"Mercy" is defined as "a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion" and indicates that it was ordained by God that she was taken from Africa. Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA). The major themes of the poem are Christianity, redemption and salvation, and racial equality. Indeed, racial issues in Wheatley's day were of primary importance as the new nation sought to shape its identity. The poem was published in 1773 when it was included in her book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. The European colonization of the Americas inspired a desire for cheap labor for the development of the land. In the following essay on "On Being Brought from Africa to America," she focuses on Phillis Wheatley's self-styled personaand its relation to American history, as well as to popular perceptions of the poet herself. In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. John Hancock, one of Wheatley's examiners in her trial of literacy and one of the founders of the United States, was also a slaveholder, as were Washington and Jefferson. In this sense, white and black people are utterly equal before God, whose authority transcends the paltry earthly authorities who have argued for the inequality of the two races. Because Wheatley stands at the beginning of a long tradition of African-American poetry, we thought we'd offer some . No one is excluded from the Savior's tender mercynot the worst people whites can think ofnot Cain, not blacks. In effect, she was attempting a degree of integration into Western culture not open to, and perhaps not even desired by, many African Americans. And indeed, Wheatley's use of the expression "angelic train" probably refers to more than the divinely chosen, who are biblically identified as celestial bodies, especially stars (Daniel 12:13); this biblical allusion to Isaiah may also echo a long history of poetic usage of similar language, typified in Milton's identification of the "gems of heaven" as the night's "starry train" (Paradise Lost 4:646). for the Use of Schools. Please continue to help us support the fight against dementia with Alzheimer's Research Charity. Her rhetoric has the effect of merging the female with the male, the white with the black, the Christian with the Pagan. She did light housework because of her frailty and often visited and conversed in the social circles of Boston, the pride of her masters. At the age of 14, she published her first poem in a local newspaper and went on to publish books and pamphlets. Line 6, in quotations, gives a typical jeer of a white person about black people. According to "The American Crisis", God will aid the colonists and not aid the king of England because. On Being Brought From Africa To America By Phillis Wheatley 974 Words 4 Pages To understand the real meaning of a literary work, we need to look into the meaning of each word and why the author has chosen these particular words and not different ones. She asks that they remember that anyone, no matter their skin color, can be said by God. 'Twas mercy brought me from my Thomas Jefferson's scorn (reported by Robinson), however, famously articulates the common low opinion of African capability: "Religion, indeed, has produced a Phillis Whately, but it could not produce a poet. Endnotes. In the shadow of the Harem Turkey has opened a school for girls. 2 Wheatley, "On the Death of General Wooster," in Call and Response, p. 103.. 3 Horton, "The Slave's Complaint," in Call and Response, pp. The opening sentiments would have been easily appreciated by Wheatley's contemporary white audience, but the last four lines exhorted them to reflect on their assumptions about the black race. Accessed 4 March 2023. In "On Being Brought from Africa to America" Wheatley alludes twice to Isaiah to refute stereotypical readings of skin color; she interprets these passages to refer to the mutual spiritual benightedness of both races, as equal diabolically-dyed descendants of Cain. Many readers today are offended by this line as making Africans sound too dull or brainwashed by religion to realize the severity of their plight in America. The first allusion occurs in the word refin'd. She describes Africa as a "Pagan land." The narrator saying that "[He's] the darker brother" (Line 2). The masters, on the other hand, claimed that the Bible recorded and condoned the practice of slavery. "On Being Brought From Africa to America" is an unusual poem. He deserted Phillis after their third child was born. To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member. Not an adoring one, but a fair one. Because she was physically frail, she did light housework in the Wheatley household and was a favorite companion to Susanna. As the first African American woman . Therefore, its best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publications requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html. In this regard, one might pertinently note that Wheatley's voice in this poem anticipates the ministerial role unwittingly assumed by an African-American woman in the twenty-third chapter of Harriet Beecher Stowe's The Minister's Wooing (1859), in which Candace's hortatory words intrinsically reveal what male ministers have failed to teach about life and love. One of Wheatley's better known pieces of poetry is "On being brought from Africa to America.". The poem was "On Being Brought from Africa to America," written by a 14-year-old Phillis in the late 18th century. Her benighted, or troubled soul was saved in the process. There was no precedent for it. WikiProject Linguistics may be able to help recruit an expert. Poet Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Specifically, Wheatley deftly manages two biblical allusions in her last line, both to Isaiah. This voice is an important feature of her poem. When the un-Christian speak of "their color," they might just as easily be pointing to the white members of the audience who have accepted the invitation into Wheatley's circle. Her religion has changed her life entirely and, clearly, she believes the same can happen for anyone else. She is not ashamed of her origins; only of her past ignorance of Christ. Some were deists, like Benjamin Franklin, who believed in God