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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Poetess, PHILLIS WHEATLEY (named for her slave ship and her uncommonly beneficent masters)

I've got the chronic problem of reading too many books at any one time.  I'm currently reading--one story at a time and only irregularly--Fictions, by JL Borges, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with my kids, by Brian Selznick, All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, and now, one I just picked up at the library where we went in effort to escape the duldrums of a rainy day and restless, over-tired kids, Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings.

Apparently the source of quite a bit of scholarly writing, Wheatley was a prodigy in many ways.  I'm not going to bore you with it all here, but leave it at this for now: her first published works were vouched as legitimately penned by her by a collection of important Boston white guys for three reasons: she was black, she was young, and she was a she--and all this coupled with the fact that there was no precedent for her!  She is the first published black woman. 

I haven't gotten very far, maybe fifteen pieces or so and just now skimmed and need to reread a lengthy account of David and Goliath, but here is a stanza that I'm quite partial to already, "Thoughts on the WORKS of PROVIDENCE:"

ARISE, my soul, on wings enraptur'd, rise
To praise the monarch of the earth and skies,
Whose goodness and beneficence appear
As round its centre moves the rolling year,
Or when the morning glows with rosy charms,
Or the sun slumbers in the ocean's arms:
Of light divine be a rich portion lent
To guide my soul, and favour my intent.
Celestial muse, my arduous flight sustain,
And raise my mind to a seraphic strain!

I'm not often into longer poetry--and maybe it's a combination of mood an day--but it's striking me warmly.  So, I recommend Phillis Wheatley. 

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