Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poem Review: "Concord Hymn" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Transcendentalism was a massive topic of interest during my American literature class during high school AND college. This makes plenty of sense, for it introduced a sense of American thought that resurrected the idea that we were a free nation built on the right to speak your mind through speech, the press, and through petition. Of course, much of Transcendentalism is comprised of essays instead of fictional work, thus readers could compare it to the human consumption of grass. What comes out of Transcendentalism is a creative way to convey ideas and Ralph Waldo Emerson did a fine job doing just that. "Concord Hymn" did not follow the tradition of works such as "Self-Reliance" and "Nature," but it did capitalize on his role as a poet. "Concord Hymn" was written as a tribute to the laying of the memorial site in 1837 and captured the honesty that described Emerson's emotions toward these men who fought for and established the foundation of America. This here could be considered the beginning of what Emerson was attempting to establish as a force that spoke of the key American morals.

Emerson begins by giving an appropriate description of the environment that was the start of the American Revolution in Concord, New Hampshire. He describes the bridge as being "rude," but more so in the way that it was an obstacle for the men to head over as oppose to a device that was singing "Yankee Doodle" in a mocking, degrading kind of way. Emerson was on the right track by describing the event as happening in April and that EVERYONE, even the farmers, were involved in the battle in some particular way. The last line of the first stanza introduces a phrase that has been used endlessly to describe the American Revolution and the rise of America: "the shot heard round the world." Why would the shot be heard around the world? Take into consideration that these were the first steps to solidifying America as a nation that could stand on its own and was taking the steps to asserting this. This revolution would become worldly and create a nation that would go on to have the strongest, most powerful voice, way beyond the years that Emerson wrote this.

The second stanza creates a feeling of awakening, where each side sneaks up onto the other with the intent of making the more domineering move. While the battle takes place completely on the American soil, its impact reaches beyond, out into the sea, and throughout the European nation. Britain is not the only country involved by its end in 1783. By the end of the war, Spain and France also have involvement and assist the American colonists in achieving such a victory. In the long run, the French would see some impact, but primarily reside in what is now Canada, while the Spanish would be heavily influential in Mexico.

The third stanza is a confirmation that this poem is, in fact, a dedication. Emerson does a fine job painting a picture of a "green bank" and a "soft stream" and characterizes the stone as being "votive," which means that it was one that was offered. The fact that it was pointed out as being dedicated fulfills its importance and meaning for the occasion, providing Emerson's attendance with even more purpose. From here and into the fourth stanza, he reminds everyone that it was because of these fighters and their sacrifices that our country was built on such a purpose. If it was not for these select individuals and their decision to put their lives on the line because they felt the purpose of America and what it stood for was a far more righteous cause, then America would not be. This message is very much appropriate in this day and age, where the ability to sacrifice your life, reputation, money, and time in order to provide a better life for the greater good will remain an important value, even if such a message becomes blurred throughout time.

"Concord Hymn" delivers strong messages and quotes, but it plays off much more as a statement instead of a tune. What was meant to be a dedication turned into something even greater. To this day, we use the term "shot heard round the world" and equate it to the start of the American Revolution that would in turn become the beginning of America as an independent nation. I would classify this poem as being a beginner for readers of Emerson, who can be very much vague and complicated with what he writes. Emerson is known much more for his essays, such as "Self-Reliance" and "Nature," but his poetry continues to be read and analyzed. "Concord Hymn" is perhaps one of the finest gems that make up American literature that paints of artistic picture of what this country was built on. I feel that it is the rightful decision to use and quote this poem when necessary in order to provide a point or observe country appreciation, so it is rightful that this poem lives on.

No comments:

Post a Comment