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).
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.
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.
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