The American Revolution: An Epic Poem

Chapter I
Chapter II

by Andrew Benson Brown

 

Chapter III: The New-World Mercury

The historical source material for the below installment is Paul Revere’s Ride, by David Hackett Fischer

 

“Listen up stupid, or you’ll mishear
Of the midnight ride of—someone dear…
I can’t uh remember, um what’s his name?
That cowboy guy who’s from the frontier,
You know? He thwarted the Nazi tsar
When the evil Germans were all invading,
And he rode with his deafening horsepowered car
To warn of Pearl Harbor.” —How degrading.
Numberless children brainwashed this year
Won’t learn a lick of Paul Revere…

He’s rightfully renowned, and Longfellow’s
Galloping lines transcend the lame humdrum
You’ll read by soft and bitter marshmallows
Who banned rhyme from their hip curriculum:
From the de-bosomed air of feminists,
Below the promised path their rainbow makes,
On winds of cloudy-headed Leninists,
Over the streets and schools, descend snowflakes.
So drink an antidote to verse that’s stale—
Go read the “Midnight Ride,” then I’ll resume my tale.

Inside a borrowed mansion, drooping rage
From eyelids limp with taedium vitae,
Was hunched the Honorable Thomas Gage.
Of all the Yankee race, these mean and sly
Bostonians were much by far the worst.
They willfully ignored the king’s mandates,
Abused their freedoms, claimed to be coerced.
Town meetings full of merchants, magistrates,
And lawyers schemed to form rebellion’s pith;
Most vexing, though, of all was that damned silversmith.

He rode between the towns to bring men news
Of British plans—he always knew at once
Tomorrow’s orders, and with every ruse
The general was made to look a dunce.
Revere! An agitator and a bully
Uniting rabble-rousing rioters
Against the common rights of man—that wooly
Stuff needing dignified proprietors,
And which the governor of Massachusetts
Had pledged to shield by law when subjects pass a few fits.

Gage called his man Lord Percy and pronounced:
“I’ve word that nearby there are powder stores;
These democratic despots must be trounced.
Let’s try and keep the populace indoors,
Block all the roads so no one can leave town.
We’ll seize Concord and quietly disarm her.
This is a secret mission of the crown,
I’ve told no one but you, so not a farmer
Knows—don’t tell the captains who are freshmen.”
Just then, the governor’s fair wife brought some refreshments.

She set down on his desk a silver tray
And poured a spot of tea for her helpmate.
Her dark eyes gazed upon his pale dismay.
She stroked his gray hair, now grown thin of late,
And in a soft low voice she then began
To lecture him on liberty and justice
While draped in her red taffeta caftan.
Gage pulled away. “Ah Margaret, we’ve discussed this
Too many times before—what’s in the soil
Or air that makes you think this way and cause turmoil?”

As the Cumaean Sibyl in the cave
Sang to upright Aeneas of the Fates,
And presaged what ambition did not crave
About the rise of Rome and subject states,
Marge Kemble breathed the tea’s hot rising steam.
Her color changed and anger tinged her cheeks.
She trembled faintly (not to harm esteem),
Then languidly she poured forth her critiques:
“You wish to start some horrid war, my sweet?
The bay will bring a purple tide if you repeat

Acts like the one at the Old Powder House.
The colonies, you say, talk very high;
But they’ll have deeds to match, I vow, dear spouse.
As land to water’s reign need not comply,
This coast, in time, will see your troops give up
As it is driven to seek strange allies.”
She plopped a sugar lump into his cup.
“If you’re to win, you’ll need more than surprise.
But you are sad of soul and bent by woe…
If fortune were to smile on you, it wouldn’t show.”

Her husband stirred his cooling tea and frowned.
“I only would uphold the rule of law,
Which every man here studies to expound
With purposes that suit the aim he’d draw.
I’m no Achilles hungry for onslaught.
Commit your mind to flitting dried leaves, pet;
Let them disperse into your kettle pot,
And cede important things for men to fret.”
Gage sipped his lukewarm cup and felt at ease.
“I thank you for the tea, my dear—now leave us please.”

