A note from Onesimus: We dropped in on Mr. Jack, hard at work in a high lonely turret of Castle Warlock, toiling on the Scots-Free edition of Robert Falconer that we hope to publish in the latter half of this year. As it happened, he'd just been working on the translation of a most poignant Scots passage from Chapter 8, presented below, which is framed by MacDonald's English narrative (it's only dialogue and interior monologues that are ever in Scots).
This section is a great example of how MacDonald brings to life the deep emotional pain and spiritual crises he so often found in sensitive souls who took to heart the extreme Calvinism rampant in the Scotland of his day. While our Scots-Free edition will replace the Scots with English, for the educational purposes of this blog post we present both the original Scots and Mr. Jack's skillful rendition into the English tongue:
From Chapter 8 of Robert Falconer:
The household always retired early—earlier on Saturday night in preparation for the Sabbath—and by ten o'clock grannie and Betty were in bed. Robert, indeed, was in bed too; but he had lain down in his clothes, waiting for such time as might afford reasonable hope of his grandmother being asleep, when he might both ease Shargar's hunger and get to sleep himself. Several times he got up, resolved to make his attempt; but as often his courage failed and he lay down again, sure that grannie could not be asleep yet. When the clock beside him struck eleven, he could bear it no longer, and finally rose to do his endeavour.
Opening the door of the closet slowly and softly, he crept upon his hands and knees into the middle of the parlour, feeling very much like a thief, as, indeed, in a measure he was, though from a blameless motive. But just as he had accomplished half the distance to the door, he was arrested and fixed with terror; for a deep sigh came from grannie's bed, followed by the voice of words. He thought at first that she had heard him, but he soon found that he was mistaken. Still, the fear of discovery held him there on all fours, like a chained animal. A dull red gleam, faint and dull, from the embers of the fire, was the sole light in the room. Everything so common to his eyes in the daylight seemed now strange and eerie in the dying coals, and at what was to the boy the unearthly hour of the night.
He felt that he ought not to listen to grannie, but terror made him unable to move.
"Och hone! och hone!' said grannie from the bed. 'I've a sair, sair hert. I've a sair hert i' my breist, O Lord! thoo knowest. My ain Anerew! To think o' my bairnie that I cairriet i' my ain body, that sookit my breists, and leuch i' my face—to think o' 'im bein' a reprobate! O Lord! cudna he be eleckit yet? Is there nae turnin' o' thy decrees? Na, na; that wadna do at a'. But while there's life there's houp. But wha kens whether he be alive or no? Naebody can tell. Glaidly wad I luik upon 's deid face gin I cud believe that his sowl wasna amang the lost. But eh! the torments o' that place! and the reik that gangs up for ever an' ever, smorin' (smothering) the stars! And my Anerew doon i' the hert o' 't cryin'! And me no able to win till him! O Lord! I canna say thy will be done. But dinna lay 't to my chairge; for gin ye was a mither yersel' ye wadna pit him there. O Lord! I'm verra ill-fashioned. I beg yer pardon. I'm near oot o' my min'. Forgie me, O Lord! for I hardly ken what I'm sayin'. He was my ain babe, my ain Anerew, and ye gae him to me yersel'. And noo he's for the finger o' scorn to pint at; an ootcast an' a wan'erer frae his ain country, an' daurna come within sicht o' 't for them 'at wad tak' the law o' 'm. An' it's a' drink—drink an' ill company! He wad hae dune weel eneuch gin they wad only hae latten him be. What for maun men be aye drink-drinkin' at something or ither? I never want it. Eh! gin I war as young as whan he was born, I wad be up an' awa' this verra nicht to luik for him. But it's no use me tryin' 't. O God! ance mair I pray thee to turn him frae the error o' 's ways afore he goes hence an' isna more. And O dinna lat Robert gang efter him, as he's like eneuch to do. Gie me grace to haud him ticht, that he may be to the praise o' thy glory for ever an' ever. Amen."
ENGLISH: “Oh my! Oh my! I've a sore, sore heart. I've a sore heart in my breast, O Lord! Thou knowest. My own Andrew! To think of my child, that I carried in my own body, that sucked my breasts, and laughed in my face-to think of him being a reprobate! O Lord! Couldn't he be elected yet? Is there no turning of thy decrees? Na, na; that wouldn't do at all. But while there's life there's hope. But who knows whether he be alive or not? Nobody can tell. Gladly would I look upon his dead face if I could believe that his soul wasn't among the lost. But oh! The torments of that place! And the reek that goes up for ever and ever, smothering the stars! And my Andrew down in the heart of it crying! And me not able to win to him! O Lord! I can't say thy will be done. But don't lay it to my charge; for if you were a mother yourself you wouldn't put him there. O Lord! I'm very ill-fashioned. I beg your pardon. I'm nearly out of my mind. Forgive me, O Lord! For I hardly know what I'm saying. He was my own babe, my own Andrew, and you gave him to me yourself. And now he's for the finger of scorn to point at; an outcast and a wanderer from his own country, and daren't come within sight of it for them that would take the law of him. And it's all drink-drink and ill company! He would have done well enough if they would only have let him be. Why must men be always drinking at something or other? I never want it. Eh! If I was as young as when he was born, I would be up and away this very night to look for him. But it's no use me trying it. O God! Once more I pray thee to turn him from the error of his ways before he goes hence and is no more. And O don't let Robert go after him, as he's like enough to do. Give me grace to hold him tight, that he may be to the praise of thy glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Whether it was that the weary woman here fell asleep, or that she was too exhausted for further speech, Robert heard no more, though he remained there frozen with horror for some minutes after his grandmother had ceased. This, then, was the reason why she would never speak about his father! She kept all her thoughts about him for the silence of the night, and loneliness with the God who never sleeps, but watches the wicked all through the dark. And his father was one of the wicked! And God was against him! And when he died he would go to hell! But he was not dead yet: Robert was sure of that. And when he grew a man, he would go and seek him, and beg him on his knees to repent and come back to God, who would forgive him then, and take him to heaven when he died. And there he would be good, and good people would love him.