Next Wednesday, the 19th of April, is the anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. On that day in 1775, local militiamen in the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, first offered forcible resistance to a British attempt to seize colonial stores of arms and ammunition. By the end of that day, 49 Americans and 73 British soldiers had been killed and a war had begun.
In your homeschool during this American Revolution week, why not memorize the four-line opening stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous “Concord Hymn.” It’s one of our two homeschool poems-of-the-week for the third week of April.
“Concord Hymn” is an example of an occasional poem — a poem originally written for a specific public event or occasion. In this case, the occasion in question was the town of Concord’s Independence Day celebration in 1837 and the dedication of the first battle monument at Concord’s North Bridge. The poem describes quite precisely the geographical setting and the events of that dedication day.
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 heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.
When your students first approach a new poem or begin to look more carefully at an old and familiar poem, encourage them to examine structure as well as meaning. If you count the syllables in “Concord Hymn,” you’ll find that it is indeed written in one of the standard hymn meters: “long meter” or “eights-and-eights.” Each line has exactly eight syllables, and the rhyme scheme follows a simple ABAB pattern, which makes the poem easy to recite and remember. (As we saw earlier, many of Emily Dickinson’s poems are also written in hymn meter.) And while Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” is generally read today, at its debut in 1837 it was sung. Why not invite your students to learn it by singing along, just as the people of Concord did more than 180 years ago.
Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” is one of the most famous of all American history poems, and it has been studied in schools and beloved by Americans of all ages for generations. Be sure to make it part of your homeschool students’ store of literary knowledge.
What wonderful words and poetical productions are you studying in your homeschool this Leo Term? 🦁
❡ The shot heard round the world: If a special line or turn of phrase happens to strike you in one of our weekly poems, just copy it onto your homeschool bulletin board for a few days and invite your students to speak it aloud — that’s all it takes to begin a new poetical friendship and learn a few lovely words that will stay with you for life. 🇺🇸
❡ Explore more: For a quick homeschool review of the beginning of the American Revolution, turn to page 289 in your River Houses history encyclopedia. 📚
❡ Literary lives: The website of the Poetry Foundation includes biographical notes and examples of the work of many important poets (including Ralph Waldo Emerson) that are suitable for high school students and homeschool teachers. ✒️
❡ This is a printable lesson: Down at the bottom of this post you’ll find a custom “Print” button and icon, along with several social-media share buttons. The Print button will let you create a neat and easy-to-read copy of this little lesson, and it will even let you resize or delete elements that you may not want or need (such as images or footnotes). Give it a try today! 🖨
❡ Here, said the year: This post is one of our regular homeschool poems-of-the-week. Print your own River Houses Poetry Calendar to follow along with us as we visit fifty of our favorite friends over the course of the year, and add your name to our River Houses mailing list to get posts like these delivered right to your mailbox every week. 🗞
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