And in an outspoken letter to the Reverend Samson Occom, written after Wheatley was free and published repeatedly in Boston newspapers in 1774, she equates American slaveholding to that of pagan Egypt in ancient times: “Otherwise, perhaps, the Israelites had been less solicitous for their Freedom from Egyptian Slavery: I don’t say they would have been contented without it, by no Means, for in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance; and by the Leave of our modern Egyptians I will assert that the same Principle lives in us.”
In the past ten years, Wheatley scholars have uncovered poems, letters, and more facts about her life and her association with eighteenth-century black abolitionists. They have also charted her notable use of classicism and have explicated the sociological intent of her biblical allusions. All this research and interpretation has proven Wheatley’s disdain for the institution of slavery and her use of art to undermine its practice. Before the end of this century the full aesthetic, political, and religious implications of Wheatley’s art and even more salient facts about her life and works will surely be known and celebrated by all who study the eighteenth century and by all who revere this woman, a most important poet in the American literary canon.
— Sondra A. O’Neale, Emory University
Owen frequently uses assonance to emphasise the mood of the narrative. In -12, the long ‘oh’ of ‘grow’, ‘only know’ and ‘soaks’ draws out the painful process of the day’s awakening. The same long sounds in ‘Slowly’, ‘ghosts’, ‘home’ and ‘glozed’ convey the extended effort required by snow-numbed spirits to engage with a world beyond their current environment, such slow reactions being typical of the onset of hypothermia. The effort wasn’t worth it – everything was ‘closed’ .
The third and final section of the poem shifts into an all-out plea and display of poetic prowess in which the speaker attempts to win over the Lady. He compares the Lady’s skin to a vibrant layer of morning dew that is animated by the fires of her soul and encourages her to “sport” with him “while we may.” Time devours all things, the speaker acknowledges, but he nonetheless asserts that the two of them can, in fact, turn the tables on time. They can become “amorous birds of prey” that actively consume the time they have through passionate lovemaking.