Tag Archives: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear of Sarah Palin’s version of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. So, who needs facts anyway?

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Sarah Palin came to Boston June 3, 2011 with her traveling circus of friends, children, grandchildren, and hangers on… On vacation, she wanted to show herself off to Boston while instructing her claque in the finer points of American revolution history, so much of which took place right here.

Frankly, we were glad to see her since our tourist business was hard hit by the recent recession and is only just recovering, glad that is…

… until she started lecturing us locals on what we know best: our own history, whose facts she so scrambled that she managed to turn Paul Revere from our celebrated hero into a stooge for the British, a spy treacherously working for the very people we were fighting against, our 18th century owners and oppressors.

Here’s what she said after a visit to Old North Church when she was asked about Paul Revere’s historic ride, April 18, 1775. With the ringing certitude she’s made all her own Professor Palin commenced her mangling. Revere, she said, “warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms. By ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

Except for the part where Palin says Revere got on his horse and rode… Professor Palin is wrong on every single point.

Revere was not on a mission to warn the British. (Where does the lady get these ideas anyway?).

He rode to warn the colonists to get up and defend themselves for the “British were coming”, by sea.

He didn’t work alone but as part of a team of brave people who each, once briefed, had to get up and get out fast, to warn the colonists along their appointed route so that they could defend themselves and the arms they had dangerously, laboriously assembled.

If Paul Revere had done what Palin said he did (“warn the British”) he would have been snuffed out by the locals as a dangerous snitch, a traitor, not raised to the pinnacle of national respect and admiration.

This entire imbroglio, this tempest in a tea cup, should never had taken place. Palin could have chosen to do what I did when I took my nephew Kyle out to the same historic sites.

First, get a guidebook and read it.

Second, visit the superb visitor centers along the way. They are packed with pertinent detail and good (air-conditioned) films, a real pleasure to see and get out of the humidity, too.

Three, pepper the well prepared park service employees and local volunteers in period costumes with all your questions. They’ve heard it all and, in my experience (for I’ve taken friends and family members thither many times) are well qualified, well versed, and always warm and welcoming in the New England fashion.

Sarah, of course, chose none of these sensible alternatives.

Sarah likes “going rogue” about this, as everything else. It means she does things, everything, her own way… and those who don’t like it can lump it. She so liked the idea and the phrase that she titled her autobiography “Going Rogue: An American Life”. (Simon and Schuster 2009). In Palin’s “Alice in Wonderland” world whatever she says, no matter how wrong, is right and anyone criticizing her, however right, is always wrong.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, her Fox colleague, was the latest victim of Palin-think. Sunday June 5, he discovered why even suggesting that Palin could be mistaken ever about anything is like fighting with a skunk. And we all know what that means…

The daring but hapless Wallace suggested that Palin had erred in her Boston lecture on Revere. But Palin wasn’t about to suffer that. What? Sarah! Make! A! Mistake! Not just impossible… but inconceivable. And what’s more, that was just another instance of “gotcha” journalism, bad people out to get her. (In Sarah’s conspiratorial world there are always such evildoers at hand for Sarah’s world is lined with paranoia.)

“You know what?” Palin spat at Wallace, “I didn’t mess up about Paul Revere. Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there. That, hey, you’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms.”

There was more, lots more, delivered with the usual ingredients of her verbal Molotov cocktails… surety, disdain, condescension and her usual “Look brother,don’t tread on me. Get off my back” nastiness, which can in an instant turn her smile into a sneer. Make no mistake about it, Sarah’s a tough customer and any suggestion that she’s not as good as the Virgin Mary directs her firepower at you, while her stiletto comes down hard on your foot, the better to make her point — maggot, don’t mess with me.

And this to Chris Wallace, a professional colleague at the Fox Network!

She went on, fire and brimstone at the ready, for Palin always comes armed with the arsenal of the street fighter:

“Here is what Paul Revere did. He warned the Americans that the British were coming.., and they were going to try take our arms and we got to make sure that we were protecting ourselves and shoring up all of ammunitions and our firearms so that they couldn’t take it,” Palin said June 5.

“But remember that the British had already been there, many soldiers for seven years in the area. And part of Paul Revere’s ride –and it wasn’t just one ride — he was a courier, he was a messenger. Part of his ride was to warn the British that we’re already there…. You are not going to beat our own well-armed persons, individual, private militia that we have. He did warn the British.”

