Home  »  English Poetry II  »  296. The Passions

English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

William Collins

296. The Passions

An Ode for Music

WHEN Music, heavenly maid, was young,

While yet in early Greece she sung,

The Passions oft, to hear her shell,

Throng’d around her magic cell

Exulting, trembling, raging, fainting,

Possest beyond the Muse’s painting,

By turns they felt the glowing mind

Disturb’d, delighted, raised, refined:

’Till once, ’tis said, when all were fired,

Fill’d with fury, rapt, inspired,

From the supporting myrtles round

They snatch’d her instruments of sound,

And, as they oft had heard apart

Sweet lessons of her forceful art,

Each, for Madness ruled the hour,

Would prove his own expressive power.

First Fear his hand, its skill to try,

Amid the chords bewilder’d laid,

And back recoil’d, he knew not why,

E’en at the sound himself had made.

Next Anger rush’d, his eyes on fire,

In lightnings own’d his secret stings;

In one rude clash he struck the lyre

And swept with hurried hand the strings.

With woeful measures wan Despair,

Low sullen sounds, his grief beguiled;

A solemn, strange, and mingled air,

’Twas sad by fits, by starts ’twas wild.

But thou, O Hope, with eyes so fair,

What was thy delighted measure?

Still it whisper’d promised pleasure

And bade the lovely scenes at distance hail!

Still would her touch the strain prolong:

And from the rocks, the woods, the vale

She call’d on Echo still through all the song;

And, where her sweetest theme she chose,

A soft responsive voice was heard at every close;

And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair;—

And longer had she sung:—but with a frown

Revenge impatient rose:

He threw his blood-stain’d sword in thunder down;

And with a withering look

The war-denouncing trumpet took

And blew a blast so loud and dread,

Were ne’er prophetic sounds so full of woe!

And ever and anon he beat

The doubling drum with furious heat;

And, though sometimes, each dreary pause between,

Dejected Pity at his side

Her soul-subduing voice applied,

Yet still he kept his wild unalter’d mien,

While each strain’d ball of sight seem’d bursting from his head.

Thy numbers, Jealousy, to nought were fix’d:

Sad proof of thy distressful state!

Of differing themes the veering song was mix’d;

And now it courted Love, now raving call’d on Hate.

With eyes up-raised, as one inspired,

Pale Melancholy sat retired;

And from her wild sequester’d seat,

In notes by distance made more sweet,

Pour’d through the mellow horn her pensive soul:

And dashing soft from rocks around

Bubbling runnels join’d the sound;

Through glades and glooms the mingled measure stole,

Or, o’er some haunted stream, with fond delay,

Round an holy calm diffusing,

Love of peace, and lonely musing,

In hollow murmurs died away.

But O! how alter’d was its sprightlier tone

When Cheerfulness, a nymph of healthiest hue,

Her bow across her shoulder flung,

Her buskins gemm’d with morning dew,

Blew an inspiring air, that dale and thicket rung,

The hunter’s call to Faun and Dryad known!

The oak-crown’d Sisters and their chaste-eyed Queen,

Satyrs and Sylvan Boys, were seen

Peeping from forth their alleys green:

Brown Exercise rejoiced to hear;

And Sport leapt up, and seized his beechen spear.

Last came Joy’s ecstatic trial:

He, with viny crown advancing,

First to the lively pipe his hand addrest:

But soon he saw the brisk awakening viol

Whose sweet entrancing voice he loved the best:

They would have thought who heard the strain

They saw, in Tempe’s vale, her native maids

Amidst the festal-sounding shades

To some unwearied minstrel dancing;

While, as his flying fingers kiss’d the strings,

Love framed with Mirth a gay fantastic round:

Loose were her tresses seen, her zone unbound;

And he, amidst his frolic play,

As if he would the charming air repay,

Shook thousand odours from his dewy wings.

O Music! sphere-descended maid,

Friend of Pleasure, Wisdom’s aid!

Why, goddess, why, to us denied,

Lay’st thou thy ancient lyre aside?

As in that loved Athenian bower

You learn’d an all-commanding power,

Thy mimic soul, O nymph endear’d!

Can well recall what then it heard.

Where is thy native simple heart

Devote to Virtue, Fancy, Art?

Arise, as in that elder time,

Warm, energetic, chaste, sublime!

Thy wonders, in that god-like age,

Fill thy recording Sister’s page;—

’Tis said, and I believe the tale,

Thy humblest reed could more prevail

Had more of strength, diviner rage,

Than all which charms this laggard age,

E’en all at once together found

Cecilia’s mingled world of sound:—

O bid our vain endeavours cease:

Revive the just designs of Greece:

Return in all thy simple state!

Confirm the tales her sons relate!