The three writers examined in Richard Arnold's Trinity of Discord,
Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and William Cowper, are known as
famous poets, but are also the greatest and most popularly compiled
and used hymn-writers of all time. While masters of their kind,
they were so remarkably different, considering they were working in
the same (and quite new) genre. Moreover, when considered in their
poetic-historical contexts, it is noteworthy that Watts can be seen
as an archetypal Neoclassicist (not unlike Pope and Johnson),
Wesley as a transitional pre-Romantic (not unlike Gray and
Collins), and Cowper a thoroughgoing Romantic (not unlike
Wordsworth and Coleridge, but with a much sharper psychological
edge). Most noteworthy is that Watts, Wesley, and Cowper come
before their later counterparts and their respective movements:
their importance to mainstream or canonical literary history cannot
be overestimated. In terms of the hymn's development in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, these three stand as beacons in
the genre, if not individual species of a multiform genre itself.
In their time and context, these three were, while paradoxically
out of tune with the status quo, and radically different from each
other, forging a new and everlasting genre, one born out of a
veritable trinity of discord.
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