Brevity=Wit Entry #14

March 1st, 2010 by Wordsman

I normally like to start off these entries by mentioning my inspiration, describing the spark that led me to seek to improve each particular piece.  In this case, however, I will have to refrain.  There must have been some sort of catalyst, something that spurred me to this course of action, but I cannot for the life of me remember what.  So I’ll just say that we’re talking about Longfellow and leave it at that.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Wow.  It takes an awful lot of characters just to get out this guy’s name.  I’ve got a bad feeling about this one.  But let’s go ahead and take a look anyway.  Here is perhaps his most famous poem, Paul Revere’s Ride:

“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”

Hardly a man is now awake sounds just about right to me.

Clearly, Longfellow has a thing or two to learn here.  First off, it’s generally not a good idea to start by calling your audience children.  A lot of people take offense at that.  Unless the ones he’s talking to really are his children, in which case I don’t think his poem is going to have a very broad appeal.  Call me a skeptic, but it seems unlikely that Longfellow got around like Genghis Khan got around, if you know what I mean (and no, I don’t mean “on a horse.”)

Then we’ve got this date.  Never spell out dates.  It’s such a blatant waste of characters.  But, worse than that, he doesn’t even finish it.  I mean, come on, Longfellow, how are you supposed to teach us kids about Paul Revere if we don’t even know which century he lived in?  Guess we have to do a little detective work on this one.

Hmm . . . Jimmy Hoffa, the Edmund Fitzgerald, Saturday Night Live, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Thrilla in Manila . . . and Paul Revere?  Nope, it’s not 1975.

Carmen, indoor ice hockey, first person swims the English Channel . . . and Paul Revere?  Not 1875 either.

Second Centaurian Invasion, polar ice caps refreeze . . . and Paul Revere?  He’s not talking about 2075.

Second Continental Congress, “Give me Liberty or give me Death,” Bunker/Breed’s Hill . . . okay, now I think we’re got it.  1775.  Whew.  Took long enough.

Anyway, now that we’ve got that sorted out, we can get down to writing a version that’s short enough for everyone to enjoy:

“4/18/1775: Revere rides.  12:00- Medford.  1:00- Lexington.  2:00- Concord.  He told the villages and farms the Regulars were coming.”

There.  Now you know exactly when everything happened.  And isn’t that what’s really important?

Posted in Brevity=Wit | 2 Comments »

2 Responses

  1. Gramma F Says:

    He never did make it to Concord – the British Regulars stopped him in Lincoln, let him go, but took his horse, and he walked back to Lexington. Dr. Samuel Prescott, who had been out visiting his girlfriend when he joined Revere, jumped a stone wall (we have lots) and on to Concord – and did not say “The British are coming.” He hollered, “The regulars are out!”

  2. Gramma F Says:

    Re the Regulars – you were right on, there!

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