J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Bunker Hill Poetic Challenge

The last two postings have shared some verses inspired by the Battle of Bunker Hill and published in 1775 by Ezekiel and Sarah Russell, printers of (at that time) Salem. Now it’s your turn.

The publisher of Nat Philbrick’s book Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution has offered to send a free copy of the new paperback edition to a Boston 1775 reader. It’s an energetic retelling of the first campaign of the Revolutionary War, and if you’ve already got a copy it can make a fine introduction to the subject for someone else.

In thinking about how to give that book away, I got inspired by the Russells and decided to offer this challenge:

Post up to fourteen lines of original rhymed, metrical verse on the subject of the Battle of Bunker Hill as a comment to this blog posting. Limericks would be especially welcome. Sonnets would be especially impressive.

Verses based on postings from the preceding several days would show you’ve been reading, but the lines could be about any aspect of the Battle of Bunker Hill: the whole fight, small incidents, personalities, historiography.

The entry deadline will be the end of 1 July 2014.


On 4 July, the Boston 1775 staff will choose the most moving or entertaining entry and award that poet his or her own copy of Philbrick’s Bunker Hill, to be sent direct from the publisher.

11 comments:

J. L. Bell said...

An example inspired by this posting:

Colonel A.’s treatment was heinous.
Period surgeons had no intravenous,
And were a bit bleary
On modern germ theory,
So his small toothpick wound turned gangrenous.

Amber said...

There once was a hill near Boston
In looks, quite unremarkable,
The British marched up
To swallow it whole
Only to find a "choakey mouthful".

Joseph Sullivan said...

From up on Bunker Hill
Was heard such a Shrill
That we knew that the redcoats were coming
When out of the reeds
They climbed upon Breed's
As fire rained down all upon them
The hillside was red
With the blood of the dead
Dr Warren was slain where he'd fallen
So Howe won the day
But was then heard to say
With many more wins we''ll be finished

Dr. Sam Forman said...

On the challenge of telling Joseph Warren's story including his legendary demise at Bunker Hill:

Faded icon of the gilded halo,
Once illuminating, inspiring;
Admirers, enemies, lovers, family,
A distant memory trodden under foot.

Evanescent existence; flickering fame,
A quintessence of reflections
Incidentally etched on ancient relics.
Can we conjure your presence?

Marshall Stack said...

The regulars mounted a charge
That was incredibly large
They stormed the redoubt
The rebels got out
And ran 'cross the Neck to recharge.

Anonymous said...

"THE REBEL'S SECRET REVEAL'D"

When dawn reveal'd the Rebel fort
One Abercrom was heard to retort
"With one advance we shall win the day!"
Alas, it did not turn out that way.

"Another charge and we no doubt win!"
Said Howe "Let the next advance begin!"
Yet failure again was their reward
Samuel Paine thought it quite untoward

Whilst over in Boston, Gage did muse
"What evil trick do these Rebels use?"
"Oh Mars! Reveal their secret power!"
"How can they hold out hour 'pon hour?"

In fact, 'twas all due to Snelling's drinks
- or so his son would have us thinks.


(R. Doctorow)

John Johnson said...

The Rebs go marching one by one.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching one by one.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching one by one;
Captain Prescott says, "I have no guns!"
And they all go marching up, to the top
To build themselves a redoubt
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Whigs go marching two by two.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching two by two.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching two by two;
General Putnam stops to enjoy the view
And they all go marching back, up the hill
to cover the retreat
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Whigs go marching three by three.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching three by three.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching three by three;
Captain Knowlton says "Will you look at the sea!?!"
And they all go marching down to the beach
To extend the fortification's reach
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Whigs go marching four by four.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching four by four.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Whigs go marching four by four;
The Regulars begin landing on the shore!
And they all start marching up, the big hill
to swallow them whole.
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Brits go marching five by five.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching five by five.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching five by five;
Many of them wonder 'Will they return alive'?
And they all keep marching up, the big hill
To swallow them whole
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Brits go marching six by six.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching six by six.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching six by six;
The little one stops to bang his sticks
And they all keep marching up, the big hill
To swallow them whole.
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Brits go marching seven by seven.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching seven by seven.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching seven by seven;
"Aim for the waist!" the command is giv'n
"Fire!", a choakey mouthful indeed
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Brits go marching eight by eight.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching eight by eight.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching eight by eight;
until they reach the fiery gate
And they all go tumbling, down to the ground
To get away from the pain
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Brits go marching nine by nine.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching nine by nine.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching nine by nine;
General Howe must have his wine
And they all go tumbling, down to the ground
To get away from the pain
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The Brits go marching ten by ten.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching ten by ten.
Huzzah! Huzzah!
The Brits go marching ten by ten;
Until they finally make the ascent
and the Whigs go tumbling, down to the ground
To get away from the pain
boom, boom, boom, boom!

I submitted an entry yesterday but I wss logged into my wife's Google account by mistake. I thought I'd submit another entry. This is set to the tune of "THe Ants go Marching"

Michael Lynch said...

I've got a copy of the book, so this isn't an official entry. Just couldn't restrain my artistic impulse:

While stuck inside Boston's bubble,
The British burned Charlestown to rubble.
They carried the hill,
But so many were killed
That it really was not worth the trouble.

Chip O said...

Since April of that fateful year,
the enemies stood fast, but near.

"Towards Bunker Hill" the orders read,
but 'twas Breeds Hill they arrived instead.

As dawn broke through, the Brits first sight,
was of Prescott's work throughout the night.

Entrenchments made of stone and earth,
would decide the fate of a nation's birth.

A direct assault would set the course,
to try and take the hill en force.

With Stark's resolve and Warren's chances,
twice they held off Howe's advances.

With the third advance it was time to run,
yet the Brtis had lost and the Rebels won!

J. L. Bell said...

Here's a contribution that came in from Committee of Correspondence on Facebook:

I’m no poet but here is a rhyme, done in very short time.

It was the wrong hill they sought
The orders were clear on which hill
Colonel Prescott just over-thought
This is why the list had a high kill.

The British knew exactly what to do
Up the hill they would march all
Their orders were just as clear too
But on the first try they did a stall

Again and again the redcoats did try
Patriots shot at the whites of their eyes
Cannons and shot rained from the sky
Finally they won, a Hazza they would cry

Warren was dead as with many on a list
Gage was the winner but at such a price
It was certain the Patriots could make a fist
The British decided not to do that twice.

J. L. Bell said...

And here's a response from G. Lovely that arrived as a comment on another posting:

Can never resist a Limerick challenge:

It twas I that shot the Major dead,
Twas me, that shot ‘em others said,
Though clearly not,
On the rampart shot,
Still Pitcairn died as rebels fled.