There was patriotic verse in extraordinary profusion, but its literary value is slight, and it reveals few moods of the American
mind that are not more perfectly conveyed through oratory, the pamphlet, and the political essay.
The immediate models of this Revolutionary verse were the minor British bards of the eighteenth century, a century greatly given to verse-writing, but endowed by Heaven with the “prose-reason” mainly.
The reader of Burton E. Stevenson
's collection of Poems of American history
can easily compare the contemporary verse inspired by the events of the Revolution with the modern verse upon the same historic themes.
He will see how slenderly equipped for song were most of the later eighteenth-century Americans
and how unfavorable to poetry was the tone of that hour.
himself suffered, throughout his long career, from the depressing indifference of his public to the true spirit of poetry.
“An old college mate of mine,” said James Madison
— who was by tradition Freneau
's room-mate at Princeton
in the class of 1771--“a poet and man of literary and refined tastes, knowing nothing of the world.”
When but three years out of college, the cautious Madison
wrote to another friend: