Spotty History, Good Literature

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - John Miller, in an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal, written on the 150th anniversary of the printing of Longfellow’s famous poem, writes that just about all of us have encountered the opening, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”

The poem eventually appeared in 1863 in a Boston newspaper under a new title “The Landlord’s Tale,” although everyone knows it as “Paul Revere’s Ride,” then a call to action on the eve of the Civil War.

Several historians have wanted to revoke his poetic license because it’s been revealed that Longfellow stretched the truth, particularly David Fisher of Brandeis University who claims it’s “deliberately inaccurate.”

It turns out that Longfellow was an accomplished borrower, taking content and themes for “The Song of Hiawatha” from Michigan’s Ojibwe Indians among others.

While Miller calls the history spotty, he acknowledges that Longfellow was clearly a master of “galloping meter” in narrative poetry with a message. “Paul Revere’s Ride,” like “A Christmas Carol,” is part of our heritage.

Reported By Dr. Marciene Mattleman, KYW Newsradio

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