I Was snatchd from Africs fancyd happy seat

When William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, was appointed Secretary of State for the American Department by King George III in 1772, many hoped he would be sympathetic to America’s grievances and that war could be averted. Phillis Wheatley had met him while in London to promote her book and wrote a poem addressed to him in which she expressed the hope that British policy—”wanton Tyranny”—toward the American colonies would change and described from whence her love of freedom derived.

To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth

Hail, happy day, when, smiling like the morn,
Fair Freedom rose New-England to adorn:
The northern clime beneath her genial ray,
Dartmouth, congratulates thy blissful sway:
Elate with hope her race no longer mourns,
Each soul expands, each grateful bosom burns,
While in thine hand with pleasure we behold
The silken reins, and Freedom’s charms unfold.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
No more, America, in mournful strain
Of wrongs, and grievance unredress’d complain,
No longer shall thou dread the iron chain,
Which wanton Tyranny with lawless hand
Had made, and with it meant t’enslave the land.
Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song,
Wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung,
Whence flow these wishes for the common good,
By feeling hearts alone best understood,
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast?
Steel’d was that soul and by no misery mov’d
That from a father seiz’d his babe belov’d:
Such, such my case. And can I then but pray
Others may never feel tyrannic sway?
For favours past, great Sir, our thanks are due,
And thee we ask thy favours to renew,
Since in thy pow’r, as in thy will before,
To sooth the griefs, which thou did’st once deplore.

Sadly, Phillis lived in poverty after her marriage to John Peters, a freed slave. She composed more poems but could not get them published; they have been lost. Phillis died in 1784.

The poem appears on page 8 of In the Words of Women.

posted April 29th, 2013 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Resistance to British, Slaves/slavery

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