Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Lines to the Memory of Wilson
By Cotton Mather (1663–1728)
 
Some offers to Embalm the Memory of the truly reverend and renowned JOHN WILSON; the first Pastor of Boston, in New England; Interr’d (and a great part of his Country’s Glory with him) August 11, 1667. Aged 79.

MIGHT Aaron’s rod (such funerals mayn’t be dry)
But broach the rock, ’twould gush pure elegy,
To round the wilderness with purling lays,
And tell the world, the great Saint Wilson’s praise.
Here ’s one (pearls are not in great clusters found)        5
Here ’s one, the skill of tongues and arts had crown’d;
Here ’s one (by frequent martyrdom was tried)
That could forego skill, pelf, and life beside,
For Christ: both Englands’ darling, whom in swarms
They press’d to see, and hear, and felt his charms.        10
 
’Tis one (when will it rise to number two?
The world at once can but one phœnix show:)
For truth a Paul, Cephas for zeal, for love
A John, inspir d by the celestial dove.
Abram’s true Son for faith; and in his tent        15
Angels oft had their table and content.
 
So humble, that alike on’s charity,
Wrought Extract gent. with Extract rudii.
Pardon this fault; his great excess lay there,
He ’d trade for Heaven with all he came anear;        20
His meat, clothes, cash, he ’d still for ventures send
Consign’d, per brother Lazarus, his friend.
 
Mighty in prayer, his hands uplifted reach’d
Mercy’s high Throne, and thence strange bounties fetch’d,
Once and again, and oft: so felt by all,        25
Who weep his death, as a departing Paul.
All, yea, baptiz’d with tears, lo children come,
(Their baptism he maintain’d!) unto his tomb.
 
’Twixt an Apostle, and Evangelist,
Let stand his order in the heavenly list.        30
Had we the costly alabaster box,
What ’s left, we ’d spend on this New-English Knox;
True Knox, fill’d with that great reformer’s grace,
In truth’s just cause, fearing no mortal’s face.
 
Christ’s word, it was his life, Christ’s church, his care;        35
And so great with him his least brethren were,
Nor heat, nor cold, nor rain, or frost, or snow,
Could hinder, but he ’d to their sermons go:
Aaron’s bells chim’d from far, he ’d run, and then
His ravish’d soul echo’d amen, amen!        40
 
He travers’d oft the fierce Atlantic sea,
But, Patmos of confessors, ’twas for thee.
This voyage lands him on the wished shore,
From whence this Father will return no more,
To sit the moderator of thy sages.        45
But tell his zeal for thee to after ages,
His care to guide his flock, and feed his lambs,
By words, works, prayers, psalms, alms, and anagrams:
Those anagrams, in which he made no start
Out of mere nothings, by creating art,        50
Whole words of counsel; did to motes unfold
Names, till they lessons gave richer than gold,
And every angle so exactly fay,
It should outshine the brightest solar ray.
Sacred his verse, writ with a cherub’s quill;        55
But those wing’d choristers of Zion’s hill,
Pleas’d with the notes, call’d him a part to bear
With them, where he his anagram did hear,
“I pray come in, heartily welcome sir.” 1
 
Note 1. The line is thus explained by Mather. Ward, the simple cobler of Agawam, as he called himself, “observing the great hospitality of Mr Wilson, in conjunction with his meta-grammatizing temper,” said that the anagram of John Wilson was, I pray come in, you are heartily welcome. [back]
 
 
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