"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." Horace's Latin, composed two millennia ago (less one year), now surely translates as: "I need ammunition, not a ride".
In 23BC Horace may have been merely sucking up to the powers that be. Those in charge of Rome certainly offered plenty of opportunities to die for your country, whether in defence of the republic, in civil wars, or against Gauls, Britons or Parthians. In no instance, though, did they guarantee that such a death would be sweet and fitting. Not even Caesar's nor Cicero's deaths qualified.
For his part, in his contemporary version of Horace, Volodymyr Zelensky does truly seem to believe that dying for Ukraine would be a sweet and fitting fate.
Some of his remarks while under attack match the heart-breaking poignancy in Wilfred Owen's application of Horace - "the old Lie" - to the First World War.
An Irish nationalist song rightly warns that "love of your land is a terrible thing".
That thought might be merged with Yeats' conviction that Irish nationalism suffered from the cultivation of hatred as its sole energy. He argued that such a flaw was equivalent to removal of the genitals. Nonetheless, unlike the Irish, we have not all punctuated our homelands' histories with martyrs nor peopled our country with ghosts. To borrow from Yeats again, there might well be "a terrible beauty" in loving your country.
If outsiders like us were asked why Ukrainians love their homeland, we would probably fumble around with an answer about architecture in Kyiv, memories of horrors past (the Holodomor, Babi Yar, Chernobyl), the revival of Orthodoxy or an essential human need to want to live free. We should try harder.
In doing so, we should recognise that each homeland is quite distinct from any other, not just topographically, socially, historically, economically or demographically. More importantly, homelands diverge in what their people choose to cherish.
Take the United States, where the binding cement is not a series of landmarks or landscapes "from sea to shining sea".
Many fine American novels introduce segments of the country as though they were entirely foreign - to American readers. On the Road (Jack Kerouac), The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck), To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) and The Last Picture Show (Larry McMurtry) all seek to explain particular, peculiar ways of life quite alien to residents of SoHo, Silicon Valley, Back Bay or Georgetown.
The glue which matters in the US seems to have more to do with ideas - with exceptionalism, manifest destiny, a city on a hill or the last, best hope of mankind.
By contrast, France's glue appears to be made from sentiment, from a notion of glory and dignity which can attach to Napoleon's hat, de Gaulle's height, a croissant or a beret, the cliffs at Etretat or a chateau in the Loire.
Where else would a president dare to insist that a mini-forest of trees be transplanted from the little niche of France he knew best, his homeland, to form a courtyard in the new national library?
Relying on sentiment can engender nostalgia, illusions and the deplorable habit of lying to yourself.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, rightly warned his compatriots recently to build a France for their children rather than trying to revive the France of their childhood.
In the past few decades, before Zelensky and Ukraine, sentiment has rarely been deployed to good effect.
One conspicuous exception is the series of posters, "Your Britain - Fight For It Now", commissioned by Churchill's government during the Second World War.
The most beguiling depicts a farmer and his sheepdog returning home at dusk, walking down into England's "green and pleasant land", where smoke drifting from a farmhouse chimney promises sausages and a cup of tea.
Even in 1940, that image was deeply anachronistic. The beleaguered British people were being asked to identify with a picture off the lid of a chocolate box, a warm and comforting (and beautifully composed) image of a life and a nation long gone.
A second exception is a 2016 campaign advertisement for Bernie Sanders, using Simon and Garfunkel's song, "America", as its soundtrack, a collage of Americans at work in farms, factories and offices as its subjects. As with the Churchill poster, the emotional punch in the image overwhelms any scepticism about the literal truth of what is being shown.
As Ukrainians show us every day, true feeling is founded not in sentimentality but in caring. Lyndon Johnson claimed to love the hill country of Texas because folk there cared when you were sick and cried when you died.
That works as a rough definition of the borders - and perhaps the purpose - of a homeland.
You can fiddle a little with the contours of a homeland. New-old languages can be introduced, like Hebrew in Israel or Irish in Ireland. Borders may be modified, sometimes drastically, as in the sorry history of Poland. Ethnic groups, in the Balkans and throughout Africa, might be separated by lines drawn on a map. Population movements can take people's homelands away from them, nowhere more radically than during Partition in India.
Nonetheless, to quote a hero seeking a homeland, "though much is taken, much remains". Ukraine reminds us of that. A country often conquered, oppressed, divided and now invaded once again still comprises a true homeland, one demanding - in the conversational Zelensky way - our deep respect.
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