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7.22: Wheatley, Phillis. Selections from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

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    Selections from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral


    Portrait of Phillis Wheatley which appeared in Revue des Colonies in Paris between 1834 and 1842 (Source: Schomburg Center via Public Domain Review)

    An Hymn to the Morning

    ATTEND my lays, ye ever honour'd nine,
    Assist my labours, and my strains refine;
    In smoothest numbers pour the notes along,
    For bright Aurora now demands my song.
    Aurora hail, and all the thousand dies,
    Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies:
    The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays,
    On ev'ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays;
    Harmonious lays the feather'd race resume,
    Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.
    Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display
    To shield your poet from the burning day:
    Calliope awake the sacred lyre,
    While thy fair sisters fan the pleasing fire:
    The bow'rs, the gales, the variegated skies
    In all their pleasures in my bosom rise.
    See in the east th' illustrious king of day!
    His rising radiance drives the shades away--
    But Oh! I feel his fervid beams too strong,
    And scarce begun, concludes th' abortive song.

    An Hymn to the Evening

    SOON as the sun forsook the eastern main
    The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain;
    Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr's wing,
    Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.
    Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes,
    And through the air their mingled music floats.
    Through all the heav'ns what beauteous dies are spread!
    But the west glories in the deepest red:
    So may our breasts with ev'ry virtue glow,
    The living temples of our God below!
    Fill'd with the praise of him who gives the light,
    And draws the sable curtains of the night,
    Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind,
    At morn to wake more heav'nly, more refin'd;
    So shall the labours of the day begin
    More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.
    Night's leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes,
    Then cease, my song, till fair Aurora rise.

    Letter from John Wheatley to the English publisher of Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773).

    Wheatley Letter

    Phillis was brought from Africa to America in the year 1761, between seven and eight years of age. Without any assistance from school education, and by only what she was taught in the family, she, in sixteen months time from her arrival, attained the English language, to which she was an utter stranger before, to such a degree, as to read any, the most difficult parts of the sacred writings, to the great astonishment of all who heard her.

    As to her writing, her own curiosity led her to it; and this she learned in so short a time, that in the year 1765 she wrote a letter to the Rev. Mr. Occum, the Indian minister, while in England.

    She has a great inclination to learn the Latin Tongue, and has made some progress in it. This relation is given by her master, who bought her, and with whom she now lives.

    John Wheatley.

    Boston, Nov. 14, 1772.

    7.22: Wheatley, Phillis. Selections from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap.