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waves folding themselves gently and noiselessly over beaches of the whitest sand; the brilliant water, now sparkling like sapphire in the sunlight, and again paling into the most delicate turquoise hue when shadowed by a passing cloud; the long sea-grasses of crimson and amber waving to and fro in the water, or tossed here and there when a slight breeze ruffled its bosom; the gauzy-winged fishes as they skimmed over the waves, reflecting the colors of the rainbow,—
“Some streak’d with burnish'd gold, resplendent glare,
Some cleave the limpid deep, all silver'd o'er,
Some red, some blue; of mingled colors more.” He admired the vari-colored houses, of delicate tints of pink, yellow, and blue, nestling in a rich setting of different shades of green :
Among the shades of yonder whispering grove
Fanning with wavy bough the ambient air.
And drop their fruits, unnotic’d and unknown,
He admired the plantain and banana trees with their burdens of luscious fruit; the crimson pomegranates and golden pawpaws of the valleys, behind which towered the rugged peaks of the volcanic ridge clothed with forests of the “ guava's stripling tree,” the smooth white cedar, and the “bay tree with its aromatic green,” and crowned with the graceful waving palm.
1 The Beauties of Santa Cruz.
« Such were the isles which happy Flaccus sung
Where one tree blossoms while another bears,
All this was very delightful to the poetic side of Philip's nature ; but like all that is beautiful on earth, it had its dark side in the detestable slavery that “cast a shadow over all. If you have tears to shed, prepare to shed them now, he writes:
“A description of the cruelties the poor slaves endure would be too irksome and unpleasant to me; and to those who have not beheld it, would be incredible. Sufficient be it to say, that no class of mankind in the known world undergo so complete a servitude as the common negroes in the West Indies. It casts a pall over the natural charms of the country, it blots out the beauties of the eternal spring which providence has there ordained to reign; and amidst all the profusion of bounties which nature has scattered — the brightness of the heaven, the mildness of the air, and the luxuriancy of the vegetable kingdom - it leaves me melancholy and disconsolate, convinced that there is no pleasure in this world without its share of pain. And thus the earth, which, were it not for the lust of pride and dominion, might be an earthly paradise, is, by the ambition and overbearing nature of mankind rendered an eternal scene of desolation, woe, and horror; the weak goes to the wall, while the strong prevails; and after our ambitious frenzy has turned the world upside down we are contented with a narrow spot, and leave our follies and cruelties to be acted over again by every succeeding generation.”
It was during his sojourn upon this island that he wrote his poems entitled, “ The Beauties of Santa Cruz," and the “House of Night.” is a weird thing “founded upon the authority of the Scripture, inasmuch as these sacred books assert,
The latter poem
1 The Beauties of Santa Cruz.
that the last enemy that shall be conquered is Death." Death is herein personified and represented on his dying bed. This scene is in a solitary place, and the time midnight. An amiable, majestic youth who has but lately suffered from his aggression, Death having carried off his beloved wife, with a noble fortitude and humanity entertains him, although an enemy; thus carrying into practice the divine precept, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.” The poem concludes with some reflection on the impropriety of too great an attachment to this
present life, and incentives to such moral virtue as may assist in conducting to a better one.
He describes it as a “fearful vision at the midnight hour."
“Such was the dream the sage Chaldean saw
Disclosed to him that felt heav'n's vengeful rod
Shall mortal man be Juster than his God?'” The poem contains one hundred and thirty-six stanzas, having been increased from the original seventythree. The latter stanzas contain the moral, – “What is this Death, ye deep read sophists, say ?
Death is no more than one unceasing change ;
Yet all is Life throughout creation's range.
The Andes wrapped in everlasting snow,
Sooner or later must to ruin go.
That dust supports a reptile or a flower ;
« Too nearly join'd to sickness, toils and pains,
(Perhaps for former crimes imprison'd here ) True to itself the immortal soul remains,
And seeks new mansions in the starry sphere.
“When Nature bids thee from the world retire,
With Joy thy lodging leave, a fated guest,
Existing always, always to be blest.”
Both of these poems have been changed since originally written in Santa Cruz, and they have been lengthened considerably, the former being increased from fifty-two to one hundred and nine stanzas, and the latter, as we have already stated, from seventy-three to one hundred and thirty-six stanzas.
Most of Freneau's poems have been greatly changed in later editions of his works. He was given to reviewing, which exhibits the care he bestowed upon
productions; but which perhaps caused them to lose some of their original bouquet, if we may use this word in such connection.
It is doubtful if so much revision is beneficial to such spontaneous productions as poetry is supposed to be, and marked by more or less of inspiration. Revision usually being done in moments in which that fire burns low, if at all, it would not be surprising if the various parts of such a whole would seem to be somewhat lacking in harmony of sentiment.
In his “House of Night” Freneau has acknowledged this fact, although he was not alluding to reviewing:
“ Stranger, believe the truth experience tells,
Poetic dreams are of a finer cast
Returning northward, Philip stopped at the Bermudas; and remained there some six months as a guest of the governor. The reason of his prolonged stay in these islands may be accounted for by the numerous sonnets addressed to the fair Amanda, the amiable daughter of his host. And while Philip sipped the governor's wine and basked in the smiles of his fair daughter, his first pure love, fair Liberty, lay bleeding in the dust; and the pen he had vowed to her service was employed in depicting the charms of her rival.