A hymn for the children…

Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts was a man of very frail health. He was well-educated and able to spend much time reading and writing. Watts is known for his hymnody including some listed below (of which are some of my own personal favorites)
Joy to the World
Come ye that love the Lord (We’re Marching to Zion)
Come Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
O God, Our Help in Ages Past
When I survey the wondrous Cross
Alas! and did my Saviour bleed
This is the day the Lord has made

Watts was also known for his essays, theological treatises, works on Logic and poems.
Though he never married, Isaac Watts always loved children and wrote for them. In 1715 he wrote a book of songs especially for young people, Divine Songs for Children. This hymnal was the first hymnal ever written exclusively for children. His unusual love and concern for children is even commemorated on his fine statue located at Southhampton, England.
The text for this hymn is from Watts’s hymnal of 1715. In the preface to this hymnal Watts wrote, “… Children of high and low degree, of the Church of England or dissenters, baptized in infancy or not, may all join together in these songs. And as I have endeavoured to sink the language to the level of a child’s understanding, and yet to keep it, if possible, above contempt, so I have designed to profit all, if possible, and offend none.”

From Divine Songs for Children by Isaac Watts

…Against Idleness & Mischief

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

How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

Lewis Carroll made a parody of this song for “Alice in Wonderland” entitled, “How Doth the Crocodile” The parody mocks the virtues of the bee and instead extols the ‘virtues’ of the crocodile including predation and deception – found throughout Alice in Wonderland. Sadly, ‘How doth the Crocodile’ is now more widely known.

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