As she obeyed, Lord Percy eyed her with
Mistrust, then turning back to where his chief
Was leaning like a weathered monolith,
Gage sighed: “Forgive her for her woman’s grief,
Self-righteousness is in her Yankee blood.
Let’s set our plan in play: arrest Hancock
And Adams—quell these bushmen with the thud
Of boots, and cage Revere so he can’t squawk.”
Percy condemned all who would dwell in folly,
And left the general to drink his melancholy.

As Margaret Kemble Gage led out the Earl,
Her gown—which fit the style of Turquerie
But shipped from England—flew up in a twirl
And caught a table edge’s right degree
(Well-carpentered inside the Colonies),
Which caused a tear. She, pluralized in pearls
Stranded on parted braids, poked her chemise
Through riven silk, and then let down her curls.
How could she extricate her better half?
Her husband would import her country’s epitaph.

Like smugglers docking on a lonely pier
At night in silence, hoping to evade
The customhouse inspectors that are near,
And leaving cargo Britain had forbade
Till after getting their official license,
Displaying then their goods without much tact
As people line the port prepared to price-wince,
So Margaret stole a quill to pirate fact.
She could not borrow time to trade or tarry,
And prayed to God her note would find its emissary.

. . .

Wheezing and whizzing through the Boston streets,
Past sailors stopping for a tavern brew
And filling rooms to run up high receipts
With local whores of Puritan worldview
(Who plied their trade with energetic pace);
Past sweeps who chirped sad songs from chimney tops
As bells rang out to close the marketplace;
Past smells of fish and soap and smoke from shops,
A stable boy ran fast as his legs could
And headed toward the narrow North End neighborhood.

Black feathers underneath his shoes were stuck
From where he had traversed a tarring case.
In fashion of a bringer of good luck,
A wide-brimmed hat obscured his bloomy face.
He held a rolled newsletter in his fist
That shone dusk-dappled like a ruddy rod,
And waving as he ran, with slumber kissed
The townsfolk, sending hustling heads to nod.
From Heaven’s clouds his feet now flew to flee—
He was none other than wing-sandaled Mercury.

Within a wooden house on the North Square,
A polished walnut table’s glow reflects
The form of white shirtsleeves lit by the glare
A window opened on the town projects,
Its bright rectangle mirrored in a bowl
Of silver convexing a steep forehead
And chestnut eyes fixated on their goal:
To butter this raw lump of art for bread.
The craftsman set his needle for engraving
Down and caressed his chin, made smooth from freshly shaving.

His high-arched brows took on a quizzical
Expression while his many-sided thoughts
(Arms, taxes—none too metaphysical)
Echoed and ricocheted like musket shots.
Outside the window cried a distant gull;
He raised his head, his gaze direct, and shook
His caverned cares to hear the street din lull.
The artist looked down as God’s herald took
His final strides, approaching from afar.
He burst in and announced the news: “The British are—”

“I know,” said Paul Revere into the rear
Reflection in his pot. “You are the third
Young messenger today to bring my ear
Some gossip from the town you must have heard.
I know they’re on the move—what of it, child?”
Revere unfurled the paper the boy laid
And read the note a dainty hand had styled.
“Did Margaret like the silver tray I made?”
—“Why yes, it is her favorite jiggumbob.
But now the hour is late—you’re needed for a job.”

Revere: “Hancock and Adams must be warned,
Marge says—I’m not the man to do it, though.
Amongst the regulars I’m known and scorned;
The town guard won’t allow my horse to go.”
—“A horse across the river,” said the brat,
“Can do the task, it’s pedigree is swift.
But if you’d rather sit here, ‘dandy prat’…”
—“Just stop right there,” Revere said, looking miffed.
He eyed the urchin’s ragged glowing raiment.
“Will you escort me? Take this silver as your payment.”

The waif perused the teapot’s rare technique
Where striking patterns covered little flaws.
The inside finish wasn’t very sleek.

Its surface, much unlike a Grecian vase,
Expressed a tale of soldering quite sloppy.
Thou child abused by turbulence and haste
Who seems thou art a greater sibling’s copy
Shall find thy market value much debased.
Ye prove that truth and beauty are distinct,
And that ahorse, thy sylvan smith is more succinct.

