Jun 12, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

I have an idea about what is our national epic, and that it lives in a way that gives its manifestation a potency that is semi mystical and life.

If Greece has Homer, and India has the Mahabarata, Britain / England has Kingship. The great narratives of Kings and Queens, of the idea of just rule, of nobility and transcendence, of England as a realm of sacredness, with a sacral King / Queen, and this story and narrative contains everything. Fathers and sons, family, the shaping of identity, the desire for a leader. Transcendence, eternity, because a sacral Crown is beyond time.

From King Arthur and Camelot, to the 'Return of the King' narrative of Tolkein, to Shakespeare, to Robin Hood (who serves the absent King and seeks to restore his just rule from corruption), going back to Boudicca, and probably some deep ancestral memory and light as old as the stones, from pre-history, when feudal lords and warriors became kings of tribes.

Well the potency is that the narrative is embodied in our living royal family. Our national narrative exists. It is by our side, it lives and breathes it. They are connected with this mystical story, both by bloodline, but by holding the Crown. That is why they are so magical to us. Its why we felt profound kinship and love for Elizabeth. That is where our primal story lies, a grand narrative that goes beyond our understanding of history, through the ages, taking in all that risen and fallen, our continuity, our sense of something transcendent above and beyond our time.

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Henry, what a truly provocative conversation! About a national epic.

All of the "candidates" have their benefits and advantages.

Being American, I am drawn to Whitman's "Song of Myself" (1855) and "Leaves of Grass" (1855-92).

Keep up these soul-stirring conversations! They certainly get my ruminative juices flowing!


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Whitman has a stronger chance of making it than Melville, I agree, although that may or may not be the right choice. Ultimately, I think it is likely the national American epic has not been written yet and is more likely to emerge from things like *Hamilton* than anywhere else, following the oral, performative tradition. America is after all a Virgilian country. This is starting to become another blog post... Glad you enjoyed the essay!

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