The Day of Doom Poem Review

As pointed out by Long, The Day of Doom is one of eulogized and memorized poems of Michael Wigglesworth that enjoyed several reprinting and has numerous revised editions.  According to him, Wigglesworth, is a prominent leader in the religious and political leadership of colonial Massachusetts who used his 224 stanza poem in depicting God’s justice and horror awaiting unrepentant sinners. He notes that the poem describes a vengeful day of judgment when God will harshly sentence and punish sinners to hell. However, what is significant in the poem, The Day of Doom, is the culmination of unrelenting doctrine of Calvinism which signified Wigglesworth’s achievement of developing Puritan thoughts.

Long notes that The Day of Doom is a series of dramatized confrontation between unrepentant sinners and their God. The poem was to serve a purpose of ensuring that children and adults are instructed to obey Puritan faith, especially in a period where parishioners were falling away from the church doctrine. He adds that through its Calvinistic theology, The Day of Doom poem developed a phenomenal popularity within the Puritan population. This is how it secured a place in the next generation of the New England Puritan households. According to him, the poem was bought by every twenty person in the New England. It was thus read voluminously to the next generation thereby depicting prevailing catechism theology of the New England.

Additionally, Long points out that the poem The Day of Doom represented an agitation for the retention of the Puritan doctrine and Calvinistic theology. Through salvation and damnation themes, Wigglesworth uses his poem in expounding on Puritan doctrine by using simple and memorable verses. The paper analyzes the element of imagery that Michael Wigglesworth uses in his story and how his poem The Day of Doom relates to the life.

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Michael Wigglesworth in his poem The Day of Doom employs imagery technique in denoting the various aspects of the Puritan doctrines. As captured in stanzas 1 to 17, Wigglesworth portrays the mentality of Puritans just before they face the Day of Judgment. It illustrates how secure the world was before Christ came to offer judgment.  Wigglesworth in his poem states, “Still was the night of Serene and Bright when all men sleeping lay. Wallowing in all kinds of sin, vile wretches lay secure.” Most men and unwise virgins were not aware of the consequences of their sins. Long notes that the poem presented the existence of Puritan people who were unaware of their sinfulness nature and blamed God for their inequities.

In stanzas 7-12, Wigglesworth uses his imagery technique in depicting how people react on realizing what is actually happening. The poem states, “Before his (Christ) face the Heaven gave place and Skies are rent asunder.” That even the glorious lamps could not be bright in the brightness of Christ. It “…makes them (people) hide their head, as if afraid and quit dismay, they (people) quit their wonted deeds.” As Carver points out, Wigglesworth’s poem expresses the unworthiness of humankind before God. He displays a traumatized reaction by the people on realizing that their sinful nature is against God’s command. This denotes how the Christian doctrines, during that time, were not effective in changing people from sinful practices.

At the time of medieval Catholicism, Puritans incorporated ritual practices in their religion through which ceremonial trial, confession, and general punishment were widely practiced. Therefore, the poem perfectly suited the traditional and cultural practices that were engaged during the Puritan period. He adds that The Day of Doom depicted a set of piece of medieval catholic and the reformation of Puritan apocalypticism which was purposed to justify the ways of God to human being. This was mainly God’s ways at the life end of human being rather than at the beginning of life. He notes that Wigglesworth uses mediaeval apocalyptic imagery in his poem for rhetorical purpose to portray the imminent victory of Christ (God) over antichrists (unrepentant and un-baptized Puritans). His concept of the Church as imperfect place which requires continuous reformation is captured by the apocalyptic moralization and rhetorical aims deployed by Wigglesworth in his poem.

Additionally, Long notes that the early Christians including Wigglesworth associated the return of Christ with the judgment day especially during the prevailing of the Roman persecution and historical millennium under the reign of Christ. He points out that Puritans believed that God harshly would condemn the unrepentant to hell. Therefore, they realize the presence of the Judge, even the earth or nature could not withstand its presence. Through his employment of natural imagery in the poem, Wigglesworth wants to make the audience not only to understand, but also to be familiarized with the wrath of God. In stanza 15 it states, “The mountains smoke, the Hill shook as the Earth is rent and torn. The sea doth roar forsakes the shore, and shrink way for fear.”

As pointed out by Carver, the poem The Day of Doom clearly represents such poems that were written during the colonial times as it forms the heart of Puritans’ conscious and imperfections. She notes that during the periods when Catholic medieval was suppressed by the crumbling of the Roman Empire, the Christians started assimilating the structure of disconnected empire thereby shifting to theological consensus. These contemporary Christians, just like Wigglesworth, believed that personal judgment upon individual’s death was harsher than the general judgment of deferred dooms day. Carver adds that these people incorporated both sermons and history in their literature in order to educate the audience on the consequences of their actions.

