« PreviousContinue »
his forefathers (nos anciens), forgetful of the fact that his forefathers were not French at all, but as purely German as the Wfirtembergers and Bavarians then (1814.) desecrating his “ Patrie ” ; forgetting also that the language which he spoke with his mother and wife was not French at all, but German.
Now these transformations of the object of patriotism suggest that this composite passion may undergo further transformations in the near future. The part played by geographical segregation has already dwindled ; the part played by racial continuity is a purely mythical one, and has robably never been anything much more; the part played y languages is very real and may increase with unified education ; the part played by institutions will probably diminish with the spread of self-government; the part played by religion has long ceased in countries containing many sects like England or America. And the segregating ower of ‘class may, very likely, produce a new collective allegiance, a new loyalty, in the immediate future. The Orchestra will no longer be inscribed Patriotism; but the same Passions will sit and play within its segregating barriers.
For the second essential characteristic of Patriotism is that, while being a combination, an Orchestra of various and usually conflicting Passions, it depends upon segregation, not to say antagonism ; upon a railing, upon something separating those who feel it from everyone else. The self-conscious, the passionate collectivity, whether it be Clan or Tribe among primitive mankind, a City as in Classical Antiquity, a Religion as in the Middle Ages, a Country or Nation as in modern times, or Class as may well be in the near future, this collectivity requires for its self-consciousness and passion to be an extension of the individual self : it requires therefore a barrier, only less perfect and less permanent, which, like the individual’s impenetrable body and never really communicable soul, prevents its thoughts and feelings from being identified with those outside those barriers of otherness. Patriotism, in short, and whatever has stood in its stead and will stand in its stead, as a collective though compound passion, re uires for its existence segregation, opposition, antagonism, an I venture to add: hostility. Now such segregation may result in more
good than harm for the majority of individuals present and future ; it may likewise result in more harm than good. If a virtue can be distinguished from a vice (“ and of this virtue I will make a vice,” says Satan) by the balance of good over mischief which it produces under given circumstances, then PatIiotism can be considered virtuous or vicious only according to circumstances; and hence cannot be called virtuous or vicious taken in itself and, soto speak, in its own right.
My metaphorical description of it as an Orchestra has the advantage of affording us another, though subsidiary, test of Patriotism’s very varying, moral value. That test is the varying part played by its components. There is so much muddled thinking on these subjects, particularly in war-time, that I feel obliged to insult my more intelligent reader for the benefit of his weaker brethren, by clearing away any notion that these components are the various Nations, and that while the patriotism of Germans is wolfish and wicked, the patriotism of Britons (as Mr. Trotter tells us) is that of loyal, useful, though somewhat unintelligent bees, rather too overworked for the benefit of their hereditary magnates. I am moreover not speaking of Patriotism such as it manifests itself in any particular country, but of Patriotism such as it exists in the abstract and in all countries equally; and the components of this Orchestra I am speaking of are the different human impulses, habits and passions which always, though ma be in varying pro ortions, enter into its composition.
nd having guarde against the attempt (so natural in wartime) to ‘call one’s own nation’s Patriotism virtuous and the other nation’s Patriotism wicked, I may as well point out that one of the characteristics of all Patriotism as such is that, just
heres , the Patriotism of every belligerent nation tends to call t at of its op onents by a less flattering name : long before Mr. Trotter ha compared Germany to a wolf-pack, Burke had called Republican France a Band of Assassins, and a college for the training of atheists and madmen. I am glad to have been obliged to this little digression, for if you bear its occasion in mind (namely the distinction between our good Patriotism and the enemy’s wicked Patriotism), it may make it easier to recognize the abstract and essential nature of that famous Orchestra, and of the players who invariably go to make it up.
Let us now consider those various players and the varying parts they are sure to play in patriotism’s great symphonies with concerting parts obbligati, that is solos, trios, and so forth; its wonderful counter oints where the same theme introduced in the shrill notes o Fear will be repeated in the mellow, tender tones of loyalty to our dead, or the husky gravity of elderly fortitude: above all Patriotism’s matchless blending of all the different timbres and registers in a tutti which amounts in itself to a miraculous new instrument.
