Saturday, April 03, 2010

April is National Poetry Month

Celebrating Poetry
We here offer second in a series of National Poetry Month posts; 2010 celebration.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was born in Gambia, Senegal. At age 7, a slave on the auction block, she elicited the highest from bid John Wheatley and his wife, of Boston, who sought a domestic. Encouraged to learn to read and write, she became a student of the poetry of Alexander Pope and John Milton. In 1772, in Britain, she published Poems... Religious and Moral, becoming the first published Afro-American woman — to wide acclaim in Britain and the Colonies. It earned her manumission, but not the full rights of a free woman. She married a free black grocer to whom she bore three children (two predeceased her). She lost both her literary patrons and her audience in the Revolutionary War. Her husband landed in debtor’s prison in 1784. She died alone the same year — an impoverished boarding-house domestic in Boston.

An Elegy on Leaving —
FAREWELL! ye friendly bow’rs, ye streams adieu,
I leave with sorrow each sequester’d seat:
The lawns, where oft I swept the morning dew,
The groves, from noon-tide rays a kind retreat.

Yon wood-crown’d hill, whose far projecting shade,
Inverted trembles in the limpid lake:
Where wrapt in thought I pensively have stray’d,
For crowds and noise, reluctant, I forsake.

The solemn pines, that, winding through the vale,
In grateful rows attract the wand’ring eye,
Where the soft ring-dove pours her soothing tale,
No more must veil me from the fervid sky.

Beneath yon aged oak’s protecting arms,
Oft-times beside the pebbl’d brook I lay;
Where, pleas’d with simple Nature’s various charms,
I pass’d in grateful solitude the day.

Rapt with the melody of Cynthio’s strain,
There first my bosom felt poetic flame;
Mute was the bleating language of the plain,
And with his lays the wonton fawns grew tame.

But, ah! Those pleasing hours are ever flown;
Ye scenes of transport from my thoughts retire;
Those rural joys no more the day shall crown,
No more my hand shall wake the warbling lyre.

But come, sweet Hope, from thy divine retreat,
Come to my breast, and chase my cares away,
Bring calm content to gild my gloomy seat,
And cheer my bosom with her heav’nly ray.
Further Reading: The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley, edited with an essay by John C. Shields.

Content developed by local resident and poet Leland Jamieson, author of: