Stanza 12 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm
- Now we really get started on the patriotic stuff.
- Longfellow is telling a story, but he's also building up a national myth, so he needs a big ending. He focuses us back in on Paul's ride and the "cry of alarm" that he shouted through Middlesex.
- Notice that Longfellow never tells us what that cry was.
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
- Even though we never find out exactly what Revere was saying, it's not the words that matter, but the feeling behind them. It is a cry of challenge, of "defiance" that shows the people are not afraid.
- The voice, the knock at the door, Paul's words, are all comforting to the American people. Paul's ride is meant to bring strength and determination to people in danger, not just then, but always ("forevermore").
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
- Now the big ending, and the take-home moral.
- This isn't just a good story or a history lesson. The ride of Paul Revere relates to all Americans … forever ("to the last"). Whenever we are scared, in "darkness" and "peril," his words will come down to us, "borne on the night-wind of the past" (what a great line!).
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
- The whole point of this is that the midnight message is filled with something like the American spirit. It's a call to strength, unity, and bravery in the face of fear.
- Keep in mind that Longfellow wrote this right before the Civil War – another dark time for the country. Americans needed strength, and Longfellow reached back to an already legendary moment in our history to provide some.
- We don't know if it works for you, but we think it's a pretty good shot.