ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

First American-Born Poet: Philip Freneau

Updated on September 27, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Philip Freneau



Born on January 2, 1752, in New York, Freneau is the first American poet born on American soil.

Philip Freneau might be considered the fourth American poet chronologically, as he takes his place among such luminaries as Phillis Wheatley, Anne Bradstreet, and Edward Taylor. Born on January 2, 1752, in New York, Freneau is the first American poet born on American soil. Wheatley was born in Senegal, and both Taylor and Bradstreet were born in England.

A Political Romantic

Although Freneau had a penchant for romanticism by nature, the times in which he lived influenced him to become political. He satirizes the British during the revolutionary period.

While attending Princeton University, Freneau and future president James Madison were roommates. After graduation from Princeton, Freneau taught school for while but found that he had no desire to continue in that profession. In 1775, he met with his first success in writing satirical, political pamphlets.

While continuing to write creatively his entire life, he also worked as a sea captain, a journalist, and a farmer. In 1776, he traveled to the West Indies, where he wrote "The House of Night." F. L. Pattee has claimed that this poem was the "first distinctly romantic note heard in America.”

Father of American Poetry

Even with his many political and journalistic pieces, Freneau remained a poet first. He was also deeply spiritual. He would have preferred to focus solely on writing about God's mystery and the beauty of nature, but the turbulent period in which he lived influenced him to broaden his scope.

It is most appropriate that Philip Freneau be titled, "Father of American Poetry." The following musing regarding the nature of his times demonstrates his preference for concentration:

On these bleak climes by fortune thrown
Where rigid reason reigns alone,
Where lovely fancy has no sway,
Nor magic forms about us play—
Nor nature takes her summer hue,
Tell me, what has the muse to do?

Harsh Criticism

The relative obscurity of Freneau is likely the result of harsh, misunderstanding critics and political opponents who labeled him an incendiary journalist and further denigrated him by calling him a writer of wretched and insolent doggerel. None of which is true, of course.

Most scholars have more generously opined that Freneau could have produced poetry of higher literary merit if he had focused only on poetry instead of politics. No doubt, Freneau believed the same about his works. He felt that the good of the country was more important than what he preferred to spend his time on.

Poet of the Revolution

Freneau’s own remark about the period in which lived possibly demonstrates much about the likelihood of his becoming a major figure in the literary world. He wrote, “An age employed in edging steel / Can no poetic rapture feel.” Such a pessimistic evaluation surely affected the essentially optimistic poet.

Still, readers are fortunate that several of the important poems of our “Father of American Poetry” are widely available. Whether we prefer to think of him as the “Poet of the Revolution” or “The Father of American Poetry,” Philip Freneau is definitely worth reading and studying.

Introduction to Philip Freneau

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


Submit a Comment

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, Ven! I hope to offer commentaries about some of Freneau's most anthologized poems in the future.

  • Venkatachari M profile image

    Venkatachari M 

    2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Very interesting and informative hub. You brought into light the greatness of an aptly deserving poet whom most of us may not be knowing. The sample presented by you is very beautiful showcasing his great writing skills. Thanks for it.

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, Janis. Yes, it does seem odd that Freneau has received so little notice. One would think that the Father of American Poetry would get much more attention.

  • janshares profile image

    Janis Leslie Evans 

    2 years ago from Washington, DC

    Very informative, Linda Sue. I've never heard of Philip Freneau. I really appreciate this interesting and little known history you've presented. Excellent job, thank you very much.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)