She was considered to be one of a kind, during the time she lived. She was able to write and publish in a time when women weren’t supposed to do so. She was the first African-American poetess whose work got published. This is the poem An hymn to the morning by Phillis Wheatley.
Amongst the fans of her work were influential people of her time, including no other than George Washington. At the time Wheatley lived, African-Americans were slaves. The Wheatley family bought her when she was seven or eight years old. She was welcomed to the family in a very different way than other slaves. They educated her and saw that she had great writing skills. Apart from this, she did not live a very happy life. Especially the last part of her life was very hard. Her husband was imprisoned and she died in total poverty at the age of 31 (1784).
It is one of her masterpieces, this A hymn to the morning. Still, the poetess Wheatley isn’t known to everyone. We published some of her work before and will continue to do this. This is all because of her interesting life story and the beautiful literary legacy that she left us. In this poem, she calls upon the nine muses, for guidance – both mentally and physically.
You can read more about the nine muses in Greek Mythology on a special Wikipedia page. It is the goddess of dawn, who asks her to write her song, that is dedicated to the goddess of morning. All through the poem, she calls upon these ancient gods, to help her with everything. Yes, in the first place to say grace to the new morning. There is more: it is also the start of a new period and the uncertainties it brings. She needs to know that what she does is right.
Eventually, darkness will fade and the new morning is there.
A 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.
— Phillis Wheatley