"To S. M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works"
By Phillis Wheatley

Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by Students of Marymount University, James West, Amy Ridderhof
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Sources

London : Printed for A. Bell, 1773Page images are sourced from two copies of the first edition housed in the Library of Congress.Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative, 1999Online SGML text from the University of Michigan HTI. SGML markup edited to conform to LiC parameters, including changes to element and attribute case, ligatures, and other special html characters.

Editorial Statements

Research informing these annotations draws on publicly-accessible resources, with links provided where possible. Annotations have also included common knowledge, defined as information that can be found in multiple reliable sources. If you notice an error in these annotations, please contact lic.open.anthology@gmail.com.

Original spelling and capitalization is retained, though the long s has been silently modernized and ligatured forms are not encoded.

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Materials have been transcribed from and checked against first editions, where possible. See the Sources section.


Citation

Wheatley, Phillis. "To S. M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works". Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, Printed for A. Bell, 1773 , pp 114-115 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Wheatley/wheatley-painter. Accessed: 2024-04-18T01:09:05.825Z

Linked Data: Places related to this work.

114 To S. M.SMSMAccording to Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Scipio Moorhead was an enslaved artist, principally known for his painting of Phillis Wheatley, which became the basis for the frontispiece to her 1773 collection of poems. The frontispiece is included in this database. While no signed paintings by Moorhead survive, this poem by Wheatley may describe two of his works. Moorhead was owned by the Presbyterian minister John Moorhead of Boston and was likely tutored by Sarah Moorhead (Appiah and Gates 62). - [TH] a young African Painter, on seeing his Works. 1TO show the lab'ring bosom's deep intent, 2And thought in living characters to paint, 3When first thy pencil did those beauties give, 4And breathing figures learnt from thee to live, 5How did those prospects give my soul delight, 6A new creation rushing on my sight? 7Still, wond'rous youth! each noble path pursue, 8On deathless glories fix thine ardent view: 9Still may the painter's and the poet's fire 10To aid thy pencil, and thy verse conspire! 11And may the charms of each seraphic theme 12Conduct thy footsteps to immortal fame! 13High to the blissful wonders of the skies 14Elate thy soul, and raise thy wishful eyes. 15Thrice happy, when exalted to survey 16That splendid citycitycityWheatley refers to the heavenly city of "New Jerusalem," described in Revelation 21. As many scholars have noted, Christianity offered a not uncomplicated narrative of salvation and hope that was particularly resonant for the enslaved. She continues this metaphor of future bliss crowning current woe throughout this and other poems; see, for instance, lines 23-28, below. - [TH], crown'd with endless day, 17Whose twice six gates on radiant hinges ring: 18Celestial Salem blooms in endless spring. 115 19Calm and serene thy moments glide along, 20And may the muse inspire each future song! 21Still, with the sweets of contemplation bless'd, 22May peace with balmy wings your soul invest! 23But when these shades of time are chas'd away, 24And darkness ends in everlasting day, 25On what seraphic pinions shall we move, 26And view the landscapes in the realms above? 27There shall thy tongue in heav'nly murmurs flow, 28And there my muse with heav'nly transport glow: 29No more to tell of Damon's tender sighs_DamonDamonDamon is a typical name for a male lover in pastoral poetry, poetry that imagines romantic conflicts in bucolic or country settings. Wheatley frequently both references and draws on classical pastoral poetry throughout her Poems. For a deeper reading of Wheatley's use of the pastoral, see John C. Shield's scholarly essay, "Phillis Wheatley's Subversive Pastoral." - [TH], 30Or rising radiance of Aurora's eyesAuroraAuroraIn Greco-Roman mythology, Aurora (called Eos in the Greek) personifies the dawn. - [TH], 31For nobler themes demand a nobler strain, 32And purer language on th' ethereal plain. 33Cease, gentle muse! the solemn gloom of night 34Now seals the fair creation from my sight.

Footnotes

_SMAccording to Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Scipio Moorhead was an enslaved artist, principally known for his painting of Phillis Wheatley, which became the basis for the frontispiece to her 1773 collection of poems. The frontispiece is included in this database. While no signed paintings by Moorhead survive, this poem by Wheatley may describe two of his works. Moorhead was owned by the Presbyterian minister John Moorhead of Boston and was likely tutored by Sarah Moorhead (Appiah and Gates 62).
_cityWheatley refers to the heavenly city of "New Jerusalem," described in Revelation 21. As many scholars have noted, Christianity offered a not uncomplicated narrative of salvation and hope that was particularly resonant for the enslaved. She continues this metaphor of future bliss crowning current woe throughout this and other poems; see, for instance, lines 23-28, below.
_DamonDamon is a typical name for a male lover in pastoral poetry, poetry that imagines romantic conflicts in bucolic or country settings. Wheatley frequently both references and draws on classical pastoral poetry throughout her Poems. For a deeper reading of Wheatley's use of the pastoral, see John C. Shield's scholarly essay, "Phillis Wheatley's Subversive Pastoral."
_AuroraIn Greco-Roman mythology, Aurora (called Eos in the Greek) personifies the dawn.