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some of his finest and most perfect descriptions of nature, especially of nature in the tropics. Two poems, one styled The Beauties of Santa Cruz,' and the other descriptive of the shores of Carolina and Charleston, are instinct with true poetic fire. His versified translations from the Latin show how well his college days were spent, and how late in life he kept up his classic studies. No finer rendition of the fifteenth ode of the first book of Horace, Nereus's prophecy of the destruction of Troy, than Freneau's exists; while his translation of Gray's famous 'Ode written at the Grande Chartreuse,' is as striking and beautiful as the original itself.
"Freneau's poetry may be considered in three classes, war lyrics and satires; poems on general subjects and descriptions of nature; and translations from the classic poets and those of Italy and France; with a few which do not strictly fall under either of these heads. They vary greatly in style and finish, some wanting much of the latter quality. Freneau was naturally impulsive, inclined to indolence, and often careless; and his verse sometimes reflects his moods. He seems to have written just as the incident or event happened which formed his theme, or as the idea he expressed occurred to him. Like many men of active intellect and quick perceptions, he lacked application. Content to write for the hour, and satisfied if the effect or object aimed at was secured, he little regarded the future of the children of his brain. Hence he has left us no great narrative poem and no epic.
"His verse is wonderful for its ease, simplicity, humor, great command of language, and delicacy of handling. Except Dryden and Byron no poet of America or England has shown himself a greater master of English or of rhyme. The luxuriance of his stanzas is something amazing. Only to the tem
porary nature of the subjects of most of his verse, especially of his satires, can be ascribed the desuetude into which his poems have fallen. In vigor, sentiment, playfulness, and humor, many of them cannot be surpassed, and their beauties of form and expression are as great now as when they were first given to the world.
"But Freneau possessed other and deeper poetic gifts. We have all wondered at and admired the poems of that strange son of genius of our day, the late Edgar Allan Poe. Yet the strange power of that extraordinary man existed also in the earlier poet. His House of Night- -a Vision' prefigured the wondrous conceptions of the author of 'The Raven.' Though not at all alike, there is in the supernatural weirdness of each a similarity. Freneau's dreamer, wandering at midnight in a dark wood, comes upon a noble dome. Entering and ascending, he hears 'a hollow voice of loud lament' from out a vaulted chamber, which proves to be that of Death personified in human form, stretched on his dying bed. He is attended by the castle's lord, who has just suffered a heavy affliction; and who, in obedience to the divine precept, 'If thine enemy hunger feed him, if he thirst give him drink,' tries to assuage his sufferings, but at the same time tells him that his end is inevitable. Death gives him certain directions, orders his own burial, and dies in the greatest agony. Then follows a most vivid description of the burial. The vision. ends; the dreamer awakes, and the poem closes with some reflections on Death.
"Another, and very different gift which Freneau possessed in an extraordinary degree was his power of invective. In this, some of his satires rival the 'Absalom and Achitophel,' and 'English Bards and Scotch Reviewers' in vigor, as well as in the torrentlike flow of the verse. Listen to these lines upon an
opponent who had attacked him in abusive rhyme, and whom, under an odd name, he has immortalized:
"Hail, great Mac Swiggen,'" etc.
As Mac Swiggen has already been served up to our readers we will spare them the remainder of the quotation.
"This is certainly equal to Dryden,” — that is, Mac Swiggen's eulogy, not our digression, yet Freneau wrote it when only twenty-three."
In speaking of another of Freneau's early poems, one written at the age of eighteen while at Nassau Hall, and which we have mentioned in his college life, this author, after quoting several portions of it,
"Is not this true poetry ? Is it not extraordinary as the work of a youth of eighteen years? But one other American poet ever wrote anything to compare with it so early in life. Bryant wrote at nineteen his 'Thanatopsis,' and never later did he surpass that poem, although it contains but eightyone lines.
"Totally dissimilar as these two poets were, in almost every characteristic, physical and mental, Freneau being as warm as Bryant was cold, there was yet a singular parallelism in their literary careers. Both were educated men, both college graduates, Freneau of Princeton, Bryant of Williams; both wrote as mere youths, and wrote then as men of twice their ages might be proud to write. Both studied law and then threw it aside. Both became hot politicians and fierce political writers. Both had an irresistible desire to publish newspapers, and both became editors of their own. papers, and editors of power. Both wrote vigorous, nervous, yet polished prose. Both continued to write poetry during their whole lives. Both were eminent as translators of the ancient classics. Both made purely
literary ventures, and both wrote satires, and bitter ones. Both became involved in personal conflicts. Both wrote strongly against slavery. Both were eminently worshippers, as well as poets of nature. Both, as their lives grew apace, left the press to others, and passed their latter days in quiet retirement. And both enjoyed almost the longest span of life allotted to man, Freneau dying in his eighty-first, and Bryant in his eighty-sixth year.
"But here the parallel ends, for, unlike Bryant, Freneau wrote better in later life than in youth, and his range of subjects and kinds of verse were wider and more varied. Bryant possessed great application, however, while Freneau had little. In fact the latter was too versatile for his own good.
"Such was the poetry of the Huguenot patriot of the Revolution. Born eight years before the death of George the Second, and living far into the presidency of the seventh ruler of the United States, General Andrew Jackson, Philip Freneau is the only poet whose ringing verse roused alike the hearts and nerved the arms of two generations of Americans against England. He immortalized alike the successes of the Revolution and those of the war of 1812. He sang, with equal spirit, force, and fire, the glory of Trenton and the triumph of Chippewa, the conqueror of Yorktown and the victor of Niagara. He sang, too, the heroic battles of Paul Jones on the German Ocean, and those of Perry and McDonough on the waves of Erie and the waters of Champlain, and also, but in sadder strains, the fate of André and the death of Ross."
We have several times mentioned the poem on the battle of " Eutaw Springs" and as it is, in our opinion, the most beautiful of all Freneau's poems we will close this chapter on his writings by giving it to our readers.
At Eutaw Springs the valiant died:
Their limbs with dust are covered o'er ; Weep on, ye springs, your tearful tide; How many heroes are no more! If in this wreck of ruin, they
Can yet be thought to claim a tear, O smite thy gentle breast, and say
The friends of freedom slumber here! Thou who shalt trace this bloody plain,
If goodness rules thy generous breast,
Sigh for the shepherds sunk to rest!
That proves the evening shall be clear.
They saw their injured country's woe,
The flaming town, the wasted field Then rushed to meet the insulting foe;
They took the spear but left the shield. Led by thy conquering standards, Greene, The Britons they compelled to fly; None distant viewed the fatal plain,
None grieved in such a cause to die But like the Parthians, famed of old,
Who, flying, still their arrows threw, These routed Britons, full as bold,
Retreated, and retreating slew.
Now rest in peace, our patriot band;
Though far from nature's limits thrown,
We trust they find a happier land,