele ascending fra the rijsing of the sonn, that had a signe of the leevand God. And he crijt with gret voce to the iiij angelis, to quhilkis it was gevin to noy the erde, and the see, and said, Will ye nocht noy the erd, and the see, nouthir treis, till we mark the seruandis of our God in the foirhedis of thame. And I herd the nowmir of men that war markit, ane hundreth thousand and xliiii thousand markit, of euiry lynage of the sonnis of Israel.

Eftir thir thingis I saw a gret peple, quham na man mycht novmir, of al folkis, and linages, and pepilis, and langages, standing befoir the throne, in the sicht of the lamb; and thai war clethit with quhite stolis, and palmes war in the handis of thame. And thai crijt with gret voce, and said, Hele to ur God, that sittis on the throne, and to the lamb. And al angelis stude al about the throne, and the eldermen, and the iiii beestis. And thai fell doun in the sicht of throne, on thar faces, and wirschippit God, and said, Amen! Blessing, and cleirnes, and wisdome, and doing of thankingis, and honour, and virtue, and strenth to our God, into warldis of warldis. Amen.

And aan of the seniouris ansuerd, and said to me, Quha ar thir, that ar clethit with quhite stoolis? and quharfra com thai? And I said to him, My lord, thou wate. And he said to me, Thir ar thai, that com fra gret tribulatioun, and weschit thar stolis, and made thame quhite in the blude of the lamb.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1905) vol 3 here]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 23: 1-6

The yirth is the Lord's, an' the fu'niss o't:
the warld, an' thaye that dwall therin.
For he heth fuundet it apon the seis,
an' sete it siccer apon the fludes.

Wha sall gae up intil the hill o' the Lord?
an' wha sall stan' in his haly plece?
He that heth cleen han's, an' ane pure hairt;
wha hethna liftet up his saul untill vainitie, nar swurn wrangouslie.

He sail receife the blessin' frae the Lord,
an' richteousniss frae the God o' his salvatione.
This is the ganæratian o' thame that seik him;
that seik thy fece, O God o' Jacob. Selah.

[From Psalm 24, The Book of Psalms in Lowland Scots Henry Scott Riddell (1857) here]

Second reading
1 John 3: 1-3

Se ye quhat manir charitee the fadir gaue to vs,
that we be namet the sonnis of God,
and be his sonnis.
For this thing the warld knew nocht vs,
for it knew nocht him.
Maast dere brethir, now we ar the sonnis of God,
and yit it apperit nocht, quhat we salbe.
We wate, that quhen he sal appere,
we salbe like him,
for we sal se him as he is.
And ilkman that has this hope in him,
makis him self haly, as he is haly.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1905) vol 3 here]

Gospel reading
Matthew 5: 1-12

An’ seein’ the multituds [Jesus] gaed up intill ane mountan, an’ whan he had sat doun, his discipels cam’ untill him. An’ he openet his mooth an’ taucht them sayin’:

"Blisset ar the puir in speerit:
for theirs is the kingdoom o’ heæven.
Blisset ar they that murn:
for they sall be comfortet.
Blisset ar the meik:
for they sall inherit the yirth.
Blisset ar they that do hunger an’ thirst efter richtiousniss:
for they sall be fillet.
Blisset ar the mercifu’:
for they sall obteen mercie.
Blisset аr the pure in hairt;
for they sall see God.
Blisset ar the peace-makers:
for they sall be ca’t the childer o’ God.
Blisset аr they whilk аr persecutet for richtiousniss’ sak’:
for theirs is the kingdoom o’ heæven.

"Blisset ar ye whan men sall misca’ yow, an’ persecute yow, an’ sall say a’ kinkind o’ ill agayne yow fauselie, for my sak’. Rejoice an’ be excessiv glad: for grit is your reward in heæven: for sae persecutet they the prophets whilk wer afore yow."

