chiney-corner of a Puritan kitchen, reading aloud by that firelight which, as Lowell
once humorously suggested, may have added a “livelier relish” to the poet's “premonitions of eternal combustion.”
could afford to laugh about it, having crossed that particular black brook.
But for several generations the boys and girls of New England
had read the Day of doom
as if Mr. Wigglesworth
, the gentle and somewhat sickly minister of Malden
, had veritably peeped into Hell.
It is the present fashion to underestimate the power of Wigglesworth
At its best it has a trampling, clattering shock like a charge of cavalry and a sound like clanging steel.
and other cunning ballad-makers have imitated the peculiar rhyme structure chosen by the nervous little parson.
But no living poet can move his readers to the fascinated horror once felt by the Puritans as they followed Wigglesworth
's relentless gaze into the future of the soul's destiny.
Historical curiosity may still linger, of course, over other verse-writers of the period.
's poems, for instance, are not without grace and womanly sweetness, in spite of their didactic themes and portentous length.