Educated and enslaved in the household of . Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. Africa, the physical continent, cannot be pagan. Mr. George Whitefield . The major themes of the poem are Christianity, redemption and salvation, and racial equality. 8May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. In the last line of this poem, she asserts that the black race may, like any other branch of humanity, be saved and rise to a heavenly fate. But in line 5, there is a shift in the poem. Here, Wheatley is speaking directly to her readers and imploring them to remember that all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin, are able to be saved and live a Christian life. From the 1770s, when Phillis Wheatley first began to publish her poems, until the present day, criticism has been heated over whether she was a genius or an imitator, a cultural heroine or a pathetic victim, a woman of letters or an item of curiosity. Common Core State Standards Text Exemplars, A Change of World, Episode 1: The Wilderness, To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady's Brother and Sister, and a Child of the Name, To the Right Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth, To S. M. A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works. He identifies the most important biblical images for African Americans, Exile . The first allusion occurs in the word refin'd. 103-104. She then talks about how "some" people view those with darker skin and African heritage, "Negros black as Cain," scornfully. A discussionof Phillis Wheatley's controversial status within the African American community. She makes this clear by . In the following excerpt, Balkun analyzes "On Being Brought from Africa to America" and asserts that Wheatley uses the rhetoric of white culture to manipulate her audience. In her poems on atheism and deism she addresses anyone who does not accept Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as a lost soul. May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. Structure. One may wonder, then, why she would be glad to be in such a country that rejects her people. That theres a God, that theres a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Alliteration is a common and useful device that helps to increase the rhythm of the poem. Some view our sable race with scornful eye. Instant PDF downloads. Phillis Wheatley Peters was one of the best-known poets in pre-19th century America. Question 4 (2 points) Identify a type of figurative language in the following lines of Phillis Wheatley's On Being Brought from Africa to America. Negros In consideration of all her poems and letters, evidence is now available for her own antislavery views. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. The poem's meter is iambic pentameter, where each line contains ten syllables and every other syllable is stressed. "Some view our sable race with a scornful eye, "Their colour is a diabolic dye." Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain." Personification Simile Hyperbole Aphorism Importantly, she mentions that the act of understanding God and Savior comes from the soul. Despite the hardships endured and the terrible injustices suffered there is a dignified approach to the situation. be exposed to another medium of written expression; learn the rules and conventions of poetry, including figurative language, metaphor, simile, symbolism, and point-of-view; learn five strategies for analyzing poetry; and Wheatley proudly offers herself as proof of that miracle. In alluding to the two passages from Isaiah, she intimates certain racial implications that are hardly conventional interpretations of these passages. In the poem, she gives thanks for having been brought to America, where she was raised to be a Christian. Born c. 1753 Wheatley was bought as a starving child and transformed into a prodigy in a few short years of training. The use of th and refind rather than the and refined in this line is an example of syncope. by Phillis Wheatley. Wheatley is saying that her soul was not enlightened and she did not know about Christianity and the need for redemption. 1, edited by Nina Baym, Norton, 1998, p. 825. "The Privileged and Impoverished Life of Phillis Wheatley" This poem also uses imperative language, which is language used to command or to tell another character or the reader what to do. Most descriptions tell what the literary elements do to enhance the story. That is, she applies the doctrine to the black race. Pagan is defined as "a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions." This voice is an important feature of her poem. (122) $5.99. The material has been carefully compared Find related themes, quotes, symbols, characters, and more. Phillis was known as a prodigy, devouring the literary classics and the poetry of the day. Another instance of figurative language is in line 2, where the speaker talks about her soul being "benighted." These lines can be read to say that ChristiansWheatley uses the term Christians to refer to the white raceshould remember that the black race is also a recipient of spiritual refinement; but these same lines can also be read to suggest that Christians should remember that in a spiritual sense both white and black people are the sin-darkened descendants of Cain. The poem is known as a superb literary piece written about a ship or a frigate. She was the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry and was brought to America and enslaved in 1761. Today, a handful of her poems are widely anthologized, but her place in American letters and black studies is still debated. During her time with the Wheatley family, Phillis showed a keen talent for learning and was soon proficient in English. This poem is more about the power of God than it is about equal rights, but it is still touched on. 27, 1992, pp. PDF downloads of all 1699 LitCharts literature guides, and of every new one we publish. Cain - son of Adam and Eve, who murdered his brother Abel through jealousy. Wheatley gave birth to three children, all of whom died. That there was an audience for her work is beyond question; the white response to her poetry was mixed (Robinson 39-46), and certain black responses were dramatic (Huddleston; Jamison). Major Themes in "On Being Brought from Africa to America": Mercy, racism and divinity are the major themes of this poem. On Virtue. for the Use of Schools. INTRODUCTION. 23, No. This legitimation is implied when in the last line of the poem Wheatley tells her readers to remember that sinners "May be refin'd and join th' angelic train." The collection was such an astonishing testimony to the intelligence of her race that John Wheatley had to assemble a group of eighteen prominent citizens of Boston to attest to the poet's competency. Popularity of "Old Ironsides": Oliver Wendell Holmes, a great American physician, and poet wrote, "Old Ironsides".It was first published in 1830. She addresses her African heritage in the next lines, stating that there are many who look down on her and those who look like her. The message of this poem is that all people, regardless of race, can be of Christian faith and saved. This word functions not only as a biblical allusion, but also as an echo of the opening two lines of the poem: "'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, / Taught my benighted soul to understand." For the unenlightened reader, the poems may well seem to be hackneyed and pedestrian pleas for acceptance; for the true Christian, they become a validation of one's status as a member of the elect, regardless of race . In "On Being Brought from Africa to America," Wheatley identifies herself first and foremost as a Christian, rather than as African or American, and asserts everyone's