Biography of Michael Wigglesworth
WIGGLESWORTH, MICHAEL (1631—1705), American clergyman and poet, was born in England, probably in Yorkshire, on the 18th of October 1631. His father, Edward (d. 1653), persecuted for his Puritan faith, emigrated with his family to New England in 1638 and settled in New Haven. Michael studied for a time at a school kept by Ezekiel Cheever, and in 1651 graduated at Harvard, where he was a tutor (and a Fellow) in 1652—1654. Having fitted himself for the ministry, he preached at Charlestown in. I653—1654, and was pastor at Malden from 1656 until his death, though for twenty years or more bodily infirmities prevented his regular attendance upon his duties—Cotton Mather described him as “a little feeble shadow of a man.” During this interval he studied medicine and began a successful practice. He was again a Fellow of Harvard in 1697—I 705. He died at Malden on. the 10th of June 1705. Wigglesworth is best known as the author of The Day of Doom; or a Poetical Description of 1/fe Great and Last Judgment (1662). At least two English and eight American editions have appeared, notable among them being that of 1867 (New York), edited by
W. H. Burr and including other poems of Wigglesworth, a memoir and an autobiography. For a century this realistic and terrible expression of the prevailing Calvinistic theology was by far the most popular work written in America. His other poerm include God’s Controversy with New England (written in 1662. “in the time of the great drought,” and first printed in the
Proceedings of the Ivlassachusetts Historical Society for 1781), and Meat out of the Eater,’ or Meditations concerning the Necessity, End and Usefulness of Afflictions unto God’s Children (1669; revised in 1703).
His son, SAMUEL (1689—1768), also a clergyman, was the author of several prose works and of one poem of merit, “A Funeral Song” (1709). Another son, Edward (1693—1765), was the first Hollis professor of Divinity at Harvard (1722—1765), and the author of various theological works; and a grandson, Edward (i 73 2—I 794), was the second Hollis professor of Divinity (1765—1791), in which position he was succeeded by Michael Wigglesworth’s great-grandson, Rev. David Tappan (1752—1803).
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Michael Wigglesworth Poems
The Day Of Doom
Still was the night, Serene & Bright, when all Men sleeping lay; Calm was the season, & carnal reason thought so 'twould last for ay.
A Prayer Unto Christ
O Dearest Dread, most glorious King, I'le of thy justest Judgements sing: So thou my head and heart inspire,
To The Christian Reader
Reader, I am a fool; And have adventured To play the fool this once for Christ, The more his fame to spread.
Vanity Of Vanities
A Song of Emptiness To Fill up the Empty Pages Following Vain, frail, short liv'd, and miserable Man,
A Short Discourse On Eternity
What Mortal man can with his Span mete out Eternity? Or fathom it by depth of Wit,
A Postscript Unto The Reader
And now good Reader, I return again To talk with thee, who hast been at the pain To read throughout, and heed what went before;
To The Christian Reader
Reader, I am a fool;
And have adventured
To play the fool this once for Christ,
The more his fame to spread.
If this my foolishness
Help thee to be more wise,
I have attained what I seek,
And what I onely prize.