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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Poetry XXXVII -- ISAAC WATTS . Yes, THAT Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts
I am not a fan of Isaac Watts, the English hymn-writer.  If you take a few minutes and learn a bit about him, it comes as no little mystery that Lewis Carroll so enjoyed lampooning him; aside from the terribly condescending didactic nature of Watts' writing--at least that of the stuff Carroll reported that Alice was forced to memorize for lessons--he seems to have no small amount in common with Carroll: both wordsmiths, both theologians, but logicians.  Generally I don't--okay, I've never--defended the older, stuffier of the two, until just last Sunday, when in church (a meeting, nonetheless, in which I'd been invited to speak) we sang a hymn of his (I'd never realized any of his words were even in our hymnal! and how lousy of me: now that I look, it appears he penned lyrics for ten hymns in our book!) and, apart from a sharp, nearly parallel correspondence with the particulars of my subject, I really enjoyed the hymn.  The problem is that I still don't like Isaac Watts, and, if I'm being honest with myself, I must admit that if I'd encountered this hymn outside the context of church, and particularly the combination of the thoughtfulness of my spiritual "place" that day and the beauty of the music, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't have liked it at all.  Funny the effect and influence the reader (and I'm leaving out the debate over the contribution of music) brings to a poem.

Come, We That Love the Lord
Isaac Watts
Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known.
Join in a song with sweet accord,
And worship at his throne.

Let those refuse to sing
Who never knew our God,
But servants of the heav'nly King
May speak their joys abroad.

The God who rules on high
And all the earth surveys--
Who rides upon the stormy sky
And calms the roaring seas--

This mighty God is ours,
Our Father and our Love.
He will send down his heav'nly pow'rs
To carry us above.


  1. I don't know much about him other than his hymns, but he's certainly put an impressive record of those together.

  2. And I hadn't read much of his hymns--not wittingly, anyway. This one really resonated with me.


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