equality in God's sight. She meditates on her specific case of conversion in the first half of the poem and considers her conversion as a general example for her whole race in the second half. Surely, too, she must have had in mind the clever use of syntax in the penultimate line of her poem, as well as her argument, conducted by means of imagery and nuance, for the equality of both races in terms of their mutually "benighted soul." She begin the poem with establishing her experience with slavery as a beneficial thing to her life. Scribd is the world's largest social reading and publishing site. Wheatley may also cleverly suggest that the slaves' affliction includes their work in making dyes and in refining sugarcane (Levernier, "Wheatley's"), but in any event her biblical allusion subtly validates her argument against those individuals who attribute the notion of a "diabolic die" to Africans only. CRITICISM The inclusion of the white prejudice in the poem is very effective, for it creates two effects. To be "benighted" is to be in moral or spiritual darkness as a result of ignorance or lack of enlightenment, certainly a description with which many of Wheatley's audience would have agreed. Metaphor. SOURCES Do you think that the judgment in the 1970s by black educators that Wheatley does not teach values that are good for African American students has merit today? Figurative language is used in this poem. Write an essay and give evidence for your findings from the poems and letters and the history known about her life. From the start, critics have had difficulty disentangling the racial and literary issues. 3That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too: 4Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Wheatley was then abducted by slave traders and brought to America in 1761. The "allusion" is a passing comment on the subject. Lastly, the speaker reminds her audience, mostly consisting of white people, that Black people can be Christian people, too. In this instance, however, she uses the very argument that has been used to justify the existence of black slavery to argue against it: the connection between Africans and Cain, the murderer of Abel. Parks, Carole A., "Phillis Wheatley Comes Home," in Black World, Vo. At the age of 14, she published her first poem in a local newspaper and went on to publish books and pamphlets. Alliteration occurs with diabolic dye and there is an allusion to the old testament character Cain, son of Adam and Eve. Particularly apt is the clever syntax of the last two lines of the poem: "Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain / May be refin'd." The poem consists of: A single stanza of eight lines, with full rhyme and classic iambic pentameter beat, it basically says that black people can become Christian believers and in this respect are just the same as everyone else. She places everyone on the same footing, in spite of any polite protestations related to racial origins. "On Being Brought from Africa to America" is really about the irony of Christian people who treat Black people as inferior. America's leading color-field painter, Rothko experi- enced the existential alienation of the postwar era. Get unlimited access to over 88,000 lessons. In this poem Wheatley gives her white readers argumentative and artistic proof; and she gives her black readers an example of how to appropriate biblical ground to self-empower their similar development of religious and cultural refinement. Read the full text of On Being Brought from Africa to America, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, "The Privileged and Impoverished Life of Phillis Wheatley". . The speaker of this poem says that her abduction from Africa and subsequent enslavement in America was an act of mercy, in that it allowed her to learn about Christianity and ultimately be saved. It is supposed that she was a native of Senegal or nearby, since the ship took slaves from the west coast of Africa. Publication of Wheatley's poem, "An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine George Whitefield," in 1770 made her a household name. It is not mere doctrine or profession that saves. This has been a typical reading, especially since the advent of African American criticism and postcolonial criticism. 233, 237. However, they're all part of the 313 words newly added to Dictionary . Baker, Houston A., Jr., Workings of the Spirit: The Poetics of Afro-American Women's Writing, University of Chicago Press, 1991. She wrote them for people she knew and for prominent figures, such as for George Whitefield, the Methodist minister, the elegy that made her famous. She published her first poem in 1767, later becoming a household name. Ironically, this authorization occurs through the agency of a black female slave. "On Being Brought from Africa to America" is a poem written by Phillis Wheatley, published in her 1773 poetry collection "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral." The poem describes Wheatley's experience as a young girl who was enslaved and brought to the American colonies in 1761. Her poems thus typically move dramatically in the same direction, from an extreme point of sadness (here, the darkness of the lost soul and the outcast, Cain) to the certainty of the saved joining the angelic host (regardless of the color of their skin). In the following essay, Scheick argues that in "On Being Brought from Africa to America," Wheatleyrelies on biblical allusions to erase the difference between the races. Also supplied are tailor-made skill lessons, activities, and poetry writing prompts; the . This is an eight-line poem written in iambic pentameter. This is a chronological anthology of black women writers from the colonial era through the Civil War and Reconstruction and into the early twentieth century. Additional information about Wheatley's life, upbringing, and education, including resources for further research. This very religious poem is similar to many others that have been written over the last four hundred years. This racial myth and the mention of slavery in the Bible led Europeans to consider it no crime to enslave blacks, for they were apparently a marked and evil race. Some view our sable race with scornful eye. The Puritan attitude toward slaves was somewhat liberal, as slaves were considered part of the family and were often educated so that they could be converted to Christianity. The speaker's declared salvation and the righteous anger that seems barely contained in her "reprimand" in the penultimate line are reminiscent of the rhetoric of revivalist preachers. The question of slavery weighed heavily on the revolutionaries, for it ran counter to the principles of government that they were fighting for. The poet quickly and ably turns into a moral teacher, explaining as to her backward American friends the meaning of their own religion. The poem uses the principles of Protestant meditation, which include contemplating various Christian themes like one's own death or salvation. Eleanor Smith, in her 1974 article in the Journal of Negro Education, pronounces Wheatley too white in her values to be of any use to black people. 30 seconds. The two allusions to Isaiah in particular initially serve to authorize her poem; then, in their circular reflexivity apropos the poem itself, they metamorphose into a form of self-authorization. The poem was published in 1773 when it was included in her book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Rather than a direct appeal to a specific group, one with which the audience is asked to identify, this short poem is a meditation on being black and Christian in colonial America. 189, 193. Refine any search. All the end rhymes are full. 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