FRENEAU, PHILIP. Born in New York City, 1752; died near Monmouth, New Jersey, 1832. The earliest of American poets to display a lyric gift capable of sustained exercise, Philip Freneau left a body of poetic work important for its formative influence upon his immediate successors and notable in itself, when considered from the period which produced it. Freneau's work was chiefly done prior to the Romantic Movement in England, before lyric poetry had received the great impetus and liberation which came with that movement and before poetic form had been released from its classic restraints. There was no poetic school in America, no master to emulate, no atmosphere to stimulate a young poet. Freneau was a pioneer, and one is surprised at the fresh note which still gives a modern touch to some of his lyrics. His personal life was active and adventurous and spanned the great period of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and other events of moment in American history. For several years Freneau followed the sea, making voyages to the West Indies and other ports, often in command of merchant vessels. In 1780 his ship was captured and all on board were taken prisoners. Freneau has recorded the adventure in a poem of four cantos, "The British Prison Ship." After leaving sea life Freneau became a journalist.

This biographical note is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.



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