On 30 May 2016 at 12:21pm Paul Newman wrote:
Am I European ?
I have met people who claim to feel as much European as English and people who says things like “ I prefer those nice French people we met on holiday to ….( here insert anyone you dislike you dislike bankers , welfare scroungers , whatever… )”.
I have nothing in common with these people , I don`t think of Europeans as a “we” in that sense and if we have unpleasant people they are ”our” people nonetheless .
This has led many to conclude that Europe is merely a geographical expression and far from being a cultural entity is a project to abolish England. I want to argue that this is also not true and that the European-ness of the English is so deep as to evade our notice .
European may not be what we feel but it is what we are
I do of course appreciate that almost no-one will be interested but that’s fine , if anyone wishes to add to or criticise my own historical sense then feel free I am just a bod who likes reading .What do I know …..
So in the humble opinion….
We can trace a line of descent form the Ancient Greeks without whose maths philosophy political experiments and arts a modern man is unimaginable . To take one example the Greek conception of beauty remains our own and although we have an odd conception of this pure white statues
(Painted brightly at the time ), the beautiful youth of Greek legend around us today. Rome augmented and spread what we might call Western civilisation which was ultimately saved by changed by the Western Christian Church centred on Rome .
Does anyone but me recall Kenneth Clarkes immortal series civilisation in which began with the programme “ By the skin of our teeth”, in this programme he visited the tiny Christian outposts where Monks kept literacy and learning alive whilst dark ages Europe crawled out of barbarism.
Today the boundaries of Europe correspond closely what was once called Christendom.
Not all of Europe came under Rome`s heel and when the legions left England was, for centuries a battleground between different Germanic tribes . As this time comes into focus we see Germanic Saxons , literate and Christian, looking to Europe struggling with their cousins the Norsemen, Scandinavian Pagan fighters, whose first raid was to slaughter the monks and despoil the great Monastery of Lindisfarne.
Tremendous though the fighting skills of the Vikings were they succumbed to the new civilising force of Christianity and by a strange twist a couple of centuries later, Frankish Knights ( The Normans ) who only a few generations earlier had themselves been Viking raiders imposed their rule and established the secure unitary English state in 1066. So as we see the very birth and conception of England was a victory for its European influences , the reassertion of Roman unity and inclusion within the wider cultural and poetical world of mediaeval Europe
At this time England was culturally part of a channel Empire and the old Germanic root tongue which lost all inflexion in the 8th and 9th centuries acquired so much French and Latin that it Germanic character is barely visible. England first great poet Chaucer was a diplomat of humble origin who wrote in a style infused with the traditions of the French Mediaeval world of the continent , from his elegant explorations of chivalry to the famously bawdy tales enjoyed by so many English school boys . This period in which France established itself as the centre of European its cultural heart has been a source of English resentment ever since
Arthurian literature was a great craze of the time but what is sometimes looked back to as a well spring of pure Englishness was in fact a French courtly genre (so to speak) of Romance set in what to the French was the Wild West ( the wild North in fact)
Sadly Arthur ,a historical character of a line or two is one of the French imagination although the tales were collected ultimately by an Englishman in the form we know them
This period of history furnishes the first of myths that animate isolationists today , the idea of a people in slavery in their own land . As every skule boy do know the word for each animal is derived from Saxon , cow pig sheep , the word for the meat is always old French , mutton , beef pork. Evidence that the Saxons tended the animals whilst the Normans ate the meat. In our own town we sit beneath what was once a chilling and sombre expression of subjection, Lewes Castle . Walter Scott ( great romantic and fervent unionist ) drew on this myth for Ivanhoe as does every version of Robin Hood , the greatest of English stories .
The evil Sherriff of Nottingham is “Norman” the heroic Robin is Saxon , fighting back against the oppressor . Fine stories of course but as we have seen the Saxons themselves were part of the European world and in any case for the English to deny the Noman and French element of their birth would be an amusing conceit at best .
The irony is that the cult of Saxon Englishness was a tool of the ruling elite to form a sense of Nationhood as notwithstanding Agincourt their French lands were lost and the Plantagenet’s became the English Kings we know . From this time we inherit the idea of Merry England a land rich in song and laughter ( a peculiarity of the English I will admit and one which we still pride ourselves upon)
We know form the endless records ( the parchment trail )of this list making period that the Church was omnipresent in legal medical contractual and of course spiritual matters much like the rest of Europe and the feudal agrarian life was also not so different form anywhere else. A town like Lewes would have been much like any across the mid European pain with its cycle of mysteries seasons procreation and a resilient folk paganism much in evidence hereabouts . Like all of Europe the black death swept through what must have seemed an immutable order.
