8 Poemas de Phillis Wheatley

An Hymn to Humanity


Lo! for this dark terrestrial ball

Forsakes his azure—paved hall

A prince of heav’nly birth!

Divine Humanity behold,

What wonders rise, what charms unfold

At his descent to earth!


The bosoms of the great and good

With wonder and delight he view’d,

And fix’d his empire there: 

Him, close compressing to his breast,

The sire of gods and men address’d,

“My son, my heav’nly fair!


”Descend to earth, there place thy throne;

“To succour man’s afflicted son

”Each human heart inspire:

“To act in bounties unconfin’d

”Enlarge the close contracted mind,

“And fill it with thy fire.”


Quick as the word, with swift career

He wings his course from star to star,

And leaves the bright abode.

The Virtue did his charms impart;

Their G———! then thy raptur’d heart

Perceiv’d the rushing God:


For when thy pitying eye did see

The languid muse in low degree,

Then, then at thy desire

Descended the celestial nine;

O’er me methought they deign’d to shine,

And deign’d to string my lyre. 


Can Afric’s muse forgetful prove?

Or can such friendship fail to move

A tender human heart?

Immortal Friendship laurel—crown’d

The smiling Graces all surround

With ev’ry heav’nly Art.

An 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.

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 redemption neither sought nor knew.

Some view our sable race with scornful eye,

“Their colour is a diabolic die.”

Remember, Christians, Negro’s, black as Cain,

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

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 heaven-born soul with her converse,
Then seek, then court her for her promised bliss …

 To a Lady and her Children

O’erwhelming sorrow now demands my song:

From death the overwhelming sorrow sprung.

What flowing tears? What hearts with grief opprest?

What sighs on sighs heave the fond parent’s breast?

The brother weeps, the hapless sisters join

Th’ increasing woe, and swell the crystal brine;

The poor, who once his gen’rous bounty fed,

Droop, and bewail their benefactor dead.

In death the friend, the kind companion lies,

And in one death what various comfort dies!

Th’ unhappy mother sees the sanguine rill

Forget to flow, and nature’s wheels stand still,

But see from earth his spirit far remov’d,

And know no grief recalls your best—belov’d:

He, upon pinions swifter than the wind,

Has left mortality’s sad scenes behind

For joys to this terrestrial state unknown,

And glories richer than the monarch’s crown.

Of virtue’s steady course the prize behold!

What blissful wonders to his mind unfold!

But of celestial joys I sing in vain:

Attempt not, muse, the too advent’rous strain.

No more in briny show’rs, ye friends around,

Or bathe his clay, or waste them on the ground:

Still do you weep, still wish for his return?

How cruel thus to wish, and thus to mourn?

No more for him the streams of sorrow pour,

But haste to join him on the heav’nly shore,

On harps of gold to tune immortal lays,

And to your God immortal anthems raise.

On Recollection

MNEME begin. Inspire, ye sacred nine,

Your vent’rous Afric in her great design.

Mneme, immortal pow’r, I trace thy spring:

Assist my strains, while I thy glories sing:

The acts of long departed years, by thee

Recover’d, in due order rang’d we see:

Thy pow’r the long—forgotten calls from night,

That sweetly plays before the fancy’s sight.

Mneme in our nocturnal visions pours

The ample treasure of her secret stores;

Swift from above the wings her silent flight

Through Phoebe’s realms, fair regent of the night;

And, in her pomp of images display’d,

To the high—raptur’d poet gives her aid,

Through the unbounded regions of the mind,

Diffusing light celestial and refin’d.

The heav’nly phantom paints the actions done

By ev’ry tribe beneath the rolling sun.

Mneme, enthron’d within the human breast,

Has vice condemn’d, and ev’ry virtue blest.

How sweet the sound when we her plaudit hear?

Sweeter than music to the ravish’d ear,

Sweeter than Maro’s entertaining strains

Resounding through the groves, and hills, and plains.

