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;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
The Colonial training field where minutemen from my town gathered is a short walk from my study. Old North Bridge is five miles up the road. One or more of the minutemen from town who hurried up there through the darkness in April, 1775 might have cultivated the land where this year the youth of the church planted sunflowers. When I visit the wooden bridge in Concord–with its heroic sculpture and stone monument engraved with Emerson’s public hymn in honor of those farmer patriots, set next to a river that runs to Boston Harbor and out to the ocean–I am aware of the passage of time and of the steady sweep into eternity of all human activity.The events of the American Revolution would have been experienced by people in Emerson’s childhood. As he grew old, stories and memories faded into history books, and American life roared ahead into the industrial revolution and westward expansion.The loud, hard moments stamped out beside the “soft” observing river are commemorated with a stone monument and a sculpture, and the great man’s words, erected as an aid to memory. While the bridge and the monument, and Emerson, get the photos and the honor, to me the Concord River, silent witness to events, symbol of hope, quietly reminding of time passing, is the feature of the place that draws my attention.