User avatar
Posts: 198
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 3:53 am

"The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere"

Sun Mar 27, 2011 3:02 pm

... No, this post belongs in the AACW thread.

There's a neat piece in American Scholar about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem on Paul Revere.

The poem is the sort of thing my dad would recite for me -- to show the rigor of his schooling: I don't think we memorize that bit of doggerel in New England middle schools any more.

Funny thing: nobody pointed out that Longfellow wrote the poem in 1860-1861, a particularly pregnant moment to be writing poems about 'fear, fire, and foes.'

User avatar
Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
General of the Army
Posts: 639
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:46 pm
Location: Kentucky

Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:46 am

Why would kids need to memorize anything? We've got phones and Ipads and computers. :blink:

Anyway, this reminded me about another Paul Revere like ride, Sybil Ludington:

User avatar
Posts: 198
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 3:53 am

Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:08 pm

Well that's part of the funny thing:

Contra Longfellow, Paul Revere got lost and really didn't accomplish that much of anything.

Before Longfellow wrote his poem about how Revere rode from Boston, warning Massachusetts minutemen that the redcoats were coming, Revere wasn’t known for his ride (his obituary didn’t even mention it).

It's kind of like Ageod using Pinkerton -- about the same historical impact -- as the Union spy.
In 1896, Century Magazine published a parody—

’Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear—
My name was Dawes and his Revere

—which is read aloud every year on the 19th of April on Cambridge Common, where brass horseshoes sunk into the pavement mark the path ridden by a man who had the bad luck to have a name that rhymes with everything grunting, earthy, and broken: jaws, caws, maws, paws, flaws. Poor Dawes.

But Longfellow was looking for a rhyming name to fit his verse -- Dawes was an 'also ran' in this category, and Ludington... not even a prayer. As to why Dawes got the backhand:

Paul Revere’s Ride” was published in The Atlantic Monthly in January 1861. The issue appeared on newsstands in Boston on December 20, the day South Carolina seceded from the Union. The poem was read at the time as a call to arms, rousing northerners to action, against what Charles Sumner called the Slaveocracy—“a warning voice” waking those who would concede to barbarism from what George Sumner called “their precious Sunday slumbers.” But the poem can also be read as concerning, not just the coming war, but slavery itself: “Paul Revere’s Ride” is, in one sense, a fugitive slave narrative.

Historical truth was, for Longfellow, of secondary importance to the events of his time.

User avatar
Ol' Choctaw
Posts: 1642
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 7:13 pm

Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:45 am

It is interesting that Longfellow used Revere as his subject. It could only be for the rhyme.

Revere as you should know was the man that night that was captured by the British. They let him go but kept the horse.

He was not well remembered in Massachusetts. In fact what Longfellow doesn't tell is that he was relieved from duty and dismissed from service for disobedience to orders, cowardice, and attempting to make off with the pay chest after the Penobscot Disaster. The Court Martial cleared him on the charges, he did have some important friends, but he was not reinstated, as it would seem he was entirely self serving and a difficult personality.

Longfellow’s grand father Wadsworth was the second in command on that expedition and would likely not have appreciated his use of Revere as his subject for the poem.


Return to “ACW History Club / Histoire de la Guerre de Sécession”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest