“The Prairies” And “On The Emigration To America” Essay, Research Paper
Settlement. What does it mean to settle? In terms of the American experience settlement is at the basis of all that America is. This country was founded on the aspect of settlement. Webster?s dictionary defines settlement as the act of establishing residence in a particular place. There were many reasons that the early Americans came to the new world; whether it be because of religious persecution, business wise, or just to gain freedom. There were many pieces of literature that came about in the early stages of American growth that dealt with the issue of settlement. Two famous works that dealed with the settlement of America are, ?On the Emigration to America,? by Philip Freneau and ?The Prairies,? by William Cullen Bryant. These two poems deal with the settling of America during different times in America?s history. Freneau wrote around the late 1700?s, whereas Bryant wrote his poem around the 1830?s. There are three major issues surrounding settlement that these two authors write about. The first issue is of the American Indians. The second issue is of what to do with the rich resources of the New World. The third issue that the writer talk about is that of the intentions that the settlers are bringing with them to the New World. All these thoughts and beliefs are intertwined into the poems of these two writers. Although they might not agree on all aspects of the American settlement, they agree that America was one of the best things that happened to the world in a long time.
During the period of settlement of the New World, the European settlers moved in and they inadvertently changed the lives and ways of the American Indian. Even though the Indians were a very peaceful people, they felt very threatened by the Europeans moving into their territory. The summing of the European settlers said good-bye to all that the Indians knew, or ever will know. It was seen that as soon as the Europeans moved into the New World the Indians wanted to get away from the towns and cities that the settlers were making. Freneau writes,
?From these fair plains, these rural seats, So long concealed, so lately known, The unsocial Indian far retreats, To make some other clime his own, Where other streams, less pleasing flow, And darker forests round him grow (815).?
Freneau argues here that when the settlers came to the New World, they were tearing down the forests left and right, and in turn it they were destroying all that was familiar and known to the Indians. Once the settlers started coming in, the Indians had nothing to do other than retreat farther into the woods to get away from them, but to also get back to what they are used to. Likewise, Bryant writes, ?The red man came- The roaming hunter tribes, a warlike and fierce, And the mound-builders vanished from the earth. The solitude of the centuries untold Has settled where they dwelt (1043).? Here Bryant talks about the how the Indians used to be in the same situation as the European settlers. The Indians used to be a group of settlers and they pushed out the mound builders that used to be in parts of Illinois, but now the tides have turned and the Indians are now being pushed out of their lands. Bryant also writes, ?Thus change the forms of being. Thus arise Races of Living things, glorious in strength, And perish, as the quickening breath of God Fills them or is withdrawn (1044).? Everything that is great must one day come to an end, and that is the comparison that Bryant is trying to make. The European settlers came in and they brought a great people to their knees, thus changing the lives of Indians all over North America. The American Indian was forever changed once the first settlers came over one the Mayflower. Never again will the Indians be the same.
When the first settlers came to the New World, they brought with them the ambition to make this world as great, if not better than the countries of Europe. They saw the potential that the New World had and they were eager to put it to good use. Bryant writes, ?These are the Gardens of the Desert, these The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful (1042).? Here he talks about how the land is plentiful and full of life. At the time in Europe, there was no land left for anyone. All the land was locked up and in the hands of the wealthy kings and lords. American land, however, was new and untouched. There was plenty of it to go around. These fields and forests have not been touched yet by the hands of man, but that there was much potential. Similar to what Freneau writes about. ?What charming scenes attract the eye, On Ohio?s savage stream! There Nature reigns, whose works outvie the boldest pattern art can frame; There ages past have rolled away, and forests bloomed but to decay (815).? The wild lands of the American frontier were just waiting for the early settlers to come and tame the land. All the forests were doing was decaying, so it needs people to come and make good use out of it. Later on Freneau argues, ? . . . Ten thousand streams to swell thy sway! No longer shall they useless prove, Nor idly through the forests rove (815) . . .? Freneau tries to argue that the settling people need to use nature to their advantage. That is what it is there for, to be used to benefit the new settlers. The New World was seen as a golden gem. The people of the time saw it as a land that had endless opportunities through their rich natural resources and untouched lands.
The settlers of the New World came with many intentions of freedom, wealth and prosperity. Most of the settlers came from the many countries in Europe. In Europe there was the feudal system in which only a few owned the land and others were workers of that land. The early settlers came to the colonies in order to gain a new life. Here they could be free of the feudal system and could now be landowners themselves. Freneau writes,
?From Europe?s proud, despotic shores Hither the stranger takes his way, And now our new found world explores A happier soil, a milder sway, Where no proud despot holds him down, no slaves insult him with a crown (815).?
To the new settlers, Europe is nothing more than a memory. The New World offers new opportunity where no one will put them down because there are no kings in this land, and there are very few laws that govern the land. However Bryant disagrees,
?The barriers which they builded from the soil To keep the foe at bay ? till o?er the walls The wild beleaguers broke, and, one by one, the strong holds of the plain were forced, and heaped With corpses (1043).?
No matter what the intentions were of the European settlers, all they did was corrupt and kill once they got to the new world. It was a killing of both the native peoples as well as the killing of Mother Nature herself. All of the natural barriers that kept the settlers from moving further west had been conquered and thus nature could no longer keep those settlers at bay. The settlers of this country came to the New World with many different ideas and expectations. Some of them came with thoughts of leaving behind an old world of feudal kings and lords, where as others just came to make their lives better than it was before. Even though Freneau and Bryant had differing ideas of the settlers? intentions, it was those intentions that formed the very basis of where the country is today.
The New World was considered a prized gem in the early stages of development. There was so much to take advantage of and for the settlers to use for their advantage. This New World had much to offer to the many settlers that move in and journeyed west throughout the centuries. There were vast forests that provided much lumber and housed many animals in which the settlers could hunt. There were many large waterways in which there was an option to be able to use them as commerce as well as feed their families and make a good living off of the rivers. There were many plains that the early settlers could grow their crops and build farms on. There were endless opportunities that the New World brought forth. Along with the great visions that the settlers had, there was but one thing that could get in the way of attaining their dreams, and that was the Indians. The Indians did what they could to protect themselves and their land, but they could only do so much. The further west that the Europeans settled, the further west the Indians moved. The Europeans did all they could to protect their interests while settling into America. Not only did The Europeans bring with them dreams using the vast resources, they also brought other intentions such as their dreams of religious freedom, their dreams of becoming landowners and their overall dreams of becoming a free people. William Cullen Bryant?s ?The Prairies,? and ?On the Emigration to America,? by Philip Freneau, best exemplify all of these things. Both poems talk about the settlement of America. Both present their ideas of how the New World is and how it should be. Even though they do not agree on everything, their overall message is of how spectacular America is and how it?s going to be.
Baym, Nina (Ed.). (1998). The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.