Touched by the eloquently written poem, Washington invites Wheatley to his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Your favor of the 26th of October did not reach my hands, till the middle of December. The name of the young girl who became known as Phillis Wheatley was formed from a combination of the name of the slave ship that brought her to Boston from West Africa at the age of seven, the Phillis, and the surname of the family who purchased her. Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write. Muse! Be thine.”, Washington responded with a letter expressing his appreciation for Wheatley’s poem. Wherever shines this native of the skies. The Goddess comes, she moves divinely fair. This poem of martial hope and praise, written at the start of the American Revolution when the result was utterly in doubt, Wheatley sent to Washington on October 26, 1775. Phillis Wheatley’s poem to George Washington I posted a poem last week by Phillis Wheatley, who was one of the best known poets of pre-nineteenth century America. That same year, Phillis was released from slavery. After she learned to read and write, they encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent. Line 2 “Columbia” was a term Wheatley used for America, later used by other writers. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at the age of seven or eight and transported to North America. They allowed their eighteen-year-old daughter Mary to begin tutoring the young Phillis in Greek, Latin, poetry, and other subjects. GW sent Wheatley’s letter and poem to Joseph Reed who apparently had them published. The poem illustrates Wheatley’s somewhat surprisingly passionate patriotic sentiment, which factors strongly in much of her poetry. Celestial choir! She was purchased in Boston by a wealthy merchant, John Wheatley. He liked the poem so much he invited her to come visit him. Involved in sorrows and the veil of night! “To His Excellency General Washington” is a 1775 poem written by Phyllis Wheatley, the first female African-American poet to have published work. While freedom's cause her anxious breast alarms. In December of 1775, Washington – the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army – received a letter from Wheatley containing an ode written in his honor. He even considered publishing it but feared people might interpret that action as self-aggrandizing. Washington also extended an invitation for Wheatley to call on him at his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”, https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/digital-encyclopedia/article/phillis-wheatley/. Fam’d for thy valour, for thy virtues more. “CElestial choir! For in their hopes Columbia’s arm prevails. Celestial choir! From Helicon’s refulgent heights attend,Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend:To tell her glories with a faithful tongue,Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song. be thine.”. In Phillis Wheatley's homage to George Washington, commander of the Continental Army, the poet creates a goddess she calls Columbia to personify the American colonies. Beginning to write poetry, in 1775 she wrote a poem celebrating George Washington. One of the most surprising connections of the American Revolutionary era emerged at the very beginning of the war between the African American poet Phillis Wheatley and the commander in chief of the American forces, George Washington. For in their hopes Columbia's arm prevails. Be thine. Enough thou know’st them in the fields of fight. Such is thy pow’r, nor are thine orders vain,O thou the leader of the mental train:In full perfection all thy works are wrought,And thine the sceptre o’er the realms of thought.Before thy throne the subject-passions bow,Of subject-passions sov’reign ruler thou;At thy command joy rushes on the heart,And through the glowing veins the spirits dart. ... George Washington describes Wheatley's poetry as "elegant lines...exhibiting striking proof of...poetical talents" True. Not only was this letter the only one Washington is known to have written to a former slave, but he addressed Wheatley as “Miss Phillis” and signed off as “Your obed[ien]t humble servant,”1 unusual and even paradoxical courtesies. Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side. In 1775, Phillis wrote a poem for General George Washington. See mother earth her offspring's fate bemoan. How pour her armies through a thousand gates: As when Eolus heaven’s fair face deforms. Though Winter frowns to Fancy’s raptur’d eyesThe fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise;The frozen deeps may break their iron bands,And bid their waters murmur o’er the sands.Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign,And with her flow'ry riches deck the plain;Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round,And all the forest may with leaves be crown’d:Show’rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose,And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose. When Gallic powers Columbia’s fury found; The land of freedom’s heaven-defended race! © Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY 10038. Wheatley writes a poem for George Washington. James G. Basker (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 181–182. *Get the reading activities here! George Washington to Phillis Wheatley, February 28, 1776. their necessities, provided it does not encourage them in idleness; and I have no objection to your giving my Money in Charity, to the Amount of forty or fifty Pounds a Year, when you think it well bestowed stowed. Thee, first in peace and honors—we demand. Wherever shines this native of the skies. March 1776: Washington invites Wheatley for a visit. Fancy might now her silken pinions tryTo rise from earth, and sweep th’ expanse on high:From Tithon's bed now might Aurora rise,Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies,While a pure stream of light o’erflows the skies.The monarch of the day I might behold,And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold,But I reluctant leave the pleasing views,Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse;Winter austere forbids me to aspire,And northern tempests damp the rising fire;They chill the tides of Fancy’s flowing sea,Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay. When Gallic powers Columbia's fury found; The land of freedom's heaven-defended race! In bright array they seek the work of war. Imagination! Where high unfurl’d the ensign waves in air. While freedom’s cause her anxious breast alarms. ... Phillis Wheatley… “Although George Washington may have personally met her only once for a period of around half an hour, the kindness and respect that he showed toward Phillis Wheatley, a female African slave, serves as a telling example of his moral complexity and capacity for humanitarian understanding. Hear every tongue thy guardian aid implore! I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant lines you enclosed;  and however undeserving I may be of such encomium and panegyric, the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your poetical talents; in honor of which, and as a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the poem, had I not been apprehensive, that, while I only meant to give the world this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the imputation of vanity. This, and nothing else, determined me not to give it place in the public prints. In 1775, Phillis wrote a poem for General George Washington. John Wheatley, a wealthy Boston merchant, bought her for his wife, Susanna, who wanted a youthful personal maid to serve her in her old age. Muse! It was sent to George Washington just after he was given the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of North America. Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,Thy ev'ry action let the Goddess guide.A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,With gold unfading, WASHINGTON! Publication of “An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine George Whitefield” in … Phillis Wheatley was a slave to a prominent Boston family who taught her to read and write. See mother earth her offspring’s fate bemoan. Unnumber'd charms and recent graces rise. - The Academy of American Poets is the largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. Washington describes Wheatley 's poetry as `` elegant lines... exhibiting striking proof of... poetical talents ''.! Chastity along ; Lo touched by the Wheatley family of Boston common people when drafting the Declaration of independence she. Such as `` to his Excellency George Washington. celebrating George Washington and. 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