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Psalms, Saints, etc.

Willie Garvin has an appropriate quote from the Psalms of David for any occasion. We have to assume that Peter O'Donnell also must have known his Psalms well, though not, perhaps, from time spent in gaol. With one exception, all the quotations are accurate or close paraphrases.

Black text refers to the books and short stories,
blue text to the strips.

[In Modesty Blaise chapter 8, Willie asks Tarrant to help him.]

“Cheer up, my old darling.” Willie’s manner was light, but there was still the underlying tension. “ ’Eaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
Tarrant stared. “I beg your pardon?”
“Psalm 30. Verse 5”.
“You-ah-you have another calling, then?”
“ ’Ardly a calling. But I once spent a year in the coop at Calcutta with only a psalter to read, so I got the psalms by ’eart.”

Willie quotes the same verse at the end of The Long Lever, panel 211.
and in Brethren of Blaise, panel 4927

[Modesty Blaise chapter 11]
“Be’old,” Willie’s voice intoned from the doorway. “Be’old ’ow good and ’ow pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. Psalm hundred and thirty-three. Verse one.”
[Modesty Blaise chapter 13]

As the door closed Tarrant relaxed a little and rubbed his eyes with finger and thumb. “I suppose she might listen to him,” he said.
Willie took out a cigarette and offered one amiably to Albert Alexandrou. “Like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear,” he said, “which will not ’earken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely. Psalm fifty-eight, verse four.”

[At the end of Modesty Blaise, chapter 20, the tables are turned:]

‘I think not,’ Tarrant answered. ‘Not under the circumstances. After all “… they have seen the ungodly in great power; and flourishing like a green bay tree.” Psalm thirty-seven.’
Willie stared incredulously. ‘I never knew you’d been in the coop,’ he said, and Hagan laughed.

[In Sabre-Tooth, chapter 2, Willie has just passed a police car at an illegal speed, but pretends the police car has a wobbly wheel.]

‘You made a good recovery,’ Tarrant said with dry amusement. ‘What happens if they come after you when they find nothing wrong?’
‘I’ll do me righteous bit. That wheel looked a bit wobbly to me, and I was only trying to ’elp. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” Psalm ninety-two, verse twelve.’

[Sabre-Tooth, chapter 5, when Willie is told how to placate a Mother Superior:]

Relief swept the clouds from Willie’s brow. ‘Keep me as the apple of an eye; hide me under the shadow of thy wings,’ he said gratefully. ‘Psalm seventeen, verse eight. Are we going to eat now?’

[After the snooker game in chapter 7 of I Lucifer]

‘Lovely,’ said Willie, and put his cue in the rack. ‘ “They ’ave digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves,” like a couple of right pills. Psalm 57, Verse 6. Not the last bit.’

[A Taste for Death, chapter 19]

Dinah ran her hands down her cheeks. ‘You’re kidding,’ she said. ‘I’ve shrunk too much to be beautiful. My bust’s shrunk too, so I can’t even look sexy.’
Willie grinned. ‘You’re fine,’ he said gently. ‘ “… The little hills rejoice on every side.” Psalm 65, verse 11.’

[The Impossible Virgin, chapter 7]

‘This damned albino girl was probably conning Willie.’
‘Could be.’ Willie looked up. ‘I reckon there’s about one per cent possibility.’ He smiled. ‘The lips of a strange woman drop as honeycomb, and ’er mouth is smoother than oil. But I don’t reckon so this time.’
‘With Brunel, I don’t like even a one per cent chance.’ Pennyfeather looked blankly at Willie. ‘Where do honeycombs come into it?’
‘Psalm five. Verse three.’

[In chapter 11 of The Impossible Virgin after Willie's survival from being thrown out of the plane.]

‘Can’t kill the wicked that easy. He rode upon a cherub and did fly; yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. Psalm 17, verse 8.’
[This time Willie gets it wrong. It should be Psalm 18 v. 10. The verse he names reads 'hide me in the shadow of your wings'.]

[The Impossible Virgin chapter 12, explaining that he fell into a flock of sheep in a snowdrift]

‘He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool.’ Psalm 72, verse 6. About twenty of ’em there were.

[The Silver Mistress, chapter 5, after the abduction of Mr Wu Smith]

Willie grinned. “ ‘For they that led us away captive required of us then a song.’ Psalm ’undred and thirty-seven, verse three.”

[Last Day in Limbo chapter 2, at the secret service training centre]

[Jacoby] said, ‘I get what you mean about using your tongue to stay out of trouble.’
‘I labour for peace,’ Willie said gravely. ‘Psalm ’undred and twenty, verse six.’

