Tag Archives: colonialism

Phillis Wheatley, “To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth”


“To the Right Honourable WILLIAM, Earl of DARTMOUTH, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for North-America, &c.”


Hail, happy day, when, smiling like the morn,
Fair Freedom rose New-England to adorn:
The northern clime beneath her genial ray,
Dartmouth, congratulates thy blissful sway:
Elate with hope her race no longer mourns,                                                              5
Each soul expands, each grateful bosom burns,
While in thine hand with pleasure we behold
The silken reins, and Freedom’s charms unfold.
Long lost to realms beneath the northern skies
She shines supreme, while hated faction dies:                                                           10
Soon as appear’d the Goddess long desir’d,
Sick at the view, she languish’d and expir’d;
Thus from the splendors of the morning light
The owl in sadness seeks the caves of night.

No more, America, in mournful strain                                                                    15
Of wrongs, and grievance unredress’d complain,
No longer shall thou dread the iron chain,
Which wanton Tyranny with lawless hand
Had made, and with it meant t’ enslave the land.

Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song,                                                 20
Wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung,
Whence flow these wishes for the common good,
By feeling hearts alone best understood,
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat:                                                                25
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast?
Steel’d was that soul and by no misery mov’d
That from a father seiz’d his babe belov’d:
Such, such my case. And can I then but pray                                                                 30
Others may never feel tyrannic sway?

For favours past, great Sir, our thanks are due,
And thee we ask thy favours to renew,
Since in thy pow’r, as in thy will before,
To sooth the griefs, which thou did’st once deplore.                                                     35
May heav’nly grace the sacred sanction give
To all thy works, and thou for ever live
Not only on the wings of fleeting Fame,
Though praise immortal crowns the patriot’s name,
But to conduct to heav’ns refulgent fane,                                                                         40
May fiery coursers sweep th’ ethereal plain,
And bear thee upwards to that blest abode,
Where, like the prophet, thou shalt find thy God.


 Title  Right Honourable WILLIAM, Earl of DARTMOUTH William Legge, 2nd earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801), played a significant role in the events leading to the American Revolution by opposing the Stamp Act (which imposed direct taxation on the colonies). As Secretary of State for North America (1772-1775) he initially took a conciliatory approach, but following the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 he attempted to regain control of the colonies, eventually calling for overwhelming use of force to quell the rebellion. However, he was against calling for an all-out war and resigned in 1775 (Britannica).

2 Freedom  Allusion to the goddess “Libertas, in Roman religion, female personification of liberty and personal freedom” (Britannica); New-England In this period New England comprised four colonies: Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, Providence, and Connecticut (World History Encyclopedia).

15 America  Colonial America or the thirteen colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia (Britannica).

18 Tyranny  “Oppressive or unjustly severe government” (OED).

25 Afric  Archaic or obsolete name for Africa (OED). Wheatley was born in West Africa and at the age of seven was kidnapped and transported to Boston aboard the slave ship The Phillis (Jeffers, Age of Phillis, p. 41).

38 Fame  Frequently figured as a winged goddess, “Fama, Greek Pheme, in Greco-Roman mythology, the personification of popular rumour” (Britannica).

40 refulgent  “Bright; shining; glittering; splendid” (Johnson); fane “A temple; a place consecrated to religion” (Johnson).

41 coursers  “A swift horse; a war horse: a word not used in prose” (Johnson).

43 the prophet  Lines 41-43 allude to the prophet Elijah who in 2 Kings “went up by a whirlwind into  heaven” by “chariot of fire and horses of fire” (2 Kings 2:11).

 Source: Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral, (London, 1773), pp. 73-75. [Hathi Trust]

 Edited by Kristine Van Dusen



Philip Freneau, “Port Royal”


Port Royal”

