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(1753 – 5 December 1784 / Gambia)

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A Funeral Poem On The Death Of C. E. An Infant Of Twelve Months

Through airy roads he wings his instant flight
To purer regions of celestial light;
Enlarg'd he sees unnumber'd systems roll,
Beneath him sees the universal whole,
Planets on planets run their destin'd round,
And circling wonders fill the vast profound.
Th' ethereal now, and now th' empyreal skies
With growing splendors strike his wond'ring eyes:
The angels view him with delight unknown,
Press his soft hand, and seat him on his throne;
Then smilling thus: 'To this divine abode,
'The seat of saints, of seraphs, and of God,
'Thrice welcome thou.' The raptur'd babe replies,
'Thanks to my God, who snatch'd me to the skies,
'E'er vice triumphant had possess'd my heart,
'E'er yet the tempter had beguil d my heart,
'E'er yet on sin's base actions I was bent,
'E'er yet I knew temptation's dire intent;
'E'er yet the lash for horrid crimes I felt,
'E'er vanity had led my way to guilt,
'But, soon arriv'd at my celestial goal,
'Full glories rush on my expanding soul.'
Joyful he spoke: exulting cherubs round
Clapt their glad wings, the heav'nly vaults resound.
Say, parents, why this unavailing moan?
Why heave your pensive bosoms with the groan?
To Charles, the happy subject of my song,
A brighter world, and nobler strains belong.
Say would you tear him from the realms above
By thoughtless wishes, and prepost'rous love?
Doth his felicity increase your pain?
Or could you welcome to this world again
The heir of bliss? with a superior air
Methinks he answers with a smile severe,
'Thrones and dominions cannot tempt me there.'
But still you cry, 'Can we the sigh borbear,
'And still and still must we not pour the tear?
'Our only hope, more dear than vital breath,
'Twelve moons revolv'd, becomes the prey of death;
'Delightful infant, nightly visions give
'Thee to our arms, and we with joy receive,
'We fain would clasp the Phantom to our breast,
'The Phantom flies, and leaves the soul unblest.'
To yon bright regions let your faith ascend,
Prepare to join your dearest infant friend
In pleasures without measure, without end.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Edited: Friday, January 20, 2012

Read poems about / on: thanks, faith, funeral, happy, friend, smile, song, joy, god, world, hope, pain, death, poem, light, heart, angel, running, sky

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Comments about this poem (On Imagination by Phillis Wheatley )

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  • Babatunde Aremu (8/17/2013 8:26:00 PM)

    This poem encouraged me a lot. It comes my way the right time as mum has just transited. great poem

    2 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Suvro Bhattacharya (8/17/2012 6:18:00 PM)

    Have an inner strength!

  • Kevin Straw (8/17/2012 10:07:00 AM)

    What utter balderdash! This is sheer fantasy - there is not the tiniest bit of evidence of any of it. The idea that parents should not weep because of the death of their child is baloney. We all know in our heart of hearts that when someone dies that is the end of them, that is why we mourn. If we really believed in Wheatley's silly myth then we would indeed be wrong in mourning. Contrast this with the recent Catullus poem. Who is right Wheatley or Catullus?

  • Abraham Gbenga (8/17/2012 7:29:00 AM)

    I love you the poem because it help the other poet to improve in composing poems.

  • Sidi Mahtrow (8/17/2011 3:26:00 PM)

    Love takes many forms.
    Those who suffer loss of a dear one
    And can express it in prose or poetry
    Come closest to sharing their grief
    Making us all reflect on someone
    That had a place in our hearts and is
    Now with us in spirit but not body.


  • Juan Olivarez (8/17/2011 2:46:00 PM)

    The eternal pessimist must ever find something vile to say about anything. If you can't say something good then shuteth uppeth.

  • Ramesh T A (8/17/2011 11:45:00 AM)

    It is not a preposterous love the love between two infant friends! It is wonderfully expressed by the able hand of Phillis Wheatley!

  • Terence George Craddock (8/17/2010 12:07:00 PM)

    Beneath him sees the universal whole,
    Planets on planets run their destin'd round,
    And circling wonders fill the vast profound.
    Th' ethereal now, and now th' empyreal skies
    With growing splendors strike his wond'ring eyes:

    a journey of cosmic proportions; a journey through into depths of creation.

  • Michael Pruchnicki (8/17/2010 10:09:00 AM)

    So we have in Wheatley's 'esoteric' funeral poem on the death of Baby Charles (the happy subject of Wheatley's poem!) the 'thoughtless wishes' enunciated by the survivors in their 'prepost'rous love'! I do not find Wheatley's funeral poem incomprehensible nor very profound, for that matter; In fact, I find the elegy for the 12 month old infant rather endearing and somewhat charming in its imagery and delightful rhyme scheme. Can't the reader enjoy the delight Charles feels as he luxiurates in 'pleasures without measure, without end' as 'exulting cherubs round him /clap their glad wings' filling heaven with music? Why must some of us on this site persist in gruff resistance to what Wheatley obviously meant the poem to be - a comfort for those left behind?

  • Lorina Zapata (8/17/2009 3:16:00 PM)

    Kevin, I understand where your coming from in regards to this poem however, the poem is very escoteric. I say this because only a true and unwavering spiritual person will truly understand the significance of this poem and where Phillis Wheatley is coming from. The poem isn't chastising the parents grief as 'preposterous' directly, instead P.W. is chastising the reasoning behind the grief which I believe she views as selfish and hypocritical for the 'spiritual' parents. I know this may sound harsh but it really isn't...let me explain. If a person is truly spiritual and believes in God (for example) and believes that a person will spend eternal life in heaven after he or she passes...then there is nothing to fear or grieve over when faced with the time of our passing because a better place will be waiting for us in the end right? Instead the spiritual person should either be in peace when faced with death or be rejoicing in their loved ones death because they know he or she have gone on to this better place. (According to a spiritual person) . However, this isn't to say that sadness isn't justified and that tears shouldn't be shed, however, death shouldn't impede on a person's life or cause them to grieve to the point where it becomes more about appeasing their own dispair and self pity for their loss then it is about losing a loved one which from what I understand of P.W.'s poem is selfish. In this case, the infant is clearly in heaven with all the beauty and wonder that heaven has bestwoed and instead of rejoicing that their child is in a wonderous place that they supposedly believe exists, then it is hypocritical to wish the child back to a world that although is still beautiful at times, is also filled with pain, suffering. In this poem, the child will never have to suffer this nor be tempted by the evils of the world and because of this P.W. expresses that to llive in despair over the loss of this child is preposterous because the child is now in heaven and according to the spiritual person the parents will see their child one day again. Personally, if I have understood the poem correctly, I feel it's ingenious work. It's also very poignant especially for those who claim to be spiritual yet fear losing things in their lives when their faith should be strong enough for them to know better. I think it's a FANTASTIC poem!

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