Friday, October 21, 2011

Phillis Wheatley

i read this book last january.  it was also during the time i took my first ever online class, drawing and painting portraits with misty mawn. 

click on image to go to amazon

it's a fictional recount of the life of phillis wheatley.  i was so moved by her story, that i was inspired to portray her likeness for my first ever portrait drawing..  which wasn't a very successful attempt, but it started the journey that i'm currently on, so for that reason i'm exceptionally fond of it.

what brought this thing full circle for me was when we visited boston.  phillis' old stomping grounds.  i had forgotten about that.  and lo and behold this is what i ran into on one of our walks in the back bay area, imagine my delight

the statue is part of the boston women’s memorial on commonwealth avenue, a series of three statues of bostonian women by meredith bergmann: Wheatley, Abigail Adams, and Lucy Stone.

this poem, is inscribed on the memorial:

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. “

and it's this poem, On being brought from  A F R I C A to A M E R I CA ...

'T WAS 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, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

....that really gets me when i read it.  what i wonder is... did phillis write what they wanted to hear because she knew she was being treated and held like a pet who does tricks.  survival mode.  renounce my origin.  say what they want to hear.  or did she believe it?  i like to think she was being facetious and fully aware of the game she was playing. 

go here for a complete list of her poetry.


Michelle Shopped said...

i love this stuff (harriet tubman was my favorite heroine as a child, well her and nellie bly) -- new bedford was part of the underground railroad and there are still tunnels under some neighborhoods -- can't wait to explore! gotta catch up on phyllis tho -- i vaguely remember her story...

Francesca Di Leo said...

hey patricia, yes, she escaped and came to st. catharines, ontario in the underground rail way. a monument to courage and determination. my kinda' woman!!! now off to google nellie bly....