| Quote #1
He said to his friend, 'If the British march
The threat of war is what makes this whole poem move. The citizens are waiting out in the countryside with their guns; the British are leaving Boston to come get them. There's no war yet, though. This poem is mostly about that scary, nervous moment just before a war starts: the edge of the storm. The colonies are about to start a big fight, and Longfellow wants us to feel what an electric moment that is.
| Quote #2
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The whole poem is very focused on the way things sound. You can almost hear the marching boots in this line. And you get a feel for what it would be like to creep around Boston that night, spying on the British. We don't get a clear look at the beginnings of the war here, just some faraway sounds that let us know it's on its way.
| Quote #3
As if they already stood aghast
Even though this poem is celebrating the courage of the Americans in their fight against the British, it doesn't glorify war. The windows that seem alive in the town are horrified by the coming bloodshed, before the fighting even happens. In a way, all the violence in this poem gets pushed away and shifted around, so we don't have to look at it straight on.