Thoughts on the Works of Providence
An Electronic Edition
Wheatley, Phillis. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. London: Bell, 1773.
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Phillis Wheatley, Thoughts on the Works of Providence
ARISE, my soul, on wings enraptur'd, rise1.
To praise the monarch of the earth and skies,
Whose goodness and beneficence appear3.
As round its centre moves the rolling year,
Or when the morning glows with rosy charms,
Or the sun slumbers in the ocean's arms:
Of light divine be a rich portion lent
To guide my soul, and favour my intent.8.
Daughters of the Greek god Zeus, the
muses preside over the arts and sciences. Authors often invoke the muse of their art form for
inspiration and creativity in their writing, as Wheatley does here. my arduous flight sustain,
And raise my mind to a seraphic
Ador'd for ever be the God unseen,11.
Which round the sun revolves this vast machine,
Though to his eye its mass a point appears:13.
Ador'd the God that whirls surrounding spheres,
Which first ordain'd that mighty Sol
Another name for the sun. should reign
The peerless monarch of th' ethereal train:
Of miles twice forty millions is his height,
And yet his radiance dazzles mortal sight18.
So far beneathfrom him th' extended earth
Vigour derives, and ev'ry flow'ry birth:
Vast through her orb she moves with easy grace
Around her Phoebus
Apollo, the Roman god of the sun. in unbounded space;
True to her course th' impetuous storm derides,23.
Triumphant o'er the winds, and surging tides.
Almighty, in these wond'rous works of thine,25.
What Pow'r, what Wisdom, and what Goodness shine?
And are thy wonders, Lord, by men explor'd,27.
And yet creating glory unador'd!
Creation smiles in various beauty gay,29.
While day to night, and night succeeds to day:
That Wisdom, which attends Jehovah's ways,31.
Shines most conspicuous in the solar rays:
Without them, destitute of heat and light,
This world would be the reign of endless night:
In their excess how would our race complain,
Abhorring life! how hate its length'ned chain!36.
From air adust what num'rous ills would rise?
What dire contagion taint the burning skies?
Poisonous. vapours, fraught with death,
Would rise, and overspread the lands beneath?
Hail, smiling morn, that from the orient main
The sun rises in the east, which is the direction of the Orient, or Asia.41.
Ascending dost adorn the heav'nly plain!
So rich, so various are thy beauteous dies,43.
That spread through all the circuit of the skies,
That, full of thee, my soul in rapture soars,
And thy great God, the cause of all adores.
O'er beings infinite his love extends,47.
His Wisdom rules them, and his Pow'r defends.
When tasks diurnal
Daily. tire the human frame,49.
The spirits faint, and dim the vital flame,
Then too that ever active bounty shines,
Which not infinity of space confines.
The sable veil, that Night in silence draws,
Conceals effects, but shews th' Almighty Cause;54.
Night seals in sleep the wide creation fair,
And all is peaceful but the brow of care.
Again, gay Phoebus, as the day before,
Wakes ev'ry eye, but what shall wake no more;
Again the face of nature is renew'd,59.
Which still appears harmonious, fair, and good.
May grateful strains salute the smiling morn,
Before its beams the eastern hills adorn!
Shall day to day and night to night conspire63.
To show the goodness of the Almighty Sire?
This mental voice shall man regardless hear,65.
And never, never raise the filial pray'r?
That of a child to a parent.
To-day, O hearken, nor your folly mourn
For time mispent, that never will return.
But see the sons of vegetation rise,69.
And spread their leafy banners to the skies.
All-wise Almighty Providence
Providence refers to the way that God governs and maintains all aspects of human life. we trace71.
In trees, and plants, and all the flow'ry race;
As clear as in the nobler frame of man,
All lovely copies of the Maker's plan.
The pow'r the same that forms a ray of light,
That call'd creation from eternal night.76.
"Let there be light," he said: from his profound
God was said to have created the world from chaos. heard, and trembled at the sound:
Swift as the word, inspir'd by pow'r divine,
Behold the light around its maker shine,
The first fair product of th' omnific
And now through all his works diffus'd abroad.
As reason's pow'rs by day our God disclose,83.
So we may trace him in the night's repose:
Say what is sleep? and dreams how passing strange!
A reference to Shakespeare's Othello: "She swore, in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange" (I,iii,176).85.
When action ceases, and ideas range
Licentious and unbounded o'er the plains,
Imagination, whim, fantasy. queen in giddy triumph reigns.
Hear in soft strains the dreaming lover sigh
To a kind fair, or rave in jealousy;90.
On pleasure now, and now on vengeance bent,
The lab'ring passions struggle for a vent.
What pow'r, O man! thy reason then restores,
So long suspended in nocturnal hours?
What secret hand returns the mental train,95.
And gives improv'd thine active pow'rs again?
From thee, O man, what gratitude should rise!
And, when from balmy sleep thou op'st thine eyes,
Let thy first thoughts be praises to the skies.
How merciful our God who thus imparts100.
O'erflowing tides of joy to human hearts,
When wants and woes might be our righteous lot,
Our God forgetting, by our God forgot!
Among the mental pow'rs a question rose,104.
"What most the image of th' Eternal shows?"
When thus to Reason (so let Fancy rove)106.
Her great companion spoke immortal Love.
"Say, mighty pow'r, how long shall strife prevail,108.
"And with its murmurs load the whisp'ring gale?
"Refer the cause to Recollection's shrine,110.
"Who loud proclaims my origin divine,
"The cause whence heav'n and earth began to be,
"And is not man immortaliz'd by me?
"Reason let this most causeless strife subside."
Thus Love pronounc'd, and Reason thus reply'd.115.
"Thy birth, celestial queen! 'tis mine to own,116.
"In thee resplendent is the Godhead shown;
"Thy words persuade, my soul enraptur'd feels118.
"Resistless beauty which thy smile reveals."
Ardent she spoke, and, kindling at her charms,
She clasp'd the blooming goddess in her arms.
Infinite Love where'er we turn our eyes122.
Appears: this ev'ry creature's wants supplies;
This most is heard in Nature's constant voice,124.
This makes the morn, and this the eve rejoice;
This bids the fost'ring rains and dews descend
To nourish all, to serve one gen'ral end,
The good of man: yet man ungrateful pays
But little homage, and but little praise.129.
To him, whose works array'd with mercy shine,
What songs should rise, how constant, how divine!