THESIS-'To Maecenas' is a request to receive poetic/divine inspiration from
an artistic patron & also an appeal for freedom from slavery. This is
evident in the double meaning of the word 'patron'
-patron can mean
1. 'a person who gives financial or other support to a person, cause, work of art etc. OR
2. 'the former owner of a freed slave'(Roman definition)
-Wheatley's extensive use of Greek and Roman mythology throughout 'To
Maecenas' indicates that she may have considered the Roman definition of
'patron' while writing the poem.
-Wheatley's use of double entendre in 'To Maecenas' indicates that there may
be double meaning in the poem, as a whole. Example: Lines 52/53...'So long,
great Sir, the muse thy praise shall sing/ so long thy praise shal' make
Parnassus ring'. The first, most obvious reading of this passage is that
the poets' praise of Maecenas will be so abundant that it will sound high
into the mountain Parnassus. However, Parnassus is also a symbol of poetry,
therefore, these lines could be read quite differently: as the poet praises
Maecenas, she gains the support of the patron, and as a result her poetry
can continue to flourish and ring out.
-Imagery in 'To Maecenas': movement away from earth and water imagery into
the sky as the poem progresses...MEANINGS -
1. Movement into the sky indicates that with help from Maecenas, Wheatley
could experience god-like inspiration from the heavens.
2. Open sky also traditionally represents freedom.
3. In accordance with Wheatley's strong Christian beliefs, the movement
upward at the end of 'To Maecenas' may indicate her desire to depart from
the inherent evil of the earth into perfect and sinless heaven.
-Use of Pastoral - idealizes reality. Wheatley juxtaposes a romantic
pastoral existence against her own life and lack of freedom.
Wheatley may also have made use of the pastoral style to show that being a
black women did not hinder her level of ability. Her use of Greek and Roman
mythology could also have been an attempt to overcome racial and gender
-Use of Music - The final line of the poems is an appeal for Maecenas to
defend Wheatley's 'lays'. A 'Lay' is a 'short lyric or narrative poem meant
to be sung', or simply 'a song'. As well as following the stars, another
way in which slaves found freedom was through music. Slaves would sing
songs to one another that were encoded with means of escape. At the end of
her poem, Wheatley is appealing to Maecenas to defend her songs, so that her
music, and the music of other slaves, may provide them with the opportunity
to be set free.