[From The Gospel of St. Matthew in Lowland Scotch, from the English Authorised Version. By H. S. Riddell (1856) here]

Saturday 27 October 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Thirtieth Sunday of the Year (Year B)

Gospel reading
Mark 10: 46-52

And they cam tae Jericho; and as he gaed oot o’ Jericho wi’ his disciples and a hantle o’ folk, the son o’ Timeus, blin’ Bartimeus, the beggar, was sittin by the way. And whan he heard it was Jesus o’ Nazareth, he begude to cry oot, “Jesus, thou Son o' Dauvid! hae thou mercy on me!” And mony flytit on him, that he sud be quate. But he cry’t sae muckle the mair, an unco deal, “Thou Son o’ Dauvid! hae mercy on me!” And Jesus stude still, and said, “Ca' ye him !” and they ca’d the blin’ man, sayin, “Cheer up! Rise! He's ca’in ye!” And he, thrawin aff his manteel, sprang up, and cam to Jesus. And Jesus, answerin him, says, “What wad ye that I soud do till ye?” And the blin’ man said, “Lord! that I may hae my sicht!” And Jesus said to him, “Gang yere ways! yere faith has made ye hale!” And forthwith he gat his sicht, and follow’t Jesus.

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Sunday 21 October 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Twenty-ninth Sunday of the Year (Year B)

First reading
Isaiah 53: 10-11

Bot sic weight, was the will o' the Lord till lay on him:
Gin his life be eneugh till hae-by wi' our sin,
a seed he sal see sal live lang eneugh in him;
an' ay in his han's the Lord's pleasur sal win.

O' his ain life-lang tholin,
he sa see, an' be willin:
the better he's kenned, this leal-man o' my ain; the mae he sal redd frae the wrang that's ontil them:
for the wyte o' their fauts, he sal carry't himlane.

[From Isaiah 53: 13-14, Isaiah frae Hebrew intil Scottis, by P. Hately Waddell 1879 (Amazon US here; Amazon UK here)]

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 32: 4-5, 18-20, 22

For right is the Lord's ain word;
an' ilk wark o' his ain's intil truth.
The right he lo'es, an' right-rechtin a';
the gude o' the Lord the yirth fu'fills.

Bot, the ee o' the Lord's on wha fear himsel,
on wha lippen a' till his likan:
Till redd out their saul frae diean-dune;
an' in dearth, till haud them thrivan.

Our life's but a tryst on the Lord;
our stoop an' our schild is he.
Lat yer luve be atowre us, Lord,
sae lang's we lippen till thee.

[From Psalm 33, The Psalms: frae Hebrew intil Scottis P. Hately Waddell (1891) here]

Second reading
Hebrews 4: 14-16

Tharfor we that haue a gret bischop, that persit heuenis, Jesu, the sonn of God, hald we the confessioun of oure hope. For we haue nocht a bischop, that may nocht haue compassioun on our infirmiteis bot was temptit be althingis be liknes, without synn. Tharfore go we with traist to the throne of his grace, that we get mercy, and find grace in couenabile help.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1903) vol 2 here]

Gospel reading
Mark 10: 35-45

And James and Johnne, Zebedeis sonnis, com to him, and said, "Maister, we will that quhat euir we ask thou do to vs." And he said to thame, "Quhat will ye that I do to you?" And thai said, "Graunt to vs that we sitt, that on [on] thi richt half, and that vthir on thi lift half, in thi glorie." And Jesus said to thame. "Ye wate nocht quhat ye ask: may ye drink the cup quhilk I sal drink? or be weschin with the baptyme in quhilk I am baptisit?" And thai said to him, "We may." And Jesus said to thame, "Ye sal drink the cup that I drink; and ye salbe weschin with the baptyme in quhilk I am baptizit: bot to sit at my richt half or lift ha[lf i]s nocht myn to gefe to you, bot to quhilk it is made reddie."

And the ten herd, and began to haue indignatioun of James and Johnne. Bot Jesus callit thame, and said to thaim, "Ye wate that thai that ar sene to haue princehede of folkis ar lordis of thame; and the princis of thame has powere of thame. Bot it is nocht sa amang you: bot quhaeuir wilbe made gretare, salbe your mynistere; and quhaeuir wilbe the first amang you, salbe the seruand of all. For quhy mannis sonn com nocht that it suld be ministerit to him, bot that he suld minister, and gefe his lif aganebying for mony."

