Apr. 19, 2005

Concord Hymn

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Poem: "Concord Hymn," by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Concord Hymn

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! who made those freemen dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid time and nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.

Literary and Historical Notes:

In 1927 on this day, actress Mae West was jailed for her performance in Sex, the Broadway play she wrote, directed, and starred in. She served ten days in prison, and jail time seemed to have done her good—it didn't make her change her act, but it did bring her national notoriety—and helped make her one of Hollywood's most memorable, and quotable, stars. She said: "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful."

It's the birthday of playwright Sharon Pollock, born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada (1936). Her best known and most successful play, Blood Relations (1976), is a reworking of the story of American axe murderer Lizzie Borden, told from a feminist point of view.

It's the birthday of poet Etheridge Knight, born in Corinth, Mississippi (1931). He dropped out of school at the age of sixteen in order to join the Army, served in Korea from 1947 to 1951, and returned home with shrapnel wounds and an addiction to drugs. In 1960, he was arrested for robbery and sentenced to ten to twenty-five years. He served eight years in the Indiana State Prison. During his incarceration, he began writing poetry. His first book, Poems from Prison, was published in 1968.

It's the birthday of playwright, short story writer and novelist Richard Arthur Warren Hughes, born in Weybridge, Wales (1900). His most famous novel is A High Wind in Jamaica (1929), a melodramatic tale involving a group of English schoolchildren who are kidnapped by a band of pirates.

It's the birthday of diarist Sarah Kemble Knight, born in Boston, Massachusetts (1666). Little is known of her early life, except that she took over her father's merchant business after his death in 1689. It may have been for business reasons, or perhaps to settle a relative's estate, that she undertook a solo journey on horseback from Boston to New Haven in 1704, when she was thirty-nine years old. She kept a journal of her travels, recording everything that happened, and everything she saw along her way. Her diary passed into private hands after her death in 1727, and was not discovered again until 1825, when it was published as The Journal of Madame Knight by Theodore Dwight Junior. It has been reprinted many times since, and is now considered one of the most authentic chronicles of eighteenth-century colonial life.

In 1775 on this day, the first battle of the American Revolutionary War occurred when several hundred British troops marched into Lexington, Massachusetts on a mission to capture Patriot leaders. The troops were taken by surprise by about seventy armed Minutemen. Suddenly a shot was fired - no one knows by whom - that became known as "the shot heard round the world," and the Revolutionary War had begun. Eight of the Minutemen were killed, and nine were wounded.

On this day in 1886, the Concord Hymn, written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, was sung at the completion of a monument to the battle in Concord, Massachusetts.

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