A STORY THAT MUST BE TOLD

My name is Vincent Dacquino, author of THE CALL TO ARMS and PATRIOT HERO OF THE HUDSON VALLEY: The Life and Ride of Sybil Ludington. I am coming to you today to ask for your help. The poem I’m about to share is based on a true story of a young American hero who desperately needs to be recognized in every village, town and city for her American heroism. With the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution coming quickly, it is imperative that she is not forgotten.

The poem was written by Berton Braley, a great American poet, and published in The Sunday Star: This Week’s Magazine,Washington D.C. April 14, 1940. It is written in the style of another great poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and speaks for itself.

Sybil Ludington’s Ride                                                                                                   

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of a lovely feminine Paul Revere

Who rode an equally famous ride

Through a different part of the countryside,

Where Sybil Ludington’s name recalls

A ride as daring as that of Paul’s.

In April, Seventeen Seventy-Seven,

A smoky glow in the eastern heaven

(A fiery herald of war and slaughter)

Came to the eyes of the Colonel’s daughter.

“Danbury’s burning,” she cried aloud.

The Colonel answered, “‘Tis but a cloud,

A cloud reflecting the campfires’ red,

So hush you, Sybil, and go to bed.”

“I hear the sound of the cannon drumming”

“‘Tis only the wind in the treetops humming!

So go to bed, as a young lass ought,

And give the matter no further thought.”

Young Sybil sighed as she turned to go,

“Still, Danbury’s burning–that I know.”

Sound of a horseman riding hard

Clatter of hoofs in the manor yard

Feet on the steps and a knock resounding

As a fist struck wood with a mighty pounding.

The doors flung open, a voice is heard,

“Danbury’s burning–I rode with word;

Fully half of the town is gone

And the British–the British are coming on.

Send a messenger, get our men!”

His message finished the horseman then

Staggered wearily to a chair

And fell exhausted in slumber there.

The Colonel muttered, “And who, my friend,

Is the messenger I can send?

Your strength is spent and you cannot ride

And, then, you know not the countryside;

I cannot go for my duty’s clear;

When my men come in they must find me here;

There’s devil a man on the place tonight

To warn my troopers to come–and fight.

Then, who is my messenger to be?”

Said Sybil Ludington, “You have me.”

“You!” said the Colonel, and grimly smiled,

“You!” My daughter, you’re just a child!”

“Child!” cried Sybil. “Why I’m sixteen!

My mind’s alert and my senses keen,

I know where the trails and the roadways are

And I can gallop as fast and as far

As any masculine rider can.

You want a messenger? I’m your man!”

The Colonel’s heart was aglow with pride.

“Spoke like a soldier. Ride, girl, ride

Ride like the devil; ride like sin;

Summon my slumbering troopers in.

I know when duty is to be done

That I can depend on a Ludington!”

So over the trails to the towns and farms

Sybil delivered the call to arms.

Riding swiftly without a stop

Except to rap with a riding crop

On the soldiers’ doors, with a sharp tattoo

And a high-pitched feminine halloo.

“Up! up there, soldier. You’re needed, come!

The British are marching!” and then the drum

Of her horse’s feet as she rode apace

To bring more men to the meeting place.

Sybil grew weary and faint and drowsing,

Her limbs were aching, but still she rode

Until she finished her task of rousing

Each sleeping soldier from his abode,

Showing her father, by work well done,

That he could depend on a Ludington.

Dawn in the skies with its tints of pearl

And the lass who rode in a soldier’s stead

Turned home, only a tired girl

Thinking of breakfast and then of bed

With never a dream that her ride would be

A glorious legend of history;

Nor that posterity’s hand would mark

Each trail she rode through the inky dark,

Each path to figure in song and story

As a splendid, glamorous path of glory–

To prove, as long as the ages run,

That “you can depend on a Ludington.”

Such is the legend of Sybil’s ride

To summon the men from the countryside

A true tale, making her title clear

As a lovely feminine Paul Revere!

Published in:

– The Sunday Star: This Week’s Magazine,

Washington D.C. April 14, 1940.

– Sybil Ludington; The Call to Arms, by V.T. Dacquino.

2000, Purple Mountain Press

– Patriot Hero of the Hudson Valley, History Press, 2019


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