To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady's Brother and Sister, and a Child of the Name Avis, Aged One Year

Original Text: 
Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London: by A. Bell, for Cox and Berry, Boston, 1773): 84-85. Facsimile edition in The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley, ed. John C. Shields (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988). PS 866 W5 1988 Robarts Library
2Where human nature in vast ruin lies,
3With pensive mind I search the drear abode,
4Where the great conqu'ror has his spoils bestow'd;
6In endless numbers to my view appears:
7Whole kingdoms in his gloomy den are thrust,
8And nations mix with their primeval dust:
9Insatiate still he gluts the ample tomb;
10His is the present, his the age to come
11See here a brother, here a sister spread,
12And a sweet daughter mingled with the dead.
13But, Madam, let your grief be laid aside,
14And let the fountain of your tears be dry'd,
15In vain they flow to wet the dusty plain,
16Your sighs are wafted to the skies in vain,
17Your pains they witness, but they can no more,
18While Death reigns tyrant o'er this mortal shore.
19The glowing stars and silver queen of light
20At last must perish in the gloom of night:
21Resign thy friends to that Almighty hand,
22Which gave them life, and bow to his command;
23Thine Avis give without a murm'ring heart,
24Though half thy soul be fated to depart.
25To shining guards consign thine infant care
26To waft triumphant through the seas of air:
27Her soul enlarg'd to heav'nly pleasure springs,
28She feeds on truth and uncreated things.
29Methinks I hear her in the realms above,
30And leaning forward with a filial love,
31Invite you there to share immortal bliss
32Unknown, untasted in a state like this.
33With tow'ring hopes, and growing grace arise,
34And seek beatitude beyond the skies.


1] title: the gentleman is named "James Sullivan, Esq." in the 1772 proposals (The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley, ed. John C. Shields [New York: Oxford University Press, 1988]: 288). Back to Line
5] James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh (1581-1656), dated God's creation of the earth recorded in Genesis as 4004 B.C. (Shields, p. 288) Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.