poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

poetic forms

About this poet

Jupiter Hammon was the first African American poet to be published in the United States. He was born into slavery to Henry Lloyd in Lloyd Harbor, New York, on October 17, 1711. The Lloyd family encouraged Hammon to attend school, where he learned to read and write, and he went on to work alongside Henry Lloyd as a bookkeeper and negotiator for the family’s business. In his early years, Hammon was heavily influenced by the Great Awakening, a major religious revival of the time, and became a devout Christian.

Hammon published his first poem, “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries: Composed by Jupiter Hammon, a Negro belonging to Mr. Lloyd of Queen’s Village, on Long Island, the 25th of December, 1760,” as a broadside in 1761. Eighteen years passed before the publication of his second work, “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley.” In this poem, Hammon addresses a series of quatrains with accompanying Bible verses to Wheatley, the most prominent African American poet of the time. In 1782 Hammon published “A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death.”

After Henry Lloyd died in 1763, Hammon moved to Connecticut with Lloyd’s son, Joseph. There, he became a leader in the African American community and attended abolitionist and Revolutionary War societies. At the inaugural meeting of the Spartan Project of the African Society of New York City in September of 1786, Hammon delivered his most famous sermon, “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York.” His writing was reprinted by several abolitionist societies, including the New York Quakers and the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

Hammon is widely considered one of the founders of the early American and African American writing traditions. His date of death is unknown, although he is believed to have died sometime around 1806, having been enslaved his entire life. He is likely buried in an unmarked grave on what was once the Lloyd property and is now Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve in Long Island, New York.

An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley

O come you pious youth! adore
   The wisdom of thy God,
In bringing thee from distant shore,
   To learn His holy word.

Thou mightst been left behind
   Amidst a dark abode;
God's tender mercy still combin'd
   Thou hast the holy word.

Fair wisdom's ways are paths of peace,
   And they that walk therein,
Shall reap the joys that never cease
   And Christ shall be their king.

God's tender mercy brought thee here;
   Tost o'er the raging main;
In Christian faith thou hast a share,
   Worth all the gold of Spain.

While thousands tossed by the sea,
   And others settled down,
God's tender mercy set thee free,
   From dangers that come down.

That thou a pattern still might be,
   To youth of Boston town,
The blessed Jesus set thee free,
   From every sinful wound.

The blessed Jesus, who came down,
   Unvail'd his sacred face,
To cleanse the soul of every wound,
   And give repenting grace.

That we poor sinners may obtain
   The pardon of our sin;
Dear blessed Jesus now constrain
   And bring us flocking in.

Come you, Phillis, now aspire,
   And seek the living God,
So step by step thou mayst go higher,
   Till perfect in the word.

While thousands mov'd to distant shore,
   And others left behind,
The blessed Jesus still adore,
   Implant this in thy mind.

Thou hast left the heathen shore;
   Thro' mercy of the Lord,
Among the heathen live no more,
   Come magnify thy God.

I pray the living God may be,
   The shepherd of thy soul;
His tender mercies still are free,
   His mysteries to unfold.

Thou, Phillis, when thou hunger hast,
   Or pantest for thy God;
Jesus Christ is thy relief,
   Thou hast the holy word.

The bounteous mercies of the Lord
   Are hid beyond the sky,
And holy souls that love His word,
   Shall taste them when they die.

These bounteous mercies are from God,
   The merits of His Son;
The humble soul that loves his word,
   He chooses for His own.

Come, dear Phillis, be advis'd
   To drink Samaria's flood,
There's nothing that shall suffice
   But Christ's redeeming blood.

While thousands muse with earthly toys;
   and range about the street;
Dear Phillis, seek for heaven's joys,
   Where we do hope to meet.

When God shall send his summons down
   And number saints together
Blest angels chant (Triumphant sound)
   Come live with me forever.

The humble soul shall fly to God,
   And leave the things of time.
Stand forth as 'twere at the first word,
   To taste things more divine.

Behold! the soul shall waft away,
   Whene'er we come to die,
And leave its cottage made of clay,
   In twinkling of an eye.

Now glory be to the Most High,
   United praises given
By all on earth, incessantly,
   And all the hosts of heav'n.

Jupiter Hammon

Born into slavery in Lloyd Harbor, New York, on October 17, 1711, Jupiter Hammon was the first African American poet to be published in the United States. His poems include “An Address to Miss Phillis Wheatley” and “A Poem for Children with Thoughts on Death.”

by this poet

Salvation comes by Christ alone,
   The only Son of God;
Redemption now to every one,
   That love his holy Word.

Dear Jesus, we would fly to Thee,
   And leave off every Sin,
Thy tender Mercy well agree;
   Salvation from our King. 

Salvation comes now from the Lord,
   Our victorious King.
His holy Name be
O Ye young and thoughtless youth, 
     Come seek the living God,
The scriptures are a sacred truth,
     Ye must believe the word.
				                Eccle. xii. 1.

Tis God alone