Isaac Watts

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Isaac Watts.
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Statue of Isaac Watts in Southampton.

Isaac Watts (July 17, 1674 - November 25, 1748), recognised as the 'Father of English Hymnody', as he was the first both prolific and popular English hymnwriter, credited with some 750 hymns. Many of his hymns remain in active use today.

Born in Southampton, Watts was brought up in the home of a committed Nonconformist - his father had been imprisoned twice for his views. At his local school he learnt Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and displayed a propensity for rhyme at home, driving his parents to the point of distraction on many occasions with his verse. Once, he had to explain how he came to have his eyes open during prayers.

"A little mouse for want of stairs
ran up a rope to say its prayers."

Receiving corporal punishment for this, he cried

"O father, do some pity take
And I will no more verses make."

Watts, unable to go to either Oxford or Cambridge due to his Nonconformity, went to the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690.

His education led him to the pastorate of a large church in London, and he also found himself in the position of helping trainee preachers, despite poor health.

He died in Stoke Newington and was buried in Bunhill Fields, having left behind him a massive legacy, not only of hymns, but also of treatises, essays and the like.

One of his best known poems was an exhortation Against Idleness And Mischief

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!


List of hymns

Some of Watts' more well-known hymns are:

See also

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External links

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