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Themes in To His Excellency General Washington

Themes Examples in To His Excellency General Washington:

Text of the Poem

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"A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine, With gold unfading, WASHINGTON! be thine...."   (Text of the Poem)

The poem’s final image is unexpected. Despite the reverence the speaker holds for Washington, the image of the general bedecked with golden crown, mansion, and throne brings to mind the British monarchy. However, there is a sense that these items are no more than trophies. According to Wheatley’s account, Washington is motivated by virtue and the goddess Columbia rather than personal gain.

"with virtue on thy side,..."   (Text of the Poem)

In Greek and Roman philosophy, “virtue” refers to moral excellence, or any qualities guided by a strong sense of goodness. The four classical virtues are temperance, prudence, courage, and justice, many of which Wheatley illustrates in her descriptions of the American Revolution. This line is a prime example of Wheatley’s signature blending of classical thought and tradition with contemporary American politics. Wheatley held an intellectual interest in ethics and virtue throughout her life, and she published a poem titled “On Virtue” in 1773.

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