Young Mercury gave words of gratitude,
Though golden bowls from which he daily supped
In highest Heaven made this thing look crude.
“Your tip-top eye for form, sir, will corrupt
My eyes,” he said, “—I can’t accept this gift,
Though I’ll bump up beside you, if it suits.”
Paul’s wife brought his surtout she’d sewn with thrift;
His children helped put on his riding boots;
He sent his faithful dog to fetch his spurs.
In shadow then the boy and he set out, two blurs.

At Joseph Warren’s house the boy conveyed
Offense: “Dispatch another riding chum?
Some mouth-friend? You don’t need that nizy’s aid!”
—“You talk strange for a farm boy—where you from?”
The foreign courier’s small hands perspired
While fondling Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
(Writ in his Latin tongue now long expired)
His pocket held, its pages stained with dairy.
He wasn’t used to speaking in this period.
—“From lots of places—all the lands I’ve been are myriad.”

Paul met the sexton of the Old North Church,
Who with some friends arranged to light a sign
Of two bright lanterns in the steeple’s perch
And warn of troops traversing Boston’s brine.
The timeless envoy caught a hacking spell,
Then tripped about, a sick bird feigning flight.
‘What’s wrong with him?’ Paul thought. ‘He looks unwell.’
Up north a boat was hidden out of sight.
Two Boston watermen agreed to row
Revere to Charlestown with this curious child in stow.

They had no cloth to muffle sobbing oars,
So Mercury knocked at a near abode
And caught a set of lady’s underdrawers
That floated from a window to the road.
He tied the still-warm garments ‘round one paddle,
Then (sniffing them) the other. —“Come on, whelp,”
Said Paul, “let’s get me to my horse and saddle.”
…And so Revere that night had lots of help.
The myth of the lone rider needs repair:
Longfellow made that legend up—weren’t you aware?

The golden gibbous moon was on the rise,
A guinea bitten at its rim esteemed
As counterfeit, yet lighting up the skies,
While suns beyond our firmament that teemed
Like silver shillings and faraway sixpence
Were all stamped out from circulation’s spheres.
“The moon will leave our shadows no defense,”
Revere said to his pair of gondoliers
Who steered against the young flood’s rising tide
And slowed the boat before a warship’s looming side.

“The Somerset will spot us,” whispered Paul.
The boy: “We’re inconspicable—just wait!”
The boatmen scoffed: “This boy on alcohol?”
“Pay him no mind,” Paul said, “he can’t talk straight.”
But then they gaped in awe: the mounting moon
Turned from its eastern course and southward swayed
To hang with the horizon and commune,
Shrouding their boat in Boston’s prickly shade.
It was a marvel not to be ignored.
“Don’t cutty-eye at me,” the boy said. “Thank the Lord.”

They passed the hulking ship’s bowsprit unseen
And rowed in silence toward the water’s edge.
There silhouettes hung, Charlestown men umpteen
Who’d seen the signal in the steeple ledge.
They warned Revere they’d seen a night patrol
On Lexington’s highway—no idle yarn.
The boy pooh-poohed: “He’ll slipple their controls.”
He then conveyed Paul to a local barn:
“Besnilch this solipede, your people’s fleetest:
It makes the second-fastest horse a lax defeatist!”

Paul stood as one attending on a prince
Who flies down from his lofty palace wall
Rich-clad in gleaming armor to evince
His faithfulness to heed the battle call.
A mare then hobbled forth from out the stable,
Old, tottering, cadaverous and gaunt,
An ashen specter from some grisly fable.
Paul balked: “What’s this before me that you flaunt?
You pledged a breed of highest pedigree,
Not some tired horse whose bloodline couldn’t feed a flea.”

—“Don’t mock! ‘Twas Pegasus who sired this mare,
That mighty prancer of them Greek heroes.
His firstling you see here’s a worthy heir,
No creature fit for hen-hearts or zeroes.
She’s led a life no less illustrious:
Her aurulent long mane’s gone thin and gray,
But don’t be fobbed—she’s still industrious!
Her wings once spanned ten men, so long that they
Could wag a rider into vertigo…
But those fell off a couple hundred years ago.”

Thus Mercury. Paul stared with open jaw.
“You say this mare is born of Pegasus?
This ‘steed eternal’ couldn’t carry straw—
Don’t joke of Alpha and Omega thus.”
—“She’s past her prime, so what? She won’t go slack!
You’ll be astonied, Paul—she ent no tortoise.”
—“This mission’s hopeless,” Paul said, turning back.
“How can I ride a horse with rigor mortis?”
He moved to head home, feeling much chagrined,
But lost his cocked hat to a gust of rising wind.

