Words by Isaac Watts,
music by Lowell Mason
Though the triumphant words “Joy to the world” exemplify the Christmas feeling, the familiar text is actually a translation based on five verses from Psalm 98 in the Old Testament. Isaac Watts, the English hymnist and cleric, published his Psalms of David, which contains these verses, in 1719. More than a century later, in 1839, American composer and music educator Lowell Mason decided to set them to music, modestly including the phrase “From George Frederick Handel,” apparently to honor his idol, the composer of Messiah and many other masterpieces. For nearly 100 years, the world accepted this ascription, until musicologists pointed out that not a single phrase in the music can be said to have come straight from any work of Handel’s.
Audio featuring Kate Smith
Joy to the world! The Lord has come:
Let earth receive her King.
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the world! The Savior reigns:
Let men their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love.