 [From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Friday 19 October 2018

Review of Barbara Ehrenreich's 'Living with a Wild God'

I bought Ehrenreich's Living with a Wild God a while back frankly because it was, at the time, on one of those cheap offers from Kindle. I put off reading it because I expected a rather dreary account of spirituality from a secularised liberal -and, at least in part, that's what it is.

Most of the book, however, is a relatively straightforward account of the adolescence of a very smart, but unhappy girl. That makes it sound rather banal and indeed it is. Ehrenreich's parents are, cutting through the fluff, opinionated and irresponsible drunks. Coupled with the social tensions unleashed on America in the fifties and sixties, this makes for a narrative that is rather comforting in its familiarity: they eff you up, your mom and pop, but you're smart enough to escape (sort of). That said, I enjoyed this part. Ehrenreich writes well (albeit in that seamless, overly perfect style of the MFA teacher/professional writer determined to leave nothing thought unwritten or unsold). It works well as a coming of age narrative, and that was rather a relief after what I thought I was going to get.

But God does get a part, although rather a bit part compared to Barbara Ehrenreich's. His first walk on appearance is in her teenage years where, apparently prompted by lack of sleep and a stressful long drive, she has a vision of the world denuded of human meaning. (A bit like Sartre's  Nausea but without the nausea.) His second appearance is in late middle age where, having moved to the wilds of Florida, she starts to appreciate the extreme Otherness of wild creatures, particularly the dangerous ones. What appears to connect the two is a sense of an Otherness in the universe beyond Ehrenreich's adolescent solipsism: not exactly a God, but the hint of other entities or forces that are at least analogous to intelligences. (Another step in this process -and perhaps another walk on part for the deity- is in her recognition in her twenties of the real existence of other human minds in her increasing sense of social injustice and individual suffering which leads to a life of progressive activism.)

I can think of many worse ways of spending a few hours than reading this book. It offers the satisfaction both of a well written Bildungsroman and an insight into at least a version of the modern 'spirituality not religion' secularised mindset. What irritated me about it was that, despite the title, the God encountered is so very domesticated, so very Ehreneiched. Partly this is a result of the overcrafted style: every experience has been digested and transformed into well-formed, tasteful prose. But more important is the substantive expectedness of the Other encountered. Perhaps if you're a materialist and chemical biologist by training, it seems very daring, very wild to think of anything beyond molecules and gravity and exceptionless laws of nature. So when you find yourself talking like this, it's impossible to think of yourself as anything other than the edgiest kid on the block:

We have, in other words, made ourselves far lonelier than we have any reason to be. My adolescent solipsism is incidental compared to the collective solipsism our species has embraced for the last few centuries in the name of modernity and rationality, a worldview in which there exists no consciousness or agency other than our own, where nonhuman animals are dumb mechanisms, driven by instinct, where all other deities and spirits have been eliminated in favor of the unapproachable God of monotheism...
You first have to revise the question. To ask why is to ask  for a motive or a purpose, and a motive has to arise from an apparatus capable of framing an intention, which is what we normally call a mind. Thus the question why is always really the question who.
Since we have long since outgrown the easy answer -God- along with theism of any kind, we have to look for our who within what actually exists. No one is saying that the universe, as an entity, is alive, and certainly not that it has motives or desires. But the closer and more carefully we probe, the more it seethes with what looks like life...

(From the final chapter.)

 A mystery recognised, but then immediately reduced to something untroubling (not theism, not monotheism, not even polytheism) and frankly rather babbling in the way that a peasant might babble that the world was made out of rotting cheese. And who again is this 'us'? Who beyond the select circle of Enlighted Democrats would be surprised to discover that animals have desires and mental content, at least at the level of sometimes wanting to eat 'us'? Would Catholics be surprised at a world filled with saints, angels and demons? Would classical theists be content with the sort of Nobodaddy that Ehrenreich imagines and rejects rather than the 'what we call God' of the Quinque Viae? And never mind anything about Romanticism, or Spinoza or Schopenhauer: just Ehrenreich. A bit surprised because she and her circle are a bit surprised, but not too much surprised because the Other isn't really anything more than 'algorithms' but apparently ones with an 'unquenchable playfulness' (final chapter again) however that is supposed to work.

