Wednesday, April 18, 2007

One if by land, two if by horse...

I love my Writer's Almanac daily newsletter. Part of today's offering follows...

On this day in 1775, Paul Revere made the famous ride that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about in the poem that begins,

"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.

Paul Revere was 40 years old at the time, a respected craftsman, husband, and father of 16 children. But by warning revolutionary forces of a British attack, he was committing an act of high treason against the crown.

(SIXTEEN CHILDREN?! Paul's wife is the one that should have declared her independence. Or stolen a horse and rode. Rode one way -- whichever way was away from Paul...)

On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere heard the British troops were planning to march into Lexington and Concord to seize munitions and round up colonial rebels. So he set out for Lexington to warn of the British plans. He had to begin his journey in a rowboat across Boston Harbor, under the threat of a British warship, and then he borrowed a horse to ride all the way to Lexington, where he warned Adams and Hancock that the British were coming.

Longfellow fictionalized some aspects of the story to make it more dramatic. In the poem, Revere is the only messenger warning that the British are coming, when in fact there were several. Revere also never shouted, "The British are coming!" What he shouted was, "The Regulars are out! The Regulars are out!"

(He also shouted "We'll never win a war wearing these silly tri-cornered hats!" And the part about the horse? Longfellow made that up too. As most of us know, Revere drove a Taurus. We call that "poetic license" or, since Longfellow was a stable hand at Concord Feed and Steed, "advertising."
Intriguing side note: Revere's children won the Lexington City Schools football championship from 1782-1787.)