A Song for St. Cecilia's Day

- 1631-1700
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 whisper'd 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 O, 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 rais'd the wonder higher:   
When to her organ vocal breath was given,   
  An angel heard, and straight appear'd   
    Mistaking Earth for Heaven.   
  
GRAND CHORUS.


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

More by John Dryden

Why should a foolish marriage vow

Why should a foolish marriage vow, 
  Which long ago was made,
Oblige us to each other now
  When passion is decay'd?
We loved, and we loved, as long as we could,
  Till our love was loved out in us both:
But our marriage is dead, when the pleasure is fled:
  'Twas pleasure first made it an oath.

If I have pleasures for a friend,
  And farther love in store,
What wrong has he whose joys did end,
  And who could give no more?
'Tis a madness that he should be jealous of me,
Or that I should bar him of another:
For all we can gain is to give our selves pain,
When neither can hinder the other.

Heroic Stanzas on the Death of Oliver Cromwell

Written after his funeral.

And now 'tis time; for their officious haste
Who would before have borne him to the sky,
Like eager Romans, ere all rites were past,
Did let too soon the sacred eagle fly,

Though our best notes are treason to his fame
Joined with the loud applause of public voice,
Since heaven, what praise we offer to his name,
Hath rendered too authentic by its choice:

Though in his praise no arts can liberal be,
Since they whose muses have the highest flown
Add not to his immortal memory,
But do an act of friendship to their own:

Yet 'tis our duty and our interest too
Such monuments as we can build to raise,
Lest all the world prevent what we should do
And claim a title in him by their praise.

How shall I then begin or where conclude
To draw a fame so truly circular?
For in a round what order can be showed,
Where all the parts so equal-perfect are?

His grandeur he derived from heaven alone,
For he was great, ere fortune made him so;
And wars, like mists that rise against the sun,
Made him but greater seem, not greater grow.

No borrowed bays his temples did adorn,
But to our crown he did fresh jewels bring;
Nor was his virtue poisoned, soon as born,
With the too early thoughts of being king.

Fortune, that easy mistress of the young,
But to her ancient servants coy and hard,
Him at that age her favourites ranked among
When she her best-loved Pompey did discard.

He, private, marked the fruits of others' sway
And set as sea-marks for himself to shun;
Not like rash monarchs, who their youth betray
By acts their age too late would wish undone.

And yet dominion was not his design;
We owe that blessing not to him but heaven,
Which to fair acts unsought rewards did join,
Rewards that less to him than us were given.

Our former chiefs, like sticklers of the war,
First sought to inflame the parties, then to poise.
The quarrel loved, but did the cause abhor,
And did not strike to hurt, but make a noise.

War, our consumption, was their gainful trade;
We inward bled, whilst they prolonged our pain:
He fought to end our fighting, and essayed
To stanch the blood by breathing of the vein.

Swift and resistless though the land he passed,
Like that bold Greek who did the East subdue,
And made to battles such heroic haste
As if on wings of victory he flew.

He fought, secure of fortune as of fame,
Till by new maps the island might be shown,
Of conquests, which he strewed where'er he came,
Thick as the galaxy with stars is sown.

His palms, though under weights they did not stand,
Still thrived; no winter could his laurels fade:
Heaven in his portrait showed a workman's hand
And drew it perfect, yet without a shade.

Peace was the prize of all his toils and care,
Which war had banished and did now restore:
Bologna's walls thus mounted in the air
To seat themselves more surely than before.

Her safety rescued Ireland to him owes;
And treacherous Scotland to no interest true,
Yet blessed that fate which did his arms dispose
Her land to civilize as to subdue.

Nor was he like those stars which only shine
When to pale mariners they storms portend;
He had his calmer influence, and his mien
Did love and majesty together blend.

'Tis true his countenance did imprint an awe
And naturally all souls to his did bow,
As wands of divination downward draw
And point to beds where sovereign gold doth grow.

When, past all offerings to Feretrain Jove,
He Mars deposed and arms to gowns made yield,
Successful counsels did him soon approve
As fit for close intrigues as open field.

