What is the summary of "Patriotism" by Sir Walter Scott?
The obvious theme of Scott's poem is that loyalty to one's nation is a feeling every person possesses almost as a matter of instinct. If we put this in the context of the time in which it was written, it seems like a rebuke to those who were not especially enthusiastic about Britain and the role it played in the Napoleonic wars. Other poets, such as Byron and Shelley, expatriated themselves to mainland Europe and (though ambivalent) expressed more than a few negative sentiments about Britain, its king (George III during most of their lives), and its government. (After the victory of the British and the Allies over the French at Waterloo in 1815, Byron was quoted as saying, "I'm damned sorry for it.") Unlike these poets and many other intellectuals of the time, Scott was a conservative in political matters.
The concept of patriotism also can be seen to have a dual but especially emphatic meaning for Scott. He was a Scottish nationalist but also a unionist, and thus he believed in the rightness of the merging of England and Scotland that had existed since the Union Act of 1707. So for him, patriotism meant loyalty both to Scotland and to Britain as a whole.
It's a testament to Scott's literary skill and to the power of poetry that the opening lines of the poem, beginning "Breathes there the man with soul so dead?", are stirring even to those who are not gung-ho nationalists. They are reflective of a primal and unchanging human emotion.
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