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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

John Dryden

264. Song for St. Cecilia’s Day


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.

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.

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

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!’

The soft complaining flute

In dying notes discovers

The woes of hopeless lovers,

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

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,

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:

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

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,

The trumpet shall be heard on high,

The dead shall live, the living die,

And Music shall untune the sky.