And that, she suggests, is that. But, most assuredly, that is not that… and not just because she misstated a few facts which are all easily available in libraries and online. Even Boston’s own Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his famous poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” (published 1863) erred in focusing solely on what Revere did, to the detriment of his many other colleagues who also rode hard for freedom that April evening.

No, Palin’s fault is the assumption of infallibility with which she now approaches everything, great and small. That every word she mispronounces is faultless; every sentence she twists and destroys is perfect…. and every fact she gets wrong was in fact just previously misunderstood and is now clarified by her. This is not an American citizen and possible presidential candidate. This is the first, infallible American pope… and a woman too. And if you purists in the Vatican suggest that a non-Catholic and a woman will never be pope, Sarah will tell you different, thundering with words like schism and anti-pope at the ready.

For you see, Sarah aims for bigger fish than the White House with its tiresome term limits and insistent people always to propitiate. Sarah aims for the very seat of St. Peter and a lifetime audience commanded to listen and obey…

“A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore…”

The word of our Sarah urbi et orbi “In the hour of darkness and peril and need”… Amen! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

* * * * *
About The Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four college degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities, quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 30 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com


His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” has garnered eight prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” I hope you enjoyed your read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.com

Hear Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his best known patriotic poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”.


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The joy and lifelong comfort in a parent’s voice. Some thoughts.

Proudly presented from www.writerssecrets.com Article Series

Author’s program note. It happened when I was deep in a brown study on some suitably recondite conundrum of cosmic significance. There, walking along the uneven sidewalk that lines the Common, there right in front of me I saw two lucky people who only had eyes for each other. Their presence was arresting; taking me immediately out of myself, focusing full attention on them, two people learning just how exciting and fulfilling togetherness can be.

You’re skipping ahead of me now I daresay. You’re  expecting one young thing entwined with another, in love perhaps, or making good progress thereto. But if you think this, you’d be wrong, quite utterly mistaken. For the two people I saw, and could not take my eyes off, were a young father and his young daughter. He looked to be on the sunny side of thirty; she was three or four. And a more enraptured couple I did not see that day… nor had I seen for long before. They only had eyes for each other.

The young father was in the process of enchanting his daughter; he was very much in the middle of not merely telling her a story… but acting it out. His animals were not just words from his mouth. They lived! They moved! They entranced! He didn’t merely talk of their movements… he moved as they would in life, going where they meant to go…. and to show her deep and sincere appreciation for his constant efforts and exertions… she laughed, completely, merrily, with a glee she had already mastered… and which she spent liberally, recompense for her adored father.

No wonder I couldn’t take my eyes off this scene of radiance and sunshine. I could only wish them both one thing to make what they had perfect… and that was the gift of clear memory.

Unbidden tears.

After a minute or two my way diverged from theirs; they went on without thought or recognition or acknowledgement that such a one as me even lived. And whether it was because of this thought or one like it, I felt tears. It’s the kind of thing that happens to too many silly old buffers if they’ve dined unwisely but too well or dwelt too long on things that might have been… and why they squandered so many opportunities, because they were certain they’d come again, but didn’t.

6 or 7 or so, the softest hands, the most caressing voice.

Then my own memory yanked me as it so often does these days. And I was not pining about might-have-beens and loves I tossed away without thought, doubt or pangs. Instead I heard a voice I knew as well as my own, a voice that represented all I valued and had every reason to be grateful for. Her voice. And this voice didn’t just rise from memory. I heard it because she was there with me again… and everything was there, just as it should be. And just as it all sounded sixty years ago and more.

“My little love, do you feel a little better? I have something you’ll like.” And she always did. A book. A tale carefully considered  before being read to me; sometimes one she knew I loved; sometimes one she was certain I would come to love, because she already did. Thus in her own soothing hands she would bring me, between covers, pages sometimes not yet cut, the unimaginable riches of the world, sometimes when I was ill; sometimes to sooth the way to dreamless slumber. And no matter how much she gave me, there was always more summoned by her practised magic. But the real magic did not come between covers with uncut pages; nor even with tales of mesmerizing effect. The supremest spell was the one wrought by her voice and a few deft movements which denoted care, craft, artistry and above all else, love.

