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POEMS OF PHILIP FRENEAU

VOLUME I




THE

POEMS OF PHILIP FRENEAU


POET OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION


EDITED FOR

THE PRINCETON HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION


BY

FRED LEWIS PATTEE

OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE COLLEGE, AUTHOR OF
"A HISTORY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE"
"THE FOUNDATIONS OF ENGLISH LITERATURE" ETC.


VOLUME I


PRINCETON N. J.
THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

1902



Copyright 1902 by
The Princeton University Library


_C. S. Robinson & Co. University Press_
_Princeton N. J._




PREFACE


The present edition of the poetical works of Philip Freneau was begun at
the advice of the late lamented Moses Coit Tyler. In his opinion there
were few fields in American history that needed exploring more, and few
that would require on the part of the explorer more of the Columbus
spirit.

It would be almost impossible for a poet to pass more completely into
the shadow than has Freneau during the century since his activities
closed. His poems are, almost all of them in their earliest editions,
exceedingly rare and costly and only to be read by those who can have
access to the largest libraries, his letters and papers have almost
entirely disappeared, and his biography in almost every book of
reference has been so distorted by misstatement and omission as to be
really grotesque.

This neglect has resulted not from lack of real worth in the man, but
from prejudices born during one of the most bitter and stormy eras of
partisan politics that America has ever known. What Sidney Smith said of
Scotland at this period was true here: "The principles of the French
Revolution were fully afloat and it is impossible to conceive a more
violent and agitated state of society." Freneau was a victim of this
intense era. New England rejected him with scorn and all admirers of
Washington echoed his epithet, "that rascal Freneau." Thus it has become
the tradition to belittle his work, to vilify his character, and to sum
up his whole career, as a prominent New Englander has recently done, by
alluding to him as a "creature of the opposition."

Unprejudiced criticism, however, has always exalted Freneau's work. The
great Scotch dictator Jeffrey, with all his scorn for American
literature, could say that "the time would arrive when his poetry, like
that of Hudibras, would command a commentator like Gray;" and Sir Walter
Scott once declared that "Eutaw Springs [was] as fine a thing as there
is of the kind in the language." E. A. Duyckinck did not hesitate to
group him as one of "four of the most original writers whom the country
has produced," and S. G. W. Benjamin could say in 1887: "In all the
history of American letters, or of the United States press, there is no
figure more interesting or remarkable, no career more versatile and
varied than that of Philip Freneau." Such testimony might be multiplied.
Surely had the poet been an ordinary man, Jefferson would never have
said "his paper has saved our Constitution," Madison would not have
pronounced him a man of genius, and Adams would hardly have admitted
that he was a leading element in his defeat.

I have endeavored not only to rescue the most significant of Freneau's
poems, but to arrange them as far as possible in their order of
composition, or at least in the order in which they first appeared in
print. It has seemed to me highly important to do this since such an
arrangement, especially with a poet like Freneau, who drew his themes
almost wholly from the range of his own observation, would be virtually
an autobiography, and since it would also furnish a running commentary
upon the history of a stirring period in our annals. The task has been
no slight one. It has necessitated a search through the files of a large
proportion of the early newspapers and periodicals and a minute
investigation of every other source of possible information.

Much material has been rescued that, as far as the public was concerned,
had practically become extinct. I have introduced the unique fragment of
an unpublished drama, "The Spy," which I was the first to explore. I
have taken pains to reproduce the poet's early poetical pamphlets
dealing with the first year of the Revolution, not one of which has ever
been republished. The revisions of many of these used by Freneau in his
later collections were so thoroughgoing as to be in reality entirely new
poems. "The Voyage to Boston," for instance, published during the siege
of Boston, was cut down for the 1786 edition from six hundred and five
lines to three hundred and six lines, and of these more than half were
entirely changed. From the standpoint of the historian, at least, the
original version is much more valuable than that made several years
after the war was over. This is true of all the earlier pamphlet poems.
Aside from their value as specimens of Freneau's earlier muse they are
valuable commentaries on the history of the stormy times that called
them forth, and I have not hesitated to reprint them verbatim in
connection with the revised versions. The pamphlet poems "American
Liberty" and "General Gage's Confession," (until recently supposed to
have been lost) exist only in unique copies. Freneau never attempted to
revise them. Some of the other early poems, notably "The House of
Night," I have annotated with care, showing the evolution of the poem
from its first nucleus to its final fragmentary form. In the case of a
few of the more important poems, especially those dealing with the
Revolution, I have given variorum readings.

