Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 19: Battle of Concord (Vol. 42, pp. 1245-1246)

A short selection, but one of the most weighty — Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord Hymn." He wrote this poem in 1837, for a July 4 dedication of a monument to honor the men who fought on this day in 1775.
"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 to-day 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."

Of the first stanza, Dr. Eliot said that "in twenty-eight words here is the whole scene and all the essential circumstances ... what an accurate, moving, immortal description is this!"

Emerson was generally a prolix guy, but in this simple poem, he captured the spirit of 1775, the spirit of the fight against tyranny, the spirit of the men who were outnumbered and outgunned but still managed to defeat the mightiest army in the world.

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