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On Imagination by Phillis Wheatley


"On Imagination" is a poem written by Phillis Wheatley. In this poem, Wheatley discusses "imagination" by speaking of the various seasons and gods throughout Greek mythology. As an introduction to the Greek myths, Wheatley tells us "From Helicon's refulgent heights attend". Helicon, referring to Mount Helicon, is a place mentioned in Greek myths. On the mountain there are said to have been two springs: the Aganippe and the Hippocrene that were both created by Pegasus striking his hoof across a rock. She goes on to mention gods such as Flora, Tithon, and Aurora.

"On Imagination" is a one stanza poem with 53 total lines. Even though some lines are written in iambic-pentameter, other lines are written with some triambic feet mixed with iambic and aren't written with ten syllables. Many of the lines are rhymed as couplets, except for lines 40-42 where there are three lines rhymed together "rise", "dies", and "skies" and the final two lines "sea" and "lay" are unrhymed. Furthermore, there are some instances of imperfect rhymes throughout the writing.


On Imagination

Thy various works, imperial queen, we see,
How bright their forms! how deck'd with pomp by thee!
Thy wond'rous acts in beauteous order stand,
And all attest how potent is thine hand.
From Helicon's refulgent heights attend,
Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend:
To tell her glories with a faithful tongue,
Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song.
Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,
Till some lov'd object strikes her wand'ring eyes,
Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,
And soft captivity involves the mind.
Imagination! who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th' empyreal palace of the thund'ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental optics rove,
Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th' unbounded soul.
Though Winter frowns to Fancy's raptur'd eyes
The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise;
The frozen deeps may break their iron bands,
And bid their waters murmur o'er the sands.
Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign,
And with her flow'ry riches deck the plain;
Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round,
And all the forest may with leaves be crown'd:
Show'rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose,
And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose.
Such is thy pow'r, nor are thine orders vain,
O thou the leader of the mental train:
In full perfection all thy works are wrought,
And thine the sceptre o'er the realms of thought.
Before thy throne the subject-passions bow,
Of subject-passions sov'reign ruler thou;
At thy command joy rushes on the heart,
And through the glowing veins the spirits dart.
Fancy might now her silken pinions try
To rise from earth, and sweep th' expanse on high:
From Tithon's bed now might Aurora rise,
Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies,
While a pure stream of light o'erflows the skies.
The monarch of the day I might behold,
And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold,
But I reluctant leave the pleasing views,
Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse;
Winter austere forbids me to aspire,
And northern tempests damp the rising fire;
They chill the tides of Fancy's flowing sea,
Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay.

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