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Explore the Constellation

"Ocean" by Phillis Wheatley Peters



In 1779, Phillis Wheatley Peters hoped to publish a second volume of poetry and letters, among which “Ocean” was listed. This 70-line dramatic poem was a departure from previous poetry, this time expressing abolitionist themes. Her description of the ocean—likely the Atlantic, over which she crossed several times—is stirring and powerful. There never was a second volume of Wheatley Peters’ work, and her published work remained limited to Poems on Various Subjects. The manuscript is remarkable both for being written in Wheatley Peters’s own hand and its recovery after a century of absence.