Philip Freneau, sometimes referred to as the “Poet of the American Revolution,” once resided in the Estate Butler Bay Greathouse on St. Croix’s West End where he penned On the Beauties of Santa Cruz, a poem about the beauty of St. Croix. The Estate is now listed for sale by Coldwell Banker St. Croix Realty: 24 A, B, C Prospect Hill NA.
Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Freneau left America in 1776 for the West Indies to spend time writing about the beauty of nature. On the Beauties of Santa Cruz begins by describing how many of us who live here now feel about the differences between living in a northern climate versus the Caribbean.
Sick of thy northern glooms, come, shepherd, seekMore equal climes, and a serener sky:Why shouldst thou toil amid thy frozen ground,Where half year’s snows, a barren prospect lie,When thou mayst go where never frost was seen,Or north-west winds with cutting fury blow,Where never ice congeal’d the limpid stream,Where never mountain tipt its head with snow
In happiest climate lies this envied isle,
Trees bloom throughout the year, streams ever flow,And fragrant Flora wears a lasting smile.
He goes on to poeticize the sea life, luscious fruits, lush forest, and the many other beauties of the island. “Unnumber’d myriads of the scaly race,” including dolphins, whales, turtles, grouper, bonetta and others are described as colorful…and delicious! Like many of us now, Freneau learned the native trees, from “the poisonous manchineel, Which for its fragrant apple pleaseth thee” to “the happy flavour’d pine” or pineapple which “Stands arm’d with swords from potent nature won.”
Though most of Freneau’s depiction of Santa Cruz is Edenic, he does acknowledge the existence of less desirable conditions, both human-made and nature’s “mighty winds, fierce hurricanes.” Read the full text of On the Beauties of Santa Cruz.
Freneau returned to America in 1778 where he was a privateer and then a newspaper editor. During that time he became known for his criticism of the policies of Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. He died at the age of 80, ironically frozen to death while trying to get back home.