The Wild Honeysuckle
Hid in this silent, dull retreat,
Untouch’d thy honey’d blossoms blow,
Unseen thy little branches greet:
No roving foot shall crush thee here,
No busy hand provoke a tear.
By Nature’s self in white array’d,
She bade thee shun the vulgar eye,
And planted here the guardian shade,
And sent soft waters murmuring by;
Thus quietly thy summer goes,
Thy days declining to repose.
Smit with those charms, that must decay,
I grieve to see thy future doom;
They died—nor were those flowers more gay,
(The flowers that did in Eden bloom)
Unpitying frosts and Autumn’s power
Shall leave no vestige of this flower.
From morning suns and evening dews
At first thy little being came:
If nothing once, you nothing lose,
For when you die you are the same;
The space between is but an hour,
The mere idea of a flower.
This poem is in the public domain.
About this Poem
Written in Charleston, S. C., in July, 1786. It appeared first in the Freeman's Journal, August 2, 1786, and was republished in the edition of 1788, and in the later editions, almost without change. The poet probably refers to the Rhododendron Viscosum, or as some call it the Asalia viscosun since it is the only flower popularly known as the wild honeysuckle that is both white and fragrant. According to Chapman's Southern Flora, it flowers in the latitude of Charleston in July and August. The text is from the edition of 1809.
Born in New York City and raise in Monmouth Country, New Jersey, Philip Morin Freneau graduation from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1771; at the college commencement, his friend Hugh Henry Breckenridge read The Rising Glory of America, a poem on which the two had collaborated. While working for a short time as a schoolteacher in Long Island, Freneau published anti-British satirical verses. He spent two years as secretary to a planter on St. Croix. Having volunteered for military service in 1778, he was captured by a British man-of-war in the a Caribbean and imprisoned, later recounting his ordeal in The British Prison-Ship (1781).
During the 1780s, Freneau worked as a postal clerk in Philadelphia; from 1784 to 1790, he captained a merchant ship in the Caribbean. He published The Poems of Philip Freneau, Written Chiefly dying the Late War in 1786, and The Miscellaneous Works of Mr. Philip Freneau in 1788. Settling briefly in Middleton Point, New Jersey, where he married, in 1791 Freneau was offered a government clerkship by Thomas Jefferson and moved to Philadelphia where he founded and edited the anti-Federalist National Gazette. George Washington referred to him as “that rascal Freneau.”
Returning to New Jersey in 1793 after Jefferson lost his position as secrete of state, Freneau edited asmall New York and New Jersey newspapers and until 1804 occasionally worked as a caption of merchant vessels. His Poems Written between the Years 1768 & 1794 was published in 1795; Poems Written and Published during the American Revolutionary War appears in 1809.
Date Published: 1785-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/wild-honeysuckle