Liberty and Peace
If you take pleasure in life's bitter ironies, Phillis Wheatley might be of interest. Born in Africa twenty-two years before the American Revolution, and brought to the Colonies as a slave, she drew considerable attention with her sharp intelligence and her poetry, especially for this pamphlet-in-verse, a great shout for the new Republic and its liberty, with which she was able to share nothing but the view. This piece, in rhymed couplets, was published in the year of her death at the age of 29.
(Note: the irregular spelling, such as "smoaks," was still the rule in 1784 in most writers of English. The regularity in the rest is probably due, as it is in quoted letters of George Washington, to an editor's intervention. There is a vestige of Germanic usage in the capitalized nouns, also widespread at the time.)
Lo! Freedom comes. Th' prescient Muse foretold, All Eyes th' accomplish'd Prophecy behold: Her Port describ'd, "She moves divinely fair, Olive and Laurel bind her golden Hair." She, the bright Progeny of Heaven, descends, And every Grace her sovereign Step attends; For now kind Heaven, indulgent to our Prayer, In smiling Peace resolves the Din of War. Fix'd in Columbia her illustrious Line, And bids in thee her future Councils shine. To every Realm her Portals open'd wide, Receives from each the full commercial Tide. Each Art and Science now with rising Charms Th' expanding Heart with Emulation warms. E'en great Britannia sees with dread Surprize, And from the dazzling Splendors turns her Eyes! Britain, whose Navies swept th' Atlantic o'er, And Thunder sent to every distant Shore; E'en thou, in Manners cruel as thou art, The Sword resign'd, resume the friendly Part! For Galia's Power espous'd Columbia's Cause, And new-born Rome shall give Britannia Law, Nor unremember'd in the grateful Strain, Shall princely Louis' friendly Deeds remain; The generous Prince th' impending Vengeance eye's, Sees the fierce Wrong, and to the rescue flies. Perish that Thirst of boundless Power, that drew On Albion's Head the Curse to Tyrants due. But thou appeas'd submit to Heaven's decree, That bids this Realm of Freedom rival thee! Now sheathe the Sword that bade the Brave attone With guiltless Blood for Madness not their own. Sent from th' Enjoyment of their native Shore Ill-fated- never to behold her more! From every Kingdom on Europa's Coast Throng'd various Troops, their Glory, Strength and Boast. With heart-felt pity fair Hibernia saw Columbia menac'd by the Tyrant's Law: On hostile Fields fraternal Arms engage, And mutual Deaths, all dealt with mutual Rage: The Muse's Ear hears mother Earth deplore Her ample Surface smoake with kindred Gore: The hostile Field destroys the social Ties, And every-lasting Slumber seals their Eyes. Columbia mourns, the haughty Foes deride, Her Treasures plunder'd, and her Towns destroy'd: Witness how Charlestown's curling Smoaks arise, In sable Columns to the clouded Skies! The ample Dome, high-wrought with curious Toil, In one sad Hour the savage Troops despoil. Descending Peace and Power of War confounds; From every Tongue celestial Peace resounds: As for the East th' illustrious King of Day, With rising Radiance drives the Shades away, So Freedom comes array'd with Charms divine, And in her Train Commerce and Plenty shine. Britannia owns her Independent Reign, Hibernia, Scotia, and the Realms of Spain; And great Germania's ample Coast admires The generous Spirit that Columbia fires. Auspicious Heaven shall fill with fav'ring Gales, Where e'er Columbia spreads her swelling Sails: To every Realm shall Peace her Charms display, And Heavenly Freedom spread her golden Ray. Phillis Wheatley,1784
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