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee.”

Given a moment or two, a hint and a clue, I could probably name everything she read to me… not just because of the lyric power of the authors’ words but because of her voice. Its cadence. Its resonance. Its sonority. Its shear beauty and allure. Each word counted and so she neglected no word. Each line counted and so she delivered each line. Each paragraph counted… and so not a single paragraph was overlooked or forgotten. Thus, she rendered one of our favorites; “The Song of Hiawatha” by my near neighbor on Brattle Street, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, published to universal acclaim in 1855.  I can hear her now… see her… she lives on as I hear her reading the words she loved:

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.”

But her magic was by no means exhausted, hardly even begun. For now she told me to close my eyes, to see the shores of Gitche Gumee, the shining Big-Sea-Water, the wigwam, and most of all Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon Nokomis. And as she bade, so I did until these were no longer mere words, but grand vistas, places of consequence and truth. Such was the magic of her voice.

“But there is no joy in Mudville.”

One of her favorites, which became one of mine, was “Casey at the Bat”, “A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888.” It was written by Ernest Thayer, and first published in “The San Francisco Examiner” on June 3, 1888. No voice ever delivered it with greater gusto and the American idiom than she, perhaps because she was a zealous supporter of her hapless Cubbies, the Chicago Cubs. Thus, as she spoke she made every captivating gesture:

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”

“And the highwayman came riding.”

Over the years, in sickness and in health, her voice unlocked one treasure chest after another… Thomas Gray, Tennyson, Frost,  Sandburg, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Browning, Dylan Thomas… but this was always one of her favorites, for her dramatic sense worked well with Alfred Noyes, the great poet of the empire on which the sun never set, ruled by the Great White Queen after whom my grandmother was named.  He published it in 1906, and it made him a world figure.

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, And the highwayman came riding — Riding — riding — The highwayman came riding up to the old inn-door.”

And, as was now usual, she closed my eyes and opened my mind’s eye to see the ghostly galleon, the ribbon of moonlight, and the highwayman, “a bunch of lace at his chin”, the highwayman who kept riding, riding, riding. With every word, with every image, she helped make me the man I am today. Your children deserve as much from you, and as you love them, do so; for this is one certain way to ensure not just their constant improvement but that you and your voice descend to them and keep you a forever living presence in their lives.


For the musical accompaniment to this article,  I’ve selected the brilliant suite composed by Nicholai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. It is called “Scheherazade”. It’s the story of a shrewd woman whose ability to keep the Sultan amused by telling stories kept her alive. Based on “One Thousand and One Nights,” my mother loved it from its opening bass motif to every evocative note that follows. She was always happy to acknowledge the talents of other wizards and soothsayers. You’ll find it in any search engine. Go now and play it. Its richness enriches this article… and will do the same for you.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four college degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities, quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 30 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com


His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” has garnered eight prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” A good read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.co

Check out Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s Author Page at Author Central for all his latest books, events and blog posts.

Go to: http://www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

Get a FREE Copy of “How to Be a Writer Who Makes Money, Flies High and Dazzles the Folks Back Home. Oh Yeah!” by Dr.Jeffrey Lant Get Your FREE Copy CLICK HERE

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“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day…” Christmas Eve 2015. God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. Cambridge, 1:17 a.m. 69 degrees Fahrenheit, 9 mph, humidity 94%.

Excerpt from “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. Christmas Stories”by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Available at: http://www.drjeffreylant.com/store/p76/Christmas-stories-2016

Chapter 5

Longfellow“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day…”  Christmas Eve 2015. God is not dead,
nor doth He sleep. Cambridge, 1:17 a.m. 69 degrees Fahrenheit, 9 mph,
humidity 94%. 

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s Program Note.

I am sitting at my desk in one of the most beautiful rooms on Earth, the Blue
Room. Here on my well laden shelves reside the thoughts of generations of
my peers and colleagues through all the lands and ages, each one necessary
for the value and impact of the whole. We gather here, all of us, to refresh
ourselves in the peace and serenity of this place, for I insist that here peace
and serenity, diversity and tolerance shall reign supreme.