I have a tendency to snark and it's probably not helping here. But there's almost no indication that, it having occurred to her that the world is infested with non-human mind, she then does the obvious thing of looking carefully at what previous human minds have said about that (quickly flipping through the Upanishads as a fifteen year old doesn't count) or at least acknowledging that others have said an awful lot on this which she simply hasn't grappled with. Instead the purported wildness of this discovery becomes simply a trophy to be displayed on her cultural wall. Not only, she seems to say, do I inhabit this comfortable apartment with all modern amenities, but I am also superior to you because I acknowledge the Wild. And there it is, decapitated, labelled, and hung over my woodburning stove.

(For another view, The Guardian review is here.)

Saturday 13 October 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Twenty-eighth Sunday of the Year (Year B)

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 90 (89) 12-17 (resp. v.14)

O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be.

 Thine angir’s pour, O, wha can tell?
’Tis marrow tae thy fear.
Tae count our days syne teach us, sae
Our herts may win sic lear.

O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be.

O Lord, hou lang or Thou come back
Tae them at miss thee sair?
O, haud Thy haun frae Thine ain fowk
An, in Thy píty, spare.

O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be.

Fu sune wi rowth o mercy sweet,
O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be
Til aa our days be spent.

O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be.

For aa the weary days at we
In dool an dolour lay,
An aa the years at ill befel,
Oh mak us gled, we pray.

O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be.

Lat aa Thy fowk at thirldom ken
But líve Thy wark tae see,
An tae their bairns a gudely sicht
O Thine ain glorie gíe.

O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be.

Syne let the glamour o the Lord,
Our God, upò us faa;
An siccar mak our warks o haun,
Ay, siccar mak thaim aa.

O, mak our sauls content;
Syne sal we lilt an blithesum be.

[From Psalm 90Worship in Scots, 'Psalms for Singing' Church of Scotland resource accessed 11/02/22), Thomas Thomson Alexander (1881 – 1945).]

Second reading
Hebrews 4: 12-13

For the word of God is quick, and spedy in wurking, and mare abile to perse than ony ii egget suerde, and strekis to the departing of the saule and of the spirit, and of the iunctouris and merchis, and rof thouchtis, and intentis of hartis. And na creature is vnuisibile in the sicht of God. For althingis ar nakit and opin to his een, to quham a word to vs.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1903) vol 2 here]

Gospel reading
Mark 10: 17-30

Ande quhen Jesus was gaan out in the way, a man rann before, and knelit before him, and prayt him, and said, "Gude maister, quhat sal I do that I resaue euirlasting lif?" And Jesus said to him, "Quhat sais thou that I am gude? thar is na man gude bot God himself. Thou knawis the comandmentis, do thou na adultrie, sla nocht, steil nocht, say nocht fals witnessing, do na fraude, honour thi fadere and moder. And he ansuerd and said to him, "Maistire, I haue kepit al thir thingis fra my youthe." And Jesus beheld him, and luvit him, and said to him, "Aa thing failyeis to thee: ga thou, and sell al thingis that thou has, and gefe to pure men, and thou sail haue tresoure in heuen: and cum, follou thou me." And he was full soroufull in the word, and past away murnyng: for he had mony possessiounns.

Jesus beheld about, and said to his discipilis, "How hardlie thai that haue richessis sal entire into the kingdom of God." And the discipilis war astonaisit in his wordis. And Jesus ansuerd, and said to thame, "Ye litil childire, how hard is it for men that traistis in richessis to entire [in]to the kingdom of God! It is lichtare a camele to [pas] throu an needlis ee than a riche man to entire into the kingdom of God." And thai wonndrit maire, and said amang thameself, "Quha may be savet?" And Jesus beheld thame, and said, "Anentis men it is impossibile, bot nocht anentis God: for all thingis ar possibile anentis God."

