To the University of CAMBRIDGE, in NEW ENGLAND

WHILE an intrisic ardor prompts to write,
The muses promise to assist my pen;
‘Twas not long since I left my native shore
The land of errors, and Egyptian gloom:
Father of mercy, ‘twas they gracious hand
Brought me in safety from those dark abodes.

Students, to you ‘tis giv’n to scan the heights
Above, to traverse the ethereal space,
And mark the systems of revolving worlds.
Still more, ye sons of science ye receive
The blissful news by messengers from heav’n,
How Jesus’ blood for your redemption flows.
See him with hands out-stretcht upon the cross;
Immense compassion in his bosom glows;
He hears revilers, nor resents their scorn:
What matchless mercy in the Son of God!
When the whole human race by sin had fall’n,
He deigned to die that they might rise again,
And share with him in the sublimest skies,
Life without death, and glory without end.

Improve your privileges while they stay,
Ye pupils, and each hour redeem, that bears
Or good or bad report of you to heav’n.
Le sin, that baneful evil to the soul,
By you be shunn’d nor once remit your guard;
Suppress the deadly serpent in its egg.
Ye blooming plans of human race divine,
An Ethiop tells you ‘tis your greatest foe;
Its transient sweetness turns to endless pain,
And in immense perdition sinks the soul.

—From The Complete Works of Phillis Wheatley

(Legend has it that the teenaged Wheatley composed this poem for these Harvard students because they were complaining about stale butter!)

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