91 The Wild Honey Suckle (1786) By Philip Freneau

Freneau doubtless wrote this poem 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.

 

Fair flower, that dost so comely grow,

Hid in this silent, dull retreat,

Untouched thy honied 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 arrayed,

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 your 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 frail duration of a flower.

 

Source:

Poems of Philip Freneau, Volume II, Fred Lewis Pattee, ed. Public Domain

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