Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
264. Song for St. Cecilia’s Day
 
1687
 
John Dryden (1639(?)–1701)
 
 
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 whisper’d 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 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.
 

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