Monday, May 02, 2016


On the Margins

Richard Jenkyns, Virgil's Experience. Nature and History: Times, Names, and Places (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 104:
We commonly observe those on the edge of a group or community feeling the pride of belonging most keenly, and patriotism is often strongest among those who in one sense or another are at the margins of their country.
Id., p. 105:
Sentiment, as well as anxiety, enlarges the patriotism of frontier zones. Indeed, national heroes have quite often come from the edges, or from beyond the edges, of the countries they have inspired. Napoleon was Italian; Garibaldi, a Savoyard born in Nice, was almost French; De Valera was born in New York, the son of a Spaniard, and escaped execution after the Easter Rising because he was American. Churchill had an American mother, as did Parnell; Lloyd George, the Welsh wizard, was born plain George in Manchester; Dufour, Switzerland's national hero, was born in Germany; Joan of Arc and De Gaulle (that poet of 'la France profonde') were the children of border lands. The two monsters of European nationalism also fit the pattern: the Austrian Hitler and the Georgian Stalin. A similar moral may sometimes be drawn from literature, high and low. Possibly the most eloquent expressions of Englishry in the last century and in this were produced by Americans: Henry James and T.S. Eliot. Conversely, the author of 'God bless America' was a native of Siberia. As for Ireland, it is the Anglo-Saxons who have drifted entranced through the Celtic twilight, while the native Irishry have kept their hard, satiric eye. These phenomena are not deeply surprising: the national feeling is likely to be especially strong among those in whom it is an achieved thing, not mere instinct; who have pondered it, chosen it, perhaps striven for it.

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