Slike strani

sophomore year while at Nassau Hall, Princeton College, which, he says, is distinguished both by the vigor and the correctness of its versification. "His poetic satires against the royalists established his reputation in America, and all these show great talent; and some of his severer satires, such as that on his literary opponent whom he addresses under the name of Mac Swiggin, are characterized by great power."

As this poem gives an insight into Philip's character, his intense love for nature in her varied forms, his lack of desire for fame, yet innate knowledge of his own powers, did he desire to gain it, his scorn for all that was low or base in mankind, and his conscious superiority over a rival whom he has it in the power of his two-edged sword to annihilate; and furthermore as it illustrates that which we have already said his being as much dreaded by a foe, as he was loved as a friend, we will quote some portions of it: "Long have I sat on this disastrous shore, And, sighing, sought to gain a passage o'er To Europe's towns, where, as our travellers say, Poets may flourish, or, perhaps they may; But such abuse has from your coarse pen fell I think I may defer my voyage as well, Why should I far in search of honour roam, And dunces leave to triumph here at home? Great Jove in wrath a spark of genius gave,

And bade me drink the mad Pierian wave
Hence came these rhymes, with truth ascrib'd to me.
That swell thy little soul to jealousy :

If thus, tormented at these flighty lays,

You strive to blast what ne'er was meant for praise,
How will you bear the more exalted rhyme
By labour polish'd and matur'd by time?

Devoted madman! what inspir'd thy rage,
Who bade thy foolish muse with me engage?
Against a windmill would'st thou try thy might,
Against a giant would a pigmy fight?

What could thy slanderous pen with malice arm?
To injure him, who never did thee harm?

Have I from thee been urgent to attain

The mean ideas of thy barren brain?

Have I been seen in borrowed clothes to shine,
And, when detected, swear by Jove they 're mine?
O miscreant, hostile to thine own repose,
From thy own envy thy destruction flows!

Bless'd be our western world-its scenes conspire To raise a poet's fancy and his fire,

Lo, blue-topt mountains to the skies ascend!
Lo, shady forests to the breezes bend!

See mighty streams meandering to the main !
See lambs and lambkins sport on every plain!
The spotted herds in flowery meadows see!
But what, ungenerous wretch, are these to thee!
You find no charms in all that nature yields,
Then leave to me the grottoes and the fields:
I interfere not with your vast design-
Pursue your studies, and I'll follow mine,
Pursue well pleas'd your theologic schemes,
Attend professors, and correct your themes,
Still some dull nonsense, low-bred wit invent,
Or prove from scripture what it never meant,
Or far through law, that land of scoundrels, stray,
And truth disguise through all your mazy way.
Wealth you may gain, your clients you may squeeze,
And, by long cheating, learn to live at ease;

If but in Wood or Littleton well read,

The devil shall help you to your daily bread.

O waft me far, ye muses of the west

Give me your green bowers and soft seats of rest
Thrice happy in those dear retreats to find
A safe retirement from all human kind
Though dire misfortunes every step attend,
The muse, still social, still remains a friend
In solitude her converse gives delight,
With gay poetic dreams she cheers the night,
She aids me, shields me, bears me on her wings,
In spite of growling whelps, to high, exalted things,

Beyond the miscreants that my peace molest,
Miscreants, with dullness and with rage opprest.

Hail, great Mac Swiggen! foe to honest fame,
Patron of dunces, and thyself the same,

You dream of conquest tell me, how, or whence?
Act like a man and combat me with sense —
This evil have I known, and known but once,
Thus to be gall'd and slander'd by a dunce,
Saw rage and weakness join their dastard plan
To crush the shadow, not attack the man.
Assist me, gods, to drive this dog of rhyme
Back to the torments of his native clime,
Where dullness mingles with her native earth,
And rhymes, not worth the pang that gave them birth!
Where did he learn to write or talk with men
A senseless blockhead, with a scribbling pen—
In vile acrostics thou may'st please the fair,
Not less than with thy looks and powder'd hair,
But strive no more with rhyme to daunt thy foes,
Or, by the flame that in my bosom glows,
The muse on thee shall her worst fury spend,
And hemp or water thy vile being end.

