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The Poet of the American Revolution

Two poems from Philip Freneau

The American Soldier

  • A Picture from the Life
  • To serve with love,
  • And shed your blood,
  •         Approved may be above,
  • But here below
  • (Example shew,)
  • ’Tis dangerous to be good.
  • — Lord Oxford
  • Deep in a vale, a stranger now to arms,
  • Too poor to shine in courts, too proud to beg,
  • He, who once warred on Saratoga’s plains,
  • Sits musing o’er his scars, and wooden leg.
  • Remembering still the toil of former days,
  • To other hands he sees his earnings paid; —
  • They share the due reward — he feeds on praise.
  • Lost in the abyss of want, misfortune’s shade.
  • Far, far from domes where splendid tapers glare,
  • ’Tis his from dear bought peace no wealth to win,
  • Removed alike from courtly cringing ’squires,
  • The great-man’s Levee, and the proud man’s grin.
  • Sold are those arms which once on Britons blazed,
  • When, flushed with conquest, to the charge they came;
  • That power repelled, and Freedom’s fabrick raised,
  • She leaves her soldier — famine and a name!

On the Death of Dr. Benjamin Franklin

  • Thus, some tall tree that long hath stood
  • The glory of its native wood,
  • By storms destroyed, or length of years,
  • Demands the tribute of our tears.
  • The pile, that took long time to raise,
  • To dust returns by slow decays:
  • But, when its destined years are o’er,
  • We must regret the loss the more.
  • So long accustomed to your aid,
  • The world laments your exit made;
  • So long befriended by your art,
  • Philosopher, ’tis hard to part! —
  • When monarchs tumble to the ground,
  • Successors easily are found:
  • But, matchless FRANKLIN! what a few
  • Can hope to rival such as YOU,
  • Who seized from kings their sceptered pride,
  • And turned the lightning darts aside.

Philip Freneau (1752–1832) was an American poet and political writer raised in Monmouth County, NJ. Because of his long poem “The British Prison Ship,” which relates his experiences as a POW, Freneau has been called the “Poet of the American Revolution.” After the war, Freneau became Thomas Jefferson’s mouthpiece in the bitter political feuds against Alexander Hamilton. Ironically, since these feuds spilled over into attacks on Hamilton’s peers and friends, including George Washington, the Poet of the American Revolution also earned the undying animosity of the father of our country. While Freneau’s poetic output was uneven, his work provides a literary witness to America’s founding.

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The American Soldier

  • A Picture from the Life
  • To serve with love,
  • And shed your blood,
  •         Approved may be above,
  • But here below
  • (Example shew,)
  • ’Tis dangerous to be good.
  • — Lord Oxford
  • Deep in a vale, a stranger now to arms,
  • Too poor to shine in courts, too proud to beg,
  • He, who once warred on Saratoga’s plains,
  • Sits musing o’er his scars, and wooden leg.
  • Remembering still the toil of former days,
  • To other hands he sees his earnings paid; —
  • They share the due reward — he feeds on praise.
  • Lost in the abyss of want, misfortune’s shade.
  • Far, far from domes where splendid tapers glare,
  • ’Tis his from dear bought peace no wealth to win,
  • Removed alike from courtly cringing ’squires,
  • The great-man’s Levee, and the proud man’s grin.
  • Sold are those arms which once on Britons blazed,
  • When, flushed with conquest, to the charge they came;
  • That power repelled, and Freedom’s fabrick raised,
  • She leaves her soldier — famine and a name!

On the Death of Dr. Benjamin Franklin

  • Thus, some tall tree that long hath stood
  • The glory of its native wood,
  • By storms destroyed, or length of years,
  • Demands the tribute of our tears.
  • The pile, that took long time to raise,
  • To dust returns by slow decays:
  • But, when its destined years are o’er,
  • We must regret the loss the more.
  • So long accustomed to your aid,
  • The world laments your exit made;
  • So long befriended by your art,
  • Philosopher, ’tis hard to part! —
  • When monarchs tumble to the ground,
  • Successors easily are found:
  • But, matchless FRANKLIN! what a few
  • Can hope to rival such as YOU,
  • Who seized from kings their sceptered pride,
  • And turned the lightning darts aside.

Philip Freneau (1752–1832) was an American poet and political writer raised in Monmouth County, NJ. Because of his long poem “The British Prison Ship,” which relates his experiences as a POW, Freneau has been called the “Poet of the American Revolution.” After the war, Freneau became Thomas Jefferson’s mouthpiece in the bitter political feuds against Alexander Hamilton. Ironically, since these feuds spilled over into attacks on Hamilton’s peers and friends, including George Washington, the Poet of the American Revolution also earned the undying animosity of the father of our country. While Freneau’s poetic output was uneven, his work provides a literary witness to America’s founding.

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