The Poetry Of Phyllis Wheatley I Oxford Open Learning

    Phyllis Wheatley

    The Poetry Of Phyllis Wheatley

    Phyllis Wheatley was an African American poet who wrote during the Revolutionary War era in the late 1700s. She was the first African American to publish a book of poetry and was a prominent voice in the antislavery movement. Her works were widely praised by both white and black audiences. Today, her poetry is still relevant and her words still carry a powerful message.

    Early Years

    Phyllis Wheatley was born in West Africa in 1753 and sold into slavery at the age of seven. She was purchased by a wealthy Boston family, the Wheatleys, and was taught to read and write by the Wheatleys’ daughter. Despite the harsh realities of slavery, she was encouraged by her owners to pursue her literary talents. She soon became a prominent figure among Boston’s educated elite.

    Writing Subjects

    Wheatley wrote about a wide range of topics, including religion, philosophy, history, and the natural world. Her works often contained subtle messages about slavery and the hypocrisy of those who perpetuated it. She wrote about the longing for freedom and the hope of liberation. Her works are both timeless and timely, appealing to audiences of all ages and backgrounds.


    Wheatley’s writing style was unique and innovative. She often used language and imagery to convey her ideas in a way that was both powerful and nuanced. Her words were often filled with emotion and contained a personal touch that made them both accessible and relatable.

    To The King’s Most Excellent Majesty

    Phillis Wheatley’s 1768 poem To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty is an ode to King George III, praising his benevolence and wisdom. The poem reflects Wheatley’s admiration for the king as well as her own sense of gratitude and patriotism. She addresses both King George and God and commends King George by saying she hopes his “brows may flourish long” and that his “sceptre num’rous nations sway”. She goes on to say that she wishes the people could reward the King for how great he is, that he is “beloved by all the nations round”. In the last stanza, she starts to talk to God by saying ‘direct, and guard him from on high, / And from his head let ev’ry evil fly!”.

    The poem goes on to describe the king’s willingness to protect his people from harm and his dedication to justice. Ultimately, To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty is a celebration of the king’s leadership and a reflection of Wheatley’s own appreciation for her freedom. Through her use of poetic language and vivid imagery, Wheatley conveys her admiration for the king’s benevolence and justice. In doing so, she creates an ode to the king that is both deeply personal and deeply patriotic. Her poem is a reminder of the power of words to influence and to make a difference.

    The Literary Legacy Of Phyllis Wheatley

    Today, Wheatley’s poetry is still widely read and studied. Her words continue to inspire and motivate people of all backgrounds to think critically about the world around them. Her works are a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is still hope that things can and will get better. Phyllis Wheatley was a pioneer and a trailblazer for African American literature. Her works are a testament to her courage and strength in the face of adversity. We can all benefit from revisiting her poetry and letting her words speak to us once again.

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