A Song for a Nation by Anthony Esolen

ILLUMINATIONS
Anthony Esolen on Christian Hymns

A Song for a Nation

One of the great pleasures of riding a bicycle in a state as long-settled as Rhode Island is that, when you're not in the city, you often find yourself in the midst of a palimpsest of human life in its passage through the many years. There are the little "historical cemeteries," about a thousand of them, sometimes no more than a small family plot, protected by iron fences and dutifully tended. There are the miles of low stone walls running zigzag through the woods, marking what used to be fields and pastures. There are square pits in the earth, old root cellars, perhaps; and sometimes the walled embankments of a diverted stream, to provide power for a gristmill that no longer stands.

I wasn't born here, but I have grown fond of the place, with its geographical and historical bumps. I now can order a grinder at a diner or a cabinet at an ice cream stand, and can, for the voice of a Cyclops, turn a short a into a triphthong and swallow my r's like any tattooed fisherman or real estate salesman around. I know where the fallen trestle is on the train bed that is now a bike path, and something in me is fond of that big broken tooth, though I'll admit that it might provide a rude surprise for the unwary.

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Anthony Esolen is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalene College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire. His many books include Sex in the Unreal City: The Demolition of the Western Mind, Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a regular contributor to Chronicles, Crisis Magazine, The Claremont Review, Inside the Vatican Things, The Catholic Thing, and American Greatness. He has translated Dante's Divine Comedy. He is a Roman Catholic and lives with his wife in New Hampshire. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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