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The Indian Burying Ground BY PHILIP FRENEAU (1787)

 

In spite of all the learned have said, I still my old opinion keep; The posture, that we give the dead, Points out the soul’s eternal sleep. Not so the ancients of these lands— The Indian, when from life released, Again is seated with his friends, And shares again the joyous feast. His imaged birds, and painted bowl, And venison, for a journey dressed, Bespeak the nature of the soul, Activity, that knows no rest. His bow, for action ready bent, And arrows, with a head of stone, Can only mean that life is spent, And not the old ideas gone. Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way, No fraud upon the dead commit— Observe the swelling turf, and say They do not lie, but here they sit. Here still a lofty rock remains, On which the curious eye may trace (Now wasted, half, by wearing rains) The fancies of a ruder race. Here still an aged elm aspires, Beneath whose far-projecting shade (And which the shepherd still admires) The children of the forest played! There oft a restless Indian queen (Pale Shebah, with her braided hair) And many a barbarous form is seen To chide the man that lingers there. By midnight moons, o’er moistening dews; In habit for the chase arrayed, The hunter still the deer pursues, The hunter and the deer, a shade! And long shall timorous fancy see The painted chief, and pointed spear, And Reason’s self shall bow the knee To shadows and delusions here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on the poem by Princeton educated New Englander Philip Freneau lamenting the by-gone “Indian” in 1787, the map of the exploration of Lewis and Clark and Zebulon Pike less than 20 years later, and the readings for the week of 10/31 that describe the social, cultural, and political climate in the Southwest present day United States up to the mid-1800s—Is it reasonable to believe that Freneau truly believed the Native Americans were part of the “American” past? Also, what do you think contributed to the romanticized portrayals of Native Americans in Freneau’s poem and do you think his poem resonated with Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, other newly educated “Americans” venturing West? (do notforget Sacajewa) Your response should be no more than ONE page typed due 11/6 by 5pm

 

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