Edmondo De Acimis
THE LOVE OF COUNTRY
Since the tale of the Drummer-boy has touched your heart, it should be easy for you this morning to do your composition for examination—Why you love Italy—well. Why do I love Italy? Do not a hundred answers present themselves to you on the instant? I love Italy because my mother is an Italian; because the blood that flows in my veins is Italian; because the soil in which are buried the dead whom my mother mourns and whom my father venerates is Italian; because the town in which I was born, the language that I speak, the books that educate me,—because my brother, my sister, my comrades, the great people among whom I live, and the beautiful nature which surrounds me, and all that I see, that I love, that I study, that I admire, is Italian. Oh, you cannot feel that affection in its entirety! You will feel it when you become a man; when, returning from a long journey, after a prolonged absence, you step up in the morning to the bulwarks of the vessel and see on the distant horizon the lofty blue mountains of your country; you will feel it then in the impetuous flood of tenderness which will fill your eyes with tears and will wrest a cry from your heart. You will feel it in some great and distant city, in that impulse of the soul which will impel you from the strange throng towards a workingman from whom you have heard in passing a word in your own tongue. You will feel it in that sad and proud wrath which will drive the blood to your brow when you hear insults to your country from the mouth of a stranger. You will feel it in more proud and vigorous measure on the day when the menace of a hostile race shall call forth a tempest of fire upon your country, and when you shall behold arms raging on every side, youths thronging in legions, fathers kissing their children and saying, “Courage!” mothers bidding adieu to their young sons and crying, “Conquer!” You will feel it like a joy divine if you have the good fortune to behold the re-entrance to your town of the regiments, weary, ragged, with thinned ranks, yet terrible, with the splendor of victory in their eyes, and their banners torn by bullets, followed by a vast convoy of brave fellows, bearing their bandaged heads and their stumps of arms loftily, amid a wild throng, which covers them with flowers, with blessings, and with kisses. Then you will comprehend the love of country; then you will feel your country, Enrico. It is a grand and sacred thing. May I one day see you return in safety from a battle fought for her, safe,—you who are my flesh and soul; but if I should learn that you have preserved your life because you were concealed from death, your father, who welcomes you with a cry of joy when you return from school, will receive you with a sob of anguish, and I shall never be able to love you again, and I shall die with that dagger in my heart.