Imágenes de páginas


gan life as an infant prodigy and ended it as a judge of the superior court. When he was five years old, John he listened to his father's lessons to a young Trumbull, man who was preparing for college, and then said to his mother, "I'm going to study Latin, too." The result was that when he was seven, he passed his entrance examinations for Yale, sitting upon a man's knee, so the tradition says, because he was too little to reach the table. He was taken home, however, M'Fingal, and did not enter college until he was thirteen. 1775. He wrote the best satire of the Revolutionary days, M'Fingal. His hero is a Tory.

From Boston in his best array

Great Squire M'Fingal took his way.

The poem is a frank imitation of Hudibras, and, either luckily or unluckily for Trumbull's fame, some of his couplets are so good that they are often attributed to Butler. Among them are:

[ocr errors]

No man e'er felt the halter draw
With good opinion of the law.

But optics sharp it needs, I ween,

To see what is not to be seen.

In 1778

Joel Bar

low, 1754

or 1755


The third of this group was Joel Barlow. he graduated from Yale. His part in the Commencement programme was a poem, The Prospect of Peace. He was well qualified to write on such a subject, for he had had a fashion of slipping away to the army when his vacations came around, and doing a little fighting. Two years later, he followed the example of his friend Dwight, and became an army chaplain. After the war was over, he produced

The Vision of Columbus, 1787.

a poem, The Vision of Columbus, afterwards expanded into an epic, The Columbiad. People were so carried away with its patriotism and its The Colum- sonorous phrases that they forgot to be critical, biad, 1807. and the poem made its author famous. He is remembered now, however, by a merry little rhyme which he wrote on being served with hasty pudding in Savoy. He takes for the motto of his poem the dignified Latin sentiment, "Omne tulit punc1796. tum qui miscuit utile dulci," and translates it delightfully," He makes a good breakfast who mixes pudding with molasses." He thus apostrophizes the delicacy:

The Hasty

[ocr errors]

Dear Hasty Pudding, what unpromised joy
Expands my heart, to meet thee in Savoy!
Doom'd o'er the world through devious paths to roam,
Each clime my country and each house my home,
My soul is soothed, my cares have found an end,
I greet my long-lost, unforgotten friend.

Poor Barlow! aspiring to a national epic and remem bered by nothing but a rhyme on hasty pudding!

15. Philip Freneau, 1752-1832. In the midst of these writers of unwieldy and long-forgotten epics was one man in whom there abode a real poetic talent, Philip Freneau, born in New York. His early poems were satires and songs, often of small literary merit, indeed, but with a ring and a swing that made them almost sing themselves. The boys in the streets, as well as the soldiers in the camps, must have enjoyed shouting:

[ocr errors]

When a certain great king, whose initial is G,

Forces Stamps upon paper, and folks to drink Tea;
When these folks burn his tea and stampt paper, like stubble
You may guess that this king is then coming to trouble.

When the war was over, verse that was neither epic,

war song, nor satire had a chance to win appreciation. Freneau then published, in 1786, a volume of Poems, poems. In some of them there is a sincere 1786. poetic tenderness and delicacy of touch; for instance, in his memorial to the soldiers who fell at Eutaw Springs, he says:

Stranger, their humble graves adorn;

You too may fall, and ask a tear;

'Tis not the beauty of the morn

That proves the evening shall be clear.

The lyric music rings even more melodiously in his Wild Honeysuckle, which ends :

From morning suns and evening dews
At first thy little being came;
If nothing once, you nothing lose,
For when you die you are the same;
The space between is but an hour,
The frail duration of a flower.

This year 1786 was the one in which Burns published his first volume, and the year in which he wrote of his "Wee, modest, crimson-tippéd flower." Freneau was as free as Burns from the influence of Pope and his heroic couplet which had so dominated the poets of England for the greater part of the eighteenth century. He was no imitator; and he had another of the distinctive marks of a true poet, he could find the poetic where others found nothing but the prosaic. Before his time, the American Indian, for instance, had hardly appeared in literature; Freneau was the first to see that there was something poetic in the pathos of a vanishing race. In all the rhyming of the two centuries immediately preceding 1800, there is nothing that gave such hope for the future of American poetry as some of the poems of Philip Freneau.

16. Charles Brockden Brown, 1771-1810. There was hope, too, for American prose, and in a new line, that of fiction; for the Philadelphia writer, Charles Brockden Brown, published in 1798 a novel entitled Wieland. It is full of mysterious voices, murders, and threatened murders, whose cause and explanation prove to be the power of a ventriloquist. The book was called "thrilling and exciting in the highest degree;" but the twentieth-century reader cannot help wondering why the afflicted family did not investigate matters and why the tormented heroine did not get a watch-dog. Then, too, comes the thought of what the genius of Poe could have done with such material. Nevertheless, there is undeniable talent in the book, and unmistakable promise for the future. Some of the scenes, especially the last meeting between the heroine and her half-maniac brother, are powerfully drawn. Brown published several other novels, one of which, Arthur Mervyn, Mervyn, is valued for its vivid descriptions of a visita1799-1800. tion of the yellow fever to Philadelphia. Like Freneau, Brown saw in the Indian good material for literature; but to him the red man was neither pathetic nor romantic, — he was simply a terrible danger of the western wilderness.


Wieland, 1798.

During the fifty years of the Revolutionary period, the literary spirit had first manifested itself in the prac tical, utilitarian prose of Franklin and the writers of The Federalist and other political pamphlets; then in the patriotic satires and epics of the Hartford Wits. Finally, in the work of both Freneau and Brown there was manifest a looking forward to literature for literature's sake, to a poetry that dreamed of the beautiful, to a prose that reached out toward the imaginative and the creative.



Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine

Thomas Jefferson
George Washington
The Federalist

Timothy Dwight
John Trumbull

Joel Barlow

Philip Freneau

Charles Brockden Brown


The passage of the Stamp Act turned the literary activity of the colonists from history and religious poetry toward oratory, political writings, satire, war songs, and patriotic poems. Franklin was the most versatile man of his times. His work in politics, science, and literature deserved the honor which it received. His most popular publication was Poor Richard's. Almanac. His work of most interest to-day is his Autobiography. The leading orators were Otis, Lee, and Henry. Some of the political writers were Paine, Jefferson, and Washington. The Federalist contains many political essays by Hamilton, Jay, and Madison. Among the "Hartford Wits Dwight, the author of The Conquest of Canaan, but best known by his hymns; Trumbull, whose M'Fingal was the best satire of the Revolution; and Barlow, who wrote an epic, The Columbiad, but is best known by his rhyme, The Hasty Pudding. Freneau wrote poems that rank him above all other poets of the period. Brown's Wieland was the forerunner of the nineteenth-century novel.


« AnteriorContinuar »