This page was created by Donal Hegarty.  The last update was by Alisa Clapp-Itnyre .

Sounding Childhood

I sing the almighty power of God

I sing the Almighty power of God” from Isaac Watts’s 1715 Divine and Moral Songs for Children, really the first hymn book directed at children which continued to be used well into the 19th century.  This hymn is indicative of the entire collection, being written with seemingly simple poetry and concepts (as Watts states in his Preface).   The poetic techniques engage children on many levels, beginning with the story of creation with vivid natural imagery, the “flowing seas” and “lofty skies” (v. 1).  Personification (“sun to rule” and “stars obey”) of verse 2 describe mighty objects in familial fashion. By focusing on the smallest of God’s creation—“There’s not a plant or flower below/ But makes Thy glories known” (v. 5)—Watts empowers the smallest of children, too.  Other poetic elements—alliteration of “s’s” in “seas” and “skies” and “m’s” in “mountains” and “moon”—exaggerate simple sounds for youthful voices. Repetition of “I sing” emphasizes the power of singing: singing of God’s power, of God’s wisdom, of God’s goodness.  The first person highlights, too, how the child is actively responding to the wonders of creation: surveying, treading, gazing.  Its common meter form allows it to be sung with many tunes including the familiar “Ellacombe,” from the German, or “Washington” as in The Juvenile Harmonist (1843).  The former is a popular tune better known to “All glory, laud, hosanna, the little children sang” still sung on Palm Sunday.  “Washington,” in 6/8, has a dance-like lilt which encourages movement, an active engagement projected into the hymn-text itself.

More discussion of this hymn can be found in Chapters 2, 3, & 4, in British Hymn Books for Children.

Recording: Children’s Choir, June 2015, in Unison, to the tune “Washington.”

Score from: Clark, Thomas, arr. The Juvenile Harmonist: A Selection of Tunes and Pieces for Children. London: Sunday School Union, 1843. Print.

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