American Minute with Bill Federer
“Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the 18th of April, in 75;
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.’
And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
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.
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.”
These lines are from the poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was born FEBRUARY 27, 1807.
His grandfather had been a Revolutionary War general.
His uncle, after whom he was named, Henry Wadsworth, a Naval hero who was killed fighting Muslim Barbary Pirates at the Battle of Tripoli, 1804.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a Harvard professor and a popular American poet.
He wrote such classics as:
The Song of Hiawatha;
The Courtship of Miles Standish, which sold 10,000 copies in London in a single day; and
Evangeline, in which he penned:
“Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice triumphs.”
The house Longfellow lived in, 105 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, had previously been used as the Headquarters of General George Washington during the British’s Siege of Boston, July 1775-April 1776.
Longfellow’s poems were noted for imparting cultural and moral values, focusing on life being more than material pursuits.
In 1842, Longfellow expressed his public support for abolishing slavery by publishing a collection, Poems on Slavery, which was reprinted by The New England Anti-Slavery Association.
The most popular poet of his day, Longfellow was praised by his contemporaries: John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., James Russell Lowell and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
In 1884, he became the first non-British writer to be represented by a sculpted bust in London’s Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.
In A Psalm of Life, 1838, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote:
“Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul…
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,-act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time;
-Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.”
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.