A Blog on, "The Dying Indian"
Philip Freneau - 1752-1832
The Dying Indian
Philip Freneau - 1752-1832
“On yonder lake I spread the sail no more!
Vigour, and youth, and active days are past—
Relentless demons urge me to that shore
On whose black forests all the dead are cast:—
Ye solemn train, prepare the funeral song,
For I must go to shades below,
Where all is strange and all is new;
Companion to the airy throng!—
What solitary streams,
In dull and dreary dreams,
All melancholy, must I rove along!
To what strange lands must Chequi take his way!
Groves of the dead departed mortals trace:
No deer along those gloomy forests stray,
No huntsmen there take pleasure in the chace,
But all are empty unsubstantial shades,
That ramble through those visionary glades;
No spongy fruits from verdant trees depend,
But sickly orchards there
Do fruits as sickly bear,
And apples a consumptive visage shew,
And withered hangs the hurtle-berry blue.
Ah me! what mischiefs on the dead attend!
Wandering a stranger to the shores below,
Where shall I brook or real fountain find?
Lazy and sad deluding waters flow—
Such is the picture in my boding mind!
Fine tales, indeed, they tell
Of shades and purling rills,
Where our dead fathers dwell
Beyond the western hills,
But when did ghost return his state to shew;
Or who can promise half the tale is true?
I too must be a fleeting ghost!—no more—
None, none but shadows to those mansions go;
I leave my woods, I leave the Huron shore,
For emptier groves below!
Ye charming solitudes,
Ye tall ascending woods,
Ye glassy lakes and prattling streams,
Whose aspect still was sweet,
Whether the sun did greet,
Or the pale moon embraced you with her beams—
Adieu to all!
To all, that charmed me where I strayed,
The winding stream, the dark sequestered shade;
Adieu all triumphs here!
Adieu the mountain’s lofty swell,
Adieu, thou little verdant hill,
And seas, and stars, and skies—farewell,
For some remoter sphere!
Perplexed with doubts, and tortured with despair,
Why so dejected at this hopeless sleep?
Nature, at last, these ruins may repair,
When fate’s longest dream is o’er, and she fails to weep
Some real-world once more may be assigned,
Some newborn mansion for the immortal mind!
Farewell, sweet lake; farewell surrounding woods,
To other groves, through midnight glooms, I stray,
Beyond the mountains, and beyond the floods,
Beyond the Huron bay!
Prepare the hollow tomb, and place me low,
My trusty bow and arrows by my side,
The cheerful bottle and the venison store;
For long the journey is that I must go,
Without a partner, and without a guide.”
He spoke, and bid the attending mourners weep,
Then closed his eyes, and sunk to endless sleep!
This poem is in the public domain.
Chapter 2: Early American Literature 1700-1800
Philip Morin Freneau
© Paul P. Reuben
September 10, 2019
Page Links: | Primary Works | Selected Bibliography 1980-Present | Leader of 18th Century Naturalism | Four Aspects of Freneau | Study Questions | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |
| A Brief Biography |
Site Links: | Chap 2 - Index | Alphabetical List | Table Of Contents | Home Page |
Poems. Edited with a critical introd. by Harry Hayden Clark. NY: Hafner Pub. Co., 1960, 1929. PS755 .A5 C6
The poems of Philip Freneau, poet of the American Revolution. (1902) Edited for the Princeton Historical Association by Fred Lewis Pattee. NY: Russell & Russell, 1963. 3 vols. PS755 .A2
Father Bombo's pilgrimage to Mecca, 1770. by Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Philip Freneau; edited, with an introd., by Michael Davitt Bell. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton U Library, 1975. PS708 B5 F3
Selected Bibliography 1980-Present
Blakemore, Steven. Literature, Intertextuality, and the American Revolution: From Common Sense to 'Rip Van Winkle'. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2012.
Goudie, Sean X. Creole America: The West Indies and the Formation of Literature and Culture in the New Republic. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2006.
Hollander, John. ed. American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, I: Philip Freneau to Walt Whitman. NY: Library of America, 1993.
I. Freneau as Leader of 18th Century Naturalism
1. Fresh interest in nature.
2. The belief that nature is a revelation of God.
3. Humanitarian sympathy for the humble and oppressed.
4. The faith that people are naturally good.
5. That they lived idyllic and benevolent lives in a primitive past before the advent of civilization.
6. The radical doctrine that the golden age will dawn again when social institutions are modified, since they are responsible for existing evil.
II. Aspects of Freneau
1. Poet of American Independence: Freneau provides incentive and inspiration to the revolution by writing such poems as "The Rising Glory of America" and "Pictures of Columbus."
2. Journalist: Freneau was editor and contributor of The Freeman's Journal (Philadelphia) from 1781-1784. In his writings, he advocated the essence of what is known as Jeffersonian democracy - decentralization of government, equality for the masses, etc.
3. Freneau's Religion: Freneau is described as a deist - a believer in nature and humanity but not a pantheist. In deism, religion becomes an attitude of intellectual belief, not a matter of emotional of spiritual ecstasy. Freneau shows interest and sympathy for the humble and the oppressed.
4. Freneau as Father of American Poetry: His major themes are death, nature, transition, and the human in nature. All of these themes become important in 19th century writing. His famous poems are "The Wild Honey-Suckle" (1786), "The Indian Burying Ground" (1787), "The Dying Indian: Tomo Chequi" (1784), "The Millennium" (1797), "On a Honey Bee" (1809), "To a Caty-Did" (1815), "On the Universality and Other Attributes of the God of Nature," "On the Uniformity and Perfection of Nature," and "On the Religion of Nature" (the last three written in 1815).
| Top | Philip Freneau (1752-1832): A Brief Biography
A Student Project by Nicholas von Teck
Philip Freneau: Voice of Revolution
In 1598 King Henry IV of France issued the Edict of Nantes, promising to protect the rights of his Huguenot (Protestant) subjects and allowing them to worship in their own churches. The Bourbon King Louis XIV rescinded the Edict of Nantes with the Act of Revocation of 1685, condemning the Protestant Huguenots to trials of heresy by the Roman Church; those who were not massacred fled to any place that would take them. Two large communities of Huguenots settled in the colonies of North America: one in the area around Charleston, South Carolina and the other, larger colony in the city of Nieuw Amsterdam. Shortly after the arrival of the Huguenots in Nieuw Holland, that colony was forfeited to the United Kingdom and renamed New York. In the early but nonetheless cosmopolitan environs of New York Town, these French Protestants found themselves with Dutch colonists, English colonial administrators, Jewish-German merchants, African slaves, and Native American converts. One of these Huguenot families was the Fresneaus from La Rochelle, France (Austin 50). They arrived there from England in 1709 (Leary 5).
After a few generations, the Fresneaus who fought for space with the other New Yorkers in the small area of the city bounded by the Hudson and East rivers and Wall Street became the Freneaus who owned a prosperous plantation called Mount Pleasant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, and had a thousand slaves ( Clark xiv). Some traditions remain in families: Mont Plaisant was the name of the residence of the Fresneaus in La Rochelle, France (Austin 65). Despite being gentlemen farmers, each successive generation of Fresneaus carried on the family trade in wine, begun long before the Edict of Nantes, and Philip Freneau made many voyages to bring back port wines and madeiras (Clark xiv).
Philip Morin Freneau was born at Mount Pleasant on 2 January 1752 (Old Style: the United Kingdom and its colonies had yet to convert to the Julian calendar and still used the Gregorian at this time &emdash; as a result, an Englishman traveling to the Continent had to set his calendar ahead twelve days after crossing the Channel). Philip was the eldest of the five children of Pierre Freneau and Agnes Watson (Austin 65), and the first to use the spelling Freneau (Bowden 15).
Philip was schooled at Mount Pleasant until he was boarded with the Reverend William Tennent of Tennent's Church, New Jersey for his preparatory education in his tenth year in 1762 (Austin 72). His first known poem, "The Wild Honeysuckle," was penned about this time; the actual date of inscription is unknown, but tradition has Freneau writing it shortly before arriving at Tennent's Church (Austin 70). A little over three years later, in February, 1766, he was enrolled in the Penlopen Latin School in Monmouth under the tutelage of the Reverend Alexander Mitchell; he remained there until he was admitted to Nassau Hall at Princeton College, Princeton, New Jersey in 1768. During his time at Penlopen Latin, Philip's father died (Austin 73). Philip's mother, however, decided that Philip should continue his education and sent him along to Nassau Hall in due course, but with a tacit understanding between mother and son that he was to seek a degree in Divinity. He didn't (Leary 50).
The roster of Philip's classmates reads like a litany of the American Pantheon: the Honorable Justices Hugh Brackenridge and Brockholst Livingston of the Supreme Court of the United States; Gunning Bedford, a framer of the Constitution; Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the United States; Colonel Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee of Virginia; and James Madison, Fourth President of the United States of America; and several others, in addition to having as the president of his college the Reverend Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Austin 74). Seldom has such a small group of students achieved such enduring legacy for Freneau's graduating class of 1770 held but ten students (Austin 75).
| Top | During his sophomore year he wrote "The Poetical History of the Prophet Jonah," a "rhythymical (sic) poem, or 'versified paraphrase' to use his own expression." (Austin 76) At one-hundred-thirty-five lines it was considered remarkable for so young a poet and much commented on at the time, both at Princeton and at rival colleges such as Kings in New York, Harvard in Boston, and William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia (Austin 78). For graduation in 1771, he collaborated with (later Mr. Justice) Brackenridge on a poem they recited, "The Rising Glory of America," a blank verse dialogue (Austin 78). Brackenridge had earlier collaborated with Freneau on the mock epic "Father Bombo's Pilgrimage" (Bowden 22). Freneau also immortalizes Witherspoon in the poem "Caledonian Sage" and praised the "liberal education" he gained under Witherspoon's administration (Bowden 17). Among other activities, Witherspoon instituted student orations as a form of entertainment, and even allowed the students to chose their subjects for discourse, which Freneau satirizes in "The Distrest Orator." (Bowden 19) Interestingly, despite being a prodigal and prodigious student, Freneau did not attend his own graduation from Princeton; the fact that his mother remarried may have had something to do with it, but this period of Freneau's life is vague (Bowden 28).
Freneau's first occupation was as a school teacher in Flatbush, Bruecklin (Brooklyn) County on Nassau (Long) Island. He lasted thirteen days with "the youth of that detested place" and "finally bid adieu" to "that brainless crew, … devoid of reason and grace." (Austin 80) He said his employers were "gentlemen of New York: bullies, merchants, and scoundrels." (Austin 80) In the same letter to a classmate, he also mentions that he had just written and published a poem of "some four-hundred-and-fifty lines … called 'The American Village' and a few short pieces as well." (Austin 80) However, he was soon forced to accept another teaching position, this one at Somerset Academy near Baltimore, Maryland, where he stayed until the end of term, 1773.
Freneau had evidently collected his year's salary from Flatbush in advance, "some forty pounds," and expected his ex-employers to "trounce" him if they should find him (Austin 80). A Jamaican planter named Hanson invited Freneau to pay a prolonged visit to Hanson's plantation. As Hanson was also master of his own ship and was preparing to ship on the next tide, Freneau thought it behooved himself to clamber on board (Austin 83). During the passage, the first mate died and Freneau found himself learning the art of navigation by the "trial-by-fire" method (Austin 83). He discovered that he enjoyed it and eventually took master's papers (Austin 83).
During his prolonged stay in Jamaica, he developed a dislike for slavery. This is interesting because, like most large farmers of the era, the Freneaus had both house and field slaves at Mount Pleasant, although they also had tenant farmers as well on their fairly large holdings (Austin 60). Freneau obviously villianized Hanson by creating the character of Sir Tobey the slave-owner in the poem "To Sir Tobey" (Austin 83). During the next few years, Freneau sailed as master around the Caribbean and visited the Bermudas, the Danish Virgin Islands, and the Gulf of Mexico (Austin 83). These travels were the inspiration for such poems as "House of Night" and "The Beauties of Santa Cruz"(Austin 85). In 1775 he also publishes "American Liberty" (Bowden 13).
While Freneau sailed to and fro between the balmy Carib and the Delaware Bay, hostilities between Mother England and her colonies were growing to a fighting pitch. As soon as Freneau learned of the outbreak of revolution, he sailed back to New Jersey in the bark Amanda (it may not have actually been his, for he was recorded as being only the master of it) (Austin 105). Interestingly, the name for the "beauty" for whom his sings praises in his poem of the Caribbean poems is "Amanda" (Austin 86).
Freneau arrives at Mount Pleasant to find it burned, and his mother and younger siblings living elsewhere; the Battle of Monmouth had been fought on Mount Pleasant (Austin 103). Freneau arranges for "lettres of marque," authorizing him to be a privateer and attack English shipping in order to seize cargo and vessels (Austin 104). While the bark Amanda sails under another master with him as the recorded owner, Freneau orders a new sloop built at Philadelphia; he names her Aurora (Austin 104).
| Top | On 25 May 1778, Aurora left the ways at Philadelphia and stood out into Delaware Bay for Cape Henlopen and the Atlantic Ocean. Less than six hours later, Aurora had been chased and run aground by the English Captain Sir George Collier in HMS Iris (which before her own capture was ex-USS Hancock) and Freneau was captured (Austin 110). Lacking gallantry usually expected in a ship's master, Freneau at first denies he is the master when confronted by the prize-captain of HMS Iris (Leary 82). After he is handcuffed below decks with the "stench of seamen," Freneau finds a Tory aboard the frigate who knows him and begs recognition (Leary 82). Freneau was transported to the prison ship HMS Scorpion in New York Harbor, and later transferred again to the prison hospital ship HMS Hunter (Austin 113). This internment of nearly eighteen months was the genesis for the poem "The Prison Ship" (650 lines; published in 1780) in which he "compares the flight of [the] Aurora to the flight of Hector pursued by Achilles." (Austin 109) During this time, however, he does manage to contribute to Brackenridge's United States Magazine (Bowden 13). Freneau never recovered from the financial loss of Aurora (Clark xxiii).