Ande Petir began to say to him, "Lo, we haue left al thingis, and has followit thee." Jesus ansuerde and saide, "Trewly I say to you, thare is na man that leifis hous, or brethire, or sisteris, or fadere and modere, or bairnis, ore feeldis, fore me, and fore the Gospell, quhilk sal nocht tak a hundreth fald sa mekile now in this tyme, housis, and brethir, and sisteris, and faderis, and moderis, and bairnis, and feeldis, with persecutiouns; and in the warld to cummyng euirlasting lif."

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Friday 12 October 2018

Medieval Scottish approaches to King Arthur

                                       Queen Guinevere's (Vanora's) burial mound in Meigle

Following on from earlier posts (here and here) on Arthur and Scotland...
From the fourteenth century onwards, the Merlin of Arthuriana began to appear as a character in Scottish pseudo-histories...They usually depicted Arthur in his familiar guise as a mightly king, with Merlin cast as a prophet and sorcerer at the royal court. Both characters were often treated unfavourably, chiefly because of the political implications of Merlin's prophecies. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae Merlin prophesied that Arthur would one day return to regain his authority over the whole of Britain. To many Scots in the Middle Ages, this was a profoundly unsettling prospect. They did not welcome the idea of being conquered -or reconquered- by an ambitious southern king, whether legendary or not. Moreover, HRB had not only shown Arthur as conquering Scotland but had also depicted his treacherous nephew Modred [sic] as a Scottish king. This, too, made Arthur seem like an enemy of the Scots. His negative image north of the Border was strengthened by the attitudes of contemporary English writers, many of whom saw Arthur as a model for their own kings. Arthur's supposed domination of Britain provided a template for English territorial ambitions in the 1300s and 1400s...Scottish writers responded by promoting Modred, not Arthur, as the legitimate overlord of ancient Britain...
This type of ill-feeling towards Arthur and Merlin was a characteristic of Scottish historical writing in the late medieval period and continued through the arguments over political union during the sixteenth century. At its heart was a broader opposition to the perceived 'Englishness' of Arthur and to the idea of a single, pan-British kingdom ruled by a southern monarch.

[From ch. 8, Scotland's Merlin: A Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins. Tim Clarkson, 2016. Review here.]

The discussion continues with particular reference to the treatment of Merlin in The Complaynt of Scotland.

I suppose the above passage reinforces for me the sense that many narratives which purport to tell 'our' national story don't adequately reflect deep differences in cultural history between Scotland and England, let alone the other parts of the UK. It's very easy to pick holes in the crasser Braveheart narratives of Nationalism. But Unionism faces the problem that, firstly, due to the appalling state of historical education in Scotland, probably the only thing that most Scottish children do know historically is that England kept invading Scotland; and, secondly, far too many narratives (of which Roberts' programme is an example) are provokingly blind to those deeper patterns of difference which any successful modern Unionism will have to negotiate rather than simply dismiss. 

Walter Scott provides a striking contrast here. His narratives are soaked in the detail of Scottish history and even antipathy towards England, but they also sublate those antagonisms, in part through the exercise of nostalgia and in part through the myth of enlightenment, into an acceptance of the Union. I see nothing of comparable subtlety occuring at the moment in Unionism, the arguments for which seem predominantly based on economic interest. My guess is that such a solely economic basis is inadequate for asabiyyah, and that consquently Unionism will ultimately prove increasingly unpersuasive. That would be a pity, not only for those who support the Union, but also for those Nationalists who, absent a worthy intellectual and cultural opponent, will be stuck with superficial, complacent and ultimately poisonous narratives of Utopian progress and being a lot nicer than the Southron.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year (Year B)

Gospel reading
Mark 10: 2-16

And the Pharisees cam nar till him, and they wad ken, “Is it lawfu’ for a man to pit awa a wife?” tempin him. And answerin them, quo’ he, “What dis Moses commaun?” And they said, “Moses allooed a writin o’ divorce, and to put her awa.” But Jesus answer’t, “Anent the hardness o’ yere hearts, he wrate ye this commaun. But frae the first o’ the creation, God formed them male and female. And fore-anent this sal a man lea' his faither and his mither, and cling till his wife: and they twa sal be ae flesh: sae are they nae mair twa, but ae flesh. Whasae, than, God has joined thegither let-na man pit sindry!” And whan they war within again, the disciples speir’t at him anent it. And he says to them, “Whasae pits awa his wife, and take anither, commits adultery against his wife. And gin a woman divorces her husband, and taks anither, she commits adultery.”