Aside from this early material, which has a real historical value, I
have introduced very few poems not included in Freneau's collected
editions of 1786, 1788, 1795, 1809 and 1815. Previous to 1795 the poet
reprinted with miserly care almost all the verses which he had
contributed to the press. In his later years he was more prodigal of his
creations. I have, however, reprinted from newspapers very few poems not
found elsewhere, and these few only on the best evidence that they were
genuine, for it has been my experience that when a poem is not to be
found in the collected editions of the poet it is almost certain that it
is not genuine. In justice to Freneau, who had the welfare of his
writings much at heart, and who cut and pruned and remodeled with
tireless hand, I have usually given the latest version.

I wish to acknowledge here my great indebtedness to the descendants of
Philip Freneau, especially Miss Adele M. Sweeney, Mr. Weymer J. Mills,
Mrs. Helen K. Vreeland, and Mrs. Eleanor F. Noël, who have allowed me to
consult freely all the papers and literary remains of the poet and have
supplied me with all possible information. I would also express my great
obligation to many librarians, collectors, and scholars, who have
cheerfully aided me, especially to Mr. Wilberforce Eames, of the New
York Public Library, the late Paul Leicester Ford, Mr. Robert H. Kelby,
of the New York Historical Society, Mr. John W. Jordan, of the
Pennsylvania Historical Society, Mr. A. S. Salley, Jr., of Charleston,
S. C., Mr. E. M. Barton, of the American Antiquarian Society, and Dr. E.
C. Richardson, of Princeton University, who with their courteous
helpfulness have made possible the work. I wish also to express my
thanks to Professor A. Howry Espenshade, and Mr. John Rogers Williams,
to whose careful and patient work upon the proofs the accuracy of the
text depends.

F. L. P.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Sept. 19, 1902.




CONTENTS


PAGE

VOLUME I

PREFACE v
LIFE OF PHILIP FRENEAU xiii

PART I

_Early Poems. 1768-1775_

HISTORY OF THE PROPHET JONAH 3
ADVENTURES OF SIMON SWAUGUM 14
THE PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT 25
THE MONUMENT OF PHAON 30
THE POWER OF FANCY 34
THE PRAYER OF ORPHEUS 39
THE DESERTED FARM-HOUSE 40
THE CITIZEN'S RESOLVE 42
THE DYING ELM 45
COLUMBUS TO FERDINAND 46
THE RISING GLORY OF AMERICA 49
ON RETIREMENT 84
DISCOVERY 85
THE PICTURES OF COLUMBUS 89
EXPEDITION OF TIMOTHY TAURUS, ASTROLOGER 123

PART II

_The First Poetic Period. 1775-1781_

A POLITICAL LITANY 139
AMERICAN LIBERTY, A POEM 142
GENERAL GAGE'S SOLILOQUY 152
THE MIDNIGHT CONSULTATIONS, OR, A TRIP TO BOSTON 158
THE SILENT ACADEMY 182
LINES TO A COASTING CAPTAIN 184
TO THE AMERICANS 185
THE VERNAL AGUE 188
GENERAL GAGE'S CONFESSION 189
THE DISTREST SHEPHERDESS 195
MARS AND HYMEN 197
MACSWIGGEN, A SATIRE 206
THE HOUSE OF NIGHT 212
THE JAMAICA FUNERAL 239
THE BEAUTIES OF SANTA CRUZ 249
ON A HESSIAN DEBARKATION, 1776 269
THE JEWISH LAMENTATION AT EUPHRATES 270
AMERICA INDEPENDENT 271
ON AMANDA'S SINGING BIRD 283
ON THE NEW AMERICAN FRIGATE ALLIANCE 285
ON THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN NICHOLAS BIDDLE 288
CAPTAIN JONES'S INVITATION 290
THE SEA VOYAGE 293




LIFE OF PHILIP FRENEAU

1752-1832




LIFE OF PHILIP FRENEAU


I.