To suppliant Holland he vouchsafed a peace,
Our once bold rival in the British main,
Now tamely glad her unjust claim to cease
And buy our friendship with her idol, gain.

Fame of the asserted sea, through Europe blown,
Made France and Spain ambitious of his love;
Each knew that side must conquer he would own
And for him fiercely as for empire strove.

No sooner was the Frenchman's cause embraced
Than the light Monsieur the grave Don outweighed:
His fortune turned the scale where it was cast,
Though Indian mines were in the other laid.

When absent, yet we conquered in his right:
For though some meaner artist's skill were shown
In mingling colours or in placing light,
Yet still the fair designment was his own.

For from all tempers he could service draw;
The worth of each with its alloy he knew;
And, as the confident of nature, saw
How she complexions did divide and brew:

Or he their single virtues did survey
By intuition in his own large breast,
Where all the rich ideas of them lay
That were the rule and measure to the rest.

When such heroic virtue heaven sets out,
The stars, like commons, sullenly obey,
Because it drains them, when it comes about,
And therefore is a tax they seldom pay.

From this high spring our foreign conquests flow
Which yet more glorious triumphs do portend,
Since their commencement to his arms they owe,
If springs as high as fountains may ascend.

He made us freemen of the continent
Whom nature did like captives treat before,
To nobler preys the English lion sent,
And taught him first in Belgian walks to roar.

That old unquestioned pirate of the land,
Proud Rome, with dread the fate of Dunkirk heardl,
And trembling wished behind more Alps to stand,
Although an Alexander were her guard.

By his command we boldly crossed the line,
And bravely fought where southern stars arise;
We traced the far-fetched gold unto the mine,
And that which bribed our fathers made our prize.

Such was our prince; yet owned a soul above
The highest acts it could produce to show;
Thus poor mechanic arts in public move,
Whilst the deep secrets beyond practice go.

Nor died he when his ebbing fame went less,
But when fresh laurels courted him to live;
He seemed but to prevent some new success,
As if above what triumphs earth could give.

His latest victories still thicket came,
As near the centre motion does increase;
Till he, pressed down by his own weighty name,
Did, like the vestal, under spoils decrease.

But first the ocean as a tribute sent
That giant-prince of all her watery herd;
And the isle, when her protecting genius went,
Upon his obsequies loud sighs conferred.

No civil broils have since his death arose,
But faction now by habit does obey;
And wars have that respect for his repose
As winds for halcyons when they breed at sea.

His ashes in a peaceful urn shall rest;
His name a great example stands to show
How strangely high endeavours may be blessed
Where piety and valour jointly go.

Astraea Redux

A Poem on the Happy Restoration and Return of His Second Majesty Charles II., 1660.

Now with a general peace the world was blest,
While ours, a world divided from the rest,
A dreadful quiet felt, and worser far
Than arms, a sullen interval of war:
Thus when black clouds draw down the labouring skies,
Ere yet abroad the winged thunder flies,
An horrid stillness first invades the ear,
And in that silence we the tempest fear.
The ambitious Swede, like restless billows tost,
On this hand gaining what on that he lost,
Though in his life he blood and ruin breathed,
To his now guideless kingdom peace bequeath'd.
And Heaven, that seem'd regardless of our fate,
For France and Spain did miracles create;
Such mortal quarrels to compose in peace,
As nature bred, and interest did increase.
We sigh'd to hear the fair Iberian bride
Must grow a lily to the lily's side;
While our cross stars denied us Charles' bed,
Whom our first flames and virgin love did wed.
For his long absence Church and State did groan;
Madness the pulpit, faction seized the throne:
Experienced age in deep despair was lost,
To see the rebel thrive, the loyal cross'd:
Youth that with joys had unacquainted been,
Envied gray hairs that once good days had seen:
We thought our sires, not with their own content,
Had, ere we came to age, our portion spent.
Nor could our nobles hope their bold attempt
Who ruin'd crowns would coronets exempt:
For when by their designing leaders taught
To strike at power, which for themselves they sought,
The vulgar, gull'd into rebellion, arm'd;
Their blood to action by the prize was warm'd.
The sacred purple, then, and scarlet gown,
Like sanguine dye to elephants, was shown.
Thus when the bold Typhoeus scaled the sky,
And forced great Jove from his own Heaven to fly,
(What king, what crown from treason's reach is free,
If Jove and Heaven can violated be?)
The lesser gods, that shared his prosperous state,
All suffer'd in the exiled Thunderer's fate.
The rabble now such freedom did enjoy,
As winds at sea, that use it to destroy:
Blind as the Cyclop, and as wild as he,
They own'd a lawless, savage liberty;
Like that our painted ancestors so prized,
Ere empire's arts their breasts had civilized.
How great were then our Charles' woes, who thus
Was forced to suffer for himself and us!
He, tost by fate, and hurried up and down,
Heir to his father's sorrows, with his crown,
Could taste no sweets of youth's desired age,
But found his life too true a pilgrimage.
Unconquer'd yet in that forlorn estate,
His manly courage overcame his fate.
His wounds he took, like Romans, on his breast,
Which by his virtue were with laurels drest.
As souls reach Heaven while yet in bodies pent,
So did he live above his banishment.
That sun, which we beheld with cozen'd eyes
Within the water, moved along the skies.
How easy 'tis, when destiny proves kind,
With full-spread sails to run before the wind!
But those that 'gainst stiff gales laveering go,
Must be at once resolved and skilful too.
He would not, like soft Otho, hope prevent,
But stay'd, and suffer'd fortune to repent.
These virtues Galba in a stranger sought,
And Piso to adopted empire brought.
How shall I then my doubtful thoughts express,
That must his sufferings both regret and bless?
For when his early valour Heaven had cross'd;
And all at Worcester but the honour lost;
Forced into exile from his rightful throne,
He made all countries where he came his own;
And viewing monarchs' secret arts of sway,
A royal factor for his kingdoms lay.
Thus banish'd David spent abroad his time,
When to be God's anointed was his crime;
And when restored, made his proud neighbours rue
Those choice remarks he from his travels drew.
Nor is he only by afflictions shown
To conquer other realms, but rule his own:
Recovering hardly what he lost before,
His right endears it much; his purchase more.
Inured to suffer ere he came to reign,
No rash procedure will his actions stain:
To business, ripen'd by digestive thought,
His future rule is into method brought:
As they who first proportion understand,
With easy practice reach a master's hand.
Well might the ancient poets then confer
On Night the honour'd name of Counsellor,
Since, struck with rays of prosperous fortune blind,
We light alone in dark afflictions find.
In such adversities to sceptre train'd,
The name of Great his famous grandsire gain'd:
Who yet a king alone in name and right,
With hunger, cold, and angry Jove did fight;
Shock'd by a covenanting league's vast powers,
As holy and as catholic as ours:
Till fortune's fruitless spite had made it known,
Her blows, not shook, but riveted, his throne.

