Thursday, 22 August 2013

Joseph Merrick and Isaac Watts

Joseph has become famous for quoting from a poem called 'False Greatness," by English hymn writer, Isaac Watts. At first the whole poem was thought to be by Joseph.

'Tis true my form is something odd

But blaming me is blaming God

Could I create myself anew

I would not fail in pleasing you.

If I could reach from pole to pole

Or grasp the ocean with my span

I would be measured by the soul

The mind's the standard of the man.""

Then, in their book, "The True History of the Elephant Man," Michael Howell & Peter Ford figured out that Joseph had borrowed from "False Greatness" and changed the wording slightly to suit his strong sense of self-dignity. Well, it turns out that Joseph probably did write the first four lines himself. I've discovered that they don't appear in "False Greatness" at all!

Isaac Watts, like Joseph, was a small man in delicate health most of his life but he had a fiery spirit, and started a revolution in church music. He was sick of hearing the same old psalms every week, so he wrote hundreds of new hymns that we still sing today, like "Joy to the World" and "O God Our Help in Ages Past."

Here's Isaac Watts' version of the lines from "False Greatness":

Were I so tall to reach the pole,

Or grasp the ocean with my span,

I must be measur’d by my soul

The mind’s the stan­dard of the man

Thia is powerful stuff. It must have meant a lot to Joseph.

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