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"And Fired The Shot Heard Round The World"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This "occasional" poem was written to be "Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument" at Concord on July 4, 1837. Emerson celebrates the second battle against the British in the war for American independence. Although Emerson wrote few patriotic poems, this hymn, which expresses pride in America's past and hope for her future, has always been one of his most popular works. The first stanza briefly describes the historical event itself. Then Emerson tells us that Time has destroyed the "conqueror," the "foe," and the "rude bridge" by which they fought. The monument (the "votive stone") has been erected to preserve the memory of the glorious event through future generations. In the last quatrain, Emerson addresses the spirit that inspired the heroes to give their lives for future generations; he asks the spirit to make "Time and Nature gently spare" the monument. The first stanza of the poem contains one of the most popular quotations in American literature:

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.