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.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wasn't entirely correct in his description of the fateful day of April 18, 1775 and the exploits of patriot and silversmith Paul Revere — now one of his most famous and most criticized works. Then again, it was never his intention to write history.
Longfellow visited the North End early in April 1861. In his journal, he records: "We climb the tower to the chime of bells, now the home of innumerable pigeons. From this tower were hung the lanterns as a signal that the British troops had left Boston for Concord." He started writing "Paul Revere's Ride" around the same time, 150 years ago this year.
It took him six months to complete the poem. During that time, Abraham Lincoln was elected president. The poet corresponded heavily with his friend the United States Senator Charles Sumner. He read the newspapers. And, perhaps most importantly, he knew the country was headed to a new "revolution" (his word, not mine).
Poems on Slavery, just as his fame as a poet was beginning to build.
Between the first publication of "Paul Revere's Ride" and its inclusion in Tales of a Wayside Inn (renamed "The Landlord's Tale") in 1863, Longfellow wrote in his journal: "We are on the brink of Civil War. It is Slavery against Freedom; the north wind against the southern pestilence."
More on the sesquicentennial of "Paul Revere's Ride," including ongoing events in celebration of it as well as further discussions of its writing and its accuracy, visit www.paulreveresride.org.