04/18/09 Weekend Grif.Net – History Lesson

04/18/09 Weekend Grif.Net – History Lesson

[I am excited. On an upcoming trip to Canada and New England later this year
I have planned an entire day in the Boston area to visit both the Lexington
and Concord battlefields, the birthplace of the Revolution. The poem will
take on visual meaning.]

Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
on the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; 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
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.”

Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar silently rowed to the
Charlestown shore, just as the moon rose over the bay, where swinging wide
at her moorings lay the Somerset, British man-of-war; a phantom ship, with
each mast and spar across the moon like a prison bar, and a huge black hulk,
that was magnified by its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street wanders and watches, with
eager ears, till in the silence around him he hears the muster of men at the
barrack door, the sound of arms, and the tramp of feet, and the measured
tread of the grenadiers, marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church, by the wooden stairs,
with stealthy tread, to the belfry chamber overhead, and startled the
pigeons from their perch on the somber rafters, that round him made masses
and moving shapes of shade,- by the trembling ladder, steep and tall, to the
highest window in the wall, where he paused to listen and look down a moment
on the roofs of the town and the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead, in their night encampment on the
hill, wrapped in silence so deep and still that he could hear, like a
sentinel’s tread, the watchful night-wind, as it went creeping along from
tent to tent, and seeming to whisper, “All is well!” A moment only he feels
the spell of the place and the hour, and the secret dread of the lonely
belfry and the dead; for suddenly all his thoughts are bent on a shadowy
something far away, where the river widens to meet the bay,- a line of black
that bends and floats on the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride, booted and spurred, with a heavy
stride on the opposite shore walked Paul Revere. Now he patted his horse’s
side, now he gazed at the landscape far and near, then, impetuous, stamped
the earth, and turned and tightened his saddle girth; but mostly he watched
with eager search the belfry tower of the Old North Church, as it rose above
the graves on the hill, lonely and spectral and somber and still. And lo!
as he looks, on the belfry’s height a glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He
springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, but lingers and gazes, till full
on his sight a second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street, a shape in the moonlight, a bulk in
the dark, and beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark struck out by a
steed flying fearless and fleet; that was all! And yet, through the gloom
and the light, the fate of a nation was riding that night; and the spark
struck out by that steed, in his flight, kindled the land into flame with
its heat. He has left the village and mounted the steep, and beneath him,
tranquil and broad and deep, is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides; and
under the alders that skirt its edge, now soft on the sand, now loud on the
ledge, is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock when he crossed the bridge into Medford
town. He heard the crowing of the cock, and the barking of the farmer’s dog,
and felt the damp of the river fog that rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock, when he galloped into Lexington. He saw
the gilded weathercock swim in the moonlight as he passed, and the
meeting-house windows, black and bare, gaze at him with a spectral glare, as
if they already stood aghast at the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock, when he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock, and the twitter of birds among the
trees, and felt the breath of the morning breeze blowing over the meadow
brown. And one was safe and asleep in his bed who at the bridge would be
first to fall, who that day would be lying dead, pierced by a British musket

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.

So through the night rode Paul Revere; and so through the night went his cry
of alarm to every Middlesex village and farm,- a cry of defiance, and not of
fear, a voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, and a word that shall
echo for evermore! 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.

Dr Bob Griffin
“Jesus knows me, this I love”