“To His Excellency, General Washington” By Phillis Wheatley
Introduction • Wheatley prefaces the poem with a letter to Washington. • Lavishes praises on Washington and his “great cause” • Reader can predict the tone of the poem will be formal if it is anything like the letter.
Personification • In lines 1-4, Wheatley introduces Columbia, the goddess of liberty – a personification of America. • In lines 29-34, Wheatley cites the French and Indian War as proof of what Columbia’s fury can do (a warning to the British). • In the conclusion of the poem, Wheatley asks the goddess of liberty to guide Washington in his actions and decisions.
Personification (cont.) • In lines 13-22, the sky and ocean are given human qualities. • Eolus is the personification of the wind (Greek god of the winds). • The “Astonish’d ocean” beats the shore in “wild uproar.” • Line 35 speaks of “Britannia” – which is Great Britain personified as a goddess.
Other Literary Elements • The poem is written in heroic couplets • Couplet – two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme • Heroic Couplet – has a specific meter called iambic pentameter • Rhetorical question is asked in line 23. • What is the point made by this question?
Justification of “cause” • In lines 32-34, Wheatley states that the colonists are defended by God and that the “eyes of nations” are “fix’d on the scales” of justice. • The world hopes to see America be the victor.