Great Sire of Floods: Mix-Master P.F.

I feel a bit guilty for posting Iggy & the Stooges recently so I need to reel it in and bring it back to the theme of this blog. This 18th Century quintessential American poem gets the most views here at ConnectHook. I love this poet’s imagery, patriotism, and octosyllabic rhyme. Give it up for Mix Master P. Freneau!


On the Emigration to America and Peopling the Western Country

Philip Freneau (1752-1832)

To western woods, and lonely plains,
Palemon from the crowd departs,
Where Nature’s wildest genius reigns,
To tame the soil, and plant the arts–
What wonders there shall freedom show,
What mighty states successive grow!

From Europe’s proud, despotic shores
Hither the stranger takes his way,
And in our new found world explores
A happier soil, a milder sway,
Where no proud despot holds him down,
No slaves insult him with a crown.

What charming scenes attract the eye,
On wild Ohio’s savage stream!
There Nature reigns, whose works outvie
The boldest pattern art can frame;
There ages past have rolled away,
And forests bloomed but to decay.

From these fair plains, these rural seats,
So long concealed, so lately known,
The unsocial Indian far retreats,
To make some other clime his own,
When other streams, less pleasing flow,
And darker forests round him grow.

Great Sire of floods! whose varied wave
Through climes and countries take its way,
To whom creating Nature gave
Ten thousand streams to swell thy sway!
No longer shall they useless prove,
Nor idly through the forests rove;

Nor longer shall your princely flood
From distant lakes be swelled in vain,
Nor longer through a darksome wood
Advance, unnoticed to the main,
Far other ends, the heavens decree–
And commerce plans new freights for thee.

While virtue warms the generous breast,
There heaven-born freedom shall reside,
Nor shall the voice of war molest,
Nor Europe’s all-aspiring pride–
There Reason shall new laws devise,
And order from confusion rise.

Forsaking kings and regal state,
With all their pomp and fancied bliss,
The traveller owns, convinced though late,
No realm so free, so blest as this–
The east is half to slaves consigned,
Where kings and priests enchain the mind.

O come the time, and haste the day,
When man shall man to longer crush,
When Reason shall enforce her sway,
Nor these fair regions raise our blush,
Where still the African complains,
And mourns his yet unbroken chains.

Far brighter scenes a future age,
The muse predicts, these States will hail,
Whose genius may the world engage,
Whose deeds may over death prevail,
And happier systems bring to view
Than all the eastern sages knew.


Popular Poem

I am surprised, as I look at the blog statistics, to see that this poem, written in the early 1800’s, is one of the most often-viewed items at ConnectHook. I am not sure why. I imagine acned high-schoolers Googling furiously to finish Social Studies papers at 11 PM being directed to my poetry blog by the data-driven mechanisms of the internet. But it is encouraging to know that so many unknown readers are taking in this profound and timely message in elegantly-phrased rhyme, from an American Master. Let’s hear it for decasyllabic couplets:

A Warning to America

Philip Freneau (1752 – 1832)

Removed from Europe’s feuds, a hateful scene

(Thank heaven, such wastes of ocean roll between)

Where tyrant kings in bloody schemes combine,

And each forbodes in tears, Man is no longer mine !

Glad we recall the Day that bade us first

Spurn at their power, and shun their wars accurst;

Pitted and gaffed no more for England’s glory

Nor made the tag-rag-bobtail of their story.

Something still wrong in every system lurks.

Something imperfect haunts all human works —

Wars must be hatched, unthinking men to fleece,

Or we, this day, had been in perfect peace,

With double bolts our Janus’ temple shut.

Nor terror reigned through each backwoodsman’s hut,

No rattling drums assailed the peasant’s ear

Nor Indian yells disturbed our sad frontier,

Nor gallant chiefs, ‘gainst Indian hosts combined

Scaped from the trap — to leave their tails behind.

Peace to all feuds ! — and come the happier day

When Reason’s sun shall light us on our way ;

When erring man shall all his Rights retrieve.

No despots rule him, and no priests deceive,

Till then, Columbia ! — watch each stretch of power.

Nor sleep too soundly at the midnight hour,

By flattery won, and lulled by soothing strains,

Silenus took his nap — and waked in chains —

In a soft dream of smooth delusion led

Unthinking Gallia bowed her drooping head

To tyrants’ yokes — and met such bruises there.

As now must take three ages to repair;

Then keep the paths of dear bought freedom clear,

Nor slavish systems grant admittance here.

Mix-Master P. Freneau

YO—my boy Phillip Freneau be THROWIN’ down lyrics, gnome sain?

I need to get more into this patriot-poet of the revolutionary era.
There is so much to discover in  his prodigious body of work.
He  was quite the American rap-artist…

A Warning to America is as timely as ever.
These poems by Freneau  go out  to all  Tea-Partiers and their adversaries, regardless of election results. Don’t believe the hype. Tea party is a state of mind and Freneau was definitely there.
He wrote a great poem about it.

He  evoked the romance of the new world as felt in the days before the frontiers of the U.S.  had been expanded in poems like On the Emigration to America and The Indian Burying Ground ( …Pale Shebah with her braided hair… !).  This era represents a literary high-point in history for the type of poetry I esteem.

Here’s a link if you like what you found.