The Day of Doom

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A fragmentary copy of the first edition of The Day of Doom, held at Houghton Library, Harvard University

"The Day of Doom: or, A Poetical Description of the Great and Last Judgment"[1] is a religious poem by clergyman Michael Wigglesworth that became a best-selling classic in Puritan New England for a century after it was published in 1662 by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson. The poem describes the Day of Judgment, on which a vengeful God judges and sentences all men, going into detail as to the various categories of people who think themselves excusable who will nonetheless end up in Hell. The poem was so popular that the early editions were thumbed to shreds. Only one fragmentary copy of the first edition is known to exist, and second editions are exceptionally rare.[2]

The poem is a "doggerel epitome of Calvinistic theology", according to the anthology, Colonial Prose and Poetry (1903). It "attained immediately a phenomenal popularity. Eighteen hundred copies were sold within a year, and for the next century it held a secure place in New England Puritan households". According to the Norton Anthology of American Literature (Volume 1), "about one out of every twenty persons in New England bought it". As late as 1828 it was stated that many aged persons were still alive who could repeat it, as it had been taught them with their catechism; and the more widely one reads in the voluminous sermons of that generation, the more fair will its representation of prevailing theology in New England appear."[3] The poem is the longest poem of the Colonial Period, with two hundred and twenty-four stanzas.

Notes

  1. ^ Wigglesworth, Michael (1867) [reprint of 6th ed 1715]. "The day of doom: or, A poetical description of the great and last judgment". Google Books.
  2. ^ Catalog entry for Harvard Library's 1st edition copy.
  3. ^ Trent, William P. and Wells, Benjamin W., Colonial Prose and Poetry: The Beginnings of Americanism 1650–1710, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1903 single-volume edition.

External links

  • Online text version, with Scripture references (University of Virginia)
  • "Michael Wigglesworth," short bio by Danielle Hinrichs
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