El Amor Patrio
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Here is a beautiful subject, and because it is beautiful, it is very hackneyed. Learned man, poet, artist, laborer, merchant, or soldier, old or young, king or slave—all have pondered it and devoted to it the most valued fruits of their intelligence, or of their hearts. From the cultured European, free and proud of his glorious history, to the African Negro[,] dragged out of his forests and sold for a paltry sum; from ancient peoples[,] whose shadows still hover over their somber ruins—the tombs of their glories and sufferings—to the modern nations, full of activity and life[;] all, all have had and have an idol whom they call Motherland—beautiful, brilliant, sublime but implacable, haughty, and exacting.
A thousand tongues have sung to her[;] a thousand lyres have offered her their most sonorous music; the most favored intellects, the most inspired poets, have displayed before her view, or her memory, their most resplendent fineries. She has been the universal cry of peace, of love, and of glory, because she is in the hearts and minds of all men[;] and like the light enclosed in limpid crystal, she goes forth in the form of the most intense splendor.
And will this be an obstacle to us who wish to treat of her? And can we not dedicate to her something, we whose only sin is to have been born later? Would the 19th century serve as an excuse for us to be ungrateful? No. The rich mine of the heart has not yet been exhausted. Her remembrance is always prolific[,] and no matter how little inspiration we have, positively we will find in the bottom of our soul, if not a rich treasure, a mite, poor but an enthusiastic manifestation of our sentiments. In the manner then of the ancient Hebrews who offered in the temple the first fruits of their love, we in foreign land will dedicate our first utterances to our country, enveloped in morning clouds and mist, always beautiful and poetic, and the more idolized by her sons when they are absent and far away from her.
And this is not surprising, because it is a very natural feeling; because there in our country are our first memories of childhood, a merry ode, known only in childhood, from whose traces spring forth the flower of innocence and happiness; because there slumbers a whole past and a future can be hoped[;] because in her forests and in her meadows, on every tree, on every blade, on every flower, you see engraved the memory of a being you love, as her breath in the perfumed breeze, her song in the murmur of the fountains, her smile in the rainbow of the sky, or her sighs in the confused moans of the night wind.
It is because you see there with the eyes of your imagination, under the tranquil roof of your old home, a family who remembers you and awaits you, thinking of you and worrying about you; in short[,] because in her sky, in her sun, in her seas, and in her forests, you find poetry, tenderness, and love[,] and even in the cemetery[,] there is a humble tomb awaiting you to return to the soil.
Will there be a genie who will bind your heart to the soil of our native country, who beautifies and adorns everything, showing us all objects in a poetic and sentimental aspect and captivating our hearts[?] Because under whatever aspect she may appear, whether she is dressed in purple, crowned with flowers and laurels, powerful and rich; whether she is sorrowful and solitary, clad in rags, and a slave, entreating her slave sons; whether she is a nymph in a pleasant garden beside the blue waves of the sea, gracious and beautiful as the dream of deluded youth; whether she is enveloped in a shroud of snow, sitting [fatidical] on the ends of the earth under a sunless and starless sky; whatever her name, her age, or her fortune might be, we love her always, as the child loves his mother even in the midst of hunger and misery.
And how strange! The poorer and more wretched she is, the more one is willing to suffer for her[;] the more she is adored, the more one finds leisure in bearing up with her. It has been observed that the people of the mountains and wild valleys and those born on barren and dismal land are the very ones who remember more vividly their country, finding in the cities a terrible boredom which compels them to return to their native land. Is it because love of country is the purest, more heroic, and most sublime human sentiment? It is gratitude; it is affection for everything that reminds us of something of the first days of our life; it is the land where our ancestors are sleeping; it is the temple where we have worshipped God with the candor of babbling childhood; it is the sound of the church bell which has delighted us since [we were children]; they are the vast fields, the blue lake, the picturesque banks of the river which we pass by in a nimble little boat; the limpid brook which laves the cheerful little house nestling among flowers like a love nest; or the tall mountains which inspire us this pleasant sentiment? Will it be the raging storm that lashes and knocks down with its terrible force everything it finds on its way? The lighting which, escaping from the hands of the Almighty, annihilates everything? Will it be the avalanche or cascade, matters of perpetual motion and endless menace? Is it all that attracts, captivates, and entices us?
Probably their beauties or tender remembrances fortify the bound that unites us to our native land, engendering a pleasant feeling of well-being when we are in our country or deep melancholy when we are far away from her—the origin of a cruel disease called nostalgia.
Oh! Never sadden the stranger who arrives at your shores: do not awaken in him that vivid memory of his country, the comforts of his home, because then you will evoke this sickness, tenacious phantom that will not abandon him until he sees again his native land or he arrives at the border of the tomb.
Never pour a drop of bitterness [into] his heart, for in such circumstances the sorrows are exaggerated, compared with the happiness of the lost home.
We are born[;] then we grow up, we get old, and we die with this pious sentiment. It is perhaps the most constant if there is constancy in the hearts of men, and it seems that it does not abandon us even in our very tombs.
