Two irreconcilable views of patriotism were given their classic expressions by two Englishmen: Lord Byron, the poet (1788-1824), and Dr. Johnson, the lexicographer and jack-of-all-literary-trades (1709-84). Byron said, "He who loves not his country can love nothing." And Johnson: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's patriotism is unabashed and fervent. He is doing all in his very considerable power to transmit it, via education, to the nation at large. His first stint as prime minister produced a revision to the Fundamental Law of Education in 2006 that charges schools with cultivating in children "an attitude that respects tradition and culture, and loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them." He vowed at the time to "push ahead with education rebuilding that will ... nurture people with vision and hope and build a dignified and beautiful country."

Japan's beauty was beautifully sung by the country's most ancient poets, those of the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries whose work was anthologized in the famous Manyoshu collection, dating to the latter half of the eighth century. Among the poets were emperors and subjects, courtiers and lowly soldiers, men and women. Their shared love for their country at times seems almost erotic. The very mountains love one another: "Mount Kagu strove with Mount Miminashi/ for the love of Mount Unebi." And in any human love, the nation seems ever present, a silent but indispensable third party: "On the vast lake of Omi/ you boatmen that come rowing/ close by the shore,/ ply not too hard your oars .../ lest you should startle into flight/ the birds beloved of my dear husband!" So sang Empress Yamato-hime, consort of Emperor Tenji (reigned 661-71).