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Song for Saint Cecilia's Day
by John Dryden

English text, dramatist, literary critic, translator, poet laureate and royal historiographer. Dryden's immense stature upon the literary horizon of his time was so great that his age has often been called 'The Age of Dryden'. His first major works were works of poetry: the Heroique Stanza's (1658) written on the death of Cromwell and the celebrations of King James II's restoration; the Astraea Redux (1660) and the To His Sacred Majesty (1661). These were followed, in 1667, by the thrice celebratory work Annus Mirabilis (1667), written upon the occasion of two English victories over the Dutch fleet and the extinguishing of the Great Fire of London. Other works from Dryden's earlier period were mainly for the theatre. These include heroic works such as The Indian Queen (1664), The Indian Emporer (1665) and The Conquest of Granada (1669); comic works: The Wild Gallant (1663), The Rival Ladies (1664) and An Evening's Love (1668); and tragi-comic works. These latter include Secret Love (1667), Marriage a la Mode (1672) and The Assignation (1672). Dryden also adapted works by Shakespeare - The Tempest (1667) and Troilus and Cressida (1679) - and Milton (Paradise Lost) and wrote a number of critical texts, including Of Dramatick Poesie (1668), A Defence of an Essay (1668) and Of Heroic Plays (1672).


Song for Saint Cecilia's Day
by John Dryden

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 clangour
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 whispered 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 uprooted 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 appeared -
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.


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