A Song For St. Cecilia's Day, 1687


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 corded shell,
   His list'ning 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 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 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 appeared
        Mistaking earth for Heaven.


As from the power of sacred lays
    The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
    To all the blessed 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.