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A Verse Occasioned by the late horrid Massacre in King-Street

A Verse Occasioned by the late horrid Massacre in King-Street Broadside
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[ This description is from the project: Coming of the American Revolution ]

The events of 5 March 1770 are described here in dramatic and perhaps not entirely accurate detail. Written in rhyming couplets, the poem brings to life the tensions and strains among the townspeople that culminated in the deaths of five men, whose names are listed in the final verse.

A "Tragical Scene"

Everywhere they turn, those living in Boston (townspeople and soldiers alike) are encountering news, gossip, judgments, and propaganda about the events in King Street. Purveyors of popular media enlist the services of illustrators and poets to sway public opinion. Set forth in rhyming couplets, "A Verse Occasioned by the late horrid Massacre in King-Street" quickly announces its point of view. In limping, anapestic lines, the broadside's versifier establishes a sense of the facts that will likely cause some to deplore, and others to applaud, his motives.

Questions to Consider

1. Trace the soldiers' actions, as recounted in the verse, throughout the course of early March 1770. Calculate how many offenses they have perpetrated against the colonists. Make a list of the offenses.

2. Do you think the author of this verse is an accomplished poet? Why or why not? What is your evidence?

Further Exploration

3. Compare the events recounted in the verse to a news account of the events surrounding the massacre. Identify that source and then make a list, in parallel columns, comparing the "facts" from the source and from the poem.

4. Have you ever heard of the expression "poetic license"? Do you think that the author of this broadside uses poetic license? What is your evidence?


  • Atwood, John
  • Preston, Thomas
  • Gray, Samuel
  • Maverick, Samuel
  • Attucks, Crispus
  • Carr, Patrick
  • Boston Massacre
  • Sons of Liberty
  • Occupation of Boston
  • Mob actions