but not a divine savior. There are many themes explored in this poem. While ostensibly about the fate of those black Christians who see the light and are saved, the final line in "On Being Brought From Africa to America" is also a reminder to the members of her audience about their own fate should they choose unwisely. She was bought by Susanna Wheatley, the wife of a Boston merchant, and given a name composed from the name of the slave ship, "Phillis," and her master's last name. Her poems thus typically move dramatically in the same direction, from an extreme point of sadness (here, the darkness of the lost soul and the outcast, Cain) to the certainty of the saved joining the angelic host (regardless of the color of their skin). Have a specific question about this poem? This latter point refutes the notion, held by many of Wheatley's contemporaries, that Cain, marked by God, is the progenitor of the black race only. The poem was a tribute to the eighteen-century frigate USS Constitution. She was taught theology, English, Latin, Greek, mythology, literature, geography, and astronomy. This appreciative attitude is a humble acknowledgment of the virtues of a Christian country like America. On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley is a simple poem about the power of Christianity to bring people to salvation. She was in a sinful and ignorant state, not knowing God or Christ. In just eight lines, Wheatley describes her attitude toward her condition of enslavementboth coming from Africa to America, and the culture that considers the fact that she is a Black woman so negatively. Conditions on board some of the slave ships are known to have been horrendous; many died from illness; many were drowned. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of. Both races inherit the barbaric blackness of sin. Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you By making religion a matter between God and the individual soul, an Evangelical belief, she removes the discussion from social opinion or reference. In line 7 specifically, she points out the irony of Christian people with Christian values treating Black people unfairly and cruelly. May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. "On Being Brought From Africa to America" is eight lines long, a single stanza, and four rhyming couplets formed into a block. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, ' On Being Brought from Africa to America' by Phillis Wheatley is a short, eight-line poem that is structured with a rhyme scheme of AABBCCDD. INTRODUCTION Q. In fact, the discussions of religious and political freedom go hand in hand in the poem. , The latter is implied, at least religiously, in the last lines. In the first four lines, the tone is calm and grateful, with the speaker saying that her soul is "benighted" and mentioning "redemption" and the existence of a "Saviour." Read more of Wheatley's poems and write a paper comparing her work to some of the poems of her eighteenth-century model. It seems most likely that Wheatley refers to the sinful quality of any person who has not seen the light of God. She places everyone on the same footing, in spite of any polite protestations related to racial origins. The speaker, a slave brought from Africa to America by whites magnifies the discrepancy between the whites' perception of blacks and the reality of the situation. At a Glance May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. The final and highly ironic demonstration of otherness, of course, would be one's failure to understand the very poem that enacts this strategy. The impact of the racial problems in Revolutionary America on Wheatley's reputation should not be underrated. Phillis Wheatley was brought through the transatlantic slave trade and brought to America as a child. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. Cain murdered his brother and was marked for the rest of time. . As cited by Robinson, he wonders, "What white person upon this continent has written more beautiful lines?". But in line 5, there is a shift in the poem. The black race itself was thought to stem from the murderer and outcast Cain, of the Bible. This style of poetry hardly appeals today because poets adhering to it strove to be objective and used elaborate and decorous language thought to be elevated. This powerful statement introduces the idea that prejudice, bigotry, and racism toward black people are wrong and anti-Christian. 'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land. Vincent Carretta and Philip Gould explain such a model in their introduction to Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic. She was the first African American to publish a full book, although other slave authors, such as Lucy Terry and Jupiter Hammon, had printed individual poems before her. Common Core State Standards Text Exemplars, A Change of World, Episode 1: The Wilderness, To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady's Brother and Sister, and a Child of the Name, To the Right Honorable William, Earl of Dartmouth, To S. M. A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works. Structure. PDF downloads of all 1699 LitCharts literature guides, and of every new one we publish. The fur is highly valued). The eighteen judges signed a document, which Phillis took to London with her, accompanied by the Wheatley son, Nathaniel, as proof of who she was. 49, 52. Here, Wheatley is speaking directly to her readers and imploring them to remember that all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin, are able to be saved and live a Christian life. One critical problem has been an incomplete collection of Wheatley's work. All in all a neat package of a poem that is memorable and serves a purpose. Retrieved February 23, 2023 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/being-brought-africa-america. Some of the best include: Sign up to unveil the best kept secrets in poetry, Home Phillis Wheatley On Being Brought from Africa to America. More on Wheatley's work from PBS, including illustrations of her poems and a portraitof the poet herself. In the case of her readers, such failure is more likely the result of the erroneous belief that they have been saved already.