Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Midnight Ride of Raul Revere

(The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere by Grant Wood,
1891-1942, American artist)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) wrote a series of narrative poems that helped form the mythology of America: “The Song of Hiawatha,” “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

Paul Revere (1734-1818) was a Boston silversmith. His revolutionary fervor was clearly evident before the War of Independence. He took part in the Boston Tea Party of 1770 protesting the British tax on tea. He made the provocative engraving of the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770, in which British soldiers shot and killed five civilians. He was also part of a network that gathered information on the movements of the British soldiers.

He did not become famous until many years after his death, with the 1863 publication of Longfellow’s stirring poem of his midnight ride. It is one of the twenty-two “Tales of a Wayside Inn.” (Located in Sudbury, Massachusetts, the inn is still open for service.)

Because of this poem, many people have the mistaken notion that Revere was the only rider that night. At least forty other men also set out on the roads and byways to warn the people that “The Regulars are out!” That’s how they referred to the British soldiers — after all, they were still British themselves. Revere never made it to Concord. Before he could get there, he was arrested and brought back to Lexington, where he was released without his horse.


Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower, as a signal light, —
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

. . . .

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

. . . .

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

No comments: