Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day
By John Dryden (1631–1700)
 
November 22, 1687

FROM 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 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 clangor        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 oh! 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 unrooted left their place,
      Sequacious of the lyre;        50
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
        55
  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,        60
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky.
 
 
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