Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Let dogs delight to bark and bite..."

Against quarreling and fighting.
Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God has made them so:
Let bears and lions growl and fight,
For ‘tis their nature, too.
His soul was gentle as a lamb; 
And as his stature grew,
He grew in favour both with man,
And God his Father, too.
But, children, you should never let
Such angry passions rise:
Your little hands were never made
To tear each other’s eyes.
Now, Lord of all, he reigns above;
And from his heavenly throne
He sees what children dwell in love,
And marks them for his own.
Let love through all your actions run,
And all your words be mild:
Live like the blessed Virgin’s Son,
That sweet and lovely child.


Anthony Madrid has just finished reading a children's book by someone I have only known by his hymns:
I have just closed Isaac Watts’s once-famous book of children’s poetry, Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children. This book came out in 1715 and went through nobody-knows-how-many editions. Billions. Apparently there was a very long period during which it could reasonably be expected that any English-speaker could recite every one of these twenty-eight poems backward....

Today, we are inclined to explain away the wild success of Divine Songs, because we believe we have in hand all the pertinent facts concerning children and their minds. Children, it is now known, delight in nonsense, noisemaking, pointlessness, and perversity. They do not wish to be taught anything. They relish, obscenely, rhythm and rhyme. They love the idea of making a b-i-i-i-i-i-g mess. They also “respond with deep satisfaction” to assurances that they are treasured and special. Others are muggles; they are magic.

Since all of the above is true, we can infer that poems about not swearing, about not fighting with one’s brothers and sisters, and about not wasting time can only be the soporific effusions of persons with ant farms up their asses. Prigs, in a word—who want to teach children to be prigs.

There’s just one problem. Children actually are prigs. They adore scolding one another. They adore pulling rank. And they adore the idea that they (unlike the brutish, unlike the neighbors, unlike the damned) know what is appropriate and what is not.

Watts spoke to this need, to this Passion of the Spirit—and so he was, for a hundred and fifty years at least, as popular as Dr. Seuss and J. K. Rowling combined. ....
Solemn thoughts on God and death.
There is a God that reigns above,
Lord of the heavens, and earth, and seas:
I fear his wrath, I ask his love,
And with my lips I sing his praise.
There is an hour when I must die,
Nor do I know how soon ‘twill come:
A thousand children, young as I,
Are call’d by death to hear their doom.
There is a law which he has writ,
To teach us all what we must do:
My soul, to his commands submit,
For they are holy, just, and true.
Let me improve the hours I have,
Before the day of grace is fled:
There’s no repentance in the grave,
No pardon offer’d to the dead.
There is a Gospel of rich grace,
Whence sinners all their comforts draw:
Lord, I repent, and seek thy face,
For I have often broke thy law.
Just as a tree cut down, that fell
To north or southward, there it lies,
So man departs to heaven or hell,
Fix’d in the state wherein he dies.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library provides a very readable HTML version of Isaac Watts' Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language for the Use of Children

What Do Kids Want from Children’s Poetry?