November 1 John Dryden

The close relationship of poetry and music is celebrated by our first officially designated Poet Laureate, John Dryden, in his “Song for St Cecilia’s Day, 22nd November, l687”: St Cecilia is especially associated with the organ.

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 listening bretheren 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
For the fair, disdainful dame.

Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains and height of passion,

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
And angel heard, and straight appeared
Mistaking earth for heaven.

As from the power of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sang 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.

Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher and critic, not yet superseded in literary matters, declared that all art is imitation and I expect you noticed how skilfully Dryden imitates the actual sounds of the various instruments he mentions by choosing appropriately sounding words. Jubal was a Hebrew musical patriarch credited with the invention of the harp; Orpheus, a legendary Greek musical hero, could allegedly lure animals and even trees to follow his music.Next: Flight to Australia Cecil Day-Lewis