And they war bringin till him bairns, that he soud touch them; but the disciples challenged them that brocht them. But when Jesus saw it, he was unco displeased, and said to them, “Lat the wee anes come to me: hinner-them-na: for o’ siccan anes is the kingdom o’ God! Truly say I t’ye, whasae taks-na till him the kingdom o’ God as a wee bairn, he’se in naegate comin in!” And he clippit them up in his airms, and socht blessings on them, and pat his hauns on them.

[From The New Testament in Braid Scots William Wye Smith (1904) here]

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Conservatism, hierarchy and solidarity

One of the words I'd like to hear used rather more by socially conservative commentators is that of 'solidarity'. Too often it's captured by the left -ironically in the service of a social fragmentation that pits sub-group agaist sub-group- or ignored by the right in favour of an eristic capitalism and Darwninian culture.

 The term “solidarity”, widely used by the Magisterium, expresses in summary fashion the need to recognize in the composite ties that unite men and social groups among themselves, the space given to human freedom for common growth in which all share and in which they participate. The commitment to this goal is translated into the positive contribution of seeing that nothing is lacking in the common cause and also of seeking points of possible agreement where attitudes of separation and fragmentation prevail. It translates into the willingness to give oneself for the good of one's neighbour, beyond any individual or particular interest. [Compendium of Social Doctrine, s.194 here]

There's a lot to be said here, but for the moment let's focus on the relationship between hierarchy and solidarity. As a rather chippy scion of White Van Man, I confess to a visceral loathing of hierarchy: I am in no doubt as to where my ancestors would have fitted into the squirearchical order and harbour a strong and not flattering suspicion as to where I actually fit. But balanced against this emotional reaction is the recognition of the importance of hierarchy to much existing conservative thought. How then to reconcile these competing perspectives?

It is fairly obvious that human beings differ greatly in their accomplishments and potentials. It is simply for that reason of realism that conservatives must reject an easy slogan of equality: to accept an equality which obscures the natural differences of people is simply a lie. On the other hand, recognition of our supernatural end and of our infinite individual worth to God also compels rejection of an easy abandonment of individuals to the scrapheap. Perhaps two key insights are these: we are all in this together and the world's judgment of worth is not God's. To the jaundiced conservative observer, much left wing politics looks like the barest Nietzschean will to power camouflaged by pious phrases: progressive leaders prattle on about equality while wringing out the system to procure social and monetary advantages for themselves. In recent times, the powerful progressives seem more and more animated by a feeling that they are not in it together with us: we are gammon, oppressors, the benighted; they are the vanguard, the blessed by history who will at best force us to act according to their will or at worst destroy us to allow their freedom.

Hierarchy can be seen as an attempt to humanise and mollify the general human urge to power and particularly that of the aggressive and naturally capable. By institutionalising rank and fitting it into a narrative of duty and being part of a community which it rules, the animal urges of power and aggression are fitted into a more humane and indeed divine order. It is, at the very least, power made obvious: instead of the Hampstead's liberal pretence of equality, there is a frank admission that, in some ways, we are not in this together, and that these differences can only be transformed with difficulty into social solidarity by imposing reciprocal and socially binding duties on the haves and have nots.

There is finally an irony about traditional hierarchy, a sour trick played on the alphas of our society of which they are half conscious in a conservative society but wholly unconscious in a secular one. Due to the subordination of the natural end to the supernatural end, those who rule politically (let alone captains of business or other movers and shakers of the polis) are subordinate to those who are close to God: the merest beggar may be of more importance in the true reality of the universe than the highest politician. Traditional hierarchies are, in Plato's terms in Book 8 of the Republic, a timocracy, government by honour. Unlike the truly (but unachievable) best society, where the truly good person (the saint) would rule, the timocratic society is a shadow of that best, unachievable society and one which pays honour to the appearance of virtue rather than to its reality. Crudely, by stuffing the mouths of the socially competitive with ermine and titles, they are flattered into becoming socially useful rather than simply using their power to bleed the rest of us. And yet, the shadow of the truth haunts them and calls them to something better, constantly reminding them that they are being paid in baubles which will not be the currency of their final, supernatural end. (A certain silliness in the get up of the traditional hierarchy is an essential part of its function: the best argument for the judiciary, for example, wearing large and uncomfortable wigs is not just that it is imposing, but also that it reveals a certain pantomimic quality to the things of this world.)

