A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Familiarize Yourself with Philip Freneau's Poetry

Laurence B Holland discusses the poetry of Philip Freneau in a literary review found on pp 1-37 of The Literary Heritage of New Jersey, which is part of the New Jersey Historical Series published in the mid-1960s. For those interested in checking it out, the book can be found at the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library in the stacks under 974.9 H.

Freneau's important works include The Rising Glory of America (Holland discusses it on pp 10-11) and The American Village (Holland discusses the poem on pp 5-6, 11-16). If you want to read the actual poems, which I recommend, they can both be found in Poems of Freneau, edited with a critical introduction by Harry Hayden Clark. That book can also be found in the MAPL stacks, under 811 Fr. Rising Glory is found on pp 3-17 and Village on pp 213-225.

I won't attempt to review Freneau's works here. Both Holland and Clark can tell you a bit about the man and quite a bit about his writing. One thing I'll say is that Holland recommends reading Freneau's Village in comparison to Oliver Goldsmith's The Deserted Village. Goldsmith was lamenting the emptying of English villages as adventurers left the Old World for the New. Freneau's poem echoes Goldsmith's warning about the effects of commercial greed on the environment, the public welfare, and society at large. You can find Goldsmith's Village in Oliver Goldsmith: The Vicar of Wakefield and Other Writings, edited, with an introduction and notes, by Frederick W Hilles. Goldsmith's Village can be found on pp 477-489.

When I looked it up in the electronic card catalog, I found Hilles book designated as being in the "Classics section" at the MAPL. I didn't know where that was, so I asked at the desk. To find the book of Goldsmith poetry and other treasures, go upstairs, turn right and proceed past the CD collection all the way to the wall. Turn left but look at the books on your right as you go. Most will have very familiar titles. Note that the book is under G for Goldsmith, not H for the editor's name.

The classics, all with large, round red stickers on the edge, are books you read in school eons ago. Or ones that you always wanted to get around to reading but for some reason never did. Maybe a few of them were required reading but you took a less than academic short cut to complete an English class assignment? You might have even felt the urge to buy one of them off the classics display at Barnes & Noble. Resist the urge. Take one home for free from MAPL. If you can't muster the strength to read the whole thing, do like I do and cherry pick a section or two of a classic novel or one or two poems from a collection. Flip through the pages, look for the best parts, and leave the rest. Go ahead and sample some good writing. It just might grow on you. You can always return any classic you don't enjoy and get an entirely different one. No charge. Actually, you have to return it. . .

Anyway, back to Freneau. If you do nothing else, read the Indian tale buried in the middle of The American Village (pp 219-223 of Poems of Freneau). The story is so personal I can't believe that it doesn't reflect a personal loss in his life. Ah, but I've said too much already. Start three-quarters down the page, beginning with this introductory section:

But one sad story shall my Muse relate,
Full of paternal love, and full of fate;
Which when ev'n yet the northern shepherd hears,
It swells his breast, and bathes his face in tears,
Prompts the deep groan, and lifts the heaving sigh,
Or brings soft torrents from the female eye.


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