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 friends, “Would you like to go
For a sausage pizza and pitcher of beer?
There’s a pizza joint just west of here.
We could make it back in an hour or so.
One hour, by land, or two, if by sea.”
And his friends said, “Okay, fine by me.
But what if the British march tonight
Shouldn’t we hang the lantern light
In the North Church tower to give the alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm
And let them know that the war has begun?”
“Naw,” said Paul, “we’ll call 911.”
So off they rode with Paul Revere,
William Lawes and Sam Prescott,
And had them a pizza and pitcher of beer,
And Paul Revere was deep in thought,
And he said, “Bill and Sam, it’s spring,
The flowers and trees are glorious.
What is this Revolution thing?
What did the British do to us?”
And they said, “Paul, we gave our word
To the Minutemen, as soon as we heard
Which way the British march, we’d ride
And spread the alarm to the countryside.”
“Fine,” he said, “you two can arouse
The patriots and adventurers.
I’m going to Isabella’s house
And kiss those ruby lips of hers,
And let our kisses intermix
And touch her neck, her cheek, her hair.
I never cared for politics.
You two ride. I’m going there.”
And they said, “Before you go out the door —
Henry Longfellow. You must know him.
He’s here in Boston to cover the war,
And he’s working on a major poem.
This could be your big break, Paul.”
And he said, “Ehhhh. Longfella.
I’d rather be with Isabella.
See you around. Give me a call.”
And out the door went Paul Revere
And the night was dark and the stars were clear
And he rode to see his darling dear
His Beatrice and his Guinevere,
And her father said, “She isn’t here.
She’s gone for the weekend. Sorry, son.
I thought she would have told you so.
She went away to Lexington
To see a guy named Henry Thoreau.”
“Thoreau!” cried Paul Revere. “Oh no!
Not Henry David Thoreau! Oh, please!
That freak? That nerd? That old scarecrow?
The only things he hugs are trees!”
And Paul Revere leaped on his steed,
And away he rode as the clock struck twelve,
He headed west at tremendous speed,
Yelling — he was really beside himself.
He rode and he thought of Isabella —
Was it possible? could she have kissed
That hairy transcendentalist?
Were they sitting now, beneath his umbrella
His scrawny hand upon her knee,
Was he asking her to be his friend?
Was he whispering, “Come away with me
To Walden Pond and let us transcend!”?
And this was the ride of Paul Revere,
He rode for jealousy and fear,
He rode as fast as the horse could go
Cause he loved her so and his heart was breakin’
And he banged on doors, “Is my true love here?
Where is that miserable Henry Thoreau?”
And thus the colonists were awakened.
He whooped and hollered and gave a whistle
And rode through town like the down on a thistle,
“On, Adams! On, Jefferson! Washington! Lee!
Up, Franklin! Up, Hancock! And listen to me!
On! Rutledge and Sherman and Benjamin Rush!
Up Huntington, Hooper and Hopkins! And hush!
Up! Ethan Allen and Button Gwinnett!
Up, Baron von Steuben and Marquis de Lafayette!
Up, Nathan Hale! Thomas Paine with your pen!
Up, Sons of Liberty! Up, Minutemen!
Up, every farmer! and village dweller!
And tell me if you’ve seen the fair Isabella!
Up, everybody, and don’t be slow!
I’ll search for her if it takes all summer!
And if you are listening, Henry Thoreau,
I’ll make you march to a different drummer!”
He rode til he came to Walden Pond
And there was the cabin and just beyond
Henry Thoreau was hoeing his beans
And thinking of life and what it means,
And into his garden rode Paul Revere
And leaped from his horse and grabbed Thoreau’s collar,
And he smelled of sausage pizza and beer,
And he yelled, “Isabella. Where did you haul her?
Is she in the attic or in the cellar?
Speak up quick, or it’s curtains, feller,”
And Thoreau said, “Look, I’m sorry, Paul.
I just needed some help is all.
I don’t love her, I wouldn’t have wedded her.
But the book is long and it needed an editor.”
And Isabella came out of the cabin
And cried, and they were reunited.
And she told Thoreau, “Nothing happens
In your book. You need to rewrite it.
Profound, it is. Exciting, not.
Halfway through, the story weakens.
You need some romance, you need a plot.
Take a look at Last of the Mohicans.”
Paul rode away with the one he desired
And married her then and there and departed
For a honeymoon just as the shots were fired
In Lexington and the war had started.
If the truth be told, it was Prescott and Lawes,
Who did their duty on April 18,
They rode farther down the road,
But they are anonymous today because
When Longfellow sat at his PC screen
To write his famous commemorative ode,
He found to his sorrow that “Lawes” and “Prescott,”
Unfortunately, simply will not
Rhyme in a way pleasant to the ear.
He wrote, “Listen, my children, put down that slingshot,
As I tell of the ride of Sam Prescott...”
“Listen, my children, I’ll hear no ha-has,
As I tell of the ride of William Lawes...”
“Listen, my children, and blow your schnozz...”
“Listen, my children, and wipe off your snot...”
And after awhile, Longfellow threw
Away the early drafts. It was clear
He must write “The Ride of You Know Who”.
It’s not always fair, fortune and fame.
It may come down to the sound of your name.
If Henry Thoreau had been Wally Ballou,
Would we still think of Walden the way we do?
What if Emily Dickinson’s name had been Misty,
Would she be getting the same publicity?
So listen, my children, and you shall learn:
Life takes many an unfair turn,
And many a hero goes unsung,
And many an innocent man is hung,
So learn this now while you are young:
Your heart may be pure and brilliant your thesis,
But be sure to send out your press releases.