Saturday 29 September 2018

Mass readings in Scots: Twenty-sixth Sunday of the Year (Year B)

Second reading
James 5: 1-6

Do now, ye richemen, wepe ye, yelland in your wrechitnessis that sal cum to you. Your richessis ar rottin, and your claathis ar etin of mowris. Your gold and siluir has roustit, and the roust of thame salbe to you into witnessing, and sal ete your fleschis, as fier. Ye haue tresourit to you jre in the last dais. Lo! the hyre of your werkmen, that schaire your feeldis, quhilk is fraudit of you, crijs; and the crie of thame has entrit into the eris of the Lord of oostis. Ye haue etin on the erde, and in your licheries ye haue nurysit your hartis. In the day of slaing ye broucht and slew the iustman, and he againstude nocht you.

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1905) vol 3 here]

Gospel reading
Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

Johnne ansuerd to him, and said, "Maistere, we saw aan castand out feendis in thi name, quha folowis nocht vs, and we haue forbiddin him. And Jesus said. "Will ye nocht forbid him; for thar is na man that dois virtue in my name, and may sone spek euile of me. He that is nocht aganes vs is for vs.

"And quha euir gevis you a cuppe of cald watir to drink in my name, for ye ar of Crist, trewlie I say to you, he sal nocht tyne his meed.

"And quha euir sal sclandire aan of thir litil that beleues in me, it ware bettire to him that a mylnestane of assis war done about his neck, and he war castin into the see. And gif thin hand sclanndir thee, cutt it away: it is bettire to thee to entire lamyt into life, than hauyng twa handis ga into hell, into fyre that neuir salbe sloknyt. And gif thi fute sclanndir thee, cut it of: it is bettire to thee to entire crukit into euirlasting lif, than haue twa feet and be send into hell of fire. That gif thin ee sclannder thee, cast it out: it is bettir to thee to entire aan eet into the reaulme of God, than haue ii een and be send into hell of fire, quhare the worm of tham deis nocht, and the fire is nocht sloknyt."

[From The New Testament in Scots Murdoch Nisbet [c.1520] (1901) vol 1 here]

Tuesday 25 September 2018

More on the matter of Britain

                                             More Scottish elements in Arthurian legends...

An extended comment on my previous post from Aelianus deserves more than a combox reply:

I don't understand the statement "in Arthurian legend, Scotland is rather marginal". A great swathe of the major characters in the legend are from the part of Britain that would later become Scotland: Sir Gawain of Orkney and Lothian, his father King Lot (after whom Lothian is supposed to be named), his brothers Sir Agravain, Sir Gaheris, Sir Gareth and Sir Mordredhis their sister St Teneu and her son St Mungo founder of Glasgow. King Urien of Rheged and his son Sir Ywain. These are hardly marginal figures in the story. The earliest reference to Arthur is in Y Gododdin the oldest literary work deriving from the area of modern Scotland. What the Arthurian tales point to is that this territory is more fundamentally and originally British than it is Scottish just as they draw attention to the antecedent Britishness of Lloegyr. The evidence in that film that there was no Anglo-Saxon invasion proves no such thing. It simply points to the fact that Saxons had been raiding the province of Britannia for many centuries, that much of the territory was unprepared to resist and that they never (even after the conquest) made up more than a minority of the population (like any military aristocracy).

First, thanks for the response. One of the ways in which myths and deep stories about nations and landscapes work is by provoking discussion and disagreement: what we are doing here is in part a tribute to that depth and abding importance.

Turning to the specific points raised, I'll begin by repeating my (incomplete) reply in the combox:

You'll note that, in context, the 'statement' is not left unchallenged.

