Yesterday, we visited the town of Lincoln as a class, where we toured the Tennyson Archives (yes, I touched autographs from Tennyson, Whitman, Lewis Carroll, and Queen Victoria!), and the Lincoln Castle and Cathedral.
While at the Castle, we were able to view the Magna Carta and the Domesday Book. I can’t tell you how emotional I was, just being inches away from two of the most important documents in the history of the English speaking world. These works represented not only a ground breaking advancement in establishing human rights, but a landmark in written language.
For a lover of words and student of language, being so close to such a valuable document was enough to nearly bring me to tears.
Unfortunately, no photo….the flash disturbs the ancient material of the scroll. Sorry! Here’s some of the important language transcribed on the vault wall.
Later we walked around the castle wall, where I had to hold back emotion again (I have a feeling this going to get to be a habit on this trip). After years of reading and researching, I was finally standing on a spot that has been continuously occupied by Britons, Romans, Vikings, Normans, and every generation to follow.
As Americans, we are proud of our history, and in many cases, we have a right to be. But we are, in truth, still such an infant nation. Standing on that castle wall was like standing on, not just figurative years of history, but on the bones and blood of thousands of generations.
Some of that same blood likely flows through my own veins today. I understand now where our American pride comes from. From this people, who have always been willing to die for their country, who storm “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; / Or close the wall up with our English dead” (Henry V 3.1.1-2).
It’s that spirit, these knights and authors of the Magna Carta, that bred “For God and for freedom, [men] more than willing to die” (“Remember the Alamo,” 1955).