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browning's good news
Posted by: cornbread (61.144.70.---)
Date: December 23, 2003 03:41AM


Can you please tell me what Browning's 'How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix ' is about? Was this good news worth killing those horses? And what's w/ giving Roland wine?? Is this Browning's idea of how the French treated their steeds?

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: December 23, 2003 04:58AM

There's been lot of previous discussion on this on this site - you could try searching under the title of the poem to see what comes up. I've certainly read, elsewhere, that Browning didn't base this on a particular historical, incident , it is an imagined description and a very good one, of a very exciting ride undertaken for an unspecified but vitally important reason. The account I read as to how it came to be written was that Browning was on a sea crossing and had left England having just bought a very fine horse which he had to leave behind. He would much rather have been riding the horse than crossing the sea, so wrote the poem to console/amuse himself.

Various people have speculated at different times, as to whether the journey would have been possible in the time and circumstances detailed.

As to the wine, people did used to give it (and I think, spirits) to animals as well as people, as medicine - it revived them.

If this were a film it would say ''No animals were hurt in the making of this adventure story" on the credits.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: December 23, 2003 12:58PM

This should be the link. [] />

I think the SPCA would have some issues- didn't two of the horses die?

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Linda (
Date: December 23, 2003 02:19PM

How does it compare with the ride of Paul Reveer? About whom I know nothing except that I think I've heard that he really did have a ride.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: December 23, 2003 02:56PM

From our point of view, it was heroic. From yours, I guess either treasonous, or an opportunity to get rid of the troublemakers!

It's got that same 'galloping' rhythm as Ghent to Aix.


[] />
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.
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
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison-bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade, --
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, --
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British regulars fired and fled, --
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, --
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-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1860.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Linda (
Date: December 23, 2003 06:27PM

The English didn't join the army on the whole, they were in the navy. The redcoats were mostly Scots or Germans from George's ancestral territories.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: December 24, 2003 05:47AM

The other famous ride was Dick Turpin's - to establish an alibi. It sits between Revere's and Browning's in that it is supposed to have happened but is widely believed to have been much exaggurated in the telling and of course was for completely illegal purposes by any standard. Don't know if there's a poem about it.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: December 24, 2003 08:57AM

Poetically, John Gilpin's Ride is the other famous one.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Tandy (
Date: December 24, 2003 05:59PM

Alfred Noyes published a book in 1927 (NY: Frederick A. Stokes) entitled
"Dick Turpin's Ride and Other Poems." Haven't found the poem yet but maybe someone else knows it.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: December 26, 2003 07:39AM

Sorry RJ Allen - forgot all about John Gilpin - we're amassing quite a collection. I will try and find the Noyes poem, Tandy- it rings a vague bell.

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Chesil (---.clvdoh.adelphia.)
Date: December 26, 2003 11:56AM

Just a little local difficulty, Pam, the main event was always the French!

Pam Adams wrote:

From our point of view, it was heroic. From yours, I guess
either treasonous, or an opportunity to get rid of the

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: December 27, 2003 10:30AM

Chesil - what do you mean the main event WAS always the French?

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Chesil (---.clvdoh.adelphia.)
Date: December 27, 2003 11:18AM

Marian, it's like that bit from The Life of Brian "what have the Romans ever done for us?"

In the case of the French, it is hypermarkets with cheap beer and wine. I still remember fondly the Calais beer wars with daytrippers fighting over the Stella Artois (Belgian I know) just before if they were ever going to run out!

Re: browning's good news
Posted by: Linda (
Date: December 27, 2003 03:09PM

I take your point Marian2, in some ways it still is the French, even when they're supposed to be on our side. :-)

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