 HERE, by the margin of the murmuring main,
While her proud remnants I explore in vain,
And lonely stray through these dejected lands
Fann’d by the noon-tide breeze on burning sands,
Where the dull Spaniard once possess’d these shades,                                  5
And ports defended by his Pallisades —–
Tho’ lost to us, PORT-ROYAL claims a sigh,
Nor shall the Muse the unenvied verse deny,
Of all the towns that grac’d Jamaica’s isle
This was her glory, and the proudest pile,                                                         10
Where toils on toils bade wealth’s gay structures rise,
And commerce swell’d her glory to the skies:
St. Sago, seated on a distant plain,
Ne’er saw the tall ship entering from the main,
Unnotic’d streams her Cobra’s margin lave                                                       15
Where yond’ tall plantains shade her glowing wave,
And burning sands or rock-surrounded hill
Confess its founder’s fears — or want of skill.
While o’er these wastes with wearied step I go,
Past scenes of death return, in all their woe,                                                   20
O’er these sad shores in angry pomp be pass’d,
Mov’d in the winds and rag’d with everything blast–
Here, opening gulphs confess’d the almighty hand,
Here, the dark ocean roll’d across the land,
Here, piles on piles an instant tore away,                                                         25
Here, crowds on crowds in mingled ruin lay,
Whom fate scarce gave to end their noon-day feast,
Or time to call the sexton, or the priest.
Where yond’ tall barque, with all her ponderous load,
Commits her anchor to its dark abode,                                                           30
Eight fathoms down, where unseen waters flow
To quench the sulphur of the caves below,
There midnight sounds torment the sailor’s ear,
And drums and fifes play drowsy concerts there,
Sad songs of woe prevent the hours of sleep,                                               35
And fancy aids the fiddlers of the deep
Dull Superstition hears the ghostly hum,
Smit with the terrors of the world to come.
What now is left of your boasted pride!
Lost are those glories that were spread so wide,                                           40
A spit of sand is thine, by heaven’s decree,
And waiting shores that scarce resist the sea:
In this Port-Royal on Jamaica’s coast,
The Spaniard’s envy, and the Briton’s boast!
A shatter’d roof o’er every hut appears,                                                          45
And mouldering brick-work prompts the traveller’s fears,
A church, with half a priest, I grieve to see,
Grass round its door, and rust upon its key!—
One only inn with tiresome search I found
Where one sad negro dealt his beverage round;—                                       50
His was the part to wait the impatient call,
He was the landlord, post-boy, pimp, and all;
His wary eyes on every side were cast,
Beheld the present, and revolv’d the past,
Now here, now there, in swift succession stole,                                             55
Glanc’d at the bar, or watch’d the unsteady bowl.
No sprightly lads, or gay bewitching maids
Walk on these wastes or wander in these shades;
To other shores past times beheld them go,
And some are slumbering in the caves below;                                               60
A negro tribe but ill their place supply,
With bending back, short hair, and downcast eye;
A swarthy race lead up the evening dance
Trip o’er the sands and dart the alluring glance:
A feeble rampart guards the unlucky town,                                                   65
Where banish’d Tories come to seek renown,
Where worn-out slaves their bowls of beer retail,
And sun-burnt strumpets watch the approaching sail.
Here (scarce esap’d the wild tornado’s rage)
Why sail’d I here to swell my future page!                                                      70
To these dull scenes with eager haste I came
To trace the reliques of their ancient fame,
Not worth the search!—what domes are left to fall,
Guns, gales, and earthquakes shall destroy them all—
All shall be lost!–tho’ hosts their aid implore,                                               75
The TWELVE APOSTLES shall protect no more,
Nor guardian HEROES awe the impoverish’d plain;
No priest shall mutter, and no church remain,
Nor this palmetto yield her evening shade,
Where the dark negro his dull music play’d,                                                 80
Or casts his view beyond the adjacent strand
And points, still grieving, to his native land,
Turns and returns from yonder murmuring shore,
And pants for countries his must see no more–
Where shall I go, what Lethe shall I find                                                         85
To drive these dark ideas from my mind!
No buckram heroes can relieve the eye,
And George’s honors only raise a sigh—
Ye mountains vast, whose heights the heaven sustain,
Adieu, ye mountains, and fair KINGSTON’S plain,                                         90
Where Nature still the toils of art transcends—
In this dull spot the enchanting prospect ends:
Where burning sands are wing’d by every blast,
And these mean fabrics but entomb the past;
Where want, and death, and care, and grief reside,                                     95
And threatening moons advance the imperious tide:
Ye stormy winds, awhile your wrath suspend;
Who leaves the land, and bottle, and a friend,
Quits this bright isle for yon’ blue seas and sky,
Or even Port-Royal quits—without a sigh!                                                    100


6 pallisades “A narrow strip of land about seven miles in length, running nearly from north to south, and forming the harbors of Point Royal and Kingston” [Author’s Note, 1809 edition].

13 St. Sago Variant of “Santiago,” the original Spanish name for Jamaica.

15 Cobra’s “A small river falling into Kingston Bay, nearly opposite Port Royal — and which has its source in the hills beyond Spanish Town” [Author’s Note, 1809 edition].

15 lave “To wash against, to flow along, or past” (OED).

