The Indian Burying Ground

Phillip Freneau (1732 – 1832)

In spite of all the learn’d have said;

I still my old opinion keep,

The posture, that we give the dead,

Points out the soul’s eternal sleep.

Not so the ancients of these lands 

The Indian, when from life releas’d

Again is seated with his friends,

And shares again the joyous feast.

His imag’d birds, and painted bowl,

And ven’son, for a journey dress’d,

Bespeak the nature of the soul,

Activity, that knows no rest.

His bow, for action ready bent,

And arrows, with a head of stone,

Can only mean that life is spent,

And not the finer essence gone.

Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way.

No fraud upon the dead commit —

Observe the swelling turf, and say

They do not lie, but here they sit.

Here still a lofty rock remains,

On which the curious eye may trace,

(Now wasted, half, by wearing rains)

The fancies of a older race.

Here still an aged elm aspires,

Beneath whose far-projecting shade

(And which the shepherd still admires)

The children of the forest play’d!

There oft a restless Indian queen

(Pale Shebah, with her braided hair)

And many a barbarous form is seen

To chide the man that lingers there.

By midnight moons, o’er moistening dews,

In habit for the chase array’d,

The hunter still the deer pursues,

The hunter and the deer, a shade!

And long shall timorous fancy see

The painted chief, and pointed spear,

And reason’s self shall bow the knee

To shadows and delusions here.

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