The Indian Burying Ground
Time Period: 1752-1832
by Philip Freneau
In spite of all the learned have said,
I still my 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 arraed,
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.
What image of the “Indian” does this poem show?