He stooped and reached to where his tricorne blew,
And standing, saw a spinning weathervane.
The mare inhaled a swirl of breeze, and grew
Just like a withered seed nursed by the rain:
Meat filled her bony ribs, her tendons bulged,
Her wispy mane cascaded golden brown,
Her cracked hooves fused, her crooked back divulged
A noble posture stirring lapsed renown.
She tossed her mane disheveled in the air,
And neighed a seraphim-alerting trumpet blare.

Revere drew close and stroked her lustrous coat.
He took the reins. “What was her name again?”
The boy strived to recall some anecdote,
But failing this, fell to imagined ken.
Let’s see. She’s brown. What else? Hmm, she’s a beaut.
“She is ycleped Brown Beauty, I believe.”
—“That doesn’t sound to be of Greek repute.”
—“I was transglossing, don’t be so naïve,”
The waif said. “Be off now, you’ve work to do.
Fools flirt with destiny, but miss their rendezvous.”

Sure-steady Paul sprang on the horse with poise
And took the god’s newspaper roll and note.
“Who are you really, boy?” —“Our Lord employs
Good men as messengers to lands remote.
I was one such, but now my race is run.
My old dew beaters lost their sandal-wings;
I’ve glued new feathers—see? But now I’m done.”
He wobbled on his strained Achilles strings;
His rosy adolescence paled; he coughed
Up bloody phlegm and flapped his feet, fatigued, aloft.

It’d been three thousand years since he had hitched
Poor Priam to Achilles’ tent to weep,
And herbed Odysseus against that witch.
He’d passed his torch, and now he planned to sleep.
Revere watched Mercury’s frail form recede.
He tucked into his coat the bright newsroll
And urged Brown Beauty forward, slow in speed.
They crossed the Charlestown Neck, her four-beat stroll
Soon bouncing in a trot that jarred the bones,
Then in a canter drumming thrice along the stones.

What quiet—ah, what peace! The rider’s sense
Of oneness with his horse made danger weigh
Less heavy in the air where sweet spring scents
Rose up to waft them on their moonlit way.
Dark flowers dusted them with gold incense
As unshod hooves alighted on damp soil
Without a print, and Paul’s loose pocket cents
Made no soft jangling to stain or soil
Night’s spangled cloak of mute identity—
Till a break in canter split their chemistry.

Two horsemen in the shadow of a tree
Sat rooted, cockades swaying with the leaves.
They moved under the moon and gave decree:
“Stop there!” then whipped their horses forth with heaves
As bold Revere pulled on his reins to yank
Brown Beauty round and goad her from her walk.
He dulled his razor spurs against her flank,
Two nubby chisels gnawing granite rock.
But still she ambled, heeding not her master.
“What are you doing, horse?” He cried and kicked. “Go faster!

Paul turned to see the riders making gains
On his position, sure he would be seized.
But just as they reached out to grab her reins,
Brown Beauty cleared her sleeping lungs and sneezed
Like a volcano, cratering the ground.
She blew one soldier, horse and all, into
An open claypit, then in one great bound
She galloped into flight and left a spew
Of falling earth around the highway’s wreck.
The other man gave chase, but soon became a speck.

Revere began a lengthy northern de-a-tour
That speed made seem a few short feet.
He neared a town where none would reassure
Him of the soldiers on patrol he’d greet.
The road was still—he heard no hoofbeats pound,
Yet harmonies revolved his head in circles:
This horse broke through the barrier of sound
To reach the planets’ music in their cycles!
The drinking soldiers formed a gin supply chain
As Paul neared, topsy-turvy with a migraine.

The bottle dropped; the troops prepared assault.
The privates raised their muskets and took aim.
A captain held his shaky palm out: “Halt!”
Brown Beauty bore down with her mighty frame
As trigger fingers readied to obey.
Then in the darkness, rustles of each branch:
The soldiers felt a tug of wind at play
That grew into a gale, and with a punch
It knocked them off their feet: two in the dirt,
One in a tree, three in a field—and all unhurt.

