Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Critical and Biographical Notice
Michael Wigglesworth (1631–1705)
 
MR WIGGLESWORTH was educated at Harvard College, from which institution he received his degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1651, soon after entering upon the twentieth year of his age. Having completed his theological studies, he was ordained minister of the church in Malden, Massachusetts. Respected in the pulpit for his modest, though lucid and energetic exposition of the scriptures; esteemed in the social circle for the suavity of his manners, and beloved by very many to whom, in their youth, he had been the faithful friend and counsellor, it was with deep regret, that he yielded to the necessity which demanded his temporary separation from the people who had committed themselves to his spiritual guidance and direction, and with whom he was linked by ties of the most tender affection. The hand of disease was upon him, and its blighting influence could be successfully resisted only under a milder sky than that of his own New England. A partial restoration to health enabled him to resume his station at Malden, though, ever after, he was frequently obliged to desist, for weeks in succession, from the active duties of his profession. But these intervals were not mispent. He devoted them to medical researches, and the needy found him as ready in imparting his skill for the benefit of the wasted frame, as he had been in affording relief to the mind oppressed with grief or cast down by disappointment.  1
  When the weakness of his lungs disqualified him for preaching, he would strive, with his pen, to render truth attractive by investing her with the garb of poesy. Let not the modern reader turn with disgust from the perusal of his moral sentiments. Repugnant as they may be to our tastes, and grotesque as they appear in an age of refinement, they contributed nevertheless, mainly to the formation of that character for unbending integrity, and firmness of resolve, for which we almost venerate the old men who laid the foundations of our republic. Neither let the lover of the sacred nine despise the muse of our author. Homely and coarse of speech as she is, her voice probably sunk into the hearts of those who listened to her rude melody, leaving there an impression, deeper than any which the numbers of a Byron, a Southey, or a Moore may ever produce.  2
  “The Day of Doom,” is the title of Mr Wigglesworth’s largest poem. It went through six editions in this country, and was republished in London. It comprises a version, after the manner of Sternhold and Hopkins, of all the scripture texts relative to the final judgment of man, and contains two hundred and twenty-four stanzas of eight lines each. Our selections from his writings are principally from this curious specimen of the antique.  3
  Mr Wigglesworth died in 1705, at the age of seventy-four years. Cotton Mather wrote his funeral sermon and epitaph. 1  4
 
Note 1. We copy this epitaph from the sixth edition of Wigglesworth’s poems, printed in 1707.
EPITAPH
The excellent Wigglesworth remembered by some good tokens.
  
His pen did once meat from the eater fetch;
And now he ’s gone beyond the eater’s reach.
His body once so thin, was next to none;
From hence, he ’s to unbodied spirits flown.
Once his rare skill did all diseases heal;
And he does nothing now uneasy feel.
He to his paradise is joyful come;
And waits with joy to see his Day of Doom.
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