Portrait of William Dawes, courtesy of the Paul Revere House.
Everyone remembers Paul Revere’s famous ride through Boston to Lexington to warn the Minutemen of the British impending arrival. But few remember that it was William Dawes who rode through Cambridge, waking up the Cantabrigia militia.
Thanks to our friends at the Old South Meeting House, we’ve learned one way in which Dawes was celebrated despite the tall shadow of Revere. In 1896, Helen F. Moore published a response to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1860 poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, showing the whimsy of history.
The Midnight Ride of William Dawes
by Helen F. Moore
I am a wandering, bitter shade,
Never of me was a hero made;
Poets have never sung my praise,
Nobody crowned my brow with bays;
And if you ask me the fatal cause,
I answer only, “My name was Dawes”
‘Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear –
My name was Dawes and his Revere.
When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,
Paul Revere was waiting about,
But I was already on my way.
The shadows of night fell cold and gray
As I rode, with never a break or a pause;
But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!
History rings with his silvery name;
Closed to me are the portals of fame.
Had he been Dawes and I Revere,
No one had heard of him, I fear.
No one has heard of me because
He was Revere and I was Dawes.
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