Paul thanked Aeolus for his gentle grace.
Vibrating perfect tones, his senses drenched,
The gliding keys of heaven made Paul brace
His hand against his brow, where freshly trenched,
A river rippled: blighted glands of salt
Had carved two plots from pastures smooth—a wrinkle?
Some comet-strings were strummed across the vault,
Accenting stars to make them chime and tinkle.
Minding his mission, Paul ignored the humming
And warned the villagers: “The regulars are coming!

Wind amplified his voice into a boom
That bounced off Leo, rung earth’s hollow core,
Then swayed the town bell’s tongue to lick and groom
Its bronzen mane, and yawn shrill silver roars
That charmed Paul’s ears until it cracked in two.
A light, a door, a cry, a storm of stomps.
The men grabbed muskets, powder-horns, and flew.
The women fled with children to the swamps.
Some rode toward other towns to bring them word,
While in the field, uncaring, lay a sleeping herd.

Paul rode on as the farms and shadows merged,
And shouted till his sonic throat was hoarse.
Which town was this? He wasn’t sure, but urged
Brown Beauty onward to his duty’s source.
They came to Lexington and stopped before
A metal lantern with four candle stubs
That lit the window and the bright red door
Of Buckman Tavern, hailed the best of pubs.
The clink of tankards, laughter, fiddling, smoke
All mingled in the taproom with the country folk.

Revere went limping in and dragged his legs
To the back corner, there to greet a man
In seedy clothes withdrawn from fellow plebs.
Beside him sat a fop on a divan
In a brocaded gown with jeweled buttons,
Who, sharpening his dress sword, told the maid,
“I’ll have Madeira with a leg of mutton,”
And looked as thin and fragile as his blade.
The rider teetered on exhaustion’s brink.
“Revere!” Sam Adams said. “Looks like you need a drink.”

Paul gruffly said, “The regulars, they are—”
“They’re coming,” said John Hancock, “yes, we know.
This afternoon we called our reservoir
Of minutemen when tales began to grow
That officers are lurking in excess.”
“What’s this?” said Sam, who, leaning forward, plucked
A gray hair from Paul’s head. “You having stress?”
Paul coughed up wind still trapped in his air duct
And blew Sam’s hand away to give retort,
But, voice still hoarse, supplied Marge Kemble’s writ report.

“A large force of the King’s troops have embarked
From Boston, gone to land at Lechmere’s point,”
Read Adams. Paul rasped: “You and John are marked;
Our powder stock’s the goal of their exploit.”
“We have militia,” John said, “We’ll be fine.”
His dinner then arriving as requested,
He swirled his glass and took a sip of wine.
“Be serious,” Adams said. “We’ll get arrested.”
—“Pish posh, I’ll kill those redcoats if they dare.
Oh fiddler,” John becked, “give my supper due fanfare.”

The minutemen began a drunken song.
The fiddler played—Paul found no charm or glee.
“Please make it stop—that banging like a gong
That jars with heaven’s silver harmony!”
He shouted, breathless, tearing at his ears.
“You don’t know what such leaden noise is like
Until you’ve heard the music of the spheres.”
Sam Adams leaned toward Hancock’s ear to gripe:
“Spends too much time in that dark smithy shop.”
“Tap tea pots all day,” John agreed, “mind goes to slop.”

A second dispatch stumbled in—Will Dawes,
A bumpkin halfwit, dressed to play a sleight.
John Peacock pranced hot mutton round his jaws.
Rag-shirted Sam tore off a shred to write.
Paul mumble-mouthed: “I’ll go, let’s see…what’s acting.”
—“What’s acting? Hey, you’re talking funny, friend,”
Said Sam, “and walking worse. You need distracting.”
Let Dawes warn Concord. Sit down, cool off, mend.”
—“I have to ride…I need the atmosphere.”
“Just stay awhile,” said John. “Relax and have a beer.”

Wind billowed shriveled lungs: Paul blasted, “NO!”
His voice’s shock wave shot around the room.
Holes grew in Samuel’s clothes till max airflow
Had stripped him bare as if he’d left the womb.
John’s food was flattened to his dinner plate.
Beer tankards splintered, fiddle strings were snapped,
The hearth went dark, chairs broke under their weight,
The gable roof collapsed and left them trapped.
“Um, sorry,” Paul said. “Don’t want any trouble.”
He whistled, waited. Beauty galloped through the rubble.

