Concord Hymn

NPS Digital Archives

On July 4, 1837, the residents of Concord, Massachusetts dedicated a monument obelisk on the eastern side of the Old North Bridge to commemorate the second battle of the American Revolution. That battle took place 245 years ago today.

The monument which was erected in 1836 had this inscription:

HERE On the 19 of April, 1775, was made the first forcible resistance to British aggression[.] On the opposite Bank stood the American Militia[.] Here stood the Invading Army and on this spot the first of the Enemy fell in the War of that Revolution which gave Independence to these United States[.] In gratitude to GOD and In the love of Freedom this Monument was erected AD. 1836.

The dedication ceremony had speeches and a hymn written for the occasion by noted Concord resident Ralph Waldo Emerson. That hymn, Concord Hymn, became better known as one of the great poems in American history.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
   Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
   And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
   Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
   Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
   We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
   When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
   To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
   The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Lines such as “the rude bridge that arched the flood” and “the shot heard around the world” have since passed into the lexicon of American history. Whether such history is still taught in schools is up for debate. If I had to hazard a guess, it has been supplanted by grievance studies telling how unjust, how racist, how whatever America is and always was.