From Wikipedia comes this information on Phillis Wheatley:
Born in Senegal, she was captured and sold into slavery at the age of 7, Wheatley was brought to America in ca. 1760 where John and Susannah Wheatley of Boston, Massachusetts purchased her and where she converted to the Christian faith. The family of merchants made sure that the intellectually gifted girl receive a good education, including study of Latin, Greek, mythology and history. She quickly mastered the English language, with her first poem published in 1767 at age 13 in the Newport Mercury. More poems soon followed.
Each of the five poems by Phillis Wheatley below were written after the death of a child. They were published in her 1773 collection Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
On the Death of a young Lady of Five Years
From dark abodes to fair etherial light
Th’ enraptur’d innocent has wing’d her flight;
On the kind bosom of eternal love
She finds unknown beatitude above.
This known, ye parents, nor her loss deplore,
She feels the iron hand of pain no more;
The dispensations of unerring grace,
Should turn your sorrows into grateful praise;
Let then no tears for her henceforward flow,
No more distress’d in our dark vale below,
Her morning sun, which rose divinely bright,
Was quickly mantled with the gloom of night;
But hear in heav’n’s blest bow’rs your Nancy fair,
And learn to imitate her language there.
“Thou, Lord, whom I behold with glory crown’d,
“By what sweet name, and in what tuneful sound
“Wilt thou be prais’d? Seraphic pow’rs are faint
“Infinite love and majesty to paint.
“To thee let all their graceful voices raise,
“And saints and angels join their songs of praise.”
Perfect in bliss she from her heav’nly home
Looks down, and smiling beckons you to come;
Why then, fond parents, why these fruitless groans?
Restrain your tears, and cease your plaintive moans.
Freed from a world of sin, and snares, and pain,
Why would you wish your daughter back again?
No–bow resign’d. Let hope your grief control,
And check the rising tumult of the soul.
Calm in the prosperous, and adverse day,
Adore the God who gives and takes away;
Eye him in all, his holy name revere,
Upright your actions, and your hearts sincere,
Till having sail’d through life’s tempestuous sea,
And from its rocks, and boist’rous billows free,
Yourselves, safe landed on the blissful shore,
Shall join your happy babe to part no more.
. . .
A Funeral Poem on the Death of C. E.
an Infant of Twelve Months.
Through airy roads he wings his instant flight
To purer regions of celestial light;
Enlarg’d he sees unnumber’d systems roll,
Beneath him sees the universal whole,
Planets on planets run their destin’d round,
And circling wonders fill the vast profound.
Th’ ethereal now, and now th’ empyreal skies
With growing splendors strike his wond’ring eyes:
The angels view him with delight unknown,
Press his soft hand, and seat him on his throne;
Then smilling thus: “To this divine abode,
“The seat of saints, of seraphs, and of God,
“Thrice welcome thou.” The raptur’d babe replies,
“Thanks to my God, who snatch’d me to the skies,
“E’er vice triumphant had possess’d my heart,
“E’er yet the tempter had beguil d my heart,
“E’er yet on sin’s base actions I was bent,
“E’er yet I knew temptation’s dire intent;
“E’er yet the lash for horrid crimes I felt,
“E’er vanity had led my way to guilt,
“But, soon arriv’d at my celestial goal,
“Full glories rush on my expanding soul.”
Joyful he spoke: exulting cherubs round
Clapt their glad wings, the heav’nly vaults resound.
Say, parents, why this unavailing moan?
Why heave your pensive bosoms with the groan?
To Charles, the happy subject of my song,
A brighter world, and nobler strains belong.
Say would you tear him from the realms above
By thoughtless wishes, and prepost’rous love?
Doth his felicity increase your pain?
Or could you welcome to this world again
The heir of bliss? with a superior air
Methinks he answers with a smile severe,
“Thrones and dominions cannot tempt me there.”
But still you cry, “Can we the sigh borbear,
“And still and still must we not pour the tear?
“Our only hope, more dear than vital breath,
“Twelve moons revolv’d, becomes the prey of death;
“Delightful infant, nightly visions give
“Thee to our arms, and we with joy receive,
“We fain would clasp the Phantom to our breast,
“The Phantom flies, and leaves the soul unblest.”
To yon bright regions let your faith ascend,
Prepare to join your dearest infant friend
In pleasures without measure, without end.
To a Lady and her Children, on the Death
of her Son and their Brother.
O’erwhelming sorrow now demands my song:
From death the overwhelming sorrow sprung.
What flowing tears? What hearts with grief opprest?
What sighs on sighs heave the fond parent’s breast?
