(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The speaker of the poem urges her soul to rise and contemplate the majesty of God through the vastness and orderliness of his creation. Though God himself is unseen, he is made manifest in the heavens and the earth through such powerful objects as the sun. Wheatley takes the grandeur of the cosmos as proof of God’s sublime, divine imagination. The poem is shaped by the pattern of day’s light being following by night’s darkness and the return of daylight on the following morning. Humans and the vegetative world require the productive light of the day and the restorative darkness of night, so God is not only powerful but also merciful. The poem ends with Reason and Love, personified, asking what most shows forth almighty God. The poet’s answer is that everywhere one looks one sees God’s infinite love made visible; humans know him through their senses. Reason falters and fails in the face of the Eternal. All that is left is for humans to praise and worship.

Thoughts on the Work of Providence Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bassard, Katherine Clay. Spiritual Interrogations: Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women’s Writing. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Carretta, Vincent, and Philip Gould, eds. Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001.

Lasky, Kathryn. A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2003.

Renfro, G. Herbert. Life and Works of Phillis Wheatley. The Black Heritage Library Collection. Plainview, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1970.

Richmond, Merle. Phillis Wheatley. American Women of Achievement. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Robinson, William H., ed. Critical Essays on Phillis Wheatley. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982.

Shields, John C. “The American Epic Writ Large: The Example of Phillis Wheatley.” In The American Aeneas: Classical Origins of the American Self. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2001.