How can I answer such a question?
Can a man truly tell his lover what she means to him,
Or a daughter her mother?
England. There is no other.
Words are not enough,
Not even those English words
Good, honest, simple;
Not always Anglo-Saxon
Even when we think them so,
But English, all the same;
Replete with history and tradition.
And yet in some ways,
There are too many words
How rich our vocabulary!
So many possibilities of expression;
Such a forest of meaning to get lost in
When language extends beyond its roots
And we cannot see the wood for the trees.
It is as if the whole world
Has poured its scattered meanings
Into our dictionary;
Just as now the whole world, it seems,
Has taken refuge on our shores
And seeks to make its home in England
Or is it, makes England its home?
For we are no longer sure
If we invited them – England, that is –
Not even those we truly welcome to our land.
That choice was taken from our hand:
England, the home of freedom,
The Mother of Parliaments,
Is not free to define the limits of its nation,
To have a destiny not just be a destination;
And be truly called by its own name.
England, the one and only.
Instead, the stranger is invited
To view himself as British:
In fact, an alien not sharing common values
But sharing our alienation;
For we, too, are called
To quit the foolish things of youth
In the name of a universal truth
That we are “British”:
Rootless wanderers of the global age,
And strangers in a land that belongs to all
And so belongs to none.
England: there is none other.
Words are meaningless if there is not heart;
And where there is no heart, there cannot be a home.
I have not always loved her, my England,
When I have travelled far abroad;
But I did not love myself when I despised her,
And always I have called her home.
And always, she has called me home.
She is, in so many ways, my very ground of being;
The wellspring that set my heartbeat racing.
Much that defines me defines England, too;
I belong to England and England belongs to me.
The rhythm of her language speaks in me;
I am the product of her history,
A part of her present
And the guarantor of her future.
For as long as my heart beats,
England, too, will not be beaten.
They can take our nation in name only;
But while I live, they cannot take her soul.
And that is what “England” means to me.
David blogs at Britology Watch.