Tag Archives: Robert Walker

30 March: Skating and skimming across the abyss.

Reverend Robert Walker skating.

Boswell tells us in Volume V of his Life of Johnson that, ‘Dr Erskine and Mr Robert Walker, two very respectable ministers of Edinburgh, supped with us,’ meaning Dr Johnson and himself. This was on Wednesday November 10th, 1773, shortly before Johnson returned to London after his tour of Scotland including the Hebrides, but not forgetting Edinburgh, home of the Scottish Enlightenment.

In his collected works appears the following verse, in French, followed by Johnson’s translations, firstly the ‘considered’ version followed by an impromptu version, already scanning and rhyming.

I like the image of lightly skimming over pleasures, enjoying them for a while, then hasting away from what could be a dangerous abyss for the less wary. Not a bad ideal for Lent or any time.

Translation of the Following Lines, written under a print representing persons skating.

Sur un mince cristal l'hiver conduit leurs pas,
  Le précipice est sous la glace:
  Telle est de nos plaisirs la légère surface:
Glissez, mortels; n'appuyez pas.

 O'er ice the rapid skater flies,
  With sport above, and death below;
Where mischief lurks in gay disguise,
  Thus lightly touch and quickly go.


Impromptu Translation of the same.

O'er crackling ice, o'er gulfs profound,
  With nimble glide the skaters play;
O'er treach'rous pleasure's flow'ry ground
  Thus lightly skim, and haste away."

(from Volume 1, The Works of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D., in Nine Volumes)

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29 March: Avoiding bitterness

Reverend Robert Walker skating

An excuse for revisiting Raeburn’s portrait of his friend Robert Walker, is this quotation from one of his sermons.

Too many of those who make a profession of religion … indulge themselves in a bitter, censorious disputation, more allied to peevishness than either to virtue or religion … their conversation is gloomy, their countenances and manners forbidding. From such unfortunate examples, it is too often rashly concluded, that the nature of religion itself is harsh, melancholy and severe.*

These days we have perhaps lost much of the gloominess, though covid and climate change do tempt some to adopt that attitude. What seems to persist is the censorious disputation which can become bitter. Let us pray for the grace to see ourselves as we are in relation to others, and to step back from disputation that divides and brings the Church into disrepute.

Perhaps each one of us needs time to be alone with God and nature as Robert is here. Not much skating this winter in Kent, but walking is always available, free of charge, to set the spirit free.

*See The Skating Minister, by Duncan Thomson and Lynne Gladstone-Millar, Edinburgh 2004, p33.

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21 December: Don’t forget!

The sticker across the shop window read: Don’t forget yourself this Christmas!

Just what did it mean?

Was the mobile phone company advising passers-by to selflessly throw themselves into making the family celebrations enjoyable for all?

Or was it encouraging the great public to remember to buy themselves that expensive 5G mobile phone?

Or maybe suggesting that, like the man in the first photo, over the next few days we should text someone who would like to hear from us?

Or perhaps like Robert Walker, the Scottish anti-slavery campaigner, we should seize the moment to take time out in the fresh air and be one in our thoughts and prayers with our Creator?

If this were a proper questionnaire, it would now say, tick as many boxes as apply (to you!)

Please follow the link to learn more about the Skating Minister who was so much more than a skating minister.

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October 19: from skating minister to anti-slavery campaigner: Robert Walker.

Skating_Minister

Almost closing time at the National Gallery of Scotland, and I hadn’t seen the Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch. I could not come back across the border without paying my respects. It was all I could do to stand upright, last time I tried skating. The attendants showed us where to look, and I was not disappointed.

Yesterday afternoon I was looking for some papers my mother had lent me, when I found an article about this picture, so decided to write about it. When I went to download the picture, I changed my mind.   Robert Walker   was not just a long-serving minister and expert skater, he was an early anti-slavery campaigner, helping pave the way for William Wilberforce. And yesterday was Anti-Slavery Day.

The Church of Scotland is rightly proud of the prophetic  Robert Walker . Follow the link to find out more. This picture is an Icon of a Saint as well as being iconic in the modern sense!

Image: Public Domain from Wikipedia

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