Phillis Wheatley

(1753 – 5 December 1784 / Gambia)

On Being Brought From Africa To America - Poem by Phillis Wheatley

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Comments about On Being Brought From Africa To America by Phillis Wheatley

  • Gold Star - 13,865 Points Susan Williams (10/21/2015 3:35:00 PM)

    There's a lot of well-written comments on this poem printed below. Sarcasm could definitely be a key to this poem, but I would toss into the discussion that there is a history of the slaves embracing Christianity and there was nothing sarcastic in their belief. They found comfort in Jesus Christ and in the promise of happiness in heaven. Being the rare educated slave, she may have mocked the beliefs of her fellows, the inferior field slaves. I hate to think that. Sometimes high education can lead to arrogance but I don't want to see that trait in the poet. Besides, I sense a sincerity in her. She could very well be thankful that she was brought from a country that did not know Christianity to a country where she learned about the religion and was given the high education she would never have received in Africa. She seems to have been well treated and valued so perhaps she felt she was better off than she would have been in Africa where she may have lived in a slavery to African cultural beliefs that women were cattle. Just a thought. I find myself swaying back and forth on the issue of sarcasm versus sincerity. (Report) Reply

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  • Rookie DaVonna Moore-Middleton (1/28/2015 9:30:00 AM)

    Phillis Wheatley is a really good poet. (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 19,816 Points Ramesh Rai (1/31/2014 9:27:00 PM)

    A great tribute to the Lord to bestow His mercy and many many thanks to Wheatley family to engross firm faith to enlighten the great soul which shall ever be enlightening the world. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Myrtle and Roses (7/1/2007 5:48:00 AM)

    Of course this poem is sarcastic! Even without the italics, it is hard not to understand it. Those previous comments show that slavery still lacks understanding and interest from new generations, or that intolerance prevails so much so that it is still believed that African American felt thanksful from having been kidnapped from cultures as rich or even richer than what was 17th,18th or 19Th America. That torture and rapes have been forgotten and their oppressors thanked for having brought them the enlightment of Christianism and American values. Seems that the Myth of the Old South is still alive, and it saddens me to hear such comments, even well meant. Although any comment has a right to be ewpressed, obviously, and we are all here to make mistakes and learn, it still shocks me a bit... This poem reminds me of a text written by Montesquieu: De l'Esclavage des Negres... Bonne lecture! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Caitie Lamon (2/22/2007 12:50:00 AM)

    First of all, Phillis Wheatley is a SHE, not a he. Second, can you not hear the sarcasm in her voice? I suggest that you find another version of this poem... in the original, words were italicized, giving them extra emphasis on the satirical tones behind them. The words are Pagan, Saviour, Christians, Negros, and Cain. Re-read it looking for the italics and there is a dramatic difference. And look for the sarcasm... you'll see it if you look for it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Antonia Anthony (11/21/2006 10:12:00 AM)

    The poet is not suffering from an inferiority complex but rather a great feeling of self worth, nor is he saying that the slave trade was the 'mercy' that transported him from the 'pagan land', but rather he is saying that, out of something so cruel and inhumane as slavery, he found salvation, he found Christ. It is this Salvation that has given him inner peace and a great feeling of self worth. He is not condemning those that are not Christians but rather, he feels sorry for them, he is thinking about his eternal soul, not the flesh that is his body. Pagan land refers to the fact that Africa has alot of pagan dieties that they worship and he has seen the light and is celebrating that. He feels that if he was never enslaved, he would have never found freedom so absolute which is the freedom of the soul, and thats why he uses the word 'Mercy', to explain the mysterious ways in which God works. (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,648 Points Jasbir Chatterjee (4/26/2006 1:50:00 AM)

    The poet was, it seems, suffering from a terrible inferiority complex during his lifetime. I think it was not mercy but cruelty that transplanted him from what he calls the 'Pagan Land.' Further, not being a Christian does not imply that the person is not worthy of being human because God lives in all our hearts irrespective of color, caste, creed, or religion. So it was wrong of him to say that he did not know redemption until he came to America. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: remember, africa, america, god

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

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