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  • Writer's pictureKaecey McCormick

Fueled by the Poetry of Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley lived over 200 years ago. Born a slave, she was purchased by the Wheatley family and brought to Boston. The family gave Phillis an education that did not stop at basic reading, writing, and math. Phillis learned Greek and Latin, read classic literature and mythology, studied geography, theology and even astronomy.

The family recognized her intelligence and talent and encouraged her to write. Phillis published her first poem as a young teen her book of poems, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773. She married young, lost all three of her children as infants, and died in her early 30s.

This resilient woman was only the third American woman to publish a book of poems and the first African American and US enslaved person of either gender to do so. This Black History Month, I'm reading her collection and finding a different kind of inspiration.

Here's a poem that particularly inspired me--especially as it invokes the Muses:

An Hymn to the Morning

by Phillis Wheatley

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.

What poems have you been reading for inspiration lately? Tell me about it in the comments or by contacting me directly!

Happy writing!


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