In the possession of the Freneau descendants there is an old French
Bible, printed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1587, which preserves an
unbroken roll of the heads of the family back to the original owner of
the book, Philip Fresneau, who on his death-bed in La Chapelle, France,
in 1590, gave it into the hands of his eldest son. For five generations
the book remained in the little suburban village, its possessors sturdy,
industrious tradesmen, who stood high in the esteem of their community
and yet who on account of their Protestant faith were often imposed upon
and at times even persecuted. It was doubtless this feeling of
insecurity, if not positive persecution, which compelled André Fresneau,
like so many of his fellow Huguenots, to leave his native village and to
seek a home in a more tolerant land.

He landed in New York in 1707. He was in his thirty-sixth year, an
active, handsome man, almost brilliant in certain directions, of
pleasing address, and skilled from his youth in the handling of affairs.
He became at once a leader in the little Huguenot Colony whose center
was the quaint old church "du St. Esprit" on Pine street. He was soon in
the midst of a thriving shipping business, dealing largely in imported
wines, and in 1710, three years after his arrival, he was able to
furnish a beautiful home on Pearl street, near Hanover Square, for his
young bride, Mary Morin, a daughter of Pierre Morin, of the French
Congregation. Of the comfort and hospitality of this home there are many
contemporary references. John Fontaine, the French traveller, was
entertained here in 1716 and he speaks highly of his host and his
entertainment.[1]

In 1721 Mrs. Fresneau died at the early age of twenty-seven, leaving
behind a family of five children, the oldest only nine years of age.
Four years later the father followed. But the young family was far from
destitute. The business house in New York had grown to be very
profitable and there was a large landed estate in eastern New Jersey, a
part of which was sold in 1740. Soon the two eldest sons, Andrew, born
1712, and Pierre, born January 22, 1718, were able to continue their
father's business. For years their firm name was familiar in New York.

Pierre Freneau (the family seem to have dropped the "s" about 1725) was
married in 1748 to Agnes Watson, daughter of Richard Watson, of
Freehold, whose property bordered upon the Freneau estate. They made
their home in Frankfort street, New York, and here on January 2 (O. S.),
1752, was born their eldest child, Philip Morin Freneau, the subject of
our sketch. Four other children came from their union, of whom only one,
Peter, born April 5, 1757, who in later years became a prominent figure
in Charleston, S. C., need be mentioned.

The home of the Freneau's was one of comfort and even refinement. There
was a large and well selected library, the pride of its owner. "There,"
he would say to his visitors, pointing to his books, "use them freely,
for among them you will find your truest friends." He delighted in men
of refinement, and his home became a social center for the lovers of
books and of culture. He looked carefully after the education of his
children; and all of them early became omnivorous readers. In such an
environment the young poet passed his first ten years.

In 1762 the family decided to leave New York and to make their home
permanently on their estate, "Mount Pleasant," near Middletown Point, N.
J. The estate at this time contained nearly a thousand acres, and with
its large buildings, its slaves and its broad area under cultivation,
was in many respects like a southern plantation. Heretofore the elder
Freneau had made it of secondary importance. He had used it as a summer
resort, and as a pleasant relief to the monotony of his city business,
but now, perhaps on account of failing health, he determined to devote
to it all of his energies. Philip was left behind in New York. For the
next three years he lived at a boarding school in the city, going home
only during the long vacations. At the age of thirteen he was sent to
the Latin school at Penolopen, then presided over by the Rev. Alexander
Mitchell, to prepare for college.

