Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day
By John Dryden (1631–1700)
 
FROM 1 harmony, from heavenly harmony,
    This universal frame began:
  When nature underneath a heap
    Of jarring atoms lay,
  And could not heave her head,        5
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.        10
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.        15
 
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
    When Jubal 2 struck the chorded shell,
  His listening brethren stood around,
    And, wondering, on their faces fell
  To worship that celestial sound:        20
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?
 
      The trumpet’s loud clangour        25
        Excites us to arms,
      With shrill notes of anger,
        And mortal alarms.
  The double, double, double beat
        Of the thundering drum        30
        Cries Hark! the foes come;
  Charge, charge, ’tis too late to retreat!
 
      The soft complaining flute,
      In dying notes, discovers
      The woes of hopeless lovers,        35
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.
      Sharp violins proclaim
    Their jealous pangs and desperation,
    Fury, frantic indignation,
    Depth of pains, and height of passion,        40
      For the fair, disdainful dame.
 
      But O, what art can teach,
      What human voice can reach,
        The sacred organ’s praise?
      Notes inspiring holy love,        45
    Notes that wing their heavenly ways
      To mend the choirs above.
 
    Orpheus could lead the savage race;
    And trees uprooted left their place,
      Sequacious of the lyre;        50
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her organ 3 vocal breath was given,
    An angel heard, and straight appear’d
      Mistaking earth for heaven.
 
Grand Chorus
    As from the power of sacred lays
        55
      The spheres began to move,
    And sung the great Creator’s praise
      To all the Blest above;
    So when the last and dreadful hour
    This crumbling pageant shall devour,        60
    The trumpet shall be heard on high,
    The dead shall live, the living die,
    And Music shall untune the sky!
 
Note 1. The legend of St. Cecilia is placed in the third century. She was a Roman lady and Christian, martyred in the reign of Septimius Severus, canonised, and made patron saint of music. In 1680, a musical society was formed in London for the annual commemoration of the day dedicated to her, the 22d of November. Dryden wrote the ode for 1687, which was set to music by an Italian composer, Draghi. [back]
Note 2. Jubal: “the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” [back]
Note 3. Her organ: tradition credits St. Cecilia with inventing the organ. [back]
 
 
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