Literary Nationalism is the record of the best thought, sentiments and aspiration of a nation. Every nation in history has a characteristic way of tackling the problems of life as every individual has his own tastes and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes it is argued that a poet, an essayist or a dramatist can rise sheer above his age and look ahead of his people so far that he can fix himself even as a star in the heavens, shorn of the . traditions and culture amidst which he is born. This argument has no right to be heard. It is true that a dramatist like Shakespeare has a literary nationalism appeal and is read with zest even today alike in the West and in the East. But even Shakespeare’s plays bear on them the stamp of Elizabethan England.
The Greeks Were Most Artistic People In The World And They Established Literary Nationalism In Literature
We confess we know neither Greek nor Latin. But a study of Homer’s epics and the Greek tragedy in the best English translation brings home to us the distinctive Greek attitude towards life. It is said that ancient Greece has taught Europe everything except law and religion. The Greeks of old were the most artistic people in the world. Their philosophy of life was marked by a passion for the beautiful, a love of clarity of expression, a powerful myth-making imagination and a deep sense of the fateful in life. The vivid descriptions of Ulysses’ adventures at Sea in The Odyssey and hand to hand fights between the Greek and Trojan heroes like Achilles and Hector in the take us at once to a world whose values are different from ours.
There the people loved and braved the perils of the deep, the mortals fought shoulder to shoulder with the immortals for the sake of Helen, the fairest of women and success in battles was won not by heavy artillery but by personal prowess. The lesson of the Greek tragedy is simple:the choruses of aeschylus and Sophocles constantly remind the erring mortals that the violation of the divine law of all-judging Zeus would spell ruin to the world. Over the ebb and flow of life, as the Greeks believed, there presided Fate. Thought the Fates are conceived in Greek mythology as three sisters, Homer gives them a place even above the greatest of Gods.
Romans Were Also Inspired The Ideas of Literary Nationalism In Literature
The Romans who came alter the Greeks looked at life from the Roman angle; they were inspired by the ideal of citizenship and a sense of the civil law. As Professor Wilkins rightly puts it, the Roman ideal presses into one word—‘dignity’. It covered everything which “gave to a man the weight and influence with his fellow-citizens”. Roman dignity is opposed to fickle-mindedness and rashness.
Patriotism, love of the countryside, fortitude and resignation, dignity of conduct and urbanity of feeling—these are the virtues of the ancient Romans, the forefathers of Mussolini’s race. Naturally, then the satire is the fort of Latin literature. The aim of satire is to correct the morals and manners of the people by accentuating their shortcomings. So Horace in his Satires exposes the fallacy in the contemporary conception of the hero while Juvenal lashes the vices of the age Domitian with the whips of steel.
The Impact Of Nationality As A Factor In English Literature
Coming down to English literature, one may almost generalize like this; as are the English people, so is their literature. The geography and history of England have left their indelible mark on the way of her people. Insular and conservative in his outlook, the Englishman is a living bundle of contradictions. The sources from which the English stock is derived are mainly three: the Celtic, the German and the Norse. As a result of the fusion of these different races, the Englishmen have developed in history into a race of sailors and adventure.
The Englishman, says Emerson, combines “the extremes of courage and tenderness.” Therefore, if England has produced gallant fighters like Marlborough, Nelson and Wellington, she has her Robin Hood, the “gentlest” of outlaws. Whatever truth there may be in the Frenchman’s accusation that the English people are a race of shopkeepers, English poetry is great, and the poets of England can challenge comparison with the best of France, Germany and Italy. ‘First live, then philosophize’— this seems to be the motto of an. Englishman. Therefore, as life is full of contradictions so is an human’s personality.
And yet the Englishman is no enigma; he not baffle the understanding. “What is it that governs the englishman?” asks Professor Kipling; and he himself answers the ion. “What governs the Englishman”, says he, “is his inner sphere.” This inner atmosphere is composed of those invisible powers and sensibilities that always help an Englishman to maintain bis identity in the midst of a crowd. A lover of the simple in life and a hater of cant, an explorer by instinct and yet an admirer of the scenes of English life, the Englishman carries his “English weather” wherever he goes.