In addition to the points in the blog post, I'd add: 1) whatever the potential for developing the 'Scottish' elements within the Matter, my impression (and I accept that discerning the cultural force of narratives is a tricky business) is that generally this has not been done. The Arthurian cycle is predominantly felt as a Southern English narrative, probably centred in Winchester or Glastonbury. (The only quick evidence I can provide for this is that I've put into the blog: that reworkings that emphasise Scottish elements are presented as self consciously revisionist.)

In short, I don't think the Arthurian legends are as central to the Scottish mythos as they are to the English one. (I put aside the Welsh case simply because it has complexities which I'm simply not able to do justice to.) My main basis for that is simply a factual claim: when one thinks of the legends and stories that have been told and retold over the years, Scottish writers have tended not to concentrate on Arthur in the same way that English ones have. (As a factual claim, it is of course open to challenge and I'd be particularly interested if anyone could point me in the direction of scholarly literature on the use of the Matter of Britain in pre-modern Scotland.) Certainly, taking Professor Roberts' film as itself a reperformance of the Matter of Britain, that  didn't have much to say about Scotland. (And of the others I mentioned in the original blogpost, all have Scotland literally on the margins, as the stories are located in the Borders.)

Now if that empirical observation is true, then the next question is why that might be true? What might cause that lack of attention? That's quite a big discussion, but some elements spring to mind immediately. First, the struggle between Saxon and Briton is not even plausibly as central to Scottish narrative identity as it is to English. Moreover, that sense of two peoples' clashing is repeated again and again in English history in a way that it isn't in Scottish. (One thinks here especially of the clash between Norman and Saxon for which, I'd speculate, the Arthurian clash between Briton and Saxon often functions as a (safer) imaginative replacement.) For Scotland, the clash is between (at least) Irish, British, Pictish and Saxon identities, with nothing like the complete replacement of Brittonic by English until the relatively modern domination of English over Gaelic (and note then it is Goidelic Gaelic, not the Brittonic of Arthur). Secondly, the political centrality of the various tensions between the identities of British/French, Welsh/British and Romanitas/barbarian which are central to much of the Arthurian cycle are arguably less central to Scotland. For example, there is the absence of the Edward I's and the Tudor need to find a location for Welshness within the English vision of royal power. Finally, there is the availability of alternative, more powerful mythoi: that of the struggle of Scotland against England (The Brus/Braveheart); that of the struggle of Gael against Lowlander (Scott).

Now I don't know how much of that (speculation) would ultimately be defensible. But perhaps the biggest absence in the Arthurian cycle is of the tension between Gael and Saxon: as Aelianus points out, the 'Scottish' element in the cycle is confined mostly to Southern Scotland and the Kingdom of Strathclyde: as noted above, Scotland literally is marginal to the imaginary of the cycle as being predominantly confined to the Southern Borders. Moreover, as medieval Scotland viewed itself as Scottish (ie Goidelic), a narrative that marginalised that identity would be unlikely to have much purchase:

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown.
They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous.
Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today.
The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since.
(From the Declaration of Arbroath 1320 here. Emphases mine.)
The key point of the original blogpost was this: Scotland (like all nations) needs an imaginative (mythic) engagement with its past. Certainly as performed in Roberts' programme, there was nothing that seemed able to contribute to that imaginative engagement except by way of absence. To point that our, as Angus MacNeil did, is simply fair comment.
So my main plea is that both Unionists and Nationalists think more deeply about the stories they want to tell and the myths they would use. Perhaps the Matter of Britain can provide such basis: if so, please get on with it. (The general importance of good myth like the Matter of Britain is that it allows the interpenetration of many competing values and experiences: Arthur, for example, deals with personal tragedy (adultery), political tragedy (civil war) and the supernatural end of man (the Quest for the Grail). Braveheart on the whole just deals with thumping invaders over the head.) My suspicions remain that, for the various reasons adumbrated, the Matter of Britain is not up to that task of deepening the imaginative construction of Scotland.
But that leaves open the question of what is up to that task. And really, we have to do better than  'the UK is lovely and Nicola Sturgeon is a tosser' or 'The Tories eat babies and everything was awful in the past and will be great in the future'...

[On the issue of whether the Saxons invaded or came bringing trinkets and culture -I have no view.]