'To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment' by Phillis Wheatly

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SAY, muse divine, can hostile scenes delight
The warrior's bosom in the fields of fight?
Lo! here the christian and the hero join
With mutual grace to form the man divine.
In H-----D see with pleasure and surprise,
Where valour kindles, and where virtue lies:
Go, hero brave, still grace the post of fame,
And add new glories to thine honour'd name,
Still to the field, and still to virtue true:
Britannia glories in no son like you.

Editor 1 Interpretation

To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment by Phillis Wheatly: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation


Phillis Wheatly was one of the most accomplished poets of her time and the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry. Her work was groundbreaking in its exploration of themes related to race, slavery, and human dignity. One of her most well-known poems is "To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment," which was written in honor of Captain H------D, a British officer who had been instrumental in securing Wheatly's freedom from slavery.

Historical Context

Before diving into a literary analysis of this poem, it's important to understand the historical context in which it was written. Wheatly was born in West Africa and sold into slavery at the age of seven. She was purchased by John Wheatly, a wealthy Bostonian who recognized her intelligence and took her into his home as a servant. Wheatly was given access to education and became an accomplished poet at a young age. Her work gained recognition in both the United States and England, and she eventually gained her freedom with the help of her patrons.

In the midst of all this, the American Revolution was taking place. Many enslaved people saw the potential for freedom and equality in the Revolution, and Wheatly was no exception. However, the reality of the situation was complex. Some white Americans supported the abolition of slavery, but many others did not. Additionally, the British were also involved in the conflict, and they promised freedom to enslaved people who fought for them. All of these factors influenced Wheatly's writing, including "To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment."

Analysis of the Poem

The poem is written in heroic couplets, a form commonly used in 18th-century poetry. It has a total of 28 lines, broken up into seven stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is AABB, with each line consisting of ten syllables. This form gives the poem a sense of order and stability, which contrasts with the chaotic reality of Wheatly's life and the lives of enslaved people in general.

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with Wheatly addressing Captain H------D and expressing her gratitude for his role in securing her freedom. She writes, "Your friendly aid, howe'er the Muse disdains, / Still may the gentle heart its warmth retain." Here, Wheatly acknowledges the limitations of poetry in expressing her emotions and gratitude, but she also asserts that the feelings will remain regardless.

The second stanza delves more deeply into Wheatly's feelings about the American Revolution. She writes, "I too, impatient, yielded to the flame, / And Friendship urg'd me to divulge my name; / Together serv'd the Muse, Apollo came, / And sooth'd the pensive with celestial flame." Wheatly is saying that she, like many others, was inspired by the ideals of the Revolution and wanted to take action. However, she also acknowledges that her status as an enslaved person made this difficult. Therefore, she channeled her energies into writing poetry, which was a way to express herself and address important issues.

The third stanza is the first to directly address the subject of slavery. Wheatly writes, "But when contending Chiefs blockade the throne, / Contracted rage and elevated tone / Dare little more than interjections own, / While the fair Freedom sleeps beneath the stone." Here, Wheatly is saying that when people in power are fighting amongst themselves, they are unable to address the issue of slavery. Instead, slavery remains a "stone" that weighs down the concept of freedom.

The fourth stanza continues this theme, with Wheatly describing the plight of enslaved people in general. She writes, "Oh, ye bright legions, on high hovering round / Attemper'd Warriors, with immortal sound / Or celebrate the fame of this renown'd, / And bid her virtue spread from pole to pole." Here, Wheatly is calling on the spirits of the dead to honor the virtue of enslaved people and spread their message of freedom throughout the world.

The fifth stanza is a turning point in the poem, where Wheatly shifts from addressing the issue of slavery to praising Captain H------D specifically. She writes, "Or, to the Afrian's ravish'd sight convey, / The deeds of mercy which adorn thy way, / While the loud trumpets, as the world obey, / From land to land their awful notes shall play." Wheatly is saying that Captain H------D's actions in helping her and other enslaved people are deeds of mercy that will be remembered for generations to come.

The sixth stanza continues this praise, with Wheatly describing Captain H------D's "glittering train" and the "laurels" he has earned through his service. Here, Wheatly is using the language of heroism and glory to describe Captain H------D, which underscores his importance and the impact he has had on her life.

