'Paul Revere's Ride' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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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."
Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.
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, black 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 meadow 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.
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
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 for evermore!
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-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Deep Dive into Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride
"Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere" - these are the opening lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, Paul Revere's Ride.
But what makes this poem so enduringly popular? Why do we still read and recite it today? In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll take a deep dive into Longfellow's poem, exploring its themes, symbolism, and language to uncover the secrets of its success.
First, a little background on the poem. Longfellow wrote Paul Revere's Ride in 1860, just before the outbreak of the American Civil War. He was inspired by the story of Paul Revere, a silversmith and patriot who rode through Massachusetts on horseback, warning his fellow colonists of the approaching British army.
Longfellow's poem was an immediate success, praised for its stirring language and patriotic imagery. It became a popular ballad, recited at rallies and in classrooms across the country. Today, it is considered one of Longfellow's greatest works and a defining piece of American literature.
Structure and Form
One aspect of Paul Revere's Ride that immediately stands out is its structure and form. The poem is written in trochaic tetrameter, a meter in which each line contains four sets of two syllables, with the first syllable stressed and the second syllable unstressed.
This meter gives the poem a lively, galloping rhythm, perfectly suited to the story of Paul Revere's frantic ride. It also allows Longfellow to pack a lot of information and emotion into each line, as he uses the stressed syllables to emphasize key words and ideas.
The poem is divided into eight stanzas, each containing nine lines. The first eight lines of each stanza follow the trochaic tetrameter pattern, while the ninth line is a shorter, more emphatic line in iambic trimeter (a meter in which each line contains three sets of two syllables, with the stress falling on the second syllable).
This shift in meter and rhythm at the end of each stanza creates a sense of tension and urgency, as if the poem is building towards a climax. It also allows Longfellow to emphasize his most important message - the need for action and courage in the face of danger.
Themes and Symbolism
At its core, Paul Revere's Ride is a poem about patriotism and heroism. It celebrates the bravery of Paul Revere and his fellow patriots, who risked their lives to defend their country and their freedom.
But the poem also contains deeper themes and symbolism. One of the most striking symbols in the poem is the "midnight air" in which Paul Revere rides. This air is described as "a phantom ship, with each mast and spar / Across the moon like a prison bar."
This image of the moon as a prison bar suggests that the colonists are trapped and oppressed by the British, and that Paul Revere's ride is a desperate attempt to escape and find freedom. It also creates a sense of mystery and danger, as if the darkness itself is a threat to the colonists' safety.
Another important symbol in the poem is the "beacon light" that Paul Revere sees in the Old North Church. This light is a signal to the patriots that the British are coming, and it inspires Paul to ride out and warn his fellow colonists.
The beacon light represents hope and courage in the face of adversity. It is a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of light and a reason to keep fighting.
Language and Imagery
Finally, we come to the language and imagery of Paul Revere's Ride. Longfellow's use of vivid, evocative language is one of the main reasons why this poem has endured for so long.
From the very first line, Longfellow draws us in with his powerful imagery. "Listen, my children" he says, creating a sense of intimacy and urgency. We feel as if we are being let in on a secret, as if we are part of the story.
Throughout the poem, Longfellow uses a variety of literary devices to create vivid, memorable images. He describes the British soldiers as a "redcoat band" and a "phantom host," conjuring up images of a menacing, otherworldly force.
He also uses repeated phrases and refrains to create a sense of rhythm and familiarity. The phrase "through every Middlesex village and farm" appears several times, as does the refrain "and the spark struck out by that steed in his flight / Kindled the land into flame with its heat."
These repeated phrases and refrains create a sense of unity and solidarity, as if the colonists are all part of one great struggle for freedom.
In conclusion, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride is a masterpiece of American literature. Its lively rhythm, powerful themes, and evocative language make it a stirring tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the patriots who fought for their country's freedom.
