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Our God, Our Help

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Our God, our help in ages past,
   Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
   And our eternal home:

Under the shadow of thy throne
   Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
   And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood
   Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
   To endless years the same.

Thy word commands our flesh to dust,
   “Return, ye sons of men”;
All nations rose from earth at first,
   And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in thy sight
   Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
   Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
   With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by thy flood,
   And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
   Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
   Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand,
   Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
   Lie withering e’er ’tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,
   Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
   And our eternal home.

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Our God, Our Help

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  • Isaac Watts was a scion of seventeenth-century Independent Dissent, a religious culture distinguished by its attention to local congregational authority, the education of preachers and people, and the cultivation of individual piety. The politics, pedagogy, and piety of Independency are all in evidence in Watts's early life and throughout his long career. He was at once a churchman, an educator, and an important minor poet. Watts's poetry is, however, more than an expression of this particular religious culture. His writing, poetry and prose, was widely read and used for at least 150 years by believers and educators of all convictions in both Britain and America. Indeed Watts's model of congregational song, the hymn, remains in current use throughout the English-speaking world. It is arguably the most lively vestige of the eighteenth-century understanding of what poetry can and ought to do.

    Born in Southampton on 17 July 1674, the...

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