The brother weeps, the hapless sisters join
Th’ increasing woe, and swell the crystal brine;
The poor, who once his gen’rous bounty fed,
Droop, and bewail their benefactor dead.
In death the friend, the kind companion lies,
And in one death what various comfort dies!
Th’ unhappy mother sees the sanguine rill
Forget to flow, and nature’s wheels stand still,
But see from earth his spirit far remov’d,
And know no grief recals your best-belov’d:
He, upon pinions swifter than the wind,
Has left mortality’s sad scenes behind
For joys to this terrestial state unknown,
And glories richer than the monarch’s crown.
Of virtue’s steady course the prize behold!
What blissful wonders to his mind unfold!
But of celestial joys I sing in vain:
Attempt not, muse, the too advent’rous strain.
No more in briny show’rs, ye friends around,
Or bathe his clay, or waste them on the ground:
Still do you weep, still wish for his return?
How cruel thus to wish, and thus to mourn?
No more for him the streams of sorrow pour,
But haste to join him on the heav’nly shore,
On harps of gold to tune immortal lays,
And to your God immortal anthems raise.
. . .
To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death
of the Lady’s Brother and Sister, and a
Child of the Name of Avis, aged one Year.
On Death’s domain intent I fix my eyes,
Where human nature in vast ruin lies:
With pensive mind I search the drear abode,
Where the great conqu’ror has his spoils bestow’d;
There there the offspring of six thousand years
In endless numbers to my view appears:
Whole kingdoms in his gloomy den are thrust,
And nations mix with their primeval dust:
Insatiate still he gluts the ample tomb;
His is the present, his the age to come.
See here a brother, here a sister spread,
And a sweet daughter mingled with the dead.
But, Madam, let your grief be laid aside,
And let the fountain of your tears be dry’d,
In vain they flow to wet the dusty plain,
Your sighs are wafted to the skies in vain,
Your pains they witness, but they can no more,
While Death reigns tyrant o’er this mortal shore.
The glowing stars and silver queen of light
At last must perish in the gloom of night:
Resign thy friends to that Almighty hand,
Which gave them life, and bow to his command;
Thine Avis give without a murm’ring heart,
Though half thy soul be fated to depart.
To shining guards consign thine infant care
To waft triumphant through the seas of air:
Her soul enlarg’d to heav’nly pleasure springs,
She feeds on truth and uncreated things.
Methinks I hear her in the realms above,
And leaning forward with a filial love,
Invite you there to share immortal bliss
Unknown, untasted in a state like this.
With tow’ring hopes, and growing grace arise,
And seek beatitude beyond the skies.
. . .
On the Death of J. C. an Infant.
No more the flow’ry scenes of pleasure rife,
Nor charming prospects greet the mental eyes,
No more with joy we view that lovely face
Smiling, disportive, flush’d with ev’ry grace.
The tear of sorrow flows from ev’ry eye,
Groans answer groans, and sighs to sighs reply;
What sudden pangs shot thro’ each aching heart,
When, Death, thy messenger dispatch’d his dart?
Thy dread attendants, all-destroying Pow’r,
Hurried the infant to his mortal hour.
Could’st thou unpitying close those radiant eyes?
Or fail’d his artless beauties to surprise?
Could not his innocence thy stroke controul,
Thy purpose shake, and soften all thy soul?
The blooming babe, with shades of Death o’er-
No more shall smile, no more shall raise its head,
But, like a branch that from the tree is torn,
Falls prostrate, wither’d, languid, and forlorn.
“Where flies my James?” ’tis thus I seem to hear
The parent ask, “Some angel tell me where
“He wings his passage thro’ the yielding air?”
Methinks a cherub bending from the skies
Observes the question, and serene replies,
“In heav’ns high palaces your babe appears:
“Prepare to meet him, and dismiss your tears.”
Shall not th’ intelligence your grief restrain,
And turn the mournful to the cheerful strain?
Cease your complaints, suspend each rising sigh,
Cease to accuse the Ruler of the sky.
Parents, no more indulge the falling tear:
Let Faith to heav’n’s refulgent domes repair,
There see your infant, like a seraph glow:
What charms celestial in his numbers flow
Melodious, while the foul-enchanting strain
Dwells on his tongue, and fills th’ ethereal plain?
Enough–for ever cease your murm’ring breath;
Not as a foe, but friend converse with Death,
Since to the port of happiness unknown
He brought that treasure which you call your own.
The gift of heav’n intrusted to your hand
Cheerful resign at the divine command:
Not at your bar must sov’reign Wisdom stand.
. . .