Napoleon, seeing dimly the dark bottom of the grave, remembers his France whom he loved extremely[;] and in his exile, he entrusts to her his remains, confident that he will find more comforting rest in her midst.
Ovid, more unfortunate, and divining that not even his ashes would return to Rome, dying on the shores of the Black Sea, consoled himself with the thought that if not he, at least his verses would reach the Capitol.
As children[,] we love games; as adolescents[,] we forget them; as young men[,] we search for our ideal; disappointed, we weep over it and we go seeking for something more positive and more useful; as fathers, our children die; and time rubs out our grief as the air of the sea obliterates the shoreline [while] the ship moves away from it.
But, on the other hand, love of country is never effaced once it has penetrated the heart because it carries with it a divine stamp which renders it eternal and imperishable.
It has been said that love has always been the most powerful force behind the most sublime actions. Well then, of all loves, that of country is the greatest, the most heroic[,] and the most disinterested. Read history[;] if not, the annals, the traditions. Go to the homes—what sacrifices, self-denial, and ears are held on the sacred altar of the nation!
From Brutus, who condemned his sons charged with treason, to Guzman the Good[,] who allowed his son to die in order not to fail in his duty¬—what dramas, what tragedies, what martyrdom have not been enacted for the welfare of that inexorable divinity who has nothing to give you in return for your children but gratitude and blessings! And notwithstanding, with the pieces of their hearts[,] they raise glorious monuments to their motherland; with the work of their hands, with the sweat of their brow, they have sprinkled and made fruitful her sacred tree[;] and neither have they expected nor received any reward.
See there a man sunk in his study. For him his best days are passing away, his sight weakens, his hair turns gray and gradually disappears with his illusions; his body stoops. For years he has been after the truth; he solves a problem; hunger and thirst, cold and heat, sickness and misfortune have successively confronted him. He is going down his grave and avails of his agony to offer to the motherland a rosette for her crown, a truth—fountain and origin of a thousand benefits.
Turn you eyes to another direction: a man tanned by the sun scratches the ungrateful soil to plant a seed. He is a farmer. He too contributes with his modest but useful work to the glory of his nation. The motherland is in danger! Soldiers and leaders as if by charm spring from the ground. The father leaves his children, the sons leave their parents, and all rush to defend their common mother. They bid farewell to the quiet pleasures of the home and hide under their helmets the tears that tenderness draws. They all leave and die. Perhaps he is the father of many children, fair and pinkish like cherubs; perhaps he is a young man of smiling hopes —a son or a lover—it does not matter. He has defended the one who gave him life; he has fulfilled his duty. Peter or Leonidas, whoever he might be, the Motherland will know how to remember him.
Some have sacrificed for her their youth, their pleasures; others have dedicated to her the splendor of their genius; others shed their blood; all have died, bequeathing to their Motherland an immense fortune: Liberty and glory.
And what has she done for them? She mourns them and proudly presents them to the world, to posterity[,] and to her children to serve as an example.
But alas, if at the magic of your name, oh, Motherland, the most heroic virtues shine; if in your name superhuman sacrifices are made, on the other hand, what injustices…!
From Jesus Christ who, [full of] love, has come to the world for the welfare of humanity and dies for it in accordance with the laws of his motherland, to the most obscure victims of modern revolutions—how many, alas, have not suffered and died for you, usurped by others.
How many victims of rancor, of ambitions, or of ignorance have not expired blessing you and wishing you all kinds of happiness!
Fair and grand is the Motherland when her children, at the cry of battle, get ready to defend the ancient land of their ancestors; cruel and arrogant when she sees from her throne the terrified foreigner flee before the invincible phalanx of her sons. But when her sons, divided into rival factions, destroy one another; when anger and rancor devastate fields, towns, and cities; then ashamed, she tears away her robe[,] and hurling her scepter, she puts on mourning clothes for her dead sons.
Whatever our condition might be then, let us love her always and let us wish nothing but her welfare. Thus we shall labor in conformity with the purpose of humanity dictated by God, which is the harmony and universal peace of his creatures. You who have lost the ideal of your souls[;] you who, with wounded hearts, have seen your illusions disappear one by one[;] and like the trees in autumn you find yourselves without flowers and without leaves, and desirous of loving, find no one worthy of you, there you have the Motherland: Love her. You who have lost a father, mother, brother, wife, child, in short, love, upon which you have founded your dreams, and you find in yourselves a deep and horrible void, there you have the Motherland: Love her as she deserves.
Love her! Oh, yes! But not as they loved in other times by performing ferocious acts, denied and condemned by true morals and mother nature; by making a display of fanaticism, destruction, and cruelty, no. A more promising dawn appears [on] the horizon —a soft and gentle light, the messenger of life and peace—the dawn, in short, of true Christianity, the prelude to happy and peaceful days.
It is our duty to follow the arid but peaceful and productive paths of science which lead to progress, and thence to the unity desired and asked by Jesus Christ on the night of his sorrow.