Sunday, January 31, 2010

translating Phyllis Wheatley

And Phillis Wheatley, the first African American poet, switched languages, from Fulani to English, under duress, after being abducted from West Africa and sold to Boston merchant at about the age of seven.
--Switching Languages: Translingual Writers Reflect on their Craft, Steven G. Kellman

Though she managed to write important poetry in English rather than her native Fulani, Phyllis Wheatley did not choose to be transported from Africa to America, as a slave.
--The Translingual Imagination, Steven G. Kellman

Phyllis Wheatley, ... among many others, developed commanding voices in languages in which their mothers did not sing them lullabies.
--American Babel: Literatures of the United States from Abnaki to Zuni, Marc Shell

The eighteenth-century author Phillis Wheatley... is not known for an abiding concern with the implications of slavery in the wider American hemisphere.  But when we examine the French translations of her poetry that appear in a journal produced by a group of nineteenth-century Caribbean "hommes de couleur," we find surprising alterations to her text that argue for Wheatley's political engagement in an international colonial arena.
--Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-Century Public Sphere, Anna Brickhouse

On Being Brought from Africa to America

by Phillis Wheatley

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,
May be refin'd and join th'angelic train.

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