Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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 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, 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.

Summary of Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

  • Popularity of “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a popular American poet, is a historical poetic piece. The poem first appeared in his collection, Tales of Wayside Inn, in 1863. The collection recounts the historical accounts of the Patriots of Boston. Despite having some fictionality, the poem is a true work based on Paul Revere’s brave expedition of informing the Patriots about the arrival of the British battalion in the spring of the year 1775.
  • Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” As a Representative of Patriotism: The poem opens with the poet presenting the details of the midnight adventure of Paul Revere as told by a landlord. He tells the exact date, year, and how they have remembered this story. The landlord states that Revere asks his friend to hang a lantern in the Old Church to signal him about the arrival of the British soldiers. He asks them that he would be waiting for their signal on the other bank and that he would alarm the people about the march of the army. However, as soon as he leaves, the warships arrive but only a glimmer of their reflections due to the moonlight. When the British soldiers arrive, the friend of Revere climbs on the tower, causing alarm among the pigeons. However, he faces a strange dilemma when he senses what is about to happen. On the other hand, Paul Revere waits for him on the bank. As soon as he gets the signal, he mounts his horse and informs the public from Medford to Lexington and from Concord to all other villages with his fiery horse riding. The landlord, then, states that they know the rest of the story when farmers rose to rebellion and fought the British soldiers bravely. This has been recounted in thousands of stories through which, the landlord says, they have learned about the war and its consequences. However, it is true that Paul Revere informed all the Middlesex villages and farms to make the people rise and beat away the British soldiers.
  • Major Themes in “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: Patriotism, bravery, and lessons from history are three major themes of the poem. The story of Paul Revere and his brave adventure is recounted in history books throughout the United States, presenting his persona as a paragon of patriotism. It is to remind the young generation about the value of liberty and the work of great heroes who have sacrificed their lives to preserve it. The poet actually wants to convey to his readers that bravery, specifically, when it is displayed for one’s homeland is worth the praise. That is why he presents Paul Revere as a mythical figure. The end of the poem, however, shows that the poet wants the young generation to learn from this story of the midnight adventure of Paul Revere and his service to the nation.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used In “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”

literary devices bring variety into simple poetic pieces. Longfellow has also used some literary devices in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Allusion: It is a reference to a belief, idea, event, or persona of some historical importance. The poem shows the use of allusions to the historical account of Paul Revere, of the year, 1775, of the North Church Towner, allusions to the British soldiers and different places such as Charlestown shore, Lexington, and Concord.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five” the sound of /o/ in “Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light” and “And I on the opposite shore will be”, and again the sound of /e/ in “Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street.”
  3. Alliteration: It means to use consonant sounds in the initials of the neighboring words such as the sound of /t/ in “town to-night”, the sound of /w/ in “watched with” and the sound of /s/ in spark struck.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /m/ and /r/ “Who remembers that famous day and year”, the sound of /s/ and /r/ in “Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore” and the sound of /w/ and /r/ in “Wanders and watches with eager ears.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

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.

Or

The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Longfellow has used imagery in this poem such as “By the trembling ladder, steep and tall”, “To the highest window in the wall” and “Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead.”
  2. Metaphor: The poem shows the use of metaphors such as river, line, hurry, hoofs, and the moon.
  3. Personification: The poem shows the use of personifications such as; For suddenly all his thoughts are bent and Where the river widens to meet the bay; A line of black that bends and floats, A hurry of hoofs in a village-street, The fate of the nation was riding that night. In these lines, thoughts, river, line, hoofs and fate have been presented as if they have life and emotions of their own.
  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows the use of symbols such as soldiers, ships, grenadiers, church and horse to highlight patriotism as a religious duty.
  2. Simile: The poem shows the use of similes such as, Across the moon, like a prison-bar., That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread, On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” 

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of formal and colloquial diction. However, it is tone is emotional and passionate.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem shows beautiful but different rhyme schemes in different stanzas such as the first stanza showing the rhyme scheme of AABBA and the next showing ABABCCDDD.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. The poem has 14 stanzas with each having a different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” are appropriate to quote about the historical importance of events.

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.