On this day, Christmas Eve in the morning, we are thinking of our dear friend
and Cambridge neighbor, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). I can tell you a
great deal about this great lyric poet of the Great Republic. A thousand miles from
where his swiftly moving pen enlivened each page, in prairie Illinois, he brought me,
through the magic in my young mother’s voice to “the shores of Gitche Gumee, by the
shining Big-Sea-Water,” thence to “the wigwam of Nokomis, daughter of the Moon,

She and Longfellow, reader and author, are so intertwined in my mind, that
remembering the one necessarily reminds me of the other. They are irresistible together.

They took me on Paul Revere’s epic ride of ’75  into eternity…  a determined
patriot with freedom enough for all a world distressed in his saddlebags… and
they made me feel the glistening muscles and smell the acrid sweat of the village
blacksmith whose shop I can walk to, though the chestnut tree is sadly gone in
fact; gladly to exist forever thanks to the poet who saw a story in the bellows
constantly at work at the forge, creating a nation more strong and notable
every single day.

Longfellow was the joyous poet of this blacksmith… this forge… this great nation
abuilding from sea to shining sea, never ceasing, never tiring, never flagging,
never quitting, never quavering, the whole chronicled by Longfellow, derided as
the poet of the masses by certain envious literati, a criticism he wore with panache
and festivity… and the respect of every Yankee, as his “squibs” fetched by mid century
as much as $3,000; an astonishing amount for a “mere” poet. If there had ever been a
poet so well heeled, able to live so well before, no one could instantly name him.

In 1860, this paragon of heart-touching poets was living a life anyone might
envy. He resided in the grandest mansion in Cambridge, once the great domicile
of Tory John Vasall, a merchant whose loyalty to King and Crown cost him beyond
dear. George and Martha Washington made it their headquarters while George
created an army of farmers, so powerful at the end that the greatest nation
on Earth, bowed low before their majesty, the world indeed turned upside

Next, in 1843, Brattle Street and the imposing mansion given as a wedding
present by the bride’s affluent father, welcomed the prolific poet, his gracious
wife Fannie, and his soon to be numerous progeny, two sons and four daughters.
It was one of the young nation’s greatest romances. It became, and all too soon,
one of its greatest tragedies.

When joy ceases… and can no longer be even imagined. This is where tragedy

It began in an instant and was relived every day, every minute of his remaining
life; the death in 1861of loving Fannie by burns sustained in a freak accident.
One minute the highest bliss known, the next unspeakable pain that destroyed
every happy thought and made a mockery of all the joy that went before and
could never be again.

Death abides in the hymeneal chamber of love and life.

I have on divers occasions visited what is today preserved as the Longfellow –
Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, the sumptuous edifice
that began its life in 1759 as Craigie House. Here I have attended concerts
in the gardens, gathered the first lilacs and drunk wildly of their exuberant scent,
and peered over the white picket fence, wondering at the exalted beings who
had in their time claimed all this as their earthly paradise.

Would  I, I  wondered, write such verses to beguile a great nation? And would I,
for all that the words might come, yet also face eternal grief beyond reckoning,
no antidote to be had?

Such thoughts come easily and unbidden to poets who wander in the moonlight
on Brattle Street where the great house with its stately beauty yet fails to blot out
the tragedy that still reverberates within. I have known such unspeakable tragedy,
too, which words can never assuage. They return every day, but most of all at
Christmas. So do the blighted living feel the deep, abiding power of the dead, our
dead for the ones we most loved, hurt us the most deeply, and forever, simply by
leaving us. And we can do nothing about this final separation, this pain, nothing but
submit and bow our heads in profound resignation. But the pain abides forever.
This is the essential fact of the human condition, and it is bitter indeed.

On my last visit to this lordly residence, I made a special point of lingering in the
couple’s bedroom where Fannie lingered for a handful of precious hours after
being severely burned while putting locks of her children’s hair into an envelope
and attempting to seal it with hot sealing wax. Her dress caught fire, her shrieks
awakening Longfellow who was taking a nap just a few feet away. He rushed
to her assistance, throwing a rug over her, which proved too small to stop the

Fannie had died while saving hair from each child; instead just a day later, each
took a strand of her hair for remembrance and so she was buried on the 18th
anniversary of her marriage. There you will find her in the Mount Auburn Cemetery
where in due course she was joined by husband and where, in due course, I, too,
shall reside for the ages.

