On the Religion of Nature Poem by Philip Freneau Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“On the Religion of Nature” is a poem written by Philip Freneau. It is a poem that appreciates nature and God. 

About the Poet:

Philip Freneau (1752-1832) was a notable American poet and editor. He owned the newspaper “National Gazette” and was popularly nicknamed “Poet of the American Revolution”. Famous works of his include “The Wild Honey Suckle”, “The American Village”, and “On the Religion of Nature”. 


This poem is divided into 5 stanzas consisting of 6 lines each. Each stanza follows the rhyme scheme ‘ababcc’.

Explanation of the Stanzas:

Stanza 1:

The power, that gives with liberal hand
   The blessings man enjoys, while here,
And scatters through a smiling land
   The abundant products of the year;
      That power of nature, ever bless’d,
      Bestow’d religion with the rest.

The stanza begins with a direct reference to God, “The power, that gives with liberal hand”. The persona believes that nature and its resources are “blessings man enjoys”. Further, he states that it is the manifestation of the power of God “Bestow’d” upon mankind. 

Stanza 2:

Born with ourselves, her early sway
   Inclines the tender mind to take
The path of right, fair virtue’s way
   Its own felicity to make.
      This universally extends
      And leads to no mysterious ends.

In this stanza, the persona describes nature as a loving, nurturing guide who “sway”s us humans to take “The path of right”. This path that nature forges for one, according to the persona, is an uncomplicated and righteous one, leading to “no mysterious ends”. 

Stanza 3

Religion, such as nature taught,
   With all divine perfection suits;
Had all mankind this system sought
   Sophist would cease their vain disputes,
      And from this source would nations know
      All that can make their heaven below.

Here, the persona again draws a parallel between religion and nature. Through both, the persona feels that mankind is made orderly, persuaded to “cease their vain disputes”. Instead, they teach Man to “make their heaven below” on Earth itself. 

Stanza 4:

This deals not curses on mankind,
   Or dooms them to perpetual grief,
If from its aid no joys they find,
   It damns them not for unbelief;
      Upon a more exalted plan
      Creatress nature dealt with man—

Again, the persona is mindful to state that such a relationship is not one that “curses on mankind” or “dooms them to perpetual grief” but only provides joy. Were it not to be the case, then it is to mean that nature does not “damns them” for their “unbelief” but that the “Creatress” has a much more “exalted plan” in store for that man. 

Stanza 5:

Joy to the day, when all agree
   On such grand systems to proceed,
From fraud, design, and error free,
   And which to truth and goodness lead:
      Then persecution will retreat
      And man's religion be complete.

In the final stanza, the persona ends by stating that this joy will be “complete” when nature and religion “proceed” free from “fraud, design” and remain “error free”. This, they declare, will lead one to “truth and goodness” and “persecution will retreat”, completing nature which the persona calls “man’s religion”. 


This is a thought-provoking poem. Through its simple and beautiful verses, the poet brings out the importance and power of nature and religion and the necessity for both to remain untainted.