But how is Mneme dreaded by the race,

Who scorn her warnings and despise her grace?

By her unveil’d each horrid crime appears,

Her awful hand a cup of wormwood bears.

Days, years mispent, O what a hell of woe!

Hers the worst tortures that our souls can know.

Now eighteen years their destin’d course have run,

In fast succession round the central sun.

How did the follies of that period pass

Unnotic’d, but behold them writ in brass!

In Recollection see them fresh return,

And sure ’tis mine to be asham’d, and mourn.

O Virtue, smiling in immortal green,

Do thou exert thy pow’r, and change the scene;

Be thine employ to guide my future days,

And mine to pay the tribute of my praise.

Of Recollection such the pow’r enthron’d

In ev’ry breast, and thus her pow’r is own’d.

The wretch, who dar’d the vengeance of the skies,

At last awakes in horror and surprise,

By her alarm’d, he sees impending fate,

He howls in anguish, and repents too late.

But O! what peace, what joys are hers t’ impart

To ev’ry holy, ev’ry upright heart!

Thrice blest the man, who, in her sacred shrine,

Feels himself shelter’d from the wrath divine!

His Excellency General Washington

Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light,

Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.

While freedom’s cause her anxious breast alarms,

She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.

See mother earth her offspring’s fate bemoan,

And nations gaze at scenes before unknown!

See the bright beams of heaven’s revolving light

Involved in sorrows and the veil of night!

The Goddess comes, she moves divinely fair,

Olive and laurel binds Her golden hair:

Wherever shines this native of the skies,

Unnumber’d charms and recent graces rise.

Muse! Bow propitious while my pen relates

How pour her armies through a thousand gates,

As when Eolus heaven’s fair face deforms,

Enwrapp’d in tempest and a night of storms;

Astonish’d ocean feels the wild uproar,

The refluent surges beat the sounding shore;

Or think as leaves in Autumn’s golden reign,

Such, and so many, moves the warrior’s train.

In bright array they seek the work of war,

Where high unfurl’d the ensign waves in air.

Shall I to Washington their praise recite?

Enough thou know’st them in the fields of fight.

Thee, first in peace and honors—we demand

The grace and glory of thy martial band.

Fam’d for thy valour, for thy virtues more,

Hear every tongue thy guardian aid implore!

One century scarce perform’d its destined round,

When Gallic powers Columbia’s fury found;

And so may you, whoever dares disgrace

The land of freedom’s heaven-defended race!

Fix’d are the eyes of nations on the scales,

For in their hopes Columbia’s arm prevails.

Anon Britannia droops the pensive head,

While round increase the rising hills of dead.

Ah! Cruel blindness to Columbia’s state!

Lament thy thirst of boundless power too late.

Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,

Thy ev’ry action let the Goddess guide.

A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,

With gold unfading, WASHINGTON! Be thine.

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 object 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 through 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.


¡Imaginación! ¿Quien podría cantar tu poderío?
¿Y quien describiría la velocidad de tu carrera?
Elevándonos a través del aire para encontrar la radiante morada,
El empíreo palacio del tronante Dios,
Sobre tus alas aventajamos al viento,
Y dejamos atrás el rodante universo.
De estrella a estrella el ojo mental vaga,
Mide los cielos y recorre las regiones superiores;
Allí en un panorama abarcamos el magnífico todo,
O con nuevos rumbos asombramos el alma infinita.

Phillis Wheatley (África Occidental, 8 de mayo de 1753 – 5 de diciembre de 1784, Boston, Massachusetts, Estados Unidos). Poeta. Fue la primera escritora afroamericana en publicar un libro de poesía en los Estados Unidos, cuando aun era colonia británica.