Europe is usually seen as a differentiated place( by contrast with America or China say) but in some ways it is peculiarly unified . Alone of the continents it is easily navigable by river as the Vikings showed, and can be crossed with some ease . The unifying legacy of Greece and Rome was retained by the Church and As Mediaeval culture grew there was always a consciousness of this heirloom, a fighting King like the French Charles ( later Charlemagne ) was himself illiterate but conceived of greatness as being part of this civilisation . Europe was also unified by Latin , for centuries the common the European language of learning and religion by Rome in some sense by music in its unique tradition of harmony. England was always part of this European world and the extent to which the idea of a Nation in the 19th century sense was part of anyone’s sensibility is dubious.
Even now children from Warsaw to Lewes suffer the same piano lessons and studying the same classical music a unique tradition derived form the harmonies of plainsong and the elaboration of polyphony . Eastern music , and a as far as I know all other types of music elaborate the melodic line and that’s why it sounds ( in all honesty) like a godless row to our ears
To be continued ……..
On 30 May 2016 at 12:40pm Blue Monday wrote:
Nothing better to do on a Bank Holiday?
On 30 May 2016 at 12:43pm Blue Monday wrote:
Boring Bank Holiday is it ?
On 30 May 2016 at 4:07pm Earl of Lewes wrote:
I'm flabbergasted that anyone should devote so much time and effort to writing just one post. @PN - You clearly have a lot of ideas and opinions, so wouldn't it make more sense to write a blog?
On 30 May 2016 at 7:18pm Tipex wrote:
Personally I don't feel particularly proud to be British. The days of Brunel and Churchill are long gone and now we're a nation of weirdly patriotic has-beens. I'm keen to stay in the EU if only to associate with those making a real impact. We'd be utterly lost if Out.
On 30 May 2016 at 7:21pm wrote:
Be honest now, who actually read more than a few lines?
There's even a threat that he's going to write more of the turgid drivel.
What a shocking waste of virtual zeros and ones.
On 30 May 2016 at 8:26pm Christopher Roberts wrote:
I would like to ponder on how European we are.
I'm just having dinner over looking Skiatos harbour in Greece.
My waitrese is Thai and my Seabream is farmed in Turkey.
Who knows what it is to be European its such a melting pot now,
Sure beats any meal I've had in Lewes.
But any way the Greeks don't care for being European they never have.
Like the Minoans they just seem to be at the centre of a multi cultural migration.
Thankfully the don't all want to come to England and put on stripped geurseys and throw rookies around in the Autumn.
On 30 May 2016 at 11:25pm Hyena wrote:
Christopher , malaka.
On 30 May 2016 at 11:44pm Hyena wrote:
Tipex, so if it's an out vote are you staying? Or are you off to Riga, Lisbon ....... Where you could associate with those making a real impact.
On 31 May 2016 at 10:07am Mark wrote:
What a load of drivel. Europe is a continent with many little countries that are hugely diverse culturaly. France is 25 miles away and is like chalk and cheese culturally. The tiniest attempt to alter labour laws results in a national strike. Were Lewes a French town, the sign at Laura Ashley would have been vandalised within hours. And then there's Germany where any attempt to cross a road while the red man is showing will almost invariably get you a telling off from some appalled citizen on the opposite pavement. Compare Sweden with Italy.. The Italians admire corruption. It is "ferzo". The countries that we have cultural links to are in the commonwealth.
On 31 May 2016 at 10:26am Watcher wrote:
Don't confuse diversity with foreignness. Sussex wunt be druv. Surrey, on the other hand ...
But we are both English.
On 31 May 2016 at 10:53am Christopher Malaka wrote:
Cali mera hyena
I would have liked to responded yesterday but to busy making in roads into a European female.
Having lived in Germany, Greece and Turkey I may be able to offer a different perspective to you and your probable insular little world.
Ef haris stopali
Sorry but did I nick your dinner money or some thing whilst at Priory in the 80,s or throw you out of my pub in hove.
On 31 May 2016 at 10:56am Mark wrote:
What's the difference, Watcher? Italian cultural norms would be very foreign to a Swede. And I'm not all that sure about "Sussex won't be druv". We've still got people experiencing extortion in Laura Ashley's car park each day. I would go out at night with my hoody on and paint the sign with black Hammerite paint but sadly, I'm too spineless and Mrs Mark has expressly forbidden it.
On 31 May 2016 at 4:27pm Hyena wrote:
Kalispera Christopher, I think I've proved my point don't you? By the way it's 'pousti'
In the 80,s I was having rather a nice time in the Pelloponesse .
On 31 May 2016 at 7:20pm Christos Malaka wrote:
And there was me thinking tearing around Germany in a challenger tank courtesy of Maggi was better fun than Friday in the Voli.
Thanks for the spelling check its been 15 years since I had to use the language on a daily basis.
How European am I ?