Patriots' Day: thinking back, hoping ahead


Here is a verse written by Ralph Waldo Emerson and sung on July 4, 1837, 
in commemoration of events that took place in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.
These events, perhaps too small to be battles, 
certainly too great to be skirmishes, 
are remembered, year after year, with cheers and merriment, 
on July 4, now called Independence Day and on the third Monday of April, now called Patriots' Day, 
and silently and gratefully every time an American flag is raised anywhere in the world.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Generations of schoolchildren had to memorize these verses.
We know why.

5 comments:

  1. I make my student's listen to me read this very Emerson poem every semester when we discuss the Revolution. This year it will be a little harder to read aloud.....

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you do this, E, thanks for posting.

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  2. I wonder to which tune it was sung-- is that known? Usually would be to some folk tune. Thanks for the verse.

    I just love that there is a website to get the gentleman in Watertown a new boat!

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  3. Hi, Lane, I was curious about the tune also, and finally found this:

    T ext (1836)
    The Yeoman’s Gazette (Concord, MA) for April 19, 1836 states: “Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson, of our community, was called on to speak about the farmers from this neighborhood who took up arms and assembled at the old bridge, with their flag flying; that the sounds of the shot they had fired off were carried all around the world. Mr Emerson said his poem was to be known as the Concord Hymn, and that it was to be sung to celebrate the completion of the battle monument.” Printed with the poem are the words:
    “Sung at the completion of the Battle Monument, April 19, 1836 [Evacuation (Patriots’) Day].” Emerson’s grandfather, Minister of the Concord Church, was present at the scene in 1775, and the study in Emerson’s home, “Old Bush”, overlooked the Concord River and the battlefield.
    In the year following, an item in the Gazette for July 8 reports a “well sung Old Hundredth” by those at the gathering. Singing the poem is further corroborated by a private note containing the statement: “Sung by the people on the battle-ground at the monument, 4th of July, 1837.”

    http://www.firstchurchbostonhistory.org/pdf/An%20Emerson%20Garland.pdf

    Himself, more cynical than I, was wondering if the damaged boat would be sold on Ebay...

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    Replies
    1. It DOES work to "old Hundredth". I'm sure if the FBI weren't keeping it in evidence, this vessel would set an Ebay record.

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