One if by Land, Two if by Bus

Sahara Plaininin kind of mangled the tale of Paul Revere, that famous Boston Silversmith whose mission on the eve of Lexington and Concord was actually carried out by William Dawes after Revere got pulled over by the Redcoats (kind of like a speeding ticket.)

“He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.”

On June 1st, 1974, I was married for the first time 1000 feet from The Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 01776, in the original Innkeeper’s house. Why is the Wayside Inn important in this? Sudbury is only two and three miles from Lexington and Concord, and Sudbury Minutemen were present at that famous “Shot heard ’round the world,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Concord resident, later wrote, famously.

But there’s another reason why the Wayside Inn plays into the story of Paul Revere (and why Dawes is all but forgotten):

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Written April 19, 1860; first published in 1863 as part of “Tales of a Wayside Inn“*

[* Title is from the fact that Longfellow lived in and wrote a significant chunk of the pieces contained in the book AT the Wayside Inn.  Perhaps some (in)famous bus tourists in New England might want to stop there. It’s kind of a tourist thing ’round those parts.]

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn

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 to-night,
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Paul Revere

But, hilariously, it would seem that certain lawyers are so fanatically wed to rationalizing ANYTHING that they would defend Sahara’s little gaffe as FACTUAL and HISTORIC.

If we ever needed evidence that the educational system in Alaska and at Cornell Law School has gone to hell, there you have it.


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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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7 Responses to One if by Land, Two if by Bus

  1. Smooth Jazz says:

    What is it about you Obama sychophants that makes you guys go into convulsions every time Gov Palin says something?? Next time, check your facts. It turns out Longfellow’s version, published approx 90 years after the event, was not the only version:

    It turns out Revere did “warn” the Regulars (British in today’s vernacular), obstensibly to give them pause and make them think twice about attacking the colonists. GOV PALIN WAS CORRCT. I love it when Obama sychophants make a fool of themselves, especially when Gov Palin reveals history that they don’t know, ala the “1773” brouhaha.

  2. Pingback:

  3. Smooth Jazz, if I ALREADY put the link to the blog post that YOU link to in my post, does that suggest you are not reading with much comprehension?

    Let me help:

    Longfellow’s poem is the reason that no one remembers Dawes, as is clearly noted in the post. Nowhere did I claim it to be historically correct and accurate.

    The link to to Paul Revere at the end gives the complete history.

    As for Legal Insurrection’s link, I found it to be the most tortuous, hilarious “lawyering” of facts I’ve seen this year.

    Indeed, my blog is going to give it the 2011 award, and it’s only June.

    Only a lawyer could torture the language far enough to come up with the Procrustean bedbug of Jacobson’s rationalization.

    He (and his MEETOOers) have managed to inflate the asterisk to the size of a tour bus, while shrinking chapter and verse to the size of a flyspeck.

  4. lovelalola says:

    What’s funny is that you would use a poet’s words to refute the actual words of the witness to history, Mr. Revere himself. Longfellow wasn’t even alive at the time! That’s kinda like saying that Showtime got the story of the The Tudors right. But nice try, and typical for the progressive movement today, which trades in lies and authoritarianism. You have become that which you once mocked.

  5. You know lovoeelrlela, you really need to read with comprehension.

    The “source” cited by Jacobson — Revere himself — is also the ONLY witness to what he told the British when they took him into custody. I’m sure he eventually was sure that was what he thought he told them, and I’m positive that it’s what he WANTED to tell them, but I have noticed too many exaggerations in history and memoir to accept Revere’s rather self-serving memory as gospel.

    Longfellow is the starting point, of course, because it’s what most of us were taught for generations. BUT, I pointed out how that distortion had “disappeared” the real hero, William Dawes, who spread the word long after Revere got himself caught.

    If facts don’t matter to you, what are you doing commenting here?

  6. Bruce says:

    Can We the People have Some THOUGHT heard ’round our World, INSTEAD?!

  7. oudiva says:

    Regardless of historical fact, Palin’s sentence is so incoherent that one can’t tell what she meant to say. I suspect, however, that if she’d actually known the facts, she might have been able to articulate them a bit better. But maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part….