16 plantains “A low-growing plant that typically has a rosette of leaves and a slender green flower spike” (OED).

23 Here, opening gulphsOLD Port-Royal, in the island of Jamaica, contained more than 1500 buildings, and these for the most part large and elegant. This unfortunate town was for a long time reckoned the most considerable mart of trade in the West Indies. It was destroyed on the 17th of Jun, 1692, by an earthquake, which in two minutes sunk the far greater part of the buildings; by which disaster near 3000 people lost their lives” [Author’s Note].

28 sexton “An officer responsible for a church and its property, and for tasks relating to its maintenance or management” (OED).

29 barque “A boat” (OED).

44 the Briton’s boast The British took control of Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655.

66 Tories In this context, American colonists who supported the British during the American Revolution (OED).

76 TWELVE APOSTLES “A Battery so called, on the side of the harbor opposite to Port-Royal” [Author’s Note].

77 HEROES “Demi-gods” (OED).

79 Palmetto “From Spanish palmito, literally ‘small palm’” (OED).

85 Lethe “A river in Hades whose water when drunk made the souls of the dead forget their life on earth; Via Latin from Greek lēthē ‘forgetfulness’” (OED).

87 buckram heroes An allusion to Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV, II.4. 210–50, meaning “non-existent;” a hero that does not exist.

88 George’s honors Refers to the author’s British contemporaries who were loyal to King George III, who was king of Britain at the time of publication.

90 KINGSTON’S “Founded in 1693, it became capital [of Jamaica] in 1870” (OED).

Source: Poems Written Between the Years 1768 & 1794 (Monmouth, N.J., 1795), pp. 295-97. [Google Books]

Edited by Briana Williams

Anonymous, “A Picture taken from the Life”


 “A PICTURE taken from the LIFE”

 NATURE and Fortune one day meeting
Each other hail’d with courteous greeting.
And Fortune first, “Where have you been,
Sister! that you’re so seldom seen?
What youth, or what romantic fair,                                              5
Is now the object of your care?”
Nature reply’d, with accent grave,
“A fav’rite charge indeed I have.
A maid with every virtue grac’d,
Is in a calm retirement plac’d.                                                      10
Her heart with goodness is replete,
Her wit is keen, her temper sweet.
Good-humour brightens ev’ry feature;
She is a most engaging creature.”
“Indeed, cries Fortune, with a sneer,                                  15
You know not what you say, my dear.
You cannot think, in these our days,
Virtue a modern female’s praise.
Send her to me, and I’ll engage
Three months shall fit her for the age.                                      20
The glare of dress, the charms of play,
Shall chace her sober thoughts away.
Wealth and ambition shall combine
To make this fair-one wholly mine.”
Says Nature, “You have my permission,                              25
But it must be on this condition:
If, as I trust, she shall refine,
And from temptation brighter shine,
To me henceforth you’ll quit the field,
And Fortune shall to Nature yield.”                                             30
Things thus agreed, th’ accomplish’d maid
To distant regions is convey’d.
Drawn from her scene of private life,
The virgin soon became a wife:
Her consort’s brow, with laurel crown’d,                                    35
In chains the vanquish’d Nabob bound:
Like Philip’s son in warlike state,
Thrice conquer’d India, owns him great.
Returning home, what triumphs rise!
Enough to dazzle female eyes:                                                    40
His riches Poland’s crown would buy,
His glories with his riches vie.
Fortune enrag’d, to Nature hies,
“I thought your paragon was wise;
Sure such a mother, such a wife,                                                45
Was never seen in courtly life.
When I bestow’d a son and heir,
I never dreamt ‘twould be her care,
That he not only should inherit
His father’s fortune, but his merit.                                              50
She’d rather wipe the widow’s tears,
Than wear a province at her ears.”
Nature reply’d, “The contest end,
Be Fortune once true Virtue’s friend:
And let it be our mutual care                                                        55
To bless thro’ life this matchless pair.
From us they must their joys derive:
Nature and Fortune join for CLIVE.”


36 Vanquished Nabob A reference to Indian vassals under British rule.

37 Philip’s son A reference to Alexander the Great (356 BC-323 BC), who ruled Macedonia and conquered a large amount of land stretching from eastern Europe into Asia.

38 Thrice conquer’d India Reference to the exploits of Robert Clive (1725-1774), known as “Clive of India,” who established British colonial power in India.

58 CLIVE This final statement implies that Robert Clive was the embodiment of all the best virtues given by Nature and Fortune.

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (February, 1780), p. 91.

Edited by Serena McNair