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A Song for St Cecilia's Day, 1687

by John Dryden

 

I
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
      This universal frame began:
   When nature underneath a heap
      Of jarring atoms lay,
   And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
      ‘Arise, ye more than dead.'
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
      And Music's power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
      This universal frame began;
      From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.
 
II
What passion cannot music raise and quell?
      When Jubal struck the corded shell,
   His listening brethren stood around,
   And, wondering, on their faces fell
   To worship that celestial sound:
Less than a God they thought there could not dwell
      Within the hollow of that shell
      That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot music raise and quell?
 
III
      The trumpet's loud clangour
        Excites us to arms,
      With shrill notes of anger
        And mortal alarms.
   The double double double beat
        Of the thundering drum,
   Cries ‘hark! The foes come:
Charge, charge! 'tis too late to retreat.'
 
IV
  The soft complaining flute,
  In dying notes discovers
  The woes of hopeless lovers;
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.
 
V
  Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion,
  For the fair, disdainful dame.
 
VI
  But, oh! what art can teach,
  What human voice can reach,
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
      To mend the choirs above.
 
VII
Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place,
   Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher;
When to her organ vocal breath was given,
An angel heard, and straight appeared,
Mistaking earth for heaven.
 
          GRAND CHORUS
  As from the power of sacred lays
      The spheres began to move,
  And sung the great creator's praise
      To all the blessed above;
  So when the last and dreadful hour
  This crumbling pageant shall devour,
  The trumpet shall be heard on high,
  The dead shall live, the living die,
  And Music shall untune the sky.