Through Wigglesworth’s poem, the strong tradition in religion, especially preaching and sermons established the basis over which Puritans lived their lives. As pointed out by Carver, Puritans embarked on journey to influence their religious outstanding after being persecuted from the Church of England. She observes that those Puritans, including Wigglesworth, who settled in Massachusetts Bay, wanted to prove to the rest of Europe especially to England, that their religious community was corrupted and needed to be reformed. Therefore, their doctrines, including poems, stressed on the origin of sin thereby depicting all as sinners and that only God is in a position to know who would be saved and who should be punished in hell.

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In stanzas 22 through 200, Wigglesworth deploys distinctive devotional sensitivity for the purpose of enhancing early modern Calvinicism. The structure and content of his poem denote a strong tradition of preaching which formed the basis over which literature sources were created during the colonial period. As Long observes, “Wigglesworth and other New England Puritans were well aware of the persuasiveness of hellfire preaching.” He adds that, “The Day of Doom acknowledges the rhetorical tropes of impeding final Judgment.” According to him, the poem depicts the existence of successive sinners who advances in their life in order to bar justice. These included those who claimed to have had no opportunity to repent, un-baptized infant who died before committing sin, and those who blame God for the inequities.

Wigglesworth uses metaphoric image of sheep in denoting those who qualify to be saints and can be saved by God. In stanza 22, it is written, “At Christ’s right hand the Sheep do stand, his holy Martyrs… whose innocence without offense to Christ their Judge appealed.” In stanza 25, it says, “Christ’s Flock of Lambs also stands whose faith was weak, yet true.”  The sheep metaphor for the saved as illustrated in the poem clearly indicates unconditional election of the saints by God. It brings out the belief that Puritans noted God due to his nature of all-knowing. Therefore, it shows that mercy and redemption of one to eternal life is based on individual’s life and motives that illustrate whether he or she shows sign of God’s Grace.

As pointed out by Woodlief, Wigglesworth’s poem The Day of Doom had no exceptions regarding original sin. It presented final condemnation to hell, as predestined by God, of which even the infants who died at the time of delivery were damned to hell if such fate had been put unto them by God. In stanza 25, the poem states, “And them among an infant throng of babies for whom Christ died, whom for his own by waves unknown to men, he sanctified.” Redemption as depicted in the poem requires an overwhelming consciousness of individual’s sinful nature. This doctrine of predestination is clearly illustrated by the unconditional election of saints by God.

According to Woodlief, the few saved individuals in Wigglesworth’s poem illustrate the concept that Christ Jesus only died to save the chosen as have been predestined by God. She notes that the poems use metaphoric goat image and illustrates that God’s grace and mercy are vividly given to the chosen few. That is why they can neither be earned nor resisted. In stanza 27, the poem states, “At Christ’s left hand, the goats do stand, all whinnying hypocrites who for self-ends did seem Christ’ friends, but fostered guileful spirits.” It adds that, “who once did throng Christ’ lams among, but now must not come near.” This captures Carvers perception that even individual’s right conscious cannot influence God’s election for eternity upon death since; the Christ’s Lambs (the saved) have already been identified by God.

In stanza 83, the poem states, “Awake, awake, O sinner, and repent, and quarrel not because I thus alarm thy soul, to save it from eternal harm.” Wigglesworth tries to defend Puritans notion that sinners will only be judged on the basis of their perverse faith. This contradicts the tradition of medieval Catholicism judgment. As Long points out, the New England Puritans wanted to replace their own ritual practices in which judgment was weighed between the good deeds and bad deeds of individual’s soul. 

On the other hand, Long observes that, as the second generation of Puritans grew to maturity, the New England entered into new phase of mentality. He notes that their earlier sense of standing during crisis had weakened as their wilderness missions were anxiously settled over by the New England population. In order to keep with such changes, they had to revolutionize their godly expectations succeeding to conserve and perpetuate the symbols of their colonial founders. This is clearly depicted by the publishing of The Day of Doom at time when the New England Puritans recapitulated the Augustinian formulation doctrines in their religious standings.

Moreover, the iconoclastic deployment of biblical scriptures in the poem illustrated how the Puritans wanted to retain their apocalyptic characters. Long notes that the imagery nature of Wigglesworth’s poems deployed sermons not only for popular medieval culture, but also for theological themes as well. Even though Wigglesworth was at the threshold of the Modern age, his imagery display in his poem denoted him as still in faith of the undeniably Middle Age.


In conclusion, Wigglesworth’s poem, The Day of Doom, has illustrated how literature writers can employ distinct imagery elements in their work in order to make people to understand various issues related to humankind. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss the essential issues in our literature work that affects God’s relationship with human beings.

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