T h e P o e t ic Wo n de r o f I sa ac Wa tt s
In magic chains of forms and rules! My genius storms her throne . . . I hate these shackles of the mind Forg’d by the haughty wise.38
F r ie n d s h ip s
In f lu e n c e s
Watts developed lifelong friendships with some of his fellow students, including Samuel Say, whose Puritan father had been ejected from his pulpit in Southampton, and who would later encourage Watts to write an entirely new version of psalm versifications; Joseph Hort, who would become an Anglican bishop; and John Hughes, who would become a journalist, writing articles for Joseph Addison’s London journal The Spectator. Hughes often said that men fail to make progress in learning not for lack of time or ability but for lack of hard work. Unlike so many university students today, who stay up late partying, eating pizza, and playing video games, Watts and his friends did not fritter away the hours. They did, however, stay up late. Far into the night, Watts went on reading and annotating what he read. Later in life, he realized with regret how doing this had irreversibly contributed to his poor health and insomnia. In one sermon he said, “Midnight studies are prejudicial to nature, and painful experience calls me to repent of the faults of my younger years.”39 London in Watts’ day was a city of great preachers, and he and his friends were determined to hear as many of them, and 20
Read a sample chapter of Douglas Bond's The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts.