Philip Freneau was a very prolific writer, being called of the “most important literary figures” (Bowden 1) during the Revolution of America. Some of his works that best define his writing style are “On a Honey Bee,” “The Wild Honey Suckle,” “The Indian Burying Ground,” “The American Soldier,” and “Eutaw Springs” Freneau’s use of memorable symbolism, detailed descriptions, and progressive political themes have made his poems cherished to this day. Born January 2nd, 1752 in New York, Freneau had a simple upbringing.
School and church became his expected focus throughout his childhood, as not much else is known from up until his adolescent years. He entered into the College of New Jersey in 1767, studying theology and dabbling in writing. It’s here that he met his college dorm roommate James Madison, the man who would become a friend to Freneau and a positive influence on his political standing and greater education. After graduating, he began writing anti-British works in hopes of sharing the wrongful treatment of the colonies under their rule.
He traveled and explored in hopes of inspiring his writings, as well as to avoid the possible drafting Revolutionary War, leaving home in 1776 by boat. Some of his best-known works include “The American Soldier,” “The Indian Burying Ground,” and “The Wild Honey Suckle. ” Before passing away in 1832 at age 80, he published a collection that included his works being well over 50 poems. In the poem “On a Honey Bee,” a bee comes under question as to how it lost its way, as its death soon follows by human interaction.
The Wild Honey Suckle” follows the life of a flower and its experiences through it. But as to where the flower is to exist after death comes into question by the end of the poem. With a title like “The Indian Burying Ground,” death can be anticipated as a similarity with the other poems, partly correct so, but instead is comprised of the description of a Native American custom in the practices of burying their dead. “Eutaw Springs” is about the death of soldiers after a fight that lay on the battlefield. The emotional emphasis put towards this poem can be shown by Freneau’s choice in words.
And the last poem, “The American Soldier,” a soldier’s life after war is left with less in thanks to the Revolutionary War. Freneau’s ability to create symbolism is exceptionally well done. While it is a bit more difficult to reveal Freneau’s subjects and messages in his poetry, it is, however, rewarding when Sin comprehending the true statements made by Freneau in his works. A regular rhyme scheme of ABAB characterizes many of Freneau’s poems, in for form of commonly four stanzas. An example of this is in the poem “On a Honey Bee,” being that the bee is symbolic of human feebleness.
This may not be so apparent in this poem, with the realization that the bee isn’t directly stated as being the subject of this poem. In comparison of human likeness to the bee, the fear of the forces of nature can be shown from its encounter with the bee in the poem. Humans are powerless in face of the true power of nature. It is shown that we can be susceptible to our own demise from satisfying our desires. What is unfortunate is when our weakness on our dependence from our pleasures is when it controls our lives in other forms not apparent to us. Nature isn’t on anyone’s permanent side life.
Another poem that better shows Freneau’s skill is “The Wild Honey Suckle. ” Yes, from a very basic reading of this poem is the description of a honey suckle flower in its natural environment. But one can quickly dismiss this as there is a much more informative understanding what the representation of the flower is and what more can be understand from what follows. The beginning of the poem describes the flower as being untouched and unseen from what can be assumed is other plant life, but what sets the poem into deeper comprehension by stating that no foot or hand can harm this plant where it is.
In the mention of hand and foot that the human aspect is brought into analyze the real representation of the plant, as Freneau goes on to refer to the flower as she, make the flower a human woman. With a basic understanding of this it goes on to be further understood that the woman goes through her life as represented by the flower, with her birth being protected from the dangers of the world, to the reference of the coming of Autumn as a time when she may wilt and die. Freneau’s excellent choice of words demonstrates his descriptive prowess.
While an arduous task for many. Freneau benefits in his ability by informing the reader without the need to complicate the poems comprehension. Take for example the poem “The Indian Burying Ground. ” What benefits this poems content is the interesting details of the burial custom in which Native Americans burry there dead in the upright sitting position. As to why they do this is made clear in the first half of the poem, being that the Indians believe the dead still share the same activities the living do, but in different worlds.
Again is seated with his friends/ and shares again the joyous feast. ” These “friends” are in the world of the living, while they are still able to interact by celebration. He shares the items in which may be placed by the dead for use in life after death, such as decorated pottery, venison bows, and arrow. What separates this poem apart from Freneau’s other works is the factual information provided in these minute details of a different period in American History. Freneau’s usual writing material, as it is requires much more cognitive reflection.
An expected morbid or somber tone is absent, instead replaced by a form of admiration for the Indian custom. The resting place of the dead is not to be disrespected, as Freneau states “Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way / No fraud upon the dead commit. ” With such available tools to create a definitive gothic tone in these poems, it’s interesting to see how Freneau instead sets an unexpected mood instead. “Eutaw Springs. ” Set in the very location of which it is named after, Eutaw Springs, the dead have taken their final resting place after the battle.
A great example of a personification is given to the springs of Eutaw as they weep for the heroes lost in the battle. The poem goes on to show that while there is defeat, a cause for victory is in place. Freneau has the provisions of what may be the actual historical battle that was apart of the Revolution, furthering his importance for descriptions. Freneau evades the expectation for wallowing in the melancholy that befell these soldiers by means of rejoicing for the defeat of “The Britons. ”
“O smite thy gentle breast, and sav/The friends of freedom slumber here! writes Freneau, going on to say that these “shepherds” saw what was a call to arms against the threat made clear by British control, and met their fates for the betterment of their country. Upon its conclusion, Freneau inflicts a sense of accomplishment and pride from wishing these patriots rest well and “find a happier land. ” Freneau effectively presents political progression in thought provoking ways. It may have been difficult in Freneau’s time in being a poet or writer and not having had some sort of political influence reflected in your works.
America was in its foundation for greatness, which Freneau took to bring awareness of the affects brought by the Revolutionary War. “The American Soldier” is a poem by Freneau, Freneau writes of an American war veteran left with practically nothing but old wounds and the pains that follow the horrors of armed conflict. The soldier goes on the reminisce of times spent in the service, with the long hours of labor by hands and leading to the poverty in which the soldier was forced in to by the economic struggles of the American soldiers compared to the wealth of the British military.
He goes in to describe a form of envy for how the British were living in much more lavish homes than those of the settlers, while he is left with what could be imagined as a much smaller and adequate home to live in. In the undoubtedly unsettling ending of this poem is the veteran’s own wife made to represent leaving “him” with famine and his name. In the poems that revolved around the Revolution at the time and its negative affects, its Freneau that brought light to the fact that veterans that were in war were left with broken homes, poverty, and hunger as a result of the costs in involvement in war.
Freneau’s poem is made more accurate as he himself was shown the worst of what the British did as a prisoner while in their captivity. If not for the sorrowful account of a accurate depiction of a American war veteran, it may have gone without further consideration for those who served that needed support for them may have gone unnoticed. Philip Freneau was able to create symbolism, informative descriptions, and challenging political themes that are still in use and remembered to this day. Without his influence upon the world, we would lack a better understanding of the kind of genius that could exist in such a troubling time for many.