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Concord Hymn

Concord Hymn

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Encyclopedia
"Concord Hymn" is an 1837 poem
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 by American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

. It was written for a memorial to the Battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

.

Background


Emerson wrote "Concord Hymn" in 1836 for the dedication of the Obelisk, a battle monument in Concord, Massachusetts
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

 that commemorated the men that gave their lives at the Battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

 (April 19, 1775), the first battle of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

.

Emerson had been traveling through Europe; upon his return to the United States in 1833 he first lived with his mother in Newton, Massachusetts before moving to Concord in October 1834 to live with his step-grandfather Dr. Ezra Ripley at what was later named The Old Manse
The Old Manse
The Old Manse is an historic manse famous for its American literary associations. It is now owned and operated as a nonprofit museum by the Trustees of Reservations...

. The home stands less than a hundred paces from the spot where the battle took place. Shortly before his marriage to Lydia Jackson in 1835, Emerson purchased a home on the Cambridge and Concord Turnpike
Cambridge and Concord Turnpike
The Cambridge and Concord Turnpike was an early turnpike between Cambridge and Concord, Massachusetts. Portions have been incorporated into today's Massachusetts Route 2; the remainder forms other major local roads....

 which he named "Bush". He quickly became one of the leading citizens in Concord and gave a public lecture to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the town's founding on September 12, 1835.

The "Concord Hymn" was written at the request of the Battle Monument Committee. As part of Concord's Independence Day
Independence Day (United States)
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain...

 celebration on July 4, 1837, the poem was first read before sung as a hymn by a local choir using the then-familiar tune "Old Hundredth
Old 100th
"Old 100th" or "Old Hundredth" is a hymn tune from Pseaumes Octante Trois de David , and is one of the best known melodies in all Christian musical traditions...

". Its original title was "Hymn: Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument, April 19, 1836".

Analysis


In the poem, Emerson elevates the event above mere local history and instead sets Concord as the center of the American nation. However, as scholar Laurence Buell notes, Emerson's poem removes the specific details of the battle and presents a more general "spirit" of revolution and freedom.

One source of the hymnn's power may be Emerson's personal ties to the subject. His grandfather Reverend William Emerson
William Emerson (minister)
The Rev. William Emerson was one of Boston's leading citizens, a liberal-minded Unitarian minister, pastor to Boston's First Church and founder of its Philosophical Society, Anthology Club, and Boston Athenaeum, and father to Ralph Waldo Emerson.-Biography:Emerson was born in Concord,...

 witnessed the battle at the North Bridge while living at the Old Manse.

Legacy


Emerson's poem became the most-remembered aspect of the dedication of the monument; it was widely republished in newspaper accounts of the day. In contrast, the speech given by Congressman Samuel Hoar
Samuel Hoar
Samuel Hoar was a United States lawyer and politician. A member of a prominent political family in Massachusetts, he was a leading 19th century lawyer of that state. He was associated with the Federalist Party until its decline after the war of 1812. Over his career, a prominent Massachusetts...

 is forever lost. In particular, Emerson's line about the "shot heard 'round the world" has become known in popular memory. The opening stanza, which includes the line, was inscribed on the granite pedestal for the Minute Man statue by Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French
Daniel Chester French was an American sculptor. His best-known work is the sculpture of a seated Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.-Life and career:...

. The statue was dedicated along with a replica of the Old North Bridge at a centennial recognition of the original battle on April 19, 1875. Emerson biographer Robert Richardson notes they have since become the most famous lines Emerson ever wrote. Concord's centennial celebration of Emerson's birth in 1903 ended with a singing of the hymn.

Poem




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, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.


(Note: This version is from The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1904), edited by Edward Waldo Emerson
Edward Waldo Emerson
Edward Waldo Emerson was a United States physician, writer and lecturer.-Biography:Emerson was born in Concord, Massachusetts. He was a son of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Lydian Jackson Emerson, and educated at Harvard, where he was graduated in 1866...

, who noted, "From a copy of this hymn as first printed on slips for distribution among the Concord people at the celebration of the completion of the monument on the battle-ground, I note the differences from the poem here given as finally revised by Mr. Emerson in the Selected Poems."