Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Farewell to America

Adieu, New-England's smiling meads,
   Adieu, th' flow'ry plain:
I leave thine op'ning charms, O spring,
   And tempt the roaring main.

In vain for me the flow'rets rise,
   And boast their gaudy pride,
While here beneath the northern skies
   I mourn for health deny'd.

Celestial maid of rosy hue,
   Oh let me feel thy reign!
I languish till thy face I view,
   Thy vanish'd joys regain.

Susannah mourns, nor can I bear
   To see the crystal shower
Or mark the tender falling tear
   At sad departure's hour;

Not regarding can I see
   Her soul with grief opprest
But let no sighs, no groans for me
   Steal from her pensive breast.

In vain the feather'd warblers sing
   In vain the garden blooms
And on the bosom of the spring
   Breathes out her sweet perfumes.

While for Britannia's distant shore
   We weep the liquid plain,
And with astonish'd eyes explore
   The wide-extended main.

Lo! Health appears! celestial dame!
   Complacent and serene,
With Hebe's mantle oe'r her frame,
   With soul-delighting mien.

To mark the vale where London lies
   With misty vapors crown'd
Which cloud Aurora's thousand dyes,
   And veil her charms around.

Why, Phoebus, moves thy car so slow?
   So slow thy rising ray?
Give us the famous town to view,
   Thou glorious King of day!

For thee, Britannia, I resign
   New-England's smiling fields;
To view again her charms divine,
   What joy the prospect yields!

But thou! Temptation hence away,
   With all thy fatal train,
Nor once seduce my soul away,
   By thine enchanting strain.

Thrice happy they, whose heavenly shield
   Secures their souls from harm,
And fell Temptation on the field
   Of all its pow'r disarms.

 - Phillis Wheatley

(Phillis Wheatley's (1753–1784) birth name is lost to time.

She arrived in America as a child aboard the slave ship
Phillis. Bought by the Wheatley family she became, at the age of 20, the first African American poet and the first African American woman to be published in the United States. 

In recognizing her "almost mythic aspiration and accomplishment" Phillis Wheatley was inducted into the American Poets' Corner in 2008. The quote that accompanies her plaque reads, "Enlarge the close contracted mind, And fill it with fire."

A Farewell to America from Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral leads off our observance of Black History Month and the rich tapestry of words and ideas that have been woven over time.)

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