Thus the saddest event in the history of all the distinguished people who made
this celebrated house a home continued to burn. By the time Longfellow got
through to Fannie, both were badly burned, she dying the next morning of July 10,
1861; he disfigured for life, some of his deep scars covered by the patriarchal beard
he now adopted, giving him his trademark look.

The park service guide, whose objective is always moving the visitors through briskly
and maintaining a strict schedule tells the broad outline of this tale crisply and without
any emotion whatever. Their goal is management, not truth. To such guides I am
anathema, for I ask many questions, good questions and expect good answers, which
all too often I do not get. My presence irks them; their presence irks me. We each
understand the other perfectly,

Thus the guide told me to “come along” long before I was ready to do so. I am in
search of “Veritas” (“truth”), and this room, where so much happened, good and bad,
was there, the only eye-witness who saw it all. The hectoring guide didn’t.

That’s why I move slowly through this place of jumbled sensations, sensing the joys
therein but also, overwhelmingly, the terrible pain and grief; pain and grief so powerful
and destructive the great American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the essence
of American optimism and determination almost succumbed, his indomitable spirit
crushed by a single word, “Why?”, a question that all of us confront over and over again,
never finding a satisfying answer, but only the single word that perplexes, confuses,
and angers. So it is for you and me and our struggles; so it was with Longfellow and

His writing, the chronicle of a great nation, stopped, his thoughts bleak and pathetic.
He was not only convinced he would never write again but that the glorious,
lyric words and the works he had fashioned from them for so long were as superficial
and trivial as his critics said, just so much forgettable dross, not a glimmer of eternity
to be had. He decided to have his say on the matter before his more learned friends
and colleagues had theirs.

He dipped his pen into fresh ink as dark as the thoughts he would write from it.

“Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” And as
these caustic, despairing words were recorded, his head was bowed, his grief
unfathomable, nothing left to live for.

But then he heard the bells of Christmas Day,1863, the joyous cacophony of
bells from Harvard and every steeple alerting the citizens that, yes, our Messiah
was born. Dour, dismayed, desolate Longfellow was so touched by their adamant
certainty, he changed the message of his poem altogether.

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.

He wrote quickly, bold scrawls across the page, determined not to mss this
rebirth, this reaffirmation. For the first time since his great tragedy, he felt, if
not yet peace and hope, then at least their possibility. The bells of Christmas Day
had done their work, as the tears cascaded down his scarred face, a remembrance’
of deep love, abiding through the ages to come. God had heard. God had not
forgotten. God was here.


The poem written on Christmas Day in 1863 was first published in February 1865
in “Our Young Folks,”  as “Christmas Bells”. The heart of the nation went out to the
grieving author. After all, everyone, whatever their situation or station had asked
at one time or another, the momentous question — “Why?”

He had laid his trouble before the world. The world responded with kindness, humanity,
empathy, renewed admiration, and love. Despite his thoughts of suicide, he came
to see how selfish that would be given the universal plea that he heal, write, and live,
the great nation’s great poet again.

However he was a man who had written but one love poem in his life. Of course it went
to Fannie… as did every thought and word, all dedicated to the great romance he
had won and lost.

Some years later, in 1872, English composer and organist John Baptiste Calkin
came to read Longfellow’s poem. Like all discerning readers, he felt the power of
Longfellow’s searing language, and he wrote the music which with the lyrics
touches us so. You can find the moving result in any search engine. I prefer the
version done expertly by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Listen to it when the
dawn comes up on Christmas Day, and be comforted.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

About the Author

2016 is fast approaching and with it Dr. Jeffrey Lant’s 69th birthday. He is, he likes to
say, in the prime of his prime. Thus does the “scribbling” life he commenced at age
5 continue. Twenty books. Thousands of articles. Untold radio and television programs;
worldwide recognition and enthusiasm, all of which culminated in the publication of
his autobiography, “A Connoisseur’s Journey, being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck and joy”. It was a book that screamed “classic!”, and he has
delighted in the several awards that followed.

To get your copy go to www.writerssecrets.com. You will also want to join his writing
course and learn from this master communicator just how you can improve everything
you ever write.

A most beautiful article I hope you will listen to this beautiful reading by Dr. Lant and be moved by it.





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