The father of the family died Oct. 17, 1767. This, however, did not
disturb the plans of the eldest son, and on Nov. 7, 1768, he entered the
sophomore class at Princeton so well prepared that President Witherspoon
is said to have sent a letter of congratulation to his mother.


II.

Of the college life of Philip Freneau we have only fragmentary records.
He was in his sixteenth year when he entered, a somewhat dreamy youth
who had read very widely, especially in the English poets and the Latin
classics, and who already commanded a facile pen, especially in the
field of heroic verse. During the year in which he entered Princeton he
composed two long poems, "The History of the Prophet Jonah," and "The
Village Merchant," - surely notable work for the pen of a college
sophomore. During the following year he wrote "The Pyramids of Egypt,"
and before his graduation he had completed several other pieces, some of
them full of real poetic inspiration.

The period during which Freneau resided at Princeton was a most
significant one. In the same class with him were James Madison, H. H.
Brackenridge, the author of "Modern Chivalry" and a conspicuous figure
in later Pennsylvania history, and Samuel Spring, who was to become
widely influential in religious circles. In the class below him were the
refined and scholarly William Bradford and the brilliant Aaron Burr. The
shadow of the coming struggle with Great Britain was already lengthening
over the Colonies and nowhere was its presence more manifest than in the
colleges, always the most sensitive areas in times of tyranny and
oppression. On August 6, 1770, the senior class at Princeton voted
unanimously to appear at commencement dressed in American manufactures.

Another circumstance made the period a notable one. On June 24, 1769, a
little band of students, headed by Madison, Brackenridge, Bradford and
Freneau, organized an undergraduate fraternity to be called the
American Whig Society. One year later The Well Meaning Club, a rival
literary organization founded in 1765, became the Cliosophic Society.
The act was the signal for a war, the echoes of which have even yet not
died away at Princeton. There exists a manuscript book,[2] rescued from
the papers of William Bradford, in which are preserved the poetic
tirades, called forth in this first onset. Its title page is as follows:

"Satires | against the Tories. | Written in the last War between the
Whigs & Cliosophians | in which | the former obtained a compleat
Victory.

- Arm'd for virtue now we point the pen
Brand the bold front of shameless, guilty men
Dash the proud Tory in his gilded Car
Bare the mean heart that hides beneath a star."

It opens with ten "pastorals" by Brackenridge, of which the ninth begins
thus:

"Spring's Soliloquy that morning before he hung himself.

O World adieu! the doleful time draws nigh
I cannot live and yet I fear to die
Warford is dead! and in his turn Freneau
Will send me headlong to the shades below.
What raging fury or what baleful Star
Did find - ingulph me in the whiggish war
The deeds of darkness which my soul hath done
Are now apparent as the noon-day sun
A Thousand things as yet remain untold
My secret practice and my sins of old."

Then follow several satires by Freneau, full of fire and invective, but
like the work of all the others, not always refined or quotable in
print. His satire, "McSwiggen," printed in 1775, contains nearly half
of the poems, - the only lines indeed which are of any real merit. The
three concluding poems of the collection, and these by all means the
worst of the lot, are from no less a pen than Madison's. No patriotic
citizen will ever venture to resurrect them.

There is a tradition very widely current that Freneau was for a time the
room-mate of Madison. However this may be, there is no question as to
who was his most intimate friend. With Brackenridge he had much in
common. Both had dreams of a literary life, both had read largely in
polite literature, both scribbled constantly in prose and verse. In the
same manuscript volume with the Clio-Whig satires there is an extensive
fragment of a novel written alternately by Brackenridge and Freneau,
between September 20th and October 22d, 1770. Its manuscript title page
is as follows:

"Father Bombo's | Pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabia. | Vol. II. |
Wherein is given a true account of the innumerable and | surprizing
adventures which befell him in the course of that | long and
tedious Journey, | Till he once more returned safe to his native
Land, as related | by his own mouth. | Written By B. H. and
P. F. - 1770.

