Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 18: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

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."

So begins Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem. Whatever its historical accuracy, the poem gave the United States a mythical heroic figure. Longfellow’s other popular poems also helped shape the country’s mythology and identity. Consider “The Song of Hiawatha,” “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” and “Evangeline.” We could pair Longfellow with James Fenimore Cooper whose Leatherstocking Tales also made a similar contribution. 

What have lawyers contributed to America’s mythology and identity? Some of them have become mythic figures, including Abraham  Lincoln, Daniel Webster, and Clarence Darrow. But what writings have they contributed aside from the country’s founding  documents, a few political speeches, and the Gettysburg Address? Perhaps they are enough.


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