Carolyn Shuttlesworth
Literature & Culture
Material Type:
Primary Source
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Creative Commons Attribution

18th Century: 1773


African American Literature 1619-1926

Phyllis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784)

                                                    On Virtue


O thou bright jewel in my aim I strive

To comprehend thee.  Thine own words declare

Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.

I cease to wonder, and no more attempt

Thine height t'explore, or fathom thy profound.

But, O my soul, sink not into despair,

Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand

Would now embrace thee, hovers o'er thine head.

Fain would the heav'n-born soul with her converse,

Then seek, then court her for her promis'd bliss.


Auspicious queen, thy heaven'ly peinions spread,

And lead celestial Chastity along;

Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,

Array'd in gloru from the orbs above.

Attend e, Virtue, thro my youthful tears!

O leave me not to the false joys of time!

But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.

Greatness, or Goodness, say what shall I call thee,

To give an appelation still,

Teach e a better strain, a nobler lay,

O Thou, enthron'd with Cherubs in the realms of day!  




                        On Being Brought from Africa to America

Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land,

Taught my benighted soul to understand

That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:

Once I redemptio neither sought or knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

"Their color is a diaboic die."

Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain

May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.