The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

This poem was first distributed as a leaflet on the occasion of the dedication of a monument (July 4, 1837) commemorating the battle of Lexington and Concord. However, since the cornerstone of the monument was laid late in 1836 and the monument carries the date 1836, some printed versions of the poem give that date. The poem was not printed again until it was included in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Poems (1847). The poem’s original title was replaced in subsequent years by the now commonly accepted title “Concord Hymn.” This short poem is composed of four stanzas of quatrains written in iambic tetrameter rhythm. The alternating lines rhyme in a pattern of abab.

In the first stanza Emerson briefly reenacts the early American Revolution battle that took place at Concord bridge on April 19, 1775. The first line describes the location as being by an arched, rustic (“rude”) bridge crossing a stream. Patriotic dedication is expressed in the subsequent line, “Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled.” The release of the flag to the wind symbolizes the fact that there is no going back to the conditions preceding this battle. The third line emphasizes the location by repeating the word “Here.” The phrase “the embattled farmers” reminds the reader that the Americans were soldier-farmers fighting a professional British army. The most famous line of the poem, “And fired the shot heard round the world,” expresses another anomaly:...

(The entire section is 557 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Emerson believed that all of life consists of organic wholeness, and he wanted the form of his poetry—its rhyme, rhythm, symbolism, diction—to embody this view. His philosophic purpose did not always produce felicitous verse; indeed, critics of his first volume (Poems, 1847), which contained “Concord Hymn,” highly criticized his use of poetic elements, finding philosophy and poetry at odds. However, they applauded “Concord Hymn” as an exception to this criticism.

Because of his belief in poetic liberty, Emerson himself wrote that he wanted “not tinkling rhyme, but grand Pindaric strokes” and “such rhymes as shall not suggest a restraint, but contrariwise the wildest freedom.” Certainly, the drumbeat rhythm of “Concord Hymn” mimics its martial content; the line “the shot heard round the world” almost seems an echo of the actual fact. On the other hand, the rhythmic beat points to the original occasion of its publication; this poem was intended to provide lyrics for a hymn, both a song of patriotism and a prayer to the Spirit. In addition, the frequent masculine rhyme, both simple and effective, underscores the effectiveness of the historical action being commemorated by dedicating a memorial stone, that is also a “votive stone”; the poet intends the audience to remember the action of the past, the dedication of the present, and the people living in the future, all bound by the “Spirit” invoked in the final...

(The entire section is 522 words.)


(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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