In many of her poems, race is discussed so subtly that her readers didn't fully realize what she was talking about. Complete Writings by Phillis Wheatley, New York: Penguin Books, 2001. Her references to her own situation of enslavement are restrained. Following the poem from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773 , are some observations about its treatment of the theme of slavery: On being brought from Africa to America. Wheatley was the first published African American poet The fact that so many white Americans and Britons loved her poetry was a testament to both how well-written they were and how clever Wheatley was in her language.
Light, but did not include poems by Horton. She began writing poetry at thirteen, modeling her work on the English poets of the time, particularly , Thomas Gray, and. On Imagination Thy various works, imperial queen, we see, How bright their forms! It was described as the land where darkness is removed and the ignorance is eradicated. So, the format is British and the theme of the poem is American. They struggled with poor living conditions and the deaths of two babies. She was given their last name of Wheatley, as was a common custom if any surname was used for.
Look again at the fourth line of the poem: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. A few observations about one poem may demonstrate how to find a subtle critique of slavery in Phillis Wheatley's poetry. Religion On the surface, this poem is a simple ode to Christianity and the grace of God. In 1776, she wrote a letter and poem in support of George Washington, who replied with an invitation to visit him in Cambridge. She seldom referred to her own life in her poems. Pulling this argument from the Bible, whites argues that the Blacks are the children of Cain and their duty is just to serve the whites. To modern readers, this poem can feel a bit hard to stomach on a first read.
Her works, centering on race, religion, politics, and social commentary, enlightened many people and affected a change in attitudes. Loose Ends: Closure and Crisis in the American Social Text. But, Africa for her is a pagan land, a dark place without God and ignorance is prevalent everywhere. Wheatley was sold by a local chief to a visiting trader, who took her to Boston in the British colony of Massachusetts, on July 11, 1761, on a ship called The Phillis. In lines two through four, she says that coming to America introduced her to Christianity, which has brought her peace and salvation that she didn't even know she needed. Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley. The argument is used only to justify the contemporary slavery system.
She was living as a slave a good hundred years before the Civil War led to the emancipation of American Blacks. Ile-Ife, Nigeria: University of Ife Press. Many of the poems for her proposed second volume disappeared and have never been recovered. Phillis Wheatley's church, Although the date and place of her birth are not documented, scholars believe that Phillis Wheatley was born in 1753 in , most likely in present-day or. She uses the logic of the structure of metrical verse as a means toward revelation and resistance.
She solicited subscribers for a new volume that would include thirty-three new poems and thirteen letters, but was unable to raise the funds. Because of the war and the poor economy, Wheatley experienced difficulty publishing her poems. In the 18th century, English was a lot more flexible in terms of spelling and capitals, something you've already likely noticed in your reading. Wheatley's poem is written in iambic pentameter. . When Wheatley writes of the 'mercy' that brought her to America, or refers to Africa as a 'Pagan land,' is she really saying that it's a good thing that she became a slave? Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.
Being the rare educated slave, she may have mocked the beliefs of her fellows, the inferior field slaves. The memoir was earlier published in 1834 by Geo W. She took the surname of this man, as was the tradition, but her first name came from the slave ship The Phillis, which brought her to America. This is a great activity to have students do in a small group. Encyclopedia of African American Women Writers, Volume 1.
She learned English, Greek, and Latin. The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. During Wheatley's visit to England with her master's son, African-American poet praised her work in his own poem. But it also shows a slave and woman at her desk, emphasizing that she can read and write. The fur is highly valued A strong reminder in line 7 is aimed at those who see themselves as God-fearing - Christians - and is a thinly veiled manifesto, somewhat ironic, declaring that all people are equal in the eyes of God, capable of joining the angelic host. Phillis Wheatley: Biography of A Genius in Bondage Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Shortly after, Phillis Wheatley met and married John Peters, a grocer. The publication of her on September 1, 1773 brought her fame both in England and the American colonies. The repetition clearly fixes religion as a central theme of the poem's major themes. In the poem above, critics have said that she praises slavery because it brought her to Christianity. Also in this volume, an engraving of Phillis Wheatley is included as a frontispiece.