A Song for St Cecilia’s Day By John Dryden

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, ‘t is 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.

These are the four highly musical stanzas from John Dryden’s A Song for St.Celcilia’s Day. Read them aloud to feel the music of the different instruments and their impact on human behavior. In the first stanza the poet talks about the battle field where the soldiers get inspired by the sounds of the trumpet and the drum.(‘double double double beat’).In the second stanza the lovers desperation in unrequited love is aided by the soft notes of the flute and when the lover dies his dirge is whispered by the warbling lute. But the softness no longer continues in the next stanza when the violins sharply proclaim the lover’s jealous pangs .In the last one the Church Organ plays out its inspiring Holy Love in notes that “wing’ their heavenly ways. Note how Man rises from all his baser passions of anger and hatred in war , jealousy in love and mundane concerns to become an angel taking on wings of music and devote himself to the love of God.

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