To Mæcenas by Phillis Wheatley
"To Mæcenas" is a poem written by Phillis Wheatley. Mæcenas was a Roman adviser to Octavian Caesar and is seen as the patron of literature. Even though she begins the poem and ends the poem by praising Mæcenas, she also praises other authors such as Homer and Terence. She goes on to state that she will praise them and hopefully write as well as they did. Throughout the poem, Wheatley also mentions various Greek gods, such as Maro, Aurora, Phoebus, and Naiads. She wrote this poem as a letter to the Roman adviser in a way that he could understand it. It's a great excuse to mention the other great classical authors and gods while not making any reference to modern day.
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"To Mæcenas" is a seven stanza poem with varying stanza lengths. The poem is written in heroic couplets (iambic-pentameter in rhyming couplets).
To Mæcenas Mæcenas, you, beneath the myrtle shade, Read o'er what poets sung, and shepherds play'd. What felt those poets but you feel the same? Does not your soul possess the sacred flame? Their noble strains your equal genius shares In softer language, and diviner airs. While Homer paints, lo! circumfus'd in air, Celestial Gods in mortal forms appear; Swift as they move hear each recess rebound, Heav'n quakes, earth trembles, and the shores resound. Great Sire of verse, before my mortal eyes, The lightnings blaze across the vaulted skies, And, as the thunder shakes the heav'nly plains, A deep felt horror thrills through all my veins. When gentler strains demand thy graceful song, The length'ning line moves languishing along. When great Patroclus courts Achilles' aid, The grateful tribute of my tears is paid; Prone on the shore he feels the pangs of love, And stern Pelides tend'rest passions move. Great Maro's strain in heav'nly numbers flows, The Nine inspire, and all the bosom glows. O could I rival thine and Virgil's page, Or claim the Muses with the Mantuan Sage; Soon the same beauties should my mind adorn, And the same ardors in my soul should burn: Then should my song in bolder notes arise, And all my numbers pleasingly surprise; But here I sit, and mourn a grov'ling mind, That fain would mount, and ride upon the wind. Not you, my friend, these plaintive strains become, Not you, whose bosom is the Muses home; When they from tow'ring Helicon retire, They fan in you the bright immortal fire, But I less happy, cannot raise the song, The fault'ring music dies upon my tongue. The happier Terence all the choir inspir'd, His soul replenish'd, and his bosom fir'd; But say, ye Muses, why this partial grace, To one alone of Afric's sable race; From age to age transmitting thus his name With the first glory in the rolls of fame? Thy virtues, great Mæcenas! shall be sung In praise of him, from whom those virtues sprung: While blooming wreaths around thy temples spread, I'll snatch a laurel from thine honour'd head, While you indulgent smile upon the deed. As long as Thames in streams majestic flows, Or Naiads in their oozy beds repose While Phoebus reigns above the starry train While bright Aurora purples o'er the main, So long, great Sir, the muse thy praise shall sing, So long thy praise shal' make Parnassus ring: Then grant, Mæcenas, thy paternal rays, Hear me propitious, and defend my lays
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