Assignment: Analysis of Wheatley Poem

Read the following poem by Phyllis Wheatley and answer the questions below.

“On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield”

HAIL, happy saint, on thine immortal throne,

Possest of glory, life, and bliss unknown;

We hear no more the music of thy tongue,

Thy wonted auditories cease to throng.

Thy sermons in unequall’d accents flow’d,

And ev’ry bosom with devotion glow’d;

Thou didst in strains of eloquence refin’d

Inflame the heart, and captivate the mind.

Unhappy we the setting sun deplore,

So glorious once, but ah! it shines no more.

 

Behold the prophet in his tow’ring flight!

He leaves the earth for heav’n’s unmeasur’d height,

And worlds unknown receive him from our sight.

There Whitefield wings with rapid course his way,

And sails to Zion through vast seas of day.

Thy pray’rs, great saint, and thine incessant cries

Have pierc’d the bosom of thy native skies.

Thou moon hast seen, and all the stars of light,

How he has wrestled with his God by night.

He pray’d that grace in ev’ry heart might dwell,

He long’d to see America excell;

He charg’d its youth that ev’ry grace divine

Should with full lustre in their conduct shine;

That Saviour, which his soul did first receive,

The greatest gift that ev’n a God can give,

He freely offer’d to the num’rous throng,

That on his lips with list’ning pleasure hung.

 

“Take him, ye wretched, for your only good,

“Take him ye starving sinners, for your food;

“Ye thirsty, come to this life-giving stream,

“Ye preachers, take him for your joyful theme;

“Take him my dear Americans, he said,

“Be your complaints on his kind bosom laid:

“Take him, ye Africans, he longs for you,

“Impartial Saviour is his title due:

“Wash’d in the fountain of redeeming blood,

“You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to God.”

 

Great Countess,* we Americans revere

Thy name, and mingle in thy grief sincere;

New England deeply feels, the Orphans mourn,

Their more than father will no more return.

 

But, though arrested by the hand of death,

Whitefield no more exerts his lab’ring breath,

Yet let us view him in th’ eternal skies,

Let ev’ry heart to this bright vision rise;

While the tomb safe retains its sacred trust,

Till life divine re-animates his dust.

*The Countess of Huntingdon, to whom Mr. Whitefield was Chaplain.

Assignment Instructions

In your analysis, you must answer the following questions:

SUBJECT AND FORM

  • What is the poem about?
  • Is the poem a ballad, a sonnet, or an elegy? How do you know?
  • How would you characterize the poem’s mood?

RHYME

  • Study the poem’s rhyme scheme (if it has one). Give an example of an end rhyme (reproduce the lines here):
  • What is the function of rhyme in poetry generally?

RHYTHM

  • Choose two lines from the poem. Reproduce them here:
  • What kind of meter do the lines have?  Your answer should have two terms, which specify both the rhythmic pattern within the lines and the number of times each pattern, or foot, is repeated in each line (For example, anapestic tetrameter refers to a pattern of x x / with four feet per line.)

LANGUAGE

  • Give two examples of alliteration from the poem
  • In the line “Unhappy we the setting sun deplore,” why is “setting sun” a metaphor? To what does it refer?