We don't often think of the Puritans and poetry together in the same sentence, but we probably should. Massachusetts Bay Colony was home to several poets, and their poems were widely read. In an attempt to correct this (unfortunate) way of thinking, I have put together a short listing of Puritan poets worth paying attention to:
Anne Bradstreet (1612?-1672)
Bradstreet is perhaps one of the best known Puritan poets, and her verse can be easily be divided into two sections: early, imitative poetry and more personal lyrics published later in life. A free digitization of her poems can be found on Internet Archive where it is available for viewing or download in several formats.
Benjamin Thompson (1642-1714)
Although he was frequently called on to write elegies, Thompson is best known for his narrative jeremiad on King Philip's War, New England's Crisis, is available online from the University of Virginia.
Michael Wigglesworth (1631-1705)
Wigglesworth is best known for his semi-epic portrayal of the Last Judgment in The Day of Doom which became the second best-selling book published in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Of equal note, however, is Wigglesworth's didactic jeremiad “God's Controversy with New England” which changes meter based on the speaker.
Cotton Mather (1663-1728)
Mather's poetry is often overlooked in favor of his other activities in the colony, but he, too, penned quite a bit of verse, including meditations, elegies, hymns, and verses for children. Mather's “The Body of Divinity Versifyed” is available online.
Edward Taylor (1642-1729)
Taylor's poetry was kept private, left to his heirs in a 400-page manuscript book with the instruction that it should never be published. It was re-discovered in 1937 and published two years later. Taylor's verse consists mostly of private meditations and lines written in preparation for the serving of communion. Some of his verse is available from poemhunter.com.
You can find more resources on these poets (and on Puritan poetry in general) by searching our catalog!