On the Death of General Wooster

A poem by Phillis Wheatley (July 1778)

From this the Muse rich consolation draws
He nobly perish'd in his Country's cause
His Country's Cause that ever fir'd his mind
Where martial flames, and Christian virtues join'd.
How shall my pen his warlike deeds proclaim
Or paint them fairer on the list of Fame—
Enough, great Chief-now wrapt in shades around,
Thy grateful Country shall thy praise resound—
Tho not with mortals' empty praise elate
That vainest vapour to the immortal State
Inly serene the expiring hero lies.
And thus (while heav'nward roll his swimming eyes):
     "Permit, great power, while yet my fleeting breath
And Spirits wander to the verge of Death—
Permit me yet to point fair freedom's charms
For her the Continent shines bright in arms,
By thy high will, celestial prize she came—
For her we combat on the field of fame
Without her presence vice maintains full sway
And social love and virtue wing their way
O still propitious be thy guardian care
And lead Columbia thro' the toils of war.
With thine own hand conduct them and defend
And bring the dreadful contest to an end—
For ever grateful let them live to thee
And keep them ever Virtuous, brave, and free—
But how, presumtuous shall we hope to find
Divine acceptance with th' Almighty mind—
While yet (O deed Ungenerous!) they disgrace
And hold in bondage Afric's blameless race?
Let Virtue reign—And thou accord our prayers
Be victory our's, and generous freedom theirs."
The hero pray'd—the wond'ring spirits fled
And sought the unknown regions of the dead—
Tis thine, fair partner of his life, to find
His virtuous path and follow close behind—
A little moment steals him from thy sight
He waits thy coming to the realms of light
Freed from his labours in the ethereal Skies
Where in succession endless pleasures rise!

This poem was found on pages 149 - 150 of The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley, edited by John Shields, New York and Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

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