word of the day: meed
This passage in Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance has narrator Miles Coverdale congratulating himself on his skills as an observer, a passionate, yet disinterested observer.
context: “Of all possible observers, methought a woman like Zenobia and a man like Hollingsworth should have selected me. And, now, when the event has long been past, I retain the same opinion of my fitness for the office. True, I might have condemned them. Had I been judge, as well as witness, my sentence might have been stern as that of destiny itself. But, still, no trait of original nobility of character, no struggle against temptation, — no iron necessity of will, on the one hand, nor extenuating circumstance to be derived from passion and despair, on the other, — no remorse that might coexist with error, even if powerless to prevent it, — no proud repentance that should claim retribution as a meed, — would go unappreciated. True, again, I might give my full assent to the punishment which was sure to follow. But it would be given mournfully , and with undiminished love. And, after all was finished, I would come, as if to gather up the white ashes of those who had perished at the stake, and to tell the world — the wrong being now atoned for — how much had perished there which it had never yet known how to praise.”
definition (Collins): a merited recompense or reward
Quite a performance, that passage. Perhaps, in a sense, it is an apology. I did your story justice, he seems to be telling his protagonists, even if you didn’t come out looking very good.
The Blithedale Romance
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
1852. 1960, Dell Publishing, New York