Anonymous, c. 1735: Isaac Watts, a Nonconformist who is called the father of English hymnody. From “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” to “Joy to the World” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” English speakers have sung him all our lives. His prolific output was both immensely popular and controversial to church authorities, because he didn’t adhere to the Calvinist dictum that only metrical psalms were acceptable in church. He quoted St. Paul, who recommended singing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” His hymns largely focus on individual emotional experience, rather than shared responses of the Christian community. (National Gallery, London)

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