By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept,
Alike the Conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone,
That memory may their deed redeem,
When like our sires our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, or leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
231 years ago today our War for Independence began in the morning after Paul Revere’s ride at North Bridge on the Concord River. Beginning with a stray shot (which side fired it remains unknown), the colonists harrassed the British column along its retreat, the running battle ending in skirmishing with a reinforced British force later that day in Lexington. Though militarily unimportant, the symbolic importance of that resistance was long a staple of the American mythos and imagination, marking the day when our fathers struck against arbitrary government and usurpation and made known their determination to secure their prescribed and inherited rights as Englishmen. Today I suspect that April 19 has little meaning for most Americans, particularly those who preen themselves over their own dedication to the founding moments of the Republic, but for some of us it is still a day with powerful significance.