Isaac Watts, an 18th century English hymn-writer, had some strong ideas and opinions on being industrious versus lazy behavior. As the early colonialists struggled to establish their roots in the New World, hymns and their lyrics were important sources for encoding an American ethos. Watts, in a 1720 hymn Against Idleness and Mischief, wrote the following:
“How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!
How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet Food she makes.
In Works of Labour or of Skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some Mischief still
For idle Hands to do.
In Books, or Work, or healthful Play
Let my first Years be past,
That I may give for every Day
Some good Account at last.”
Do you feel Watts’ hymnal words were evoked or fixed into visible form in early Colonial America? Your thoughts?