National Characteristics Of English People Have Greatly Influenced In Literary Nationalism
All these national characteristics of the English people have found expression in their literature as it has developed through the ages. In the age of Elizabeth, the Englishman found out the size of the planet which men call earth. It was an age of voyages and discoveries; Raleigh’s History of the World and Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries helped forward the colonising spirit. It was also an age of efflorescence of drama; Ben Jonson, Marlowe and Shakespeare were the greatest dramatists of the time.
Ben Jonson is the dramatist as Dickens is the novelist of London life; the Jonsonian comedy of humour represents the whims, fancies and oddities of the Elizabethan Londoner. Marlowe rises to the peaks of Renaissance idealism. Tamburlaine, the Jew of Malta and Dr. Faustus are the title-heroes of his principal dramas; the first symbolizes the passion for earthly power, the second the passion for gold and the third the passion for knowledge. The dramas of Shakespeare represent the humanism of the Renaissance in its deepest moments. “What a piece of the work is man! how noble in reason how infinite in faculties !” exclaims Hamlet.
If these are the words of Hamlet, they are also the accents of Shakespeare, breathing the very spirit of the Renaissance when humanity discovered its infinite possibilities. As the Englishman evolved into the mid seventeenth century, he found himself torn by religious conflict. The Puritans and the Independents, the Anglicans and the Presbyterians all searched their hearts for the truth about Christianity. Milton’s paradise Lost is an epic of the soul in terms of the Puritan interpretation of Satan’s fall from heaven. The eighteenth century made the Englishman more social than his forbear, he discovered his neighbour.
It was an age of reason; Pope wrote satires, Addison and Steele penned moral essays in The Spectator and Swift in his Gulliver’s Travels struck off the bitterest of ironies on men in general and his contemporaries in particular.The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed the flourishing of romanticism. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron A and Keats enriched English poetry with a deeper appreciation of man and nature.
The child, the peasant, the patriot and the dreamer are the favourite themes of their poetry, while the glories of the mountain, the lake and the sea and the chequers of light and shade, often flooded by the nightingale’s song, compose the substance of their poetry of nature. The second half of the age of Victoria reports efforts at compromise, the balancing of mutually opposed values of life. Tennyson conceives Ulysses as a symbol of the Victorian spirit of progress and makes him “follow knowledge like a sinking star beyond the utmost bond of human thought”; and Browning puts into the mouth of Rabbi Ben Ezra the note of full-blooded optimism. But neither Tennyson nor Browning is yet troubled by the doubts; and fears of Dean Inge.
Lastly, that us turn over in our mind the age in which we are’ living with pride. Some who refer literary movements to the reigns of monarchs call it Georgian or Edwardian; others who prefer the language of psychology to that of history call it “the age of interrogation.” Poets like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, essayists like Chesterton and Robert Lynd and humorists like Max Beerbohm rejoice at the fall of the long-cherished, time hallowed gods of the Victorian age—the very ideals for which Macaulay once upon a time clapped his hands and uttered full-mouthed hurrahs like “an inspired school boy”.
The types of English literature that have evolved through the ages are truly bewildering in their variety. But there is a deep unity of thought and expression underlying them all. The English people are not a race of philosophers like the Germans. German literature is always based on philosophy, But there is no philosophical planning in English literature. Goethe is first a philosopher, then a poet. Wordsworth is first a poet, then a philosopher. Again although the average Englishman is a good culpable fellow, yet he does not, like the Frenchman beyond the channel, believe in setting up.
Literary with a view to controlling the practice of individual writes or prose. Then Englishman is by instinct an experimenter in foreign policy. Even so in literature, the Englishman of letters himself to be influenced by the French ideals in one age, by the in another and by the German in a third and yet is not lost in cross-currents of diverse streams of culture. A sturdy common a firm grasp of the real, classical restraint and a liberalism that mandates more than one faith in life are the salient features of the English nation and its literature.
‘Tell me the geography and history of a people and I can tell jibs literature,’—even so might one put it. Before the recent conquest of Abyssinia. The Italians were thought to be a soft people. To some extent they were, indeed, so. But now they have developed virility in a hitherto unknown degree, and the softer poets like Dante are followed few manlier dramatists like Pirandello.To use a mathematical image, rationality is a function of literature: as the one varies so does the other.