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In the poem 'Patriotism' by Sir Walter Scott, the poet talks about spiritual ideas, such as that of the soul, in terms of how far a person can call himself a true patriot. Being a Scot, and particularly a Borders Scot, the poet has firm ideas of his own as to what these qualities are. To be a true patriot a man must recognise the land of his birth as being his - in common with his compatriots. he must not only recognise the land he was born on, but love it too. He must feel homesick when away from his motherland and excited and enthusiastic,impatient even, on the thought of his return there. He must be stirred and his heart must swell at his native song and music. He must be a man who looks beyond himself and his own needs and desires towards the needs of his country and compatriots. Any native,Scott says, who does not have these feelings and commitments is not truly alive,has no soul and will die unremembered and unmissed.
First six lines:
Scott opens the poem with a rhetorical question. He uses it to say that anyone who has a soul must be patriotic. Anyone who is truly alive must feel patriotism when they return from a foreign country.
Next two lines:
That kind of person feels no music within them -- means they have no emotions.
Rest of the poem:
No matter how rich or famous or important, that sort of person is selfish. Because they're selfish, no one will think well of them. When they die, no one will mourn them or praise them.
As the title indicates, Scott's poem is designed to discuss the importance of love of one's 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 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.
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