Phillis Wheatley: Freedom Through PoetryOn this day in 1773, Phillis Wheatley, a poet who is widely considered to be one of the founders of African-American literature, was freed from slavery based on her international success as a poet. Kidnapped from her home in Africa at the age of 6, Wheatley was purchased by John Wheatley of Boston, a well-to-do merchant who, along with his family, instructed Phillis in a myriad of subjects, including history, religion, and English. Her poetry was so beautiful and impressive that Wheatley even had to go to court to prove that she had, in fact, written it. Though she eventually died in poverty at the age of 31, Wheatley's poetry paved the path to her own freedom, as well as the path for many other African-American writers. One of my favorite Wheatley poems is after the jump.On Imagination Thy various works, imperial queen, we see, How bright their forms! how deck'd with pomp by thee! Thy wond'rous acts in beauteous order stand, And all attest how potent is thine hand. From Helicon's refulgent heights attend, Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend: To tell her glories with a faithful tongue, Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song. Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies, Till some lov'd objects strikes her wand'ring eyes, Whose silken fetters all the senses bind, And soft captivity involves the mind. Imagination! who can sing thy force? Or who describe the swiftness of thy course? Soaring though air to find the bright abode, Th'empyreal palace of the thund'ring God, We on thy pinions can surpass the wind, And leave the rolling universe behind; From star to star the mental optics rove, Measure the skies, and range the realms above. There in one view we grasp the mighty whole, Or with new worlds amaze th' unbounded soul. Though Winter frowns to Fancy's raptur'd eyes The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise; The frozen deeps may break their iron bands, And bid their waters murmur o'er the sands. Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign, And with her flow'ry riches deck the plain; Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round, And all the forest may with leaves be crown'd; Show'rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose, And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose. Such is thy pow'r, nor are thine orders vain, O thou the leader of the mental train: In full perfection all thy works are wrought, And thine the sceptre o'er the realms of thought. Before thy throne the subject-passions bow, Of subject-passions sov'reign ruler Thou, At thy command joy rushes on the heart, And through the glowing veins the spirits dart. Fancy might now her silken pinions try To rise from earth, and sweep th' expanse on high; From Tithon's bed now might Aurora rise, Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies, While a pure stream of light o'erflows the skies. The monarch of the day I might behold, And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold, But I reluctant leave the pleasing views, Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse; Winter austere forbids me to aspire, And northern tempests damp the rising fire; They chill the tides of Fancy's flowing sea, Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay. Phillis Wheatley [Wikipedia] Works of Phillis Wheatley [Project Gutenberg]