Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523
Celestial choir is the poet’s muse, a device of neoclassicism. The muse is called on to inspire the poet’s writing.
“Columbia” was a term Wheatley used for America, later used by other writers.
“Freedom’s cause” is the central theme of the poem, the struggle of the colonists to be free from England, even if it meant going to war against the more powerful British.
In this context, “dreadful” means “inspiring awe or reverence,” “in refulgent arms” means “in brilliant defense.” In this sense, Columbia (America) is portrayed in righteous terms for standing up against England.
The speaker of the poem points out that other countries are watching something unique occurring in the uprising. And as it turns out, the American Revolution directly inspired the French Revolution.
Heaven is affected by the struggle in a sorrowful way.
The poet describes the goddess of Freedom coming down from the heavens to become involved in the war. The ancient Greeks would use laurel to crown the victors in their games. An olive branch is a symbol of peace.
The poet calls on the muse again to be favorably disposed to inspire the poet in the retelling of the battles the American armies are going through.
The poet, through a simile, compares the American forces’ battles to the power of Eolus, king of the winds.
The “train” is the troops in file, as lining up in military formation.
The “ensign” is a flag decorated in national colors, or emblems, relating to the army displaying it. In this case, it would have been decorated with an emblem of the colonial armies sewn on it.
“Thee” is Washington, and the phrase “first in peace” is the most famous phrase in the poem, used later by Congress at Washington’s funeral. There is some argument as to whether Wheatley wrote “first in peace” or “first in place,” since, as commander- in-chief of the army, Washington would...
(The entire section contains 523 words.)
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