Memorial Day Poem

Patriotism – Sir Walt Scott

Sir Walter Scott (1777-1832)

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
‘This is my own, my native land!’ Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

“Walter Scott was a superstar novelist of the early 19th century, and a pioneer in the art of the historical novel. His special interest was Scotland’s history and culture; his first literary success was a collection of Scottish ballads and narrative poems, the five-volume Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-03). Over the next 30 years he produced a tremendous amount of novels, biographies, stories and poems. The best-known is probably Ivanhoe (1819), a romantic tale of chivalry with a cast that included Richard the Lion-Hearted and Robin Hood.” – Taken from Answers.com

“As the title indicates, Scott’s poem is designed to discuss the importance of love of one’s faith and land.  The first quarter of the poem extols the life and spirit of patriotism, and the results of a life devoid of it.  The poem then explores the implications of what happens when one is stripped of land and identity associated with it.  Being a native of Scotland, perhaps this is where there is some personal reflection in addressing the loss of one’s home or the absence of it through war and political strife.  Essentially, Scott argues that no matter the amount of personal wealth and titles, the identity one gains from their own faith, homeland and nation trumps all in fulfilling one’s identity.  As you read the poem, keep these ideas in mind and pay attention to the imagery of how Scott brings out the reality of both being in love with one’s country and how the absence of this love impacts an individual.  Scott does a very admirable job of bringing out both realities in the poem.” – Taken from Enotes.com

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