A los siete años fue robada de su poblado y vendida a traficantes de esclavos . Recibió el nombre Phillis, por la goleta —The Phillis— que la trajo de África a las colonias británicas de Norteamérica. Su apellido, como era tradición entonces, es el de la familia de John Wheatley, próspero comerciante de Boston que compró a la niña como sirviente personal para su esposa. Los Wheatley se dieron cuenta de lo gran inteligencia que tenia Phillis y le permitieron que aprendiera a leer y escribir inglés y fomentaron su educación . Phillis se hizo protestante como sus amos y en poco tiempo ya leía la Biblia. Junto a los hijos gemelos de la pareja, Nathaniel y Mary–, recibio formación también en teología, filosofía, astronomía, literatura y lenguas clásicas. Asi mismo leyó a Virgilio, Horacio, Ovidio, Pope y Milton, entre otros.

Su primer poema fué publicado hacia 1767 a la edad de 13, en el Newport Mercury.

A los veinte años, Wheatley tuvo que defender su capacidad literaria en las cortes. Fue examinada por un grupo de intelectuales de Boston, entre ellos John Erving, el reverendo Charles Chauncey, John Hancock, Thomas Hutchinson, el gobernador de Massachusetts, y su teniente gobernador Andrew Oliver. Tuvo que recitar textos de Virgilio y Milton y algunos pasajes de la Biblia, y también tuvo que jurar que los poemas que había escrito no eran plagiados. Se sometió a un largo examen, hasta que el tribunal la aceptó: era mujer, era negra, era esclava, pero era poeta.

Phillis viajó a Inglaterra en 1773 junto a Nathaniel Wheatley y allí conoció a grandes personalidades como Benjamin Franklin, el conde de Darthmouth y el alcalde de Londres. Asi mismo Selina Hastings, condesa de Huntingdon y famosa misionera abolicionista, se interesó por ella  y fue la patrocinadora de la publicación en Londres en 1773 del volumen de poemas de Wheatley, Poems of a Various Subjects, Religion and Moral que incluía en el prefacio del libro un certificado firmado por el tribunal que la había examinado dando fé de que ella era la autora. Como Hastings estaba enferma, ella y Wheatley nunca se conocieron. Ese mismo año Phillis Wheatley regresó a América, donde  la familia Wheatley liberó oficialmente a Phillis Wheatley. Susanna Wheatley, murió en la primavera de 1774, y John Wheatley en 1778.

Tras la muerte de John y Susannah Wheatley, Phillis contrajo matrimonio con un negro liberto, John Peters. La pareja vivió siempre en condiciones precarias y John Peters terminó abandonando Phillis. Aun así, ella nunca se rindió. Empezó a trabajar como sirvienta mientras seguía escribiendo poesía.
Pero ni el trabajo ni sus poemas le proporcionaron la prosperidad económica que necesitaba, por lo que falleció a los 31 años.  Los poemas que escribió durante este periodo se han perdido.

Su poesía fue admirada por muchas de las figuras imperantes de la Revolución Norteamericana, inclusive George Washington, quien se refirió a ella por su “gran genio poético” y le agradeció personalmente por un poema que escribió en su honor. 

Wheatley escribió sobre todo en heroic couplets, pareados heroicos, pentámetros yámbicos, modalidad inicialmente barroca que alcanzó perfección neoclásica en Inglaterra con Dryden y Pope.

Su obra es considerada uno de los primeros ejemplos de la literatura afroamericana y  fue utilizada por los abolicionistas para negar la inferioridad artística de los africanos. Durante muchos años, sus poemas fueron más valorados desde el punto de vista histórico que del literario. No obstante, hoy en día sus poesías son analizadas y estudiadas en los institutos y universidades de gran parte del mundo

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4 thoughts on “8 Poemas de Phillis Wheatley

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    1. Asi es Maria Constanza. Es una mujer fascinante con una historia de vida impresionante. Un ejemplo de vida.
      Muchas gracias por tu comentario; eres un aliciente para seguir con nuestro trabajo de investigación y difusión.

      ¡Un abrazo!

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