Patriot’s Day and Passover

And you know, they work together for me; born in New England of the faith that directly celebrates the exodus from Egypt.

Sadly, this post was delayed by a few hours due to the holidays themselves.

But, yes, the poem we (New Englanders) all memorized when we were children, is worth remembering today and, as in prior years, it is posted here, but below.

But as a nation of immigrants, Regina Spektor’s unfinished, but beautiful and poignant song, Rockland County, has as much to say about the day and its twin holidays, as does Longfellow:

Condescending down the stairs
I’m condescending down the stairs
I look out for a moment

Condescending down the stairs
I’m condescending down the stairs
I look down at the bottles

I just know I got something coming
If I got anything coming at all
I just know I got something coming
If I got anything coming at all

There are immigrants, I know
Who came, like me, as little kids
They think that
today
it’s so different

They believe that immigrants
Shouldn’t be allowed to come here anymore
They’re bad
for
the economy

I just know they got something coming
If they got anything coming at all
I just know they got something coming
If they got anything coming at all

When I landed I didn’t see
The Statue of Liberty
Like so many
immigrants
before me

In the airplane,
I didn’t sleep
I stayed up watching ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’
in English — I loved it, but didn’t understand it

Then I woke up in the middle of the night
In a big room with golden curtains and a fold-out couch
I thought I was in heaven or in Cinderella

Then I woke up in the middle of the night
In a big room in my cousin’s house in Rockland County
I thought I was in heaven or in Cinderella

I heard the swimming pool noises
I didn’t know they were swimming pool noises
I heard the swimming pool noises
And there was a dog, a dog, a real live dog

I heard swimming pool noises
I didn’t know there were swimming pool noises
I heard swimming pool noises
And there was a dog, a dog, a real live dog

Ooh…

OK. Longfellow:

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,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;=
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

Chag Sameach and Go Sox; y’know

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5 thoughts on “Patriot’s Day and Passover

  1. Barth

    Naa. Don’t let the right wing own the great days of American history. Concord, Lexington and the ride(s) were the courageous refusals of people to let a foreign power govern New England. That our alliance in gaining independence required that we tolerate the slavery on which their economies were dependent was not a good thing and it took four score and seven years and a civil to alter that, but that does not take away from the achievements of April 18 into April 19, so many years ago.

    1. This leads us further into other issues.

      Hell, I can be a patriot.

      Forget motives of individuals, the Civil War was waged by northern patriots for chrissakes.

      WWII was waged by patriots.

      The enormous evil of the Axis powers as well as the Japanese cannot be rationalized as far as I am concerned. Forty million Chinese may have lost their lives due to Japanese Imperialism; how many folks lost their lives through the horrors committed by the NAZI’s?

      This is my country.

      I aint giving up patriotism!

  2. I have so had it with this patriotism thing and the associated religion thing. There is a gazillion ways to express the ideas falling under this umbrella. There is no point in even discussing the nuances of the varying perspectives and assert they’re meaningful. They just aren’t.

    At the fundamental level there is almost no daylight between the ideas of the persons engaged in these arguments. This is far more about establishing a hierarchy or an authoritative regime than anything else. It really is crap. Where we are born and what writings we’re exposed to create a perspective for us. Unless we spend our entire lives moving among and examining all the locales and customs of this country and world we’ll always have our disagreements and biases. I’m so completely disenchanted with this whole pissing contest, and yes wars, which are nothing more than a manifestation of our biases and limited knowledge. Conceptually, this is really, really simple and fabulously dumb that we argue so vehemently over nothing.

  3. Barth

    You are, of course, entitled to your opinion as I am mine (I think). If you read the two posts, one has to do with immigration and what it means to immigrants, and the other about warning people about being attacked. Both seem to be reasonable sentiments to me.

    And having a respect for the beliefs of others is extraordinarily important. Believing that one has all the answers is dangerous. And, actually, aside from telling us what you find to be crap, your second paragraph are simply assertions of your own beliefs which,

    of course, you are entitled to hold.

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