Born in Senegal/Gambia on May 8,1753, poet Phillis Wheatley was brought to Boston, Massachusetts, on a slave ship in 1761 and was purchased by John Wheatley as a personal servant to his wife. The Wheatleys educated Phillis and she soon mastered Latin and Greek, going on to write highly acclaimed poetry. She published her first poem in 1767 and her first volume of verse, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773. Having been freed from slavery, she later married and struggled financially, with Wheatley unable to find a publisher for her second volume of poems. She died in Boston on December 5, 1784.
Here’s one of Phillis’ poems :
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.
Shown above is the sculpture of Phillis Wheatley which is located between Fairfield Street and Gloucester Street on Commonwealth Avenue of Boston.