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‘Oh, what a tangled web they weave’: Elon Musk gets poetic after firing Twitter lawyer James Baker

A statue of Sir Walter Scott sits in Perth, Scotland. One of his most famous works, The Fair Maid of Perth, was set in the town 

The oft-used quote, Oh, what a tangled web they weave, when first they practice to deceive’ appears in the 1801 epic poem by Sir Walter Scott, Marion: A Tale of Flodden Field. 

The plot revolves around Lord Marmion, a friend of Henry VIII’s and his attempt to woo wealthy heiress Clara de Clare by wrongly accusing her fiancée of treason. 

 The poem in full:

 ‘In brief, my lord, we both descried

(For then I stood by Henry’s side)

The Palmer mount, and outwards ride,

Upon the earl’s own favorite steed:

All sheathed he was in armor bright,

And much resembled that same knight,

Subdued by you in Cotswold fight:

Lord Angus wished him speed.”

The instant that Fitz-Eustace spoke,

A sudden light on Marmion broke:

“Ah! dastard fool, to reason lost!”

He muttered; “‘Twas nor fay nor ghost

I met upon the moonlight wold,

But living man of earthly mould.

O dotage blind and gross!

Had I but fought as wont, one thrust

Had laid De Wilton in the dust,

My path no more to cross.

How stand we now?—he told his tale

To Douglas; and with some avail;

‘Twas therefore gloomed his rugged brow.

Will Surrey dare to entertain,

‘Gainst Marmion, charge disproved and vain?

Small risk of that, I trow.

Yet Clare’s sharp questions must I shun;

Must separate Constance from the nun –

Oh, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practice to deceive!

A Palmer too!—no wonder why

I felt rebuked beneath his eye:

I might have known there was but one

Whose look could quell Lord Marmion.’ 


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