"One, If By Land, And Two, If By Sea"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Paul Revere (1735–1818) was a silversmith by trade; he also worked in gold and was a skilled engraver. Most of his life was spent in Boston. He had some military experience prior to the Revolution, having taken part in the capture of Crown Point in 1756. Afterward he set up shop and produced much fine silverware and a number of prints. Of these, his engraving of the Boston Massacre is probably the best known. He also engraved the plates from which Massachusetts' first paper money was printed. Revere had Revolutionary sympathies and in 1774 became one of a group of men who patrolled Boston at night in order to observe the movements of British troops. On April 14, 1775, it was noted that some sort of military exercise was in preparation; and on the 18th they saw troops marching across the common toward the inner bay. Revere had a prearranged signal set up in one of the Northend churches, either Christ Church or the church in North Square which was later destroyed by the British. He then crossed the river to the Charlestown side, where he had a horse ready, and awaited the signal. When he saw it, he immediately rode to warn the patriots. He was barely in time; by 2:30 A.M. a party of some 800 British troops had landed at Lechmere Point and were marching on Lexington. Revere fought throughout the Revolutionary War and afterward returned to his trade, branching out into bells and cannon; he was the first in America, it is said, to smelt and refine copper. Longfellow's familiar poem has made his name and deeds a household word for many generations. He later incorporated the poem into Tales of a Wayside Inn; this is a collection of tales in verse, told by a number of wayfarers staying at an Inn, and Paul Revere's Ride is the first tale in the volume. It is a stormy night outside the Red Lion Inn, in Sudbury; but inside all is warmth and good cheer. The characters are introduced, and Longfellow describes the music and laughter. Then silence falls, and everyone begs the Landlord for a story. At length, and after much coaxing, he begins:

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, . .