The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Liberty and Peace,” by Phillis Wheatley, is a sixty-six-line meditation celebrating the genesis of the United States of America as a country separate from Great Britain: “Lo! Freedom comes.” Written after the successful end of the Revolutionary War as a companion piece to her tribute to George Washington, “To His Excellency General Washington,” Wheatley describes in “Liberty and Peace” the figure of “Peace,” a woman “divinely fair,/ Olive and Laurel bind[ingl her golden Hair,” descending from heaven to grace the new country, called “Columbia,” with her presence after the long years of turmoil: “So Freedom comes array’d with Charms divine.” “Peace,” a messenger from heaven, comes to earth to force the tyrannical “Britannia” to “submit to Heaven’s decree” and allow America to detach itself from its colonial forebears.

Wheatley’s poem recounts the numerous years of repression that America had suffered from its colonial master, Great Britain, primarily due to the superiority of her natural gifts: “Each Art and Science now with rising Charms/ Th’ expanding Heart with Emulation warms.” As a “Realm of Freedom,” America’s impending rivalry with Britain caused great jealousy: “E’en great Britannia sees with dread Surprize,/ And from dazzl’ing Splendor turns her Eyes!” Consequently, Wheatley says, Britain began a series of controlling measures upon America to keep it from becoming a power in its...

(The entire section is 511 words.)