Aspers'd like me, who would not grieve and rage!
Who would not burn, Mac Swiggen to engage?
Him and his friends, a mean, designing race,

I, singly I, must combat face to face

Alone I stand to meet the foul-mouth'd train,
Assisted by no poets of the plain,

Whose timorous Muses cannot swell their theme

Beyond a meadow or a purling stream

Were not my breast impervious to despair —
And did not Clio reign unrivall❜d there,

I must expire beneath the ungenerous host,
And dullness triumph o'er a poet lost.

Come on, Mac Swiggen, come your muse is willing, Your prose is merry, but your verse is killing

Come on

attack me with your choicest rhymes, Sound void of sense betrays the unmeaning chimes

Come, league your forces; all your wit combine,
Your wit not equal to the bold design -

[ocr errors]

The heaviest arms the Muse can give, I wield,
To stretch Mac Swiggen floundering on the field,
'Swiggen, who, aided by some spurious Muse,
But bellows nonsense, and but writes abuse,
'Swiggen, immortal and unfading grown,
But by no deeds or merits of his own
So, when some hateful monster sees the day,
In spirits we preserve it from decay,
But for what end, it is not hard to guess
Not for its value, but its ugliness."

[ocr errors]


"Freneau's longest and most carefully written poems were: The House of Night,' 'The Jamaica Funeral,' and 'The Beauties of Santa Cruz;' his most admired is 'The British Prison Ship.'

"The influence of Freneau's wandering and unsettled life is visible in his literary labors, a large portion of which were inspired by the stirring events that were passing around him. For this reason, perhaps, he is not so well known as many other writers to the general reader, even in his own country; while the fierce hostility to England and King George which the great revolutionary struggle had raised in his mind, and which he expresses in very unmeasured language, prevented his being popular among Englishmen, who, indeed, have been generally neglectful of the literature of America. Yet Freneau, as the 'patriot poet,' long enjoyed a very extensive popularity among his own countrymen, and no doubt he deserves to stand among their best poets. There is an ease in his verse, combined with a great command of language, and, at the same time, a simplicity of expression and delicacy of handling, which makes us regret that it was so often employed on subjects the interest of

which was of a temporary character. Many of his poems of a more miscellaneous character present beauties of no ordinary kind, while the playful or satirical humour of others is perfect."

On the evening of March thirteenth of the year 1883, Professor James D. Murray of Princeton College delivered a lecture upon the poet and his poetry before the Long Island Historical Society in the society's building. In regard to his poetry, which is the only portion of the lecture that we shall quote in this chapter, he said: "Freneau was a genius in his way, and had brilliant instincts. Some of his poetry sprung from the intense flame of oppression, and as a poet he blew it to a white heat. He was possessed of an impetuous flow of song for freedom, and his wit was pungent and stinging. That he used this with effect can readily be seen by any person who reads his supposed interview with King George and Fox. Then take his exquisite dirge of the heroes of Eutaw Springs, his odes like Benedict Arnold's Departure;' some parts of them are unrivalled. His works show that he imitated in some degree both Gray and Shelley. Campbell and Scott did not hesitate to borrow from him. . His literary essays were also in this peculiar vein; for instance, his Advice to Authors,' his 'Oration upon Rum,' and a series of character sketches. His City Burying Places' antedates some of our modern suggestions."

[ocr errors]

"There was no difficulty in versification with him,” wrote Dr. Francis. "I told him what I had heard Jeffrey, the eminent Scotch reviewer, say of his writings, that the time would arrive when his poetry, like that of Hudibras, would command a commentator like Grey."

"The poetry of the revolutionary era was not of an exhilarating character certainly, for with the outbreaking of hostilities there came an outburst otherwise

« PrejšnjaNaprej »