Modesty: Father Ramon is hoping to persuade Sabo del Mar peacefully.
Willie: Ah then, you'll find I’m a man after your ’eart, Padre. Like it says in Psalm 120, “I labour for peace ...”
(The Jericho Caper, panel 1395.)

Modesty: I’ve no wish to tangle with odds of six to one.
Willie: Me neither, princess. “I am for peace…” Psalm one-twenty, verse seven.
(The Wild Boar, panel 6266. Verse seven is correct.)

[In The Xanadu Talisman, chapter 15, Tracy complains about having been rescued from the harem.]

[Modesty] said, “You laugh out loud and I’ll kill you, Willie.”
He wagged his head protestingly, gained tenuous control of his features, and said in a shaky voice: “For while I ’eld my tongue, my b-bones consumed away … Psalm 32, Verse 32”

In The Night of Morningstar chapter 14, Golytsin talks to the tied-up Modesty and Willie.]

He sat down on the chair at a safe distance, the automatic resting on his knee, and said with cheerful sympathy, “Pretty bad luck you had, running into our full dress rehearsal like that.”
Her voice was light and easy as she said, “Oh, that’s all right. These things happen, and we never fret about them. What’s that thing you often say about fretting, Willie?”
His mind meshed with hers and he knew how the game was to be played. “You mean, ‘Fret not thyself because of the ungodly’?” he said, turning his head towards her.
“Ah yes, that’s the one.”
“Psalm thirty-seven, verse one.”

Doris: There’s that horrible Jake Brockley asking to see you, Mr. Garvin.
Willie: I’ve got a feeling you don’t like him, Doris. “Fret not thyself because of the ungodly.” Psalm 37 verse 1.
Doris: Oooh! Were you once in holy orders, Mr. Garvin?
(The Murder Frame, panel 9158)

[In A Better Day to Die we are told that:]

Willie Garvin’s verse-by-verse knowledge of the Psalms … with their many ringing martial phrases would have enabled him to enjoy a ding-dong battle with the Reverend Leonard Jimson.

[In The Giggle-wrecker, having fired Professor Okuba over the Berlin Wall with a circus cannon, Willie quotes:]

Psalm Eighteen, Verse ten. ‘Yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.’

[In The Dark Angels Willie appears to throw one of the attackers from an upper storey of a high building.]
‘That’s amazing,’ he said with interest. ‘D’you know, he missed every girder going down. Didn’t bounce once.’ He turned with a grin. ‘ “Yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.” Psalm eighteen, verse ten.’ He hauled Aruga to his feet and pushed him back to the edge. ‘Wonder if I can do it again?’

[Overcoming one of the assassins in Bellman, Willie says:]

‘There. D’you ’ear that, Van Rutte? Let the wicked fall into their own nets. Psalm ’undred and forty-one, verse ten.’

[In The Girl with the Black Balloon, at a party Willie talks to two men dressed as clergymen.]

‘For they stretch forth their mouth unto heaven, and their tongue goeth through the world.’
They looked at him blankly, and the smaller man said, ‘I beg your pardon, sir?’
‘Psalm seventy-three, verse nine. I felt it an apt comment on the sound of a large cocktail party, but perhaps the allusion is rather strained.’

Mister Sun, panel 466

Tex: Following up one of your hunches, Willie?
Willie: “As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks,” Psalm 42.

The Head Girls, panel 1013

“... and wine that maketh glad the ’eart of man.” Psalm 104, verse 15.

The Bluebeard Affair, panel 2935

Willie appears as a ghost:
“The waves of the sea are mighty and rage ’orribly.” Psalm 93, verse 5.

Death in Slow Motion, panel 5648

Modesty (in Salvation Army uniform): I’ve collected six pounds something and had my bottom pinched three times.
Willie: “Oh Lord, thou knowest my down-sittings.” Psalm 139, verse 1.
[Should be verse 2]

Black Queen's Pawn, panel 8221

Willie as he disposes of two opponents:
“He putteth down one and setteth up another.” Psalm 75, verse 7.

Uriah Crisp

Another character who demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of the psalms is the Reverend Uriah Crisp, the murderous priest of Dragon's Claw. Here are some of his rantings:

