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A Midnight Ride Into History (give or take 10 hours) April 18, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“Ramadān Mubarak, Blessed Ramadān!” to anyone who is observing the month of Ramadan. Many blessings, also, to those celebrating Chaitra Navaratri and Ridván.



“Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.”




– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Not going to lie: It’s been hard getting geared up to talk about American history today. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to appear to glorify treason and insurrection. And, since I set my own curriculum, I can (relatively easily) change my lesson plan on any given day. However, that can sometimes be hypocritical. It would especially be hypocritical today, because (as I have stated before), I believe in history, I believe in context; and I believe in things that are true. And those are the very reasons why I started teaching today’s theme in the first place.

Remember, April is poetry month and while there’s a plethora of ways to write a poem and any number of reasons why someone may write a poem – let alone why they might write it a certain way – a poem is a form of expression that can tell a story in a way that is both memorable and easy to remember (which are not necessarily the same things) and also inspirational. This fact alone, the overall staying power of a poem, is why Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and why he wrote it the way he wrote it. It’s also the reason I originally chose to highlight the poem: Because it’s a really great example of well-written propaganda that shaped history by shaping the way things are remembered.

We are, once again, at a critical time in history – a time that will be remembered. And, once again, we run the risk of getting so caught up in the momentum of the moment that we forget the importance of how today’s story will be is being told. Yes, I changed the tense there, because the poems, songs, essays, articles, visual and performing art – as well as news stories and texts books – that tell the story of today are already being created. And, thanks to the internet, some are already being “published” and heralded as truth. Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, also known in English as “George Santayana,” famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So, let’s take a moment to consider why things are remembered the way they are remembered.

“With wonderful deathless ditties

We build up the world’s great cities,

   And out of a fabulous story

   We fashion an empire’s glory:”




– quoted from the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy


[The remainder of this post is part of a 2018 Kiss My Asana offering.]


Listen, my children, and you shall hear… something new and yet, very familiar. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s well-known poem about the events of April 18, 1775 reads like a historically narrative when, in fact, there’s a lot more going on between the lines. To understand what’s going on and why Longfellow may have fictionalized parts of the story, we have to go back… not only to 1775, but also to the 1860’s.

First, a little about the poet: Longfellow was a successful poet during his lifetime. His success and popularity among readers and critics alike was notable not only because of his poems, but also because his popularity rivaled his British contemporaries. In fact, he was one of several New England poets referred to as Fireside Poets, because his poems served as family entertainment around the fireside. Longfellow recognized that he could use his platform not only to entertain, but also to educate, guide, and inspire. He also recognized that he could best convey his messages if they were served with a Romantic hero.

Enter Hiawatha (1855), Miles Standish (1858), and one Paul Revere (1860), to name a few.

Historians note that when he died, Paul Revere was remembered as a successful silversmith and a good friend. He was not celebrated as the midnight rider until Longfellow’s poem, which is curious unless one considers the discrepancies within the poem. For instance, history reveals that Revere was responsible for sending out the lantern signal, not receiving it. But, seeing the lantern is a much more romantic idea than receiving orders and firmly establishes Revere as receiving the “hero’s call” – which is critical to the hero’s cycle/journey.

Also, Revere was one of three riders who alerted the colonists about the arrival of the British army, the referred to as the Regulars. William Dawes and Revere were both instructed to ride from Boston to Lexington (via different routes) and then on to Concord, raising the alarm along the way. They were eventually joined by a Dr. Samuel Prescott, but then all three were detained by British troops. Dawes and Prescott escaped. Revere was escorted back to Lexington, at gunpoint. Ultimately, Prescott was the only one to make it all the way to Concord. Yet, Longfellow never utters the names Dawes and Prescott.

Another curious note about Longfellow’s poem is how he switches back and forth between past and present tense – seeming to tell it like it was (in 1775), but also like it is (in the early 1860’s). In both time periods, the country was headed towards civil war. Longfellow changing between past and present tense moved readers back and forth between the American Revolution and the Civil War (between the States), and reinforced the message that both civil wars liberated people within the continent. Since he was, essentially, issuing a battle cry to other abolitionists, Longfellow needed a simple story with a simple hero, preferably one whose name had a certain ring to it, a name he could easily rhyme.

“A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo forevermore!

For, borne on the night wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”




– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Did you catch that? Back in 1860, Longfellow wanted people woke, and the message (when you bring it forward) is not about the British coming, it’s about the coming danger to life, liberty, and freedom.


Please join me for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom today (Sunday, April 18th) at 2:30 PM, for an experience. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.


Sunday’s playlist is ONLY available on YouTube. [Look for “04182020 A Midnight Ride”]

If you prefer using Spotify, check out the “102020 Pratyahara” playlist.


In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)


If you’re interested in a more philosophical take related to today’s date, check out my 2020 Kiss My Asana offering.


“He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm’”




– quoted from the poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow