Notes on Phillis Wheatley

“A Hymn to the Morning”

Wheatley’s poem is undeniably classical – complete with rhymed iambic pentameter and references to classical figures like Aurora, Calliope, and the Muses. Yet it seems, like Barbauld’s poems, to have hints and tinges of Romanticism before its time. Wheatley’s poem is aware of poetic processes, much like will later appear in Wordsworth’s work. Wheatley identifies the soft, maternal morning with creation and the harsh, patriarchal afternoon sun with destruction, yet it identifies a conflict between these two binaries, and like Blake, works to blend and fuse the binaries by exploring the notions of each side. She recognizes reverence for the brightest sun, even as it reduces her mental powers of creation, and its power to drive away darkness and gloom. She begins in the tradition of favoring the patriarchal tradition/sun because of its strength and power, but she clearly shows favor of the maternal sun which allows her to create without pressure. Despite being, in the tradition, unable to produce under the power of the patriarchal tradition, Wheatley’s poem is still written and produced, showing the strength of a competing viewpoint, as well as the Romantic concept of blending and confusing boundaries between opposite ideas.


About abbaxjane

Devoted writer, reader, pen pal, post card collector, raven admirer, anglophile, tea drinker, music lover, and binge watcher.
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