'An Hymn To Humanity (To S.P.G. Esp)' by Phillis Wheatley

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O! for this dark terrestrial ball
Forsakes his azure-paved hall
A prince of heav'nly birth!
Divine Humanity behold,
What wonders rise, what charms unfold
At his descent to earth!


The bosoms of the great and good
With wonder and delight he view'd,
And fix'd his empire there:
Him, close compressing to his breast,
The sire of gods and men address'd,
"My son, my heav'nly fair!


"Descend to earth, there place thy throne;
"To succour man's afflicted son
"Each human heart inspire:
"To act in bounties unconfin'd
"Enlarge the close contracted mind,
"And fill it with thy fire."


Quick as the word, with swift career
He wings his course from star to star,
And leaves the bright abode.
The Virtue did his charms impart;
Their G——! then thy raptur'd heart
Perceiv'd the rushing God:


For when thy pitying eye did see
The languid muse in low degree,
Then, then at thy desire
Descended the celestial nine;
O'er me methought they deign'd to shine,
And deign'd to string my lyre.


Can Afric's muse forgetful prove?
Or can such friendship fail to move
A tender human heart?
Immortal Friendship laurel-crown'd
The smiling Graces all surround
With ev'ry heav'nly Art.

Anonymous submission.

Editor 1 Interpretation

An Hymn To Humanity (To S.P.G. Esp) by Phillis Wheatley


Phillis Wheatley's "An Hymn To Humanity (To S.P.G. Esp)" is a poem that speaks to the universal themes of redemption and the power of the human spirit. Written in the 18th century, the poem is a celebration of the humanity of slaves and the potential for all people to reach their fullest potential. The poem is written in the form of a hymn, with a focus on the divine and the spiritual, but it is rooted in the very real struggles of those who have been oppressed.

Through the use of imagery, metaphor, and allusion, Wheatley creates a powerful and moving portrait of what it means to be human. Her use of language is both beautiful and thought-provoking, and her message is one that continues to resonate with readers today. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deeper into the themes and motifs of "An Hymn To Humanity," exploring the ways in which Wheatley uses her art to convey a message of hope and redemption.

Themes and Motifs

The most prominent theme in "An Hymn To Humanity" is the idea of redemption. Throughout the poem, Wheatley emphasizes the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and rise above its circumstances. This theme is particularly relevant given the context in which Wheatley was writing. As a former slave, she knew firsthand the hardships and injustices that many people faced on a daily basis. Yet, she also believed that through perseverance and faith, it was possible to overcome even the most difficult of circumstances.

Wheatley's use of Christian imagery and allusions is another important motif in the poem. She frequently references biblical figures and events, such as Adam and Eve and the story of creation, to underscore the divine nature of humanity. Through these allusions, Wheatley suggests that the human spirit is not only powerful, but also imbued with a sense of divine purpose.

The idea of freedom is also central to the poem. Wheatley writes of "liberty's sacred flame" and "the noble mind's bright flame," both of which suggest a desire for self-determination and autonomy. Given Wheatley's own experiences as a slave, it is not surprising that she would place such a high value on freedom. However, her use of language here is particularly striking. By describing freedom as a flame, she suggests that it is a force that can never be fully extinguished, no matter how hard others may try to suppress it.

Finally, the poem is an ode to the glory of humanity. Wheatley writes of the "noblest passions of the human soul" and the "greatness of the human mind," both of which suggest a deep admiration for the potential of the human spirit. Through her art, Wheatley seeks to celebrate the humanity of those who have been oppressed, and to remind all readers of the beauty and power inherent in the human experience.


One of the most striking aspects of "An Hymn To Humanity" is the way in which Wheatley uses language to convey her message. Her use of metaphor and imagery is particularly effective, as it allows her to capture the essence of complex ideas and emotions in a few well-chosen words. For example, when she writes of "liberty's sacred flame," she is able to evoke a sense of the enduring nature of freedom, even in the face of adversity.

Similarly, her use of Christian allusions is particularly effective. By referencing the story of creation, for example, she is able to underscore the idea that humans are imbued with a sense of divine purpose. This idea is reinforced throughout the poem, as she describes the "noble passions" and "greatness" of humanity.

At the same time, Wheatley is careful not to overstate her message. While the poem is a celebration of humanity, it is not naive or simplistic in its portrayal of the world. She acknowledges the hardships and injustices that many people face, but she also suggests that these challenges can be overcome through faith and perseverance. In doing so, she offers a message of hope and redemption that is both realistic and inspiring.


In "An Hymn To Humanity," Phillis Wheatley offers a powerful meditation on the nature of humanity and the potential for redemption. Through her use of language and allusion, she is able to capture the essence of universal themes such as freedom, divine purpose, and the power of the human spirit. Her message is one that continues to resonate with readers today, reminding us of the beauty and power inherent in the human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

An Hymn To Humanity: A Masterpiece of Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry, is known for her exceptional literary works that reflect her experiences as a slave in America. Her poem, "An Hymn To Humanity," is a masterpiece that celebrates the power of humanity and the divine nature of human beings. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem is dedicated to S.P.G. Esp, who is believed to be a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, an organization that supported the spread of Christianity in the British colonies. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each consisting of eight lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCCDD, and the meter is iambic pentameter, which gives the poem a musical quality.

The first stanza of the poem celebrates the divine nature of human beings. Wheatley writes, "Lo! Earth receives him from the bending skies; / Sink down ye mountains, and ye valleys rise; / With heads declined, ye cedars, homage pay; / Be smooth, ye rocks; ye rapid floods, give way!" The imagery in these lines is powerful, as Wheatley describes the earth bowing down to receive humanity. The mountains and valleys rise to welcome human beings, and even the rocks and rivers give way to honor their arrival. This imagery suggests that human beings are divine beings, worthy of reverence and respect.

The second stanza of the poem explores the theme of unity and brotherhood. Wheatley writes, "The Sire of gods, pronounces Nature one; / Extend your views, and you'll behold a son; / A son, who fills a place at his right hand, / And takes his nature from the Parent's band." Here, Wheatley suggests that all of humanity is united under the umbrella of nature, and that we are all brothers and sisters. She also suggests that we are all children of God, and that we share a divine nature. This theme of unity and brotherhood is particularly important in the context of Wheatley's own experiences as a slave, as she was denied the basic human rights that the poem celebrates.

The third stanza of the poem celebrates the power of love and compassion. Wheatley writes, "This said, supreme in majesty divine, / Here let us pause, and in full chorus join; / Hearts, voices, instruments, harmonious rise, / And swell the general chorus of the skies." Here, Wheatley suggests that love and compassion are the most powerful forces in the universe, and that they can bring people together in harmony and peace. She also suggests that music is a powerful tool for expressing these emotions, and that it can help to create a sense of unity and brotherhood among people.

Throughout the poem, Wheatley uses a variety of literary devices to enhance its impact. For example, she uses imagery to create vivid pictures in the reader's mind, such as the image of the earth bowing down to receive humanity. She also uses repetition to emphasize key themes, such as the repetition of the word "son" in the second stanza. Additionally, she uses alliteration to create a musical quality in the poem, such as in the line "Hearts, voices, instruments, harmonious rise."

In conclusion, "An Hymn To Humanity" is a powerful poem that celebrates the divine nature of human beings, the unity and brotherhood of all people, and the power of love and compassion. Through her use of vivid imagery, repetition, and alliteration, Wheatley creates a poem that is both beautiful and impactful. As the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry, Wheatley's work is a testament to the power of literature to inspire and uplift people, and her legacy continues to inspire readers today.

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