Philip Freneau

Comments & Themes


Receipt for the National Gazette written by Freneau

  • In what ways is the religion Freneau delineates in "The Religion of Nature" illustrative of Enlightenment thought? Look for both similarities and differences between this religious system and Ralph Waldo Emerson's transcendental one, as expressed in the poem "The Problem" or in his essay.


  • "The Wild Honey Suckle" should be appreciated as an early example of American Romantic poetry. How does it look forward to later poems such as William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis" or "To a Waterfowl" and Emerson's "The Rhodora"?


  • Bridging the 18th and 19th centuries, Freneau's poetry was clearly transitional and therefore can be very instructive for our understanding of characteristic thinking of both periods. In what ways do poems like "On the Emigration to America and Peopling the Western Country" and "Lines Occasioned by a Visit to an Old Indian Burying Ground" reveal a tension between the Enlightenment and Romantic mentalities? Pay particular attention to Freneau's use of the terms "Art", "Nature" and "Reason" in the former. In the latter, which of the two powers competing for control of the poet's mind, fancy and reason, is victorious at the end of the poem?


  • Both the situation (an individual contemplating nature) and theme (the contemplation of death) are similar in "The Wild Honey Suckle" and "On Observing a Large Red-Streak Apple". But it is probably safe to say that one is a much more successful poem than the other. Which one do you think is better, and why?


  • What problem facing American writers of the early 19th century was Freneau satirizing in "To a New England Poet"?