Thursday, August 03, 2006

Item of the Day: Poems on Several Occasions (1795)

Full Title: Poems written between the Years 1768 & 1794, by Philip Freneau, of New Jersey: A New Edition, Revised and Corrected by the Author; Including a considerable number of Pieces never before Published. Monmouth (N.J.), Printed at the press of the author, 1795, and, of American Independence, XIX.

[Already well-known as a poet, satirist and journalist, Philip Freneau was encouraged by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to publish and edit the National Gazette [1791-1793] in Philadelphia. This publication gave voice to Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican views, largely to counterbalance the Hamiltonian Federalist tone of John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States. Freneau is often called the “Poet of the American Revolution.”]

That should have been spoken by the King of the island
of Britain to his Parliament. –

My lords, I can hardly from weeping refrain,
When I think of this year, and its cursed campaign;
But still it is folly to whine and grieve,
For things will yet alter, I hope and believe.

Of the four southern States we again are bereav’d.
They were just in our grasp (or I’m sadly deceiv’d);
There are wizzards [sic] and witches that dwell in those lands
For the moment we gain them, they slip our hands.

Our prospects, at present, most gloomy appear;
Cornwallis returns, with a flea in his ear,
Sir Henry is sick of his station, we know—
And Amherst, though press’d, is unwilling to go.

The HERO that steer’d the Cape of Good Hope
With Monsieur Suffrein was unable to cope—
Many months are elaps’d, yet his talk is to do—
To conquer the Cape, to conquer Peru:

When his squadron at Portsmouth he went to equip,
He promis’d great things from his FIFTY-GUN SHIP;
But, let him alone—while he knows which is which,
He’ll not be ready to “die in a ditch.”

This session, I thought to have told you thus much,
“a treaty concluded, and peace with the Dutch” –
But, as stubborn as ever, they vapour and brag,
And sail by my nose with the Prussian flag.

The empress refuses to join on our side,
As yet with the Indians we’re only ally’d:
(Though such an alliance is rather improper,
We English are white, but their colour is copper.)

The Irish, I fear, have some mischief in view;
They ever have bee a most troublesome crew –
If a truce or a treaty hereafter be made,
They shall pay very dear for their present free trade.

Dame Fortune, I think, has our standard forsaken,
For Tobago, they say, by Frenchmen is taken:
Minorca’s beseig’d—and as for Gibraltar,
By Jove, if it’s taken I’ll take to the halter.

It makes me so wroth, I could scold like a Xantippe
When I think of our losses along Mississippi—
And see in the Indies that horrible Hyder
His conquests extending still wider, and wider.

‘Twixt Washington, Hyder, Don Gavez, De Grasse,
By my soul, we are brought to a very fine pass—
When we’ve reason to hope new battles are won
A packet arrives—and an army’s undone!—

In the midst of this scene of dismay and distress
What is best to be done, is not easy to guess,
For things may go wrong though we plan them aright,
And blows they must look for, whose trade is to fight.

In regard to the Rebels, it is my decree
That dependent on Britain they ever shall be;
Or I’ve captains and hosts, that will fly at my nod
And slaughter them all—by the blessing of God.

But if they succeed, as they’re likely to do,
Our neighbours must part with their colonies too;
Let them laugh and be merry, and make us their jest,
When La Plata revolts, we will laugh with the rest—

‘Tis true that the journey to castle St. Juan
Was a project that brought the projectors to ruin;
But still, my dear lords, I would have you reflect
Who nothing do venture can nothing expect.

If the Commons agree to afford me new treasures,
My sentence once more is for vigorous measures:
Accustom’d so long to head winds and bad weather,
Let us conquer—or go to the devil together.

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