That Patriotism should so rarely emerge except in the resence of an enemy real or imagined, of a threat or a chalenge, leads to the recognition that there must be in its compo
sition more of Fear and Hate than of Love. At least we would none of us give much for a Love which needed Fear or Hate to awaken or keep it alive; it would be love born of Jealous . Howsoever that last point may be, Love there necessa 'y must be in all Patriotism, for is not Patriotism treated as synonymous with Love of one’s country P
So, before inquiring into the part played by viler passions, let us inquire into the nature of this Love which is so conspicuous a portion of Patriotism as to lead some people to imagine that it is the whole. The nature of this Love: I might almost have said, its grammatical status. For grammar, being the track worn by mankind’s use of words, not only canalizes our thought and often prevents its spreading to fertilize new fields, but reveals by its very channels of usage the direction which the drops and trickles and streams of our thoughts have taken in the past, and what have been the places of their confluence and of their rapid passionate pressure. Now the love entering into Patriotism, and called by Patriotism’s name, is a love which is governed by the first personal 0noun ; and manifests itself in the possessive case. It is ove due to possession; not love . . . how shall we distinguish it ? (though my Satan by the way has done so !) by preference,
attraction, suitability, choice, desire : not love simply as love.
An undeservedly forgotten Italian poet, Metastasio, perhaps paraphrasing some even obscurer classic, has left a brief and moving summary of patriotic love. It is Themistocles answering Xerxes’ inquiry, “What can make him love so greatly the city which has exiled him ?” For Themistocles had previously refused the Great King’s offer with the mere statement: “ Nacqui in Atene—I was born in Athens.”
“ E the tanto ami in lei—and what is it thou lovest so much in her ? ” rejoins Xerxes. Whereupon Themistocles :
“ Everything, 0 King. The ashes of my fathers, the sacred Laws, the tutelary gods. The language and the manners ; the sweat it has cost me ; the glory it once gave me; the air and earth, the walls, the very stones.”
(“ Tutto, O signor; le ceneri degli avi, le sacri leggi, i tutelari numi ; la favella, i costumi ; il sudor che mi costa ; lo splendor che ne trassi .' l’ aria, il terren, le mura, i sassi.”)
The whole evokes a vague and lovely vision of antique life which, even as I repeat it to myself and write it down, makes my own heart beat with the particular little rhythm associated with the name Athens. And each item is, or may be, extremely attaching in itself. An ancestral grave—(we see the little garlanded Chapel of the local hero), a language and manners and customs (the language too, of Greece, the manners and customs we know from Plato and the oration of Pericles !) what can be more so ? And then that lie of the stony olivegrowing land; the Southern sky, the atmosphere bright and full of the scent of sun-dried Mediterranean herbs; and then again the Gods ; there never were such Gods as those we know from Homer and Pindar and Greek marbles. I have chosen this example, and enlarged a little upon the images which accompany that little throb of my own heart at the word “ Athens ” ; because I want to draw attention to the fact that they are objects of my love as well as of that antique patriot’s ; a fact which Metastasio, or rather the usage of the courteous Italian language (which says “the father,” “the house” or “the garden,” without the reiteration of my or your), has left quite uncomplicated with grammatical indications that any of these things were more the property of Themistocles than yours or mine. Now suppose we leave it at that : recognize the lovableness of all these details and of their combination called Athens ,' and the love we most of us do, or could, feel for them : suppose we place Themistocles among ourselves as such
lovers of all that Athens means ; leaving it doubtful whether ‘
the graves, ancestors, manners and language, Gods, atmosphere, stocks and stones and landscapes belong to someone else, to the country where someone else (no matter who) happened to be born ; follow up the suggestion that, like you or me, Themistocles is contemplating Athens and Athenian things with intense love and veneration, but as one contemplates what never has or could have belonged to oneself, without any implication of mine or thine. Should we then be in presence of Patriotism I’ Should we be listening to the outburst of a patriot ? Evidently not. If the Great King had pointed to some equally delightful and venerable country, say in his own domains, Sardis or Ephesus, would Themistocles have answered, as we might answer someone who pitted Browning’s English “ laneside aflutter with poppies” against his “ castle, precipice-encurled in a gash of the wind-swept Apennine',” “ well both are delightful and I don’t know which I care for most.” No, Themistocles
has answered beforehand in that—“I was born in Athens.”'
It is that which makes him love those Athenian things which he enumerates ; makes him prefer them to the similar things or equivalent ones (including plenty of future sudore e splendor: offered by Xerxes) of some country of which he happened not to be a native. The previous answer “ I was born in Athens ” explains the difference between your or my love of Athens, of Italy, of any “ woman-country wooed not won,” and his love, which is the patriot’s love. It shows the difference of attitude between one who merely enjoys or appreciates or venerates, and one who owns; it reinstates the possessive pronoun omitted in Metastasio’s enumeration ; it shows that Themistocles loves Athens and Athenian things because he regards them as his.
It seems, therefore, that patriotic love is not due merely to the intrinsic qualities recognized in the object of that love, but also, and in so far as it differs from the love felt by an