'An Hymn To The Evening' by Phillis Wheatly

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SOON as the sun forsook the eastern main
The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain;
Majestic grandeur!From the zephyr's wing,
Exhales the incense of the blooming spring.
Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes,
And through the air their mingled music floats.
Through all the heav'ns what beauteous dies are
But the west glories in the deepest red:
So may our breasts with ev'ry virtue glow,
The living temples of our God below!
Fill'd with the praise of him who gives the light,
And draws the sable curtains of the night,
Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind,
At morn to wake more heav'nly, more refin'd;
So shall the labours of the day begin
More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.
Night's leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes,

Editor 1 Interpretation

An Hymn To The Evening by Phillis Wheatly

What a remarkable poet Phillis Wheatly was! Here we are more than two centuries later, still reading and appreciating her work. And why not? Wheatly's poetry is a testament to her intelligence, artistry, and humanity. In this literary criticism, we will focus on one of her most celebrated works, "An Hymn To The Evening."

Setting the Scene

Let's start by imagining the scene Wheatly is describing in the poem. We are in the countryside at dusk. The sun has just set, and the world is winding down for the day. The air is cool and fresh, and the sky is turning from orange to purple. You can see stars starting to twinkle in the sky. It's a peaceful, contemplative time.

The Structure of the Poem

Wheatly's "An Hymn To The Evening" is a well-structured poem, divided into three stanzas of equal length. Each stanza consists of six lines, with a regular ABABCC rhyme scheme. The lines are written in iambic pentameter, which adds a musical quality to the poem. The consistent structure of the poem helps to create a sense of order and harmony, which is appropriate for a poem about the evening.

The Theme of the Poem

The theme of the poem is the beauty and peacefulness of the evening. Wheatly uses imagery and metaphor to create a sense of calm and tranquility. She praises the evening for its ability to soothe the soul and to provide a respite from the noise and busyness of the day. She also suggests that the evening is a time for reflection and contemplation.

The Imagery in the Poem

Wheatly's use of imagery in "An Hymn To The Evening" is exquisite. She uses vivid descriptions of the natural world to create a sense of serenity and calm. For example, she describes the "dewy eve" and the "vernal airs" that "whisper sweetly through the grove." These images evoke a sense of freshness and renewal, as well as a sense of peace.

The Metaphors in the Poem

Wheatly also uses metaphors to convey her message about the evening. For example, she compares the evening to a "veil" that "softens the rude blaze of day." This metaphor suggests that the evening is like a soothing balm that can heal the stresses of the day. She also compares the evening to a "robe" that "spreads o'er all the sky." This metaphor suggests that the evening is like a blanket that covers the world, providing comfort and security.

The Tone of the Poem

The tone of the poem is one of reverence and awe. Wheatly clearly loves the evening and sees it as a time of great beauty and peace. Her language is elevated and poetic, which adds to the sense of awe. For example, she refers to the evening as a "sacred calm" and a "holy stillness." This language suggests that the evening is not just a time of rest, but also a time of spiritual connection.

The Historical Context of the Poem

It's important to remember that Wheatly was writing in the 18th century, at a time when African Americans were still enslaved in America. Wheatly herself was a former slave who had been brought to America from West Africa as a child. Despite this, she was able to become a published poet and a respected member of society. "An Hymn To The Evening" was published in 1773, just a few years before the American Revolution. It's possible that Wheatly saw the evening as a time of freedom and release from the constraints of slavery.


"An Hymn To The Evening" is a beautiful and timeless poem that celebrates the beauty and peacefulness of the evening. Wheatly's use of imagery and metaphor creates a sense of calm and tranquility, while her elevated language adds to the sense of awe. The poem is a testament to Wheatly's intelligence, artistry, and humanity, and it remains an important work in the canon of African American literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

An Hymn To The Evening: A Masterpiece of Poetry by Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley, the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry, was a literary genius who left an indelible mark on the world of literature. Her works, which were written in the 18th century, were a testament to her exceptional talent and her deep understanding of the human condition. One of her most famous works is "An Hymn To The Evening," a poem that celebrates the beauty and tranquility of the evening.

The poem is a masterpiece of poetry, with its rich imagery, vivid descriptions, and lyrical language. It is a hymn to the evening, a time of day that is often overlooked but is filled with beauty and wonder. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which explores a different aspect of the evening.

The first stanza sets the tone for the poem, with its opening lines: "Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main, / The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain." The imagery here is powerful, with the sun leaving the sky and the thunder rolling across the heavens. The stanza goes on to describe the beauty of the evening, with its "purple clouds" and "golden skies." The language is lyrical and evocative, painting a picture of a world bathed in the soft light of the setting sun.

The second stanza is a meditation on the beauty of nature, with its "verdant robe" and "flow'ry bed." The language here is rich and descriptive, with Wheatley using words like "balmy" and "fragrant" to evoke the scents and sensations of the evening. The stanza also contains a reference to the "sable wing" of night, which is a reminder that the beauty of the evening is fleeting and that darkness will soon descend.

The final stanza is a hymn to God, with Wheatley praising the "great Creator" for the beauty of the evening. The language here is reverential and awe-inspiring, with Wheatley using words like "majesty" and "glory" to describe God's power and might. The stanza ends with a plea to God to "guide my steps to endless day," a reminder that the beauty of the evening is a fleeting glimpse of the eternal beauty that awaits us in heaven.

Overall, "An Hymn To The Evening" is a masterpiece of poetry that celebrates the beauty and wonder of the evening. It is a hymn to nature, to God, and to the human spirit, and it is a testament to Wheatley's exceptional talent as a poet. The poem is a reminder that even in the midst of darkness and uncertainty, there is beauty and wonder to be found in the world around us.

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