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(1753 – 5 December 1784 / Gambia)

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On Imagination

THY various works, imperial queen, we see,
How bright their forms! how deck'd with pomp
by thee!
Thy wond'rous acts in beauteous order stand,
And all attest how potent is thine hand.
From Helicon's refulgent heights attend,
Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend:
To tell her glories with a faithful tongue,
Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song.
Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,
Till some lov'd object strikes her wand'ring eyes,
Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,
And soft captivity involves the mind.
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.
Though Winter frowns to Fancy's raptur'd eyes
The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise;
The frozen deeps may break their iron bands,
And bid their waters murmur o'er the sands.
Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign,
And with her flow'ry riches deck the plain;
Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round,
And all the forest may with leaves be crown'd:
Show'rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose,
And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose.
Such is thy pow'r, nor are thine orders vain,
O thou the leader of the mental train:
In full perfection all thy works are wrought,
And thine the sceptre o'er the realms of thought.
Before thy throne the subject-passions bow,
Of subject-passions sov'reign ruler thou;
At thy command joy rushes on the heart,
And through the glowing veins the spirits dart.
Fancy might now her silken pinions try
To rise from earth, and sweep th' expanse on high:
From Tithon's bed now might Aurora rise,
Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies,
While a pure stream of light o'erflows the skies.
The monarch of the day I might behold,
And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold,
But I reluctant leave the pleasing views,
Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse;
Winter austere forbids me to aspire,
And northern tempests damp the rising fire;
They chill the tides of Fancy's flowing sea,
Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002


Read poems about / on: winter, star, song, rose, fire, joy, wind, sea, light, passion, sky, water, work

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Comments about this poem (On Imagination by Phillis Wheatley )

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  • * Sunprincess * (2/27/2014 10:24:00 PM)

    .....enjoyed tremendously..

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Vizard Dhawan (2/27/2014 8:10:00 PM)

    ‘Tithonus is based on a classical fable.
    Aurora, the goddess of Dawn, fell in
    love with a handsome youth, Tithonus
    by name. At the request of the
    goddess, Zeus allowed the gift of
    immortality on Tithonus. The goddess,
    however, forgot to ask for the
    perpetuation of her lover’s youth and
    beauty. With the passage of time
    Tithonus grew frightfully old and
    enfeebled, so much so that his goddess
    take back her gift and let him die, but
    Aurora was helpless, as even, “gods
    themselves can not recall their gifts”

  • Celeste Bright (2/27/2014 1:14:00 AM)

    Ms. Wheatley takes us on a journey far and away in Imagination, but alas at the end reality pulls us back to Earth.

  • Ramesh Rai (1/31/2014 9:39:00 PM)

    Enthusiastically a brilliant and lovely write. During the age of slavery She was having such divine and profound thoughts. Filled my heart with cascading pleasures.
    MY HEAD BOWS BEFORE THE DIVINE GESTURE.

  • Edwin Chris (2/27/2013 3:49:00 PM)

    Brilliant, i love it!

  • Nthabiseng Kgoronyane (2/27/2012 4:01:00 PM)

    Wow what a beautiful piece. :) me like!

  • Carlos Echeverria (2/27/2012 11:00:00 AM)

    She's sharing her unfettered inner-world.

  • David Aoloch Bion (2/27/2011 10:28:00 AM)

    Good ideas from Afirca. I enjoy reading it as the first African poem on Poemhunrt.................,

  • Joseph Poewhit (2/27/2010 5:25:00 PM)

    Beautiful word flow for one to read.

  • Indira Renganathan (2/27/2010 4:11:00 AM)

    Heavenly choice of words outflowing effortlessly in this poem...Phillis Wheatley was a slave to poetry only I suppose...making us all slaves to her imagination...marvelous

Read all 17 comments »

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