Philip Morin Freneau (1752-1832)

The Indian Burying Ground (1788)


              1          In spite of all the learned have said,

              2          I still my old opinion keep;

              3          The posture, that we give the dead,

              4          Points out the soulís eternal sleep.


              5          Not so the ancients of these lands --

              6          The Indian, when from life released,

              7          Again is seated with his friends,

              8          And shares again the joyous feast.


              9          His imaged birds, and painted bowl,

            10          And venison, for a journey dressed,

            11          Bespeak the nature of the soul,

            12          Activity, that knows no rest.


            13          His bow, for action ready bent,

            14          And arrows, with a head of stone,

            15          Can only mean that life is spent,

            16          And not the old ideas gone.


            17          Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way,

            18          No fraud upon the dead commit --

            19          Observe the swelling turf, and say

            20          They do not lie, but here they sit.


            21          Here still a lofty rock remains,

            22          On which the curious eye may trace

            23          (Now wasted, half, by wearing rains)

            24          The fancies of a ruder race.


            25          Here still an aged elm aspires,

            26          Beneath whose far-projecting shade

            27          (And which the shepherd still admires)

            28          The children of the forest played!


            29          There oft a restless Indian queen

            30          (Pale Shebah, with her braided hair)

            31          And many a barbarous form is seen

            32          To chide the man that lingers there.


            33          By midnight moons, oíer moistening dews;

            34          In habit for the chase arrayed,

            35          The hunter still the deer pursues,

            36          The hunter and the deer, a shade!


            37          And long shall timorous fancy see

            38          The painted chief, and pointed spear,

            39          And Reasonís self shall bow the knee

            40          To shadows and delusions here.