Careening, sensible Revere withdrew.
Dawes caught up, moaned, and rolled his head in loops.
“So you,” Paul asked, “hear cosmic music, too?”
—“Huh? No, I play the drunk to slip past troops.”
They ran into a swooning young physician
Who struggled with a foe that always vexes.
Sam Prescott, gone a-courting, had a mission:
To win the timeless war between the sexes.
He joined: thus rode three, dizzy in their fashion,
As prongs of cloud struck midnight on a moon gone ashen.

We live past times when myth and history
Can’t be detached, to cloud with truth what’s trite.
Turns out my tale’s enlarged Paul’s mystery.
Oh, what—you’d thought I’d set Longfellow right?
Sorry. As in devices of romance
One might chase lessons of morality,
Under each work of art, to steal a glance,
Are labyrinths of false formality.
Did you want something more? —Stop quibbling.
Don’t mix up verse with dull archival scribbling.

Each man spread warning with his muse’s lyre:
One thundering with heaven’s concert art,
One shouting as if lit by liquor’s fire,
One beating hooves that matched his lady’s heart.
Halfway to Concord, Paul saw horsemen prowling,
And to his friends proposed a sure attack:
“There’s two, let’s have at them!” They charged up howling.
The pair of horsemen squared to four, lines slack,
Geometrized a trap on the slim path,
And closed in round the midnight riders, swearing wrath.

Their pistols barreled oaths to blow out brains
And led the riders toward a pasture north.
The Yankees’ watchful muses, though, took pains:
A flash of moon-glare spurred the riders forth.
Wild Bacchus snagged Will’s neck on jutting thorns
That filled his veins with wine and made him tumble.
When captured by the chasing uniforms,
They let him go: “he’s just a drunk,” one grumbled.
Dawes limped his way to an abandoned farm
And fell to snoring in a hay patch, out of harm.

Pale Venus warmed Sam’s saddle: bubbling love
And raising blood, his horse set sail in turn.
He jumped a clamshell wall she raised to move
Seafaring passion safe through swamp and fern.
One horseman shipwrecked, shell-shocked, a beach bum,
And Prescott cruised to Concord’s verdant lawn.
The Old-World Mercury, though, didn’t come
To save Revere—none knew where he had gone.
Brown Beauty dug her hooves in: ready…off!
She cocked her tail up high to light her Molotov,

But soldiers seized her bridle, pointing guns
At Paul, ten horsemen now surrounding him.
They searched his coat. “Just shoot him if he runs.”
The pocket where the boy’s newsroll had been
Was heavy now: a gold caduceus?
It gleamed sun-bright, but base hands made it fade.
Brown Beauty, frothing, made a juicy fuss.
“What is this thing? Speak up, you renegade!”
Paul summoned up the wind to swell his lungs,
But found he’d lost his voice, and met a lash of tongues.

“Low rebel!”—“Learn your place!”—“Ungrateful Yank!”
“Sir, might I crave your name?” One kindly asked,
A gentleman. “Revere,” he answered frank.
They whispered, probing plans he had amassed.
“You’ve missed your aim,” Paul said, and then told all.
Bearing abuse, they made him to dismount
And placed a grenadier Neanderthal
Atop his ancient horse, who turned to scout
And warn commanders of the coming fight.
Paul watched Brown Beauty, shrunken, vanish in the night.

A soldier tucked the gold rod he’d purloined
Into his pocket, but it burned a hole
And dropped into a pasture close adjoined.
The officers, profaning, gave parole
To Paul, who hobbled toward the town he’d left.
The night wore on, the moon sank past the hills.
Then on the road, a jarring sound effect:
Soft whinnying; a dark form gave Paul chills.
Brown Beauty lay there, driven till she dropped.
Paul stroked her, eye to eye, and then her old heart stopped.

Revere sat weeping, crouched on hand and knee.
He’d ride no more on steeds with mortal faults.
But then his ears eavesdropped a symphony:
The bell of Concord led a welkin-waltz.
As Cancer clinked its pincers, Taurus tapped,
And Aries pointed horns toward morning-signs.
Star-trotting Pegasus spread wings and flapped.
And then bright pinholes in the veil, drawn lines:
A shining mare took shape beside her kin.
She neighed the trumpet-call of dawn, then faded. Fin.

