Friday, April 19, 2013

Two Poems for Today - April 19

The Midnight Ride of William Dawes - by Helen F Moore (1896)

I am a wandering, bitter shade,
Never of me was a hero made;
Poets have never sung my praise,
Nobody crowned my brow with bays;
And if you ask me the fatal cause,
I answer only, “My name was Dawes.”

‘Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear –
My name was Dawes and his Revere.

When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,
Paul Revere was waiting about,
But I was already on my way.
The shadows of night fell cold and gray
As I rode, with never a break or a pause;
But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!

History rings with his silvery name;
Closed to me are the portals of fame.
Had he been Dawes and I Revere,
No one had heard of him, I fear.
No one has heard of me because
He was Revere and I was Dawes.

Excerpt from Campo dei Fiori, by Czeslaw Milosz (1943)

I thought of the Campo dei Fiori
In Warsaw by the sky-carousel
One clear spring evening
To the strains of a carnival tune.
The bright melody drowned
The salvos from the ghetto wall,
And couples were flying
High in the cloudless sky.

(full poem)

April 19th is filled with historical events. 

Many Americans think of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  (Some erroneously place it on April 18th, but it was a midnight ride. The battles took place the next day.)

But this is also the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943. The most recent edition of Tablet Magazine was devoted to Warsaw, including a haunting look at repurposed gravestones.

Note: According to this source William Dawes, who rode with Revere, was related to Henry L Dawes, for whom The Dawes Act was named.

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