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Concord Hymn, Transcendental Poetry In America. Emerson The Poet.

Transcendental author and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote Concord Hymn.


Concord Hymn

Concord Hymn, written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, tells a story of the American Revolution and those it affected, in the form of a lyrical poem. Originally a song performed on Independence Day in 1837, Concord Hymn glorified the fallen, and honored the new country.

The Revolutionary War is arguably THE most important war America has faced, noting that without a victory, the nation could quite possibly be under British control.

That idea might be a little far-fetched, but what idea is not, however, is how Ralph Waldo Emerson saw the dedication. He [Emerson] shares his transcendental views, and his emotional connection to the war. Through the simple words he uses to express complicated emotion in his hymn, it's both the epitome of Transcendentalism and Patriotism.

The day of April 19, 1775 is what Emerson referred to as, “the shot heard round the world”, and it is fired on the bridge of Concord. This shot marks the start to the Revolution.

Emerson states how the bridge looks; he mentions the breeze that blows, and the modest farmers fighting for their freedom.

These farmers are not soldiers, or Hessians from Germany, they are average men, and boys, who call themselves “Patriots”.

Perhaps Emerson wants to guide the listener into his world of transcendentalism; maybe he just wants people to know how important this war is, and how late the monument is erected in response to this war.

It is too late for the heroes and the families of the fallen to behold its glory and to feel the appreciation for their selflessness.

The second stanza gives an account of how many years have passed since the start of the war.

One can even say that Emerson is highly upset that the monument is not placed earlier, when it would have mattered the most...and would have been seen by the people who fought and lived.

“The foe long since in silence slept;” stating the enemy has been buried for 60 years, referring to the fact that the war has been over for 60 years. “Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;”, also showing that the Patriots suffer the same fate as the “foes” in the end. They all died, and none were honored.

The last remaining lines make it known that the bridge has since been swept to the sea, giving one a bearing on how long it has been since the bridge has seen a battle.

To tie it all together, and summarize his words in basic terms: The losers and the winners have both been dead for years, the bridge no longer stands, this is happening far too late and it pisses him off.

Emerson writes in the third stanza of all the landscapes around him. His use of imagery allows the imagination to paint a picture of the beauty of the place now, in contrast to how it would have been all those years prior. Instead of a soft stream, like here in this verse, he mentions a dark stream in the second stanza. “Down the dark stream where seaward creeps.” This example shows clearly how his use of words can change the mood of the poem from one stanza to the next.

In the last part of the hymn, Emerson refers to the Spirit instead of God. This may be attributed to his transcendentalist views towards a Higher Power. He is asking the same Spirit that saw fit to allow these men to die, to allow the monument to last longer than the memory of what happened there.

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He is asking for the Spirit to allow the monument to last longer than the bridge held.

The “shaft” refers to the monument itself in this context. According to his [Emerson’s] beliefs, it is his way of showing through words, man’s attempts to have a simple life, and to live side by side with nature, not in opposition of nature.

The answer to why Emerson cared so much about the monument, or Concord in general, can be traced back to his beginnings.

He lived only miles from where the fighting took place, one could only imagine listening to men die day after day and the toll that would take on the human psyche. He became enveloped with the idea of transcendentalism, and led the movement in Boston to help form the Transcendental Club in 1836. One of the things that transcendentalism did at first was to provide a platform for outcasts to "rebel" against all religious churches, schools, asylums, or any other institution.

The club especially disliked the Puritan religion, and everything that had to do with their way of life.

Transcendentalism can be traced back to Plato, and calls for a good and pure way of life.

It does hold onto the belief of a Higher Power, or Spirit, with whom all should strive to be one with. In short, being one with nature in order to find intelligence, usually through simple means. According to writer Agnes Shields, “Emerson believed that all life consists of organic wholeness, and he believed in poetic liberty.”

His work shows his poetic freedom in the way he uses punctuation, and the form in which he placed his words in the verses. The simple use of words can be traced back to his simple views on living life.
Although this hymn was originally published and passed out in marketing propaganda for the monument completion, it has somehow found a place in American poetry.

Emerson has a way of getting his point across without saying much.

He has a refreshing way of sharing his views on everyday events using his writing style and the tone. The fact that his life was influenced by the war gives him a different perspective on it. Emerson goes on to become one of the great American poets of his era, and the poster child for transcendentalism.

Works Cited

"Concord Hymn." Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, Oct. 1996, p. 221. EBSCOhost,

Loveland, Anne C. and Russell Hively. "Transcendental Movement in New England." Salem Press Encyclopedia, January. EBSCOhost,

Rosenblum, Joseph. "Ralph Waldo Emerson." Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January. EBSCOhost,

Shields, Agnes A. "Concord Hymn." Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition, January 2002, pp. 1-3. EBSCOhost,

"Transcendentalism." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2016, p. 1p. 1. EBSCOhost,

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Bri Smith

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