Psalms Other ecclesiastical texts
I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not in my tongue. I will keep my mouth as it were with a bridle, while the ungodly is in my sight. Psalm 39.. For now is the axe put unto the root of the tree, so that every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. … He will burn the chaff with the unquenchable fire. Up, Lord, and cast them down! Matthew 3:10 and 12
Forget not the voice of thine enemies, O Lord! Thou smotest the heads of Leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat for the people in the wilderness. Lift up thy feet that thou mayest destroy every enemy. Psalm 74. Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower.
Book of Common Prayer Burial service.
Make thine enemies as stubble before the wind, O Lord, like as the fire that burneth up the wood, and as the flame that consumeth the mountains. Persecute them with thy tempest and make them afraid with thy storm. Let them be put to shame, and perish. Psalm 83. Gird up now thy loins like a man.
Job 38: 3.
For the living God shall pour down rain upon the sinner, snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest. Psalm 11. I rose up to open to my beloved, and my hands dropped with myrrh.
Song of Solomon, 5:5.
So shall the sorrows of death encompass him. Psalm 116. for the Lord shall thunder out of heaven with hailstones and coals of fire. Psalm 18. His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
Song of Solomon, 2:6
sending forth his arrows to scatter them, and casting forth lightnings to destroy them. Psalm 144. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning.”
Proverbs 7:18.
May the words of my mouth and the coordination of my hand and eye be now and ever acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord our strength and Our Redeemer.
Allusion to Psalm 19:14.
I will spew unto thee judgment of the great whore, for she is as Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abomination of the earth.
Revelations 17:1
The ungodly lie waiting in our way on every side, turning their eyes down to the ground.
Psalm 17:11.
The smoke of her torment shall ascend up for ever and ever; she shall have no rest day or night.
Revelations 14:11.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets. Let them go down into the burning seas of Hell.
Psalm 141:11.

And some other ecclesiastical citations:

Bowker's description of Lucifer's dream from chapter 6 of I Lucifer:
In the flames of Gehenna where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Mark, 9:44.

Modesty draws on the same text when, disguised as Jeannie McNally the preacher's wife, she fights with Pike at the Black Horse pub in Old Alex.

In Chapter 2 of A Taste for Death:

When he [Steve] saw her [Modesty] smiling at him he said lightly, ‘I must read the Song of Solomon again.’
‘There’s a bit about “Thy hair is as a flock of goats.” Was that what you meant? Those fencing masks wreck a hairdo.’
‘No. Something about honey is under her tongue. And “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.” ’
‘You can’t have looked carefully.’
‘I did. Eight scars.'
(Song of Solomon 4:1, 4:11 and 4:7.)

Another character who displays her religious education is Aniela, girlfriend of the reckless and disaster-prone Italian journalist, Guido Biganzoli. When she prays (as she frequently needs to) she can call on a range of saints, and knows what they are patrons of.

The Balloonatic

Holy St Jude, patron of impossible things, help me to drive safely! (Panel 5569)

Holy St Christopher, patron saint of travellers, help Willie get under the electric fence! (Panel 5574a)

Holy St Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, please keep Guido safe! (Panel 5592)

Holy St Therese of Lisieux, patron saint of airmen, please help the pilot! (Panel 5604)

Holy St Dysmas, patron saint of funeral directors, please stay out of this! (Panel 5612)


Holy St Damian, patron saint of surgeons, just let her bruise him moderately! (Panel 6962)

Holy St Amand, patron saint of innkeepers, please help Willie Garvin to save us all! (Panel 7000)

Ah, grateful thanks to St Dismas, patron saint of prisoners. (Panel 7014)

Guido the Jinx

I will pray to St Camillus, patron saint of hospitals, to ask that you won't be needing him. (Panel 8401)

Aniela: I shall be praying to Saint Nicholas for you - oh, and for Modesty.
Willie: St Nicholas? Is he the patron saint of cavemen?
Aniela: No, of sailors, Weelie.
Willie: Oh, of sailors, and we're going on a raft. Good thinking, Aniela.
(Panel 8413)

Holy St Bernard - I know you are the patron saint of mountaineers and I realise that Modesty and Willie are in the river under the mountain but, if you could, please stretch a point! (Panel 8421)

Holy St Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost articles, I know that Modesty and Willie are not articles, but they are lost. (Panel 8424)

Oh thank you St Anthony of Padua and St Bernard of Aosta and St Jude and others! Modesty! Willie! You are alive! (Panel 8447)

There are three [patron saints] for soldiers, St Oswald, St Maurice and St George. Who is best, colonel? (Panel 8464)

Holy St Francis of Sales, patron saint of journalists, don't let Guido make what Weelie calls a cock-up tonight! (8479a)

The Last Aristocrat

Aniela: Our wedding is on the twenty-third, one week from today, in the village of Caglienda and at the church of St Monica.
Willie: What's she patron saint of, Aniela?
Aniela: Married women. Isn't that nice, Willie! (Panel 9893)

Weelie says she will keel him. I have been praying to St Maturinus - he is the patron saint of fools. (Panel 9915)

I will pray for them to St Gervase - he can be invoked to apprehend criminals like this Granny Smythe. (Panel 9919)

And on the subject of saints, when Modesty first meets Sebastian Kromm in The Killing Game, he claims to be the vicar of the church of St. Blaise, patron saint of throat sufferers.

Page created by John Higgins, last updated 6 May 2024.