Discuss the poem "Breathes There The Man" written by Sir Walter Scott.

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sir Walter Scott was writing poetry just when Romanticism was in its nascent stages. He does share certain elements in common with the Romantics such as the glory of the past, rural landscapes and humanitarianism. But his poetry was more conservative, restrained, gentlemanly and not as rebellious in emotional overflow or in political commentary as the other Romantics. In fact, this poem is often interpreted (and intended) as a treatise on patriotism with a possible indication of chivalry. An excerpt from The Lay of the Last Minstrel, this poem follows the titles “Patriotism; Innominatus.” The poem describes a soulless man who’s “heart hath ne’er within him burned” and who never took time to consider or take pride in his own country; “This is my own, my native land!” This man is only interested in wealth and titles. He will die nameless (innominatus), no minstrels will sing about him or lament his death. By describing this dispassionate man who had no patriotism and lived on for superficial labels, Scott endorses the importance of patriotism as part of an awareness and appreciation to more important things in life. In connection with the Romantics, this also invokes the glory of the past and the allure of more simplistic rural settings.