But the poem is also much more than that. It is a symbol of hope and courage in the face of adversity, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always a glimmer of light and a reason to keep fighting.
So the next time you hear those famous opening lines - "Listen, my children, and you shall hear / Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere" - take a moment to appreciate the beauty and power of this enduring classic.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Paul Revere's Ride: A Poetic Masterpiece
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride" is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a masterpiece of American literature that tells the story of Paul Revere's famous ride on the night of April 18, 1775, to warn the American colonists of the approaching British troops. The poem is not only a historical account of a significant event in American history but also a celebration of the American spirit of freedom and independence. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.
The central theme of "Paul Revere's Ride" is the American Revolution and the struggle for independence. The poem celebrates the courage and determination of the American colonists who fought for their freedom against the British Empire. It portrays Paul Revere as a hero who risked his life to warn his fellow patriots of the approaching British troops. The poem also highlights the importance of communication and the power of words in times of crisis. Paul Revere's message was simple but powerful: "The British are coming!" This message galvanized the American colonists and inspired them to take up arms against the British.
Another theme of the poem is the power of myth and legend. Longfellow's poem has contributed to the creation of the myth of Paul Revere as a heroic figure in American history. The poem has helped to immortalize Revere's ride and has made it a symbol of American patriotism and courage. The poem has also contributed to the creation of the myth of the American Revolution as a heroic struggle for freedom and independence.
"Paul Revere's Ride" is a narrative poem that tells a story in verse. The poem consists of nine stanzas, each with a different rhyme scheme and meter. The first eight stanzas are quatrains, while the final stanza is a sestet. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter, which means that each line has four iambs, or metrical feet, with the stress on the second syllable of each foot. The poem has a regular rhythm and a musical quality that makes it easy to read and remember.
The poem begins with an introduction that sets the scene and establishes the historical context. The first stanza describes the night of April 18, 1775, and the British troops' approach to Lexington and Concord. The second stanza introduces Paul Revere and describes his ride from Charlestown to Lexington. The third stanza describes the signal lanterns that were hung in the Old North Church to warn the patriots of the British troops' movements.
The fourth and fifth stanzas describe Paul Revere's ride through the countryside and his encounters with various people along the way. The sixth stanza describes the arrival of William Dawes, another rider who was sent to warn the patriots. The seventh and eighth stanzas describe the final leg of Paul Revere's ride and his arrival in Lexington. The final stanza is a reflection on the events of that night and the importance of Paul Revere's ride in American history.
"Paul Revere's Ride" is a masterful use of literary devices that enhance the poem's meaning and impact. One of the most prominent literary devices used in the poem is imagery. Longfellow uses vivid and descriptive language to create a picture of the events and characters in the poem. For example, in the second stanza, he describes Paul Revere as "a spark struck out by the steed in his flight." This image conveys the sense of urgency and speed that characterized Revere's ride.
Another literary device used in the poem is repetition. Longfellow repeats certain phrases and words throughout the poem to create a sense of rhythm and emphasis. For example, the phrase "The British are coming!" is repeated several times in the poem, emphasizing the urgency and importance of the message.
The poem also uses symbolism to convey its themes and ideas. The signal lanterns in the Old North Church symbolize the power of communication and the importance of information in times of crisis. Paul Revere himself is a symbol of American patriotism and courage, and his ride is a symbol of the American Revolution and the struggle for independence.
"Paul Revere's Ride" is a classic poem that has captured the imagination of generations of Americans. It is a celebration of the American spirit of freedom and independence and a tribute to the courage and determination of the American colonists who fought for their liberty. The poem is a masterful use of literary devices, including imagery, repetition, and symbolism, that enhance its meaning and impact. Longfellow's poem has helped to create the myth of Paul Revere as a heroic figure in American history and has made his ride a symbol of American patriotism and courage. "Paul Revere's Ride" is a timeless masterpiece of American literature that will continue to inspire and captivate readers for generations to come.
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