Every true country is a land apart, for no place is a country unless it is stands out as different from other places. The word country comes from the Latin phrase contrata terra, which means a land (terra) that contrasts (contrata) with other lands. We say a rural district is in the country, for instance, because it stands apart from the city. It is a contrata terra and things are different there.
Not all countries have flags, and there many outfits with flags that we call countries only as a courtesy. The United States contains many countries. Some are distinguished by their appearance, as is the Texas hill country, or by their appeal, as was the Oregon country, or by their inhabitants, as is and was the Mormon country. But distinguished and contrasting they all are, because an undistinguished country without contrasts is no country at all.
Crossing the Tamar estuary into Cornwall, a traveler tells us that he felt he had “come into a new country” (1). Behind him lay the green hills of Devon, before him Cornwall’s stern and craggy shore. When L. P. Hartley wrote “the past is a foreign country,” it was redundant for him to add “they do things differently there.” Being new and doing things differently is what gives a country the indispensable contrasts that make it a country.
“Land” is the Germanic equivalent to the Latinate “country,” and every true land is also a land apart. In most cases, it stands apart because of its peculiar inhabitants, such as those of Deutschland, or England, or Thailand. In other cases, it is distinguished by the peculiar face of the land, as when Holland was named for its trees (holtz), or Zeeland was named for its sea.
We dive down to the primal meaning of land when we note that an ancient Welshman called a glade in the forest a llanerch, and a holy temple a llan (3). A clearing in a wood is not a country, but it is like a country because it stands in contrast to the circumjacent wood. When an ancient Welshman stepped into a llanerch, he knew he had entered a place that was different than the place he had been. A church is not a country, but it is likewise a special place that contrasts with the circumjacent wilderness of the profane world.
True countries and lands are like that. We enter them with the astonishment of that ancient Welshman stepping into a woodland glade. “Here,” we say, “is something different!”
Countries and lands also embody the contrast between those that are domestic and and those that are foreign, a domus being a household and foris being the world out of doors. It is from the fundamental contrast of indoors and outdoors that we build our geographic categories of familiar and foreign, homeland and outland, the first and most natural division of the geographic mind.
When the globalists have succeeded in breaking down the doors of all our houses, and have mixed familiar and foreign, indoor and outdoor, to make everywhere the same, there will be no more countries or lands. It may be that uplands will still be distinguished by the fact that they are up, and drylands by the fact that they are dry, but undistinguishable multitudes will teem and breed on a no man’s land without domiciles or doors.
(1) C. Lewis Hind, Days in Cornwall (1907).
(2) The Go-Between (1953).
(3) Llandudno, for instance, is the church of St. Tudno.