On Anglo Melancholy
I know well the feeling of which you speak. I've not only felt this when wandering the aisles of European cathedrals or the parapets of old English castles. Once I visited Cape Kennedy, and stood beneath the main engine of a Saturn V. I felt my heart rise up in my chest. I could barely stand to look at. To think that we had gone so far, and then turned our backs and returned, and then forgotten how to even build such rockets ... we are dwarves living in the shadows of titans.
I am English. I live in England. And yes, my heart breaks for my people and my land. We are experiencing a cultural genocide and an ethnic cleansing that the malicious promote and few seem willing to recognise and even fewer to fight against.
I went to England some years back. I enjoyed Westminster but there was something a little melancholy about the trip. It seems that almost every culture on earth is feeling this right now, some more profoundly than others. Europe in general sometimes feels like there's forces outside our control turning them into giant museums to their own people's history. Yet it is all for tourist consumption and selfie-takers instead of for the benefits of the local culture.
When you say "Perhaps it is because strength taken from the past is untouchable and unbreakable, whereas strength and hope taken from looking to the future can be dashed", it strikes me that this may be the very reason why the wokerati and the globalists are doing their best to rewrite the past, to make it something shameful, to poison the very roots of the nation's strength and resistance.
This is easily your best post to date, and I could only reiterate what others have already said.
Wow. You’ve put into words a longing I often feel, especially when I’ve wandered the British Isles. I once lived in Brittany in France for awhile. I could not explain to myself then what I felt, but I felt it. I felt a connection to an ancient Celtic culture that I did not understand (until I studied out my genealogy years later), being a girl from the American West. I lived in constant wonder at the ancient ruins and strongholds, and even wounds of wars past that are still visible. I feel like I went into forests that were rumored to be linked to Arthur and enchanted by Merlin, and did not come out of there the same person who went in.
Being part of a long chain of melancholy actually gives me some hope for the future. Thank you.
A beautiful post. I’m an Englishman and I think you’re totally on the mark with your analysis of our nostalgic longing for days gone by.
Great post and I totally agree. The Anglican church is the custodian of buildings it does not understand and I find them, especially cathedrals, infuriating at times. I had a meltdown in Durham when I apparently walked the wrong way out. Just crazy.
The thing is, when you're surrounded by history, you become careless about it. It is almost everywhere here - old buildings, historical sites are two a penny. But history teaching in this country is now dire so people have no idea about the value of what surrounds them.
From a young age I've wanted to explore the British Isles, experience the historical places that fueled my imagination while reading the fiction of Tennyson, White, Twain, Steinbeck's "The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights", C.S. Lewis, and Anya Seton. Now much beyond my youth, I'm almost hesitant to do so, for fear of seeing those idyllic places spoiled by commerce and the experience cheapened by those who care not about the history but about the "story" they will tell or show in a selfie. Almost like the be-spoiling of a shrine to antiquity.
Your beautiful essay has re-inspired my interest. Thank you.
> In America, the cultural spirit is different. The English that came to the new world had given up on looking behind, in favor of looking West. The American ethos became defined by expansion, pioneering, manifest destiny.
There used to be that attitude in England as well. Read Kipling for an example.
>Something in our blood is at home among the ruins.
So much so that Englishmen were once famous for building new ruins from scratch if their local landscapes didn't already have some.
(The list of these structures in England is as long as the lists for every other place in the world put together.)
The observation of feeling that one is almost trespassing in places of long-forgotten renown is precisely it. I dislike traveling to Britian during the tourist seasons, or staying longer than I must in the larger cities as if I was one of those horrid selfie-takers, because it somehow seems disrespectful to the people and places of ages past. My fathers came from this Sceptered Isle, how can I act as if it is some curiosity in a museum?
After reading (for the second time) this splendid piece, I was struck by the notion that a sense of inferiority with respect to a better past does a man, and, indeed, a culture, a lot of good. May we all have a little voice whispering in our ears, "Be worthy of your ancestors."
I had the privilege to visit Hadrian's Wall (I've also seen his villa in Tivoli) and Salisbury Cathedral last summer. Both marvels of engineering. The West has lost it's way, and seems to lose it's way over and over again. This is the cycle of humanity I'm afraid. Throughout history this has happened, no matter the culture. It feels weird to be a part of history that is fighting the inevitable decline. How many of us will survive through it to the other side where we climb again? No one knows.
I visited England this summer. Walking the streets of Oxford, I was in awe of the history. As a mentee of Tolkien and Lewis, I walked where they walked. I prayed where they prayed. I stood above their graves and wondered at their legacy in grateful repose. Their legacy and country have shaped the landscape of my internal life. As I walked back to Christ Church from the Trout in Wolvercote at sunset on my last night, I experienced deep longing, and though you are right, we exist in the present among the ruins, I can't help but feel it's not where I belong. It's like a thread from the past is pulling my heart back, but it is a way I cannot go.
Great post. I'm currently reading Church, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War by Patrick J. Buchanan and it's shown me how the two great wars or the Great Western Civil War has destroyed us and now we live in only ruins as you put it.