A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687

By John Dryden 1631–1700 John Dryden
Stanza 1
From harmony, from Heav'nly 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 pow'r obey.
From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony
               This universal frame began:
               From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
       The diapason closing full in man.

Stanza 2
What passion cannot music raise and quell!
                When Jubal struck the corded shell,
         His list'ning brethren stood around
         And wond'ring, 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!

Stanza 3
         The trumpet's loud clangor
                Excites us to arms
         With shrill notes of anger
                        And mortal alarms.
         The double double double beat
                Of the thund'ring drum
         Cries, hark the foes come;
Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat.

Stanza 4
         The soft complaining flute
         In dying notes discovers
         The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute.

Stanza 5
         Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs, and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains and height of passion,
         For the fair, disdainful dame.

Stanza 6
But oh! what art can teach
         What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways
         To mend the choirs above.

Stanza 7
Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place;
                Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder high'r;
         When to her organ, vocal breath was giv'n,
An angel heard, and straight appear'd
                Mistaking earth for Heav'n.

GRAND CHORUS
As from the pow'r of sacred lays
         The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
         To all the bless'd 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.

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Poet John Dryden 1631–1700

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Mythology & Folklore, Arts & Sciences, Music, Religion, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Refrain

 John  Dryden

Biography

After John Donne and John Milton, John Dryden was the greatest English poet of the seventeenth century. After William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, he was the greatest playwright. And he has no peer as a writer of prose, especially literary criticism, and as a translator. Other figures, such as George Herbert or Andrew Marvell or William Wycherley or William Congreve, may figure more prominently in anthologies and literary . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Mythology & Folklore, Arts & Sciences, Music, Religion, God & the Divine

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Refrain

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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