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SETTINGS FOR HISTORY ENCOUNTERS WITH THE PAST THE READINGS in this section illustrate two ways of meeting with the past. The first is a public, commemorative way. Open-faced, the poet Emerson and the politician Lincoln come before the audience, say their piece, and walk off the stage. Their performances are remembered today because they did what only a few have ever done: produce a graceful public utterance which recalls a specific time in history while being suffused with timeless sentiments. It matters little that Ralph Waldo Emerson was recalling a battle of a century before, whereas Abraham Lincoln spoke among fresh graves. Both the poem and the speech are not about battles themselves, but about what their authors hoped Concord Bridge and Cemetery Ridge would come to represent in the nation's collective memory. The second way to the past is more intimate. Everyone has a store of personal recollections which mingles fact and fancy. Few of us commit our memories to paper. When we do, the tone of the recollection varies widely. For example, the easy camaraderie of Owen Wister's remembrances of Yellowstone beckons us to join him, however briefly, in years gone by. Henry James, by contrast, seems to need no companions in discovery as he stands before Independence Hall; his imposing intellect makes history a rather coolish dominion. Ralph Waldo Emerson THE SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD Long before Concord, Massachusetts, became the center of 19thcentury American literary life, the village was the scene of the Minute Men's victory in the opening battle of the Revolution. In 1836, Ezra Ripley, Emerson's step-grandfather, donated to the village a small plot to erect a granite shaft to commemorate the fighting o April 19, 1775. “Concord Hymn” was composed by Emerson for the monuments dedication the following July. At the ceremony, a “great concourse of people” heard Ripley recite the hymn that had been written by a “citizen of Concord.” The poem was then sung by a choir to the tune of the Old Hundred.
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centennial celebration of the battle in 1875 when Daniel Chester French’s statue “Minute Man” was unveiled on the American side of the river. The first quatrain of Emerson's poem – already considered to be “household words”– was inscribed on the base of the sculpture. Both monument and statue are now part of Minute Man National Historical Park. Revolutionary War scene from The National Ode: The Memorial Freedom Poem by Bayard Taylor (Boston: CONCORD HYMN Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837 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;
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