 

 

Andrew Benson Brown was a graduate student at George Mason University before taking too many classes outside his discipline coincided with the reality of Debt. He now works as a children’s caseworker in rural Missouri. In his spare time he reads obscure classics, writes things of little market value, and exercises far more than is befitting for a modern intellectual.


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20 Responses

    • Andrew Benson Brown

      Thanks for reading, Leo!

      I must admit that I took a few liberties with history beyond the obvious supernatural stuff. Revere meets Hancock and Adams at a house behind the Buckman Tavern, not the tavern itself, and they are sleeping. The Sons of Liberty often met in taverns, though, most famously the Green Dragon, and I took some descriptions from other meetings…so I feel it is true in spirit.

      The fate of the real Brown Beauty is a historical mystery. The original owner was told that after the British took her from Revere a grenadier rode her to the point of exhaustion and left her to die. I went with that, but nobody really knows for sure.

      Reply
  1. James A. Tweedie

    Mr. Andrew Benson Brown,

    Bravo!

    I am left breathless from the frantic pace of this phantasmagorical, cyclonic, nay, mercurial retelling of Revere’s ride into poetic reverie. Good grief, you even managed to sneak in Copley’s portrait, wittily conflating the the artist’s symbolic silver teapot with a “Revere bowl!”

    Wordplay and allusions infest each line like a virus.

    “You don’t know what such leaden noise is like
    Until you’ve heard the music of the spheres.”

    A prophecy proven true hours later in Concord.

    And as for

    “Besnilch this solipede, your people’s fleetest:
    It makes the second-fastest horse a lax defeatist.”

    I can only doff my tricorn and bow to a master versifier with an imagination seething with more creative ideas than there are guineas, shillings, and sixpence in the sky.

    Being at a complete loss for words, I close by simply appending a second well-deserved, Bravo!

    Reply
    • A.B. Brown

      Thanks, James! Glad you noticed the reference to Revere’s portrait. I also snuck in Copley’s portrait of Margaret Gage in her Turkish-style dress! Also, based the Keatsian bit about the Revere bowl on a historian’s analysis of his style of silversmithing. It is the best silverwork produced in that era, but made highly distinctive in that it is also full of minor flaws.

      Fewer people are aware that in addition to being a silversmith, Revere also established a bell foundry after the revolution. There is in fact an amazing living tradition in the New England town of Wayland (known as Sudbury during Revere’s day): every year a reenactment of the midnight ride is put on, and when the rider starts galloping through the streets the town bell is rung by multiple generations of citizens—a bell cast by none other than Paul Revere himself! (To my knowledge, this bell has not yet been destroyed by protestors.) I had written a stanza that I originally intended to be the final stanza of the chapter, but took it out because it seemed fitting to end where it does:

      On the nineteenth of April every year,
      At that same hour the messenger arrived
      To stir the townsfolk with alarm and fear,
      East Sudbury’s old church bell comes alive,
      And cries out in the night to young and old.
      The people rise from bed and listen fast
      To sterling peals that Paul produced, and mould
      The image that his iron spurs helped cast
      Of a lone rider on his gallant horse
      (Some myths can’t be arrested after gaining force).

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        If you annotated this poem I have no doubt that the annotations would be three times longer than the poem itself! I love what you have accomplished. Thanks for sharing the bell story.

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Mr. Benson Brown, Mr. Tweedie has said it all and more. I can only add, this magnificent tour de force of an epic poem has taken my breath away with its lexical dexterity and creative skill. It’s an absolute privilege to read – thank you!

    Reply
    • A.B. Brown

      Thank you, Susan! This thing is turning out to be more of a comic epic rather than a Virgilian work of high seriousness. Taking a lot of inspiration from Byron for the humorous polysyllabic rhymes.

      Reply
    • A.B. Brown

      Appreciate your appreciation, Theresa!
      Paul Revere will return in a later chapter as the leader of the disastrous Penobscot Expedition…accompanied by a divine cabin boy.

      Reply
  3. Mike Bryant

    A. B.
    I’m no historian, and certainly no expert in epic poetry, but, having read this, I have no idea how you can possibly top this tour de force in chapter IV.

