To a lady on the death of three relations
Weep not for them, and leave the world behind.
As a young plant by hurricanes up torn,
So near its parent lies the newly born—
But ‘midst the bright ehtereal train behold
It shines superior on a throne of gold:
Then, mourner, cease; let hope thy tears restrain,
Smile on the tomb, and sooth the raging pain.
On yon blest regions fix thy longing view,
Mindless of sublunary scenes below;
Ascend the sacred mount, in thought arise,
And seek substantial and immortal joys;
Where hope receives, where faith to vision springs,
And raptur’d seraphs tune th’ immortal strings
To strains extatic. Thou the chorus join,
And to thy father tune the praise divine.
Not one but three, and smile. Smile, mourner. No more complain, but be to heav’n resign’d.
Well, this collection was tiring. I wasn’t surprised since the the title wasn’t exactly an auspicious omen. Despite the repetitive themes I wasn’t able to connect with, these verses have a rich musicality, so reading them out loud was actually pleasant. Until the tenth eulogy, at least, then I had the entire necrological section of a local newspaper with all the dead people Phillis Wheatley wrote about. (I felt invincible after finishing the never-ending “Goliath of Gath”. My attention span killed a giant, kids.)
On the contrary, I became instantly captivated by Wheatley’s life. Born in 1753 in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at a very young age and ended up in Boston where she was purchased by the Wheatleys, a family that taught her to read and write and encouraged her poetry. Thus she became the first published African-American woman and this book was her first success. She knew fame and tragedy, and died at the age of 31.
THY various works, imperial queen, we see,
How bright their forms! how deck’d with pomp
Thy wond’rous acts in beauteous order stand,
And all attest how potent is thine hand.
* Photo credit: Book cover via Goodreads.
** Actual rating: 2.5 stars