Bill Clinton’s Favorite Poem

January 19, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I’d like to share Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” a poem he wrote to commemorate the completion of the battle monument, to honor the fallen heroes at the battles of Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War, and to invoke the enduring spirit of patriotism that inspires us down to the present day.

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.