Mutato nomine
Fabula de te narratur - _Hor._
Change but the name
The story's told of you.
MDVIILXX."

The adventures of the hero read like chapters from the "Arabian Nights."
He has been for seven days a close captive on a French man-of-war, but
he is rescued by an Irish privateer, only to be taken for a wizard and
thrown overboard in a cask which is finally washed ashore on the north
coast of Ireland. It would be useless to recount all of his adventures
both afloat and ashore. He finally succeeds in reaching Mecca, and in
returning safely home to America. The final chapter recounts the details
of his death and moralizes on his life and character.

The work is crude and hasty. Whole chapters of it were evidently written
at one sitting. The part signed H. B. is unquestionably the best; the
prose is vigorous and the movement rapid. The only merit in Freneau's
section lies in its lyric lament at the close of one of the chapters.
The hero suddenly bursts into minor song, the opening stanzas of which
are:

Sweet are the flow'rs that crown the Vale
And sweet the spicy breathing Gale
That murmurs o'er the hills:
See how the distant lowing throng
Thro' verdant pastures move along,
Or drink the Limpid Streams and crystal rills.

Ah see in yonder gloomy Grove
The Shepherd tells his tale of Love
And clasps the wanton fair:
While winds and trees and shades conspire
To fann with Love the Gentle Fire,
And banish every black and boding care.

But what has Love to do with me
Unknown ashore, distress'd by sea,
Now hast'ning to the Tomb:
Whilst here I rove, and pine and weep,
Sav'd from the fury of the deep
To find alas on shore a harder doom.

The nature of the undergraduate work done by Princeton in Freneau's time
was thus summed up by President Witherspoon in his "Address to the
Inhabitants of Jamaica," published in Philadelphia in 1772:

"In the first year they read Latin and Greek, with the Roman and Grecian
antiquities, and Rhetoric. In the second, continuing the study of the
languages, they learn a compleat system of Geography, with the use of
the globes, the first principles of Philosophy, and the elements of
mathematical knowledge. The third, though the languages are not wholly
omitted, is chiefly employed in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. And
the senior year is employed in reading the higher classics, proceeding
in the Mathematics and Natural Philosophy and going through a course of
Moral Philosophy. In addition to these, the President gives lectures to
the juniors and seniors, which consequently every Student hears twice
over in his course, first, upon Chronology and History, and afterwards
upon Composition and Criticism. He has also taught the French language
last winter, and it will continue to be taught to all who desire to
learn it. * * *

"As we have never yet been obliged to omit or alter it for want of
scholars, there is a fixed Annual Commencement on the last Wednesday of
September, when, after a variety of public exercises, always attended by
a vast concourse of the politest company, from the different parts of
this province and the cities of New York and Philadelphia. * * *"

Of Freneau's proficiency as a student we have no record. Of the details
of the Commencement of September 25, 1771, when he received his degree,
we have but a brief account. Brackenridge opened the exercises with a
salutatory, and following came four other exercises which completed the
morning's programme.

The audience assembled again at three, and after singing by the students
there came:

"6. An English forensic dispute on this question, 'Does ancient poetry
excel the modern?' Mr. Freneau, the respondent, his arguments in favor
of the ancients were read. Mr. Williamson answered him and Mr. McKnight
replied."

"7. A poem on 'The Rising Glory of America,' by Mr. Brackenridge, was
received with great applause by the audience."

Madison on account of ill health did not appear.

The "Rising Glory" had been written conjointly by Brackenridge and
Freneau. Although the former was given on the Commencement programme
full credit for the exercise, it was surely Freneau who conceived the
work and who gave it its strength and high literary value. Brackenridge
in later years confessed to his son that "on his part it was a task of
labor, while the verse of his associate flowed spontaneously." The poem
was printed in Philadelphia the following year, and in 1786 Freneau
isolated his own portion for publication in the first edition of his
works.

This detaching of Freneau's portion from the complete work destroyed at
the outset the original unity of the piece. The changes and omissions
made necessary by the process of separating the part from the whole, the



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