Poem Hunter
A Farewell To America To Mrs. S. W.
(1753 – 5 December 1784 / Gambia)

A Farewell To America To Mrs. S. W.

ADIEU, New-England's smiling meads,
Adieu, the flow'ry plain:
I leave thine op'ning charms, O spring,
And tempt the roaring main.

In vain for me the flow'rets rise,
And boast their gaudy pride,
While here beneath the northern skies
I mourn for health deny'd.

Celestial maid of rosy hue,
O let me feel thy reign!
I languish till thy face I view,
Thy vanish'd joys regain.

Susanna mourns, nor can I bear
To see the crystal show'r,
Or mark the tender falling tear
At sad departure's hour;

Not unregarding can I see
Her soul with grief opprest:
But let no sighs, no groans for me,
Steal from her pensive breast.

In vain the feather'd warblers sing,
In vain the garden blooms,
And on the bosom of the spring
Breathes out her sweet perfumes.

While for Britannia's distant shore
We sweep the liquid plain,
And with astonish'd eyes explore
The wide-extended main.

Lo! Health appears! celestial dame!
Complacent and serene,
With Hebe's mantle o'er her Frame,
With soul-delighting mein.

To mark the vale where London lies
With misty vapours crown'd,
Which cloud Aurora's thousand dyes,
And veil her charms around.

Why, Phoebus, moves thy car so slow?
So slow thy rising ray?
Give us the famous town to view,
Thou glorious king of day!

For thee, Britannia, I resign
New-England's smiling fields;
To view again her charms divine,
What joy the prospect yields!

But thou! Temptation hence away,
With all thy fatal train,
Nor once seduce my soul away,
By thine enchanting strain.

Thrice happy they, whose heav'nly shield
Secures their souls from harms,
And fell Temptation on the field
Of all its pow'r disarms!

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Comments (13)

An astounding poem! A true poetess who was before her time, I see poetic elegance and grace in this poem, something that I find rare today with contemporary poets..full marks for this!
'fell', an adjective meaning 'cruel'. A warning against complacency
Please take the time to read Phillis' biography. You'll find that she was a slave who lived and died before the 19th century and was taught to read by her owners, presumably with their children. I'm sure that some would even think her first name misspelled. Regardless - as a poet I hereby humbly request that after my body expires it would be of particular pleasure to my soul for my words to be presented as I wrote them. I would ask that Phillis' words be kept as is not only for posterity, or to preserve the idea of poetic license, but to more importantly involve the reader with her struggles and the rare oddity that belongs solely to this very lovely and unique woman.
Did nobody else notice that FAREWELL is misspelled by Poem Hunter in the title? Or is that the way Wheatley herself spelled it?
Phillis Wheatley has long been one of my favorite poets. This poem, along with so many others, exemplifies why. It isn't just her classical sense, which I myself adore and adhere to almost religiously as a poet, nor her ability to overcome a society's prejudices, nor in the elegant beauty she used to carefully craft this incredible double sestina, but it is rather the sheer, beautiful, raw placement of her words that always - always completely removes me from my own temporal surroundings and places me squarely into her magical, wonderful world. If I had lived with her contemporary folk I am sure to have strived every moment to be by her side - for I am certain she is the loveliest soul I have ever encountered. The words above are merely long past echoes of her intensely beautiful world. For those commenting on prophecy below - Phillis lived most of her life as a colonist under British rule - although she was a slave she was owned by the Wheatley family, a very progressive couple. At 20 she travelled to England to serve her master's son, first, but to have a better chance at publishing her poetry second. She died in poverty - a free woman. Which is tragedy in my opinion, for to me her poetry surpasses all others of any time.
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