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- Poems of American Patriotism - 3/30 -


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 to 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 sombre 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 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 sombre 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 rode into Lexington. He saw the gilded weathercock Swim in the moonlight as he passed, And the meeting-house windows, blank 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 meadows 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-ball.

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 farm-yard wall, Chasing the red-coats 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 forevermore! 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.

THE BATTLE OF LEXINGTON

SIDNEY LANIER

[Sidenote: April 19, 1775] _The skirmish at Lexington and the fight at Concord closed all political bickering between Great Britain and her colonies and began the War of the Revolution. The following verses are a fragment of the "Psalm of the West."_

Then haste ye, Prescott and Revere! Bring all the men of Lincoln here; Let Chelmsford, Littleton, Carlisle, Let Acton, Bedford, hither file-- Oh, hither file, and plainly see Out of a wound leap Liberty.

Say, Woodman April! all in green, Say, Robin April! hast thou seen In all thy travel round the earth Ever a morn of calmer birth? But Morning's eye alone serene Can gaze across yon village-green To where the trooping British run Through Lexington. Good men in fustian, stand ye still; The men in red come o'er the hill, _Lay down your arms, damned rebels!_ cry The men in red full haughtily. But never a grounding gun is heard; The men in fustian stand unstirred; Dead calm, save maybe a wise bluebird Puts in his little heavenly word. O men in red! if ye but knew The half as much as bluebirds do, Now in this little tender calm Each hand would out, and every palm With patriot palm strike brotherhood's stroke Or ere these lines of battle broke.

O men in red! if ye but knew The least of all that bluebirds do, Now in this little godly calm Yon voice might sing the Future's Psalm-- The Psalm of Love with the brotherly eyes Who pardons and is very wise-- Yon voice that shouts, high-hoarse with ire, _Fire!_

The red-coats fire, the homespuns fall: The homespuns' anxious voices call, _Brother, art hurt?_ and _Where hit, John?_ And, _Wipe this blood_, and _Men, come on_, And _Neighbor, do but lift my head_, And _Who is wounded? Who is dead? Seven are killed. My God! my God! Seven lie dead on the village sod. Two Harringtons, Parker, Hadley, Brown, Monroe and Porter,--these are down._ _Nay, look! stout Harrington not yet dead._ He crooks his elbow, lifts his head. He lies at the step of his own house-door; He crawls and makes a path of gore. The wife from the window hath seen, and rushed; He hath reached the step, but the blood hath gushed; He hath crawled to the step of his own house-door, But his head hath dropped: he will crawl no more. Clasp Wife, and kiss, and lift the head, Harrington lies at his doorstep dead.

But, O ye Six that round him lay And bloodied up that April day! As Harrington fell, ye likewise fell-- At the door of the House wherein ye dwell; As Harrington came, ye likewise came And died at the door of your House of Fame.


Poems of American Patriotism - 3/30

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