Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the 18th of April, in 75;
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’ …
And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night …
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 …
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.
These lines are from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was born Feb. 27, 1807. His grandfather had been a Revolutionary War general, Peleg Wadsworth. His uncle, after whom he was named, was Henry Wadsworth, a Naval hero killed fighting Muslim Barbary pirates at the Battle of Tripoli, 1804.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a Harvard professor and a popular American poet. He wrote such classics as:
- “The Song of Hiawatha”
- “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” which sold 10,000 copies in London in a single day
- “Voices of the Night”
- “The Divine Tragedy”
- “The Bells of San Blas”
- “The Wreck of the Hesperus”
- “Village Blacksmith”
- “Evangeline,” in which he penned: “Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice triumphs.”
The house Longfellow lived in, 105 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, had previously been used by General George Washington as headquarters during Britain’s Siege of Boston, July 1775-April 1776.
Longfellow’s poems were noted for imparting cultural and moral values, focusing on life being more than material pursuits. In 1842, Longfellow expressed his public support for abolishing slavery by publishing a collection, “Poems on Slavery,” which was reprinted by the New England Anti-Slavery Association.
Longfellow wrote a poem about a famous Albanian leader who fought Islam. In the 1400s, Eastern European leaders courageously helped stop the Ottoman Muslim invasion of Europe, such as:
- Hungary’s John Hunyadi (1406-1456)
- Poland’s W³adys³aw III (1424-1444)
- Moldova’s Stephen the Great (1433-1504)
- Romania’s Vlad III (1428-1477)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem to commemorate Albania’s hero George Castriot (1405-1468), called Skanderbeg by Albanians and Iskander by Turks. Skanderbeg was sent as a hostage to the Ottoman court where he was educated, converted to Islam, and served the Sultan for 20 years. In 1443, he abandoned Islam and converted to Christianity.
This is a growing trend, as the British journal the New Statesman cites Usama Hasan, a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation: “Many converts leave the faith … some stats say 50 per cent will leave within a few years.” Pew Research Center (Jan. 27, 2011) reported the number of people who become Muslims through conversion seems to be roughly equal to the number of Muslims who leave the faith.
Skanderbeg led a rebellion against his former Muslim master, Sultan Murad II, and thus became a major obstacle to Turkish expansion into Europe. Skanderbeg, whom the Turks called Iskander, which means treacherous, captured the Albanian city of Croia (Kruje) in 1444 by using a forged letter from Sultan Murad II. Skanderbeg was noted for his hit-and-run and scorched-earth tactics, as well as punishing Venetian merchants who were selling military supplies to the Ottomans.
Among his many battles, Skanderbeg fought in:
- The Battle of Nis, 1443
- The Battle of Kunovica, 1444
- Gained control of Zeta
- Captured castles at Petrela, Preze, Guri i Bardhe, Svetigrad, Modric and others
- The Battle of Torvioll, 1444
- Battle in the Mokra Valley, 1445
- The Battle of Otonete, 1446
- The Battle near Shkoder, 1448
- The Battle of Oranik, 1448
- Seige of Kruje
- The Battle of Ohrid in 1464
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his poem about Skanderbeg-Iskander:
… In the darkness of the night
Iskander, the pride and boast
Of that mighty Othman (Ottoman) host,
With his routed Turks, takes flight …
In the middle of the night,
In a halt of the hurrying flight,
There came a Scribe of the King
Wearing his signet-ring …
“Now write me a writing, O Scribe …
A writing sealed with thy ring,
To King Amurath’s Pasha
In the city of Croia (Kruje)
That he surrender the same
In the name of my master, the King (Sultan);
For what is writ in his name
Can never be recalled” …
Of Iskander’s scimitar
From its sheath, with jewels bright,
Shot, as he thundered: “Write!”
And the trembling Scribe obeyed …
… And Iskander answered and said:
“They lie on the bloody sod
By the hoofs of horses trod;
But this was the decree
Of the watchers overhead;
For the war belongeth to God,
And in battle who are we,
Who are we, that shall withstand
The wind of his lifted hand?” …
… Then swift as a shooting star
The curved and shining blade
Of Iskander’s scimitar
From its sheath, with jewels bright …
… Then again Iskander cried:
“Now follow whither I ride,
For here thou must not stay …
… No sound was heard but the sound
Of the hoofs of Iskander’s steed,
As forward he sprang with a bound …
… Then onward he rode and afar,
With scarce three hundred men,
Through river and forest and fen,
O’er the mountains of Argentar …
… Then his trumpeters in the van
On their silver bugles blew,
And in crowds about him ran
Albanian and Turkoman …
… Then to the Castle White
He rode in regal state,
And entered in at the gate …
… In all his arms bedight,
And gave to the Pasha
Who ruled in Croia (Kruje)
The writing of the King,
Sealed with his signet-ring.
And the Pasha bowed his head,
And after a silence said:
“Allah is just and great!
I yield to the will divine,
The city and lands are thine;
Who shall contend with Fate?” …
… Anon from the castle walls
The crescent banner falls,
And the crowd beholds instead,
Like a portent in the sky,
Iskander’s banner fly,
The Black Eagle with double head;
And a shout ascends on high,
For men’s souls are tired of the Turks,
And their wicked ways and works,
That have made of Ak-Hissar
A city of the plague;
And the loud, exultant cry
That echoes wide and far
Is: “Long live Scanderbeg!
The most popular poet of his day, Longfellow was praised by his contemporaries:
- John Greenleaf Whittier
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
- James Russell Lowel
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
After his wife died in a tragic house fire in 1861, and his son ran off to fight in the Civil War, Longfellow concentrated on the monumental task of translating Dante’s “The Divine Comedy,” published in 1867.
Longfellow died on March 24, 1882, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1884, he became the first non-British writer to be represented by a sculpted bust in London’s Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.
In a deeply reflective poem, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “A Psalm of Life,” 1838:
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul …
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,-act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time;
-Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
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