Caroline wigginton RutgersUniversity A Chain of Misattribution Phillis Wheatley, Mary Whateley, and "An Elegy on Leaving" Ever since its discovery by Mukhtar Ali Isani in 1986, the poem believed to be Phillis Wheatley's last publication during her lifetime, "An Elegy on Leaving," has struck scholars as displaying an "atypical weariness and lack of hope" (Isani, "Elegy on Leaving" 611). From its opening lines, the poem evokes a scene of unwelcome departure from a pastoral haven: FAREWEL! ye friendly bow'rs, ye streams adieu, I leave with sorrow each sequester'd seat: The lawns, where oft I swept the morning dew, The groves, from noon-tide rays a kind retreat. (Wheatley, CompleteWritings 10203) John C. Shields, in his survey of Wheatley's "employ[ment] of [the] subversive pastoral," identifies it as "one of her bleakest, for she appears to bid adieu to the entire world of poetic creativity" ("Phillis Wheatley's Subversive Pastoral" 632, 646). Vincent Carretta, in his remarkable new biography of Wheatley, sees in the poem a "fittingly poignant farewell to more than just a life of seclusion" (189). Those who mark the propinquity of its publication to Wheatley's death--it was published only months before in the July 1784 issue of London's ArminianMagazine--welcome
Early American Literature – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Oct 26, 2012
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