    Reply
    • A.B.B.

      I will have to figure out a way. Next chapter is Lexington and Concord! Am hoping that an abundance of fighting, death, and personal sacrifice will make for rousing reading. Worked for Homer, Virgil, and Tasso.

      Reply
  4. James Sale

    It’s good to see so many poets and readers enjoying and admiring Andrew Benson Brown’s latest instalment in his mock-epic work on the American Revolution. Frankly, it is quite brilliant. It’s flowing, roisterous, witty, challenging and a whole lot more. His erudition shines through, but that alone would make a boring poem; the wit too sparkles. I think the rhyming exceedingly fine: my favourite is probably feminists/Leninists, which is obvious, but I can’t recall seeing anywhere else – a perfect match. But other good ones include humdrum/curriculum, fleetest/lax defeatist, tortoise/rigor mortis, caduceus/ juicy fuss, and an awesomely good line with the ‘Paul Revere into the rear’ – a brilliant internal rhyme which is mimetic at the same time!

    I like, too, the supernatural machinery he introduces – very Byronic – Mercury in particular and the stanza beginning ‘It’s been three thousand years …’ And also I like the deeper ideas that come up to surprise: the final line ‘If fortune were to smile on you, it wouldn’t show’ is a wonderful psychological observation. As are ‘de-bosomed air of feminists’, ’Local whores of Puritan worldview’ and ‘fools flirt with destiny but miss their rendezvous’. This kind of writing isn’t just funny, but also makes you think.

    There are also – as to be expected – some very deft technical pieces. A favourite example here is the use of mimesis just as it should be used: ‘That speed made seem a few short feet’ – the missing iambic beat enacting the sense! Well done. This is writing of a very high order. What is more impressive still is the easy style of writing – natural, flowing, and yet so technically compressed. It’s what all great poetry aspires to be: yin and yang at the same time. Not so loose as to be prose really, and not so tight as to be academic; a sort of Wordsworthian language as people use – but heightened.

    Well done, Andrew Benson Brown, your poetic ability is really impressive and the Muse seems to be with you. I look forward to more of your writing.

    Reply
    • Andrew

      Thanks for the detailed analysis, James! I hope the Muse does not abandon me in the coming years. Perhaps, like Coleridge, I could take opium to retain her? Or resort to thieving like Francois Villon. Or take inspiration from the composer Gesualdo, murder a few people? The potential for bottling the muse through illicit and criminal routes to creativity is endless! Caravaggio shows the possibilities of drunken swaggering, Byron of insatiable lust. As America sinks into the abyss and law and order break down, I will find a way.

      Reply
      • Mike Bryant

        Andrew, this comment wins the comment of the day prize so far and you have been awarded 500 Climate Credits.

  5. Andrew

    Hey, thanks Mike. Can I put them toward a diesel coach bus? (for poetry groupies)

    Reply
  6. Sally Cook

    As an amateur genealogist, I am thrilled to see someone like you make history come alive.
    I have traced back to 24 ancestors, some fathers and sons and brothers, from ages ranging from 14 to 70, all willing to leave everything in the care of women and children to fight for liberty.
    Two of whom I am inordinately proud are a father and son, John and Alpheus Davis, who fought as Minute Men at Bunker Hill.
    Thank you for making that time come even more alive for me !

    Reply
    • Andrew Benson Brown

      How interesting about the Davis duo. Do you know any details about the role they played in the battle? I have a book on Bunker Hill in my Amazon wish list and will get around to purchasing it here in the next couple of months.

      My grandmother is also an amateur genealogist, and when I lived with her for a year I poured through her shelf of binders, full of charts she’d written out, newspaper scraps, etc. According to her research, I am a descendant of Edward Whalley, cousin of Oliver Cromwell and one of the main signers of the death warrant of Charles I. He escaped to America after the restoration of the Stuart monarchy, and the rest is history. It gives me a warm feeling to know that I have regicidal impulses flowing within me. You might say that writing this epic is in my blood!

      Reply
  7. James Sale

    I am sure the Muse is not going to desert you, Andrew – contemporary events will see to that! Besides, you now have an audience crying out for more. Best not to disappoint then. Look forward to it.

    Reply

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