He was paroled on condition that he not resume arms against the King, and he evidently kept his word, but Freneau must have reckoned the old saw about the pen being mightier than the sword had some verisimilitude for he continued to raise his quill in rebellion for the rest of the Revolution (Austin 121). He found work as a printer and editor with the Freeman's Journal in Philadelphia (Bowden 13). Freneau wrote poems on various patriotic subjects such as the departure of the traitor Benedict Arnold, the Battle of Temple Hill, the melting by the printer Isaac Sears of his type into bullets, etc … (Austin 133). By 1786, he was master of the brig Washington and making round-trips to the Madeiras (Austin 138). He left behind a newly published volume, The Poems of Philip Freneau (Bowden 13). The next year, 1787, he returned long enough to publish a second volume, A Journey from Philadelphia to New York before again standing out to sea (Bowden 13). 1788 saw the publication of a third volume, The Miscellaneous Works of Mr. Philip Freneau (Bowden 13).
In 1789 Freneau married Helen Forman of New Jersey, a sister of General David Forman, one of the founders of the Order of the Cincinnati (Austin 147). Helen Freneau is recorded as having a pleasant and "poetic" personality, and was a gracious hostess (Austin 149).
Freneau was offered the position of editor of the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, but before he could assume that position he was induced to become editor of the National Gazette instead at the paltry salary of $250 per annum (Austin 152). Freneau had never financially recovered from the loss of Aurora, and was still trying to run his family's estate at Mount Pleasant, and maintain all who depended on him: "family and slaves." (Austin 152) Despite writing "To Sir Tobey" nearly twenty years before, Freneau was still a slaveholder himself.
| Top | The Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, offered Freneau the clerkship of "Interpreter of the French language for the Department of State" in 1793 (Austin 153). This raised a hue-and-cry of such proportions, and the appointment was so loudly denounced, that the offer was withdrawn; for some reason, many Philadephians at that time suspected Jefferson and Freneau of collusion and intrigue (Austin 156). Since Philadelphia was the seat of government at the time, and since Benjamin Franklin was then opposing Jefferson as to which form of government the foundling United States should adopt, Freneau was likely just a handy target for the pro-Franklin faction in their bid to undermine the Jeffersonian Republican-Democrats (Austin 156). The idea seems to have been that a clerk under Jefferson who just happened to be the editor of a major newspaper would give the Jeffersonians a propaganda leverage that would be nearly impossible to undermine if it were not stopped immediately (Austin 156). Austin qoutes a Mr. Benjamin as saying, "What Tyrtaeus was to the Spartans, was Freneau to the Republicans or anti-Federalists." (160) The allusion is that the National Gazette was, with Freneau as editor, a "powerful political paper." (Austin 160)
My dedication poem below . RJL
(**Are We Not Brothers, Made From The Same Dirt,
(Tribute to Philip Freneau and his poem,
The Dying Indian)**)
Are We Not Brothers, Made From The Same Dirt
I welcome you sweet dawn, soft-break of day
As your vibrant voice sounds, seeming to say
Lad, I bid you relief from dark and gray
Feel my coming golden rays and rejoice
So precious life's gift, giving love free voice
Embrace your honor, honor that wise choice-
You are the braver heart, red is your blood
You are red-man, Native pride your soul floods
You hunt ancestral lands, wade tidal muds,
There amidst trees, the beauty of the glades
You young lad was of pure Native-bloods made
Spirit must stay strong, as your time soon fades
In your dreams, you sail to paradise isles
You race through country-side for miles and miles
Live, soon your tribes will become sad exiles-
As you dare the great beast to your soul fight
Search mysteries that hide truth out of sight
Know that same hungry beast, will your race smite!
Alas! Fate's wicked hands, its evil sends.
Stopping mercy, from which Heaven descends.
I beg mother earth, this carnage avert
Heal dark souls of men, stop such coming hurts
Are we not brothers, made from the same dirt
Do we all not cry, and hot red blood bleed
Are we all not sprung from weak mortal seeds
In pain, do we not, to same Father plead-
Will violence and death, your greed absolve
Can we seek our differences to solve
Must destruction serve as ways to evolve,
Is what will be gained, a treasure to you
Shall we learn to love bright sky's glowing blues
Share life's blessings, paying brotherly dues
Walk lit paths, love flowering meadows too-
Live serving peace and discover anew
Enjoy a rainbow's hope, its many hues?
Alas! Fate's wicked hands, its evil sends.
Stopping mercy, from which Heaven descends.
Robert J. Lindley, 9-07-2020
Rhyme, Phhillip Freneau,Tribute poem,
( Written for new blog )