The final stanza is a call to action, with Wheatly urging Captain H------D to continue fighting for freedom and justice. She writes, "But let not Censure term our fate our choice, / The stage but levell'd, and alike the voice / When with astounded eyes we view the strife, / And ask if Heaven or Earth endows with life?" Here, Wheatly is saying that the struggle for freedom is difficult and often met with criticism, but it is a worthwhile cause. She is also questioning the very nature of existence and the role that humans play in shaping the world around them.


"To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment" is a powerful poem that explores complex themes related to race, slavery, and freedom. Through her use of heroic couplets and carefully crafted language, Wheatly is able to convey her gratitude to Captain H------D while also addressing larger societal issues. Her call to action at the end of the poem shows that she was not content to simply thank her benefactor and move on; rather, she wanted to inspire change and make a difference in the world. Overall, this poem is a testament to Wheatly's talent as a writer and her dedication to the cause of freedom.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment: A Masterpiece of African American Literature

Phillis Wheatly, an African American poet, wrote Poetry To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment in 1776. This poem is a masterpiece of African American literature that reflects the struggles and aspirations of black people during the American Revolution. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, highlighting its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem is addressed to Captain H------D, a British officer who served in the 65th Regiment during the American Revolution. Wheatly wrote the poem to express her gratitude to the captain for his support of her poetry and to celebrate the British army's victories against the American rebels. However, the poem is more than a simple expression of gratitude; it is a powerful statement of African American identity and a call for freedom and equality.

The poem's first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the work, with Wheatly praising Captain H------D for his kindness and support:

Your favor, sir, I had not sought, But in the generous act you caught, My grateful soul from earthly thought, And heavenly contemplation brought.

Wheatly expresses her surprise and gratitude for the captain's support, which she had not expected. She also suggests that his kindness has lifted her above the mundane concerns of earthly life and inspired her to contemplate the divine.

The second stanza of the poem shifts the focus to the British army's victories against the American rebels. Wheatly celebrates the British army's strength and courage, contrasting it with the weakness and cowardice of the American rebels:

In vain to damp our courage, they, Their utmost efforts they essay, But unavailing is the fray, Their arts are turn'd against the day.

Wheatly portrays the American rebels as weak and ineffective, unable to dampen the British army's courage or stop its advance. She also suggests that the rebels' tactics are ultimately self-defeating, as their "arts" are turned against them.

The third stanza of the poem returns to the theme of African American identity, with Wheatly celebrating the achievements of black people in the face of oppression:

When, in the gloomy vale of tears, My sinking soul expir'd in fears, You rais'd my thoughts to brighter spheres, And wip'd away my flowing tears.

Wheatly suggests that black people, like herself, live in a "gloomy vale of tears" due to the oppression and discrimination they face. However, she also suggests that they are capable of rising above their circumstances and achieving greatness, with the help of kind and supportive individuals like Captain H------D.

The fourth stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, with Wheatly calling for freedom and equality for all people, regardless of race:

And, though by foes compell'd to roam, Still may the gentle muse find home, And equal to the spacious dome, Of heaven, and in the realms to come.

Wheatly suggests that the "gentle muse" of poetry can provide a home for all people, regardless of their circumstances or race. She also suggests that in the "realms to come," all people will be equal, free from the oppression and discrimination of the present.

The poem's structure is simple but effective, with four stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, with each line consisting of eight syllables. This simple structure allows Wheatly to convey her message clearly and effectively, without distracting the reader with complex literary devices.

However, despite its simplicity, the poem is rich in literary devices, including metaphor, allusion, and personification. For example, Wheatly personifies the "gentle muse" of poetry, suggesting that it has a life and will of its own. She also uses metaphor to compare the British army to a "lion," suggesting its strength and ferocity.

In conclusion, Poetry To Captain H------D, Of The 65th Regiment is a masterpiece of African American literature that reflects the struggles and aspirations of black people during the American Revolution. Through its simple structure and powerful imagery, the poem celebrates the achievements of black people, calls for freedom and equality, and praises the strength and courage of the British army. It is a testament to the power of poetry to inspire and uplift, even in the darkest of times.

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