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On Being Brought From Africa To America

Rating: 3.5

'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.

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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Myrtle and Roses 01 July 2007

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!

48 22 Reply
Susan Williams 21 October 2015

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.

51 13 Reply
Denis Mair 05 January 2018

Whoops, I see that you addressed squarely the point that I touched on in my later comment.

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Denis Mair 05 January 2018

After reading the earlier comments and contrasting them with what you say, I wonder if it's possible she was being both sincere AND ironical. An example of such a mixture would be the poetry of Sherman Alexie. He is a Catholic, and he wrote fondly about a Catholic priest who had served selflessly on the Cour-de-Aleine reservation. Or Shusaku Endo's meditation on how Christianity entered Asia in his LIFE OF JESUS.

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Antonia Anthony 21 November 2006

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.

24 34 Reply
Quoth Theraven 03 September 2020

I see a loveliness and light in the woman's words. Pulls the veil back and opens my eyes to acceptance and understanding. May God bless you Phillis. QtR

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Ice Froster 29 January 2020

america was mean back then and still now

9 5 Reply
Chinedu Dike 02 November 2019

A poignant rendition set aside for sober reflection. A beautiful work of art.....................................................

6 2 Reply
Adeeb Alfateh 11 October 2019

Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain, May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. great write great 10++++++++++++

7 3 Reply
Laura Woodell 22 August 2019

The real Israelite.

5 5 Reply