Will the Real Paul Revere
Please Stand Up?
Fr. Joseph K. Horn
St Barbara’s Parish
Santa Ana, CA
About a year ago I entertained you good people with the story of Francis Scott Key, who everybody knows wrote our national anthem, but most of you would have never guessed in a million years that Francis Scott Key professionally was not a poet, but a lawyer! Matter of fact, as you may remember, the only reason he was on that boat watching the shelling of Fort McHenry was because he was a lawyer. It really is a great story.
Here’s another true story. It’s also about a famous man in early American history. You’ve all heard of him, because when you were little, your mother or father or teacher read to you the famous poem about him, the poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poem that begins with these immortal words:
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 or year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town tonight,
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...
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 at 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 the village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by the 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...
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled -
How the townfolk and farmers gave their all
From behind each fence and farmyard 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 for evermore!
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 awaken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
This much we all know already. But like Francis Scott Key, Paul Revere had a profession that had nothing to do with what he became famous for. Paul Revere was not a jockey, or a blacksmith, or a farmer, or anything to do with horses. You’ll never guess who Paul Revere really was!
The answer can be found in an advertisement that he had printed in the Boston Gazette and Country Journal on August 20, 1770, five years before his famous ride. It reads as follows:
“Paul Revere Takes this Method of returning his most sincere Thanks to the Gentlemen and Ladies who have employed him in the care of their Teeth. He would now inform them and all others, who are so unfortunate as to lose their Teeth by accident or otherways, that he still continues the Business of a Dentist, and flatters himself that from the Experience he has had these Two Years (in which Time he has fixt some Hundreds of Teeth) that he can fix them as well as any Surgeon-Dentist who ever came from London. He fixes them in such a Manner that they are not only an Ornament, but of real Use in Speaking and Eating. He cleanses the Teeth and will wait on any Gentleman or Lady at their Lodgings. He may be spoke with at his Shop opposite Dr. Clark’s at the North End.”Can you believe it? Paul Revere was a dentist! Paul Revere, man of steel, disguised by day as a mild-mannered dentist! Next time you visit your dentist, look at him through squinted eyes and imagine him riding through town on a horse in the middle of the night, heroically saving America by spreading news of some invasion force! You never know; it has happened before!
Furthermore, if you are tempted to ignore the opinions of people regarding political issues because those people’s professions seem unrelated to politics... Remember this: in 1775 nobody said to Paul Revere, “What do you know, you’re a dentist; I’m going back to bed.” Respect the opinions of everybody, even ... dentists!
Finally, think about this: Jesus too was not known for what he really was. Only St Peter recognized him as the Messiah. Even today many people think of Jesus as merely some sort of historical hero, and never think of the fact that his job, the reason he came to earth, was to be Savior. Who is Jesus for you? The subject of a cool story? A loveable itinerant preacher? Or your Lord and Savior?