Some lazy ages, lost in sleep and ease,
No action leave to busy chronicles:
Such, whose supine felicity but makes
In story chasms, in epoch's mistakes;
O'er whom Time gently shakes his wings of down,
Till, with his silent sickle, they are mown.
Such is not Charles' too, too active age,
Which, govern'd by the wild distemper'd rage
Of some black star infecting all the skies,
Made him at his own cost, like Adam, wise.
Tremble, ye nations, which, secure before,
Laugh'd at those arms that 'gainst ourselves we bore;
Roused by the lash of his own stubborn tail,
Our lion now will foreign foes assail.
With alga who the sacred altar strews?
To all the sea-gods Charles an offering owes:
A bull to thee, Portumnus, shall be slain,
A lamb to you, ye Tempests of the main:
For those loud storms that did against him roar,
Have cast his shipwreck'd vessel on the shore.
Yet as wise artists mix their colours so,
That by degrees they from each other go;
Black steals unheeded from the neighbouring white,
Without offending the well-cozen'd sight:
So on us stole our blessed change; while we
The effect did feel, but scarce the manner see.
Frosts that constrain the ground, and birth deny
To flowers that in its womb expecting lie,
Do seldom their usurping power withdraw,
But raging floods pursue their hasty thaw.
Our thaw was mild, the cold not chased away,
But lost in kindly heat of lengthen'd day.
Heaven would no bargain for its blessings drive,
But what we could not pay for, freely give.
The Prince of peace would like himself confer
A gift unhoped, without the price of war:
Yet, as he knew his blessing's worth, took care,
That we should know it by repeated prayer;
Which storm'd the skies, and ravish'd Charles from thence,
As heaven itself is took by violence.
Booth's forward valour only served to show
He durst that duty pay we all did owe.
The attempt was fair; but Heaven's prefixed hour
Not come: so like the watchful traveller,
That by the moon's mistaken light did rise,
Lay down again, and closed his weary eyes.
'Twas Monk whom Providence design'd to loose
Those real bonds false freedom did impose.
The blessed saints that watch'd this turning scene,
Did from their stars with joyful wonder lean,
To see small clues draw vastest weights along,
Not in their bulk, but in their order, strong.
Thus pencils can by one slight touch restore
Smiles to that changed face that wept before.
With ease such fond chimeras we pursue,
As fancy frames for fancy to subdue:
But when ourselves to action we betake,
It shuns the mint like gold that chemists make.
How hard was then his task! at once to be,
What in the body natural we see!
Man's Architect distinctly did ordain
The charge of muscles, nerves, and of the brain,
Through viewless conduits spirits to dispense;
The springs of motion from the seat of sense.
'Twas not the hasty product of a day,
But the well-ripen'd fruit of wise delay.
He, like a patient angler, ere he strook,
Would let him play a while upon the hook.
Our healthful food the stomach labours thus,
At first embracing what it straight doth crush.
Wise leeches will not vain receipts obtrude,
While growing pains pronounce the humours crude:
Deaf to complaints, they wait upon the ill,
Till some safe crisis authorise their skill.
Nor could his acts too close a vizard wear,
To 'scape their eyes whom guilt had taught to fear,
And guard with caution that polluted nest,
Whence Legion twice before was dispossess'd:
Once sacred house; which, when they enter'd in,
They thought the place could sanctify a sin;
Like those that vainly hoped kind Heaven would wink,
While to excess on martyrs' tombs they drink.
And as devouter Turks first warn their souls
To part, before they taste forbidden bowls:
So these, when their black crimes they went about,
First timely charm'd their useless conscience out.
Religion's name against itself was made;
The shadow served the substance to invade:
Like zealous missions, they did care pretend
Of souls in show, but made the gold their end.
The incensed powers beheld with scorn from high
An heaven so far distant from the sky,
Which durst, with horses' hoofs that beat the ground,
And martial brass, belie the thunder's sound.
'Twas hence at length just vengeance thought it fit
To speed their ruin by their impious wit.
Thus Sforza, cursed with a too fertile brain,
Lost by his wiles the power his wit did gain.
Henceforth their fougue must spend at lesser rate,
Than in its flames to wrap a nation's fate.
Suffer'd to live, they are like helots set,
A virtuous shame within us to beget.
For by example most we sinn'd before,
And glass-like clearness mix'd with frailty bore.
But, since reform'd by what we did amiss,
We by our sufferings learn to prize our bliss:
Like early lovers, whose unpractised hearts
Were long the May-game of malicious arts,
When once they find their jealousies were vain,
With double heat renew their fires again.
'Twas this produced the joy that hurried o'er
Such swarms of English to the neighbouring shore,
To fetch that prize, by which Batavia made
So rich amends for our impoverish'd trade.
Oh! had you seen from Schevelin's barren shore,
(Crowded with troops, and barren now no more,)
Afflicted Holland to his farewell bring
True sorrow, Holland to regret a king!
While waiting him his royal fleet did ride,
And willing winds to their lower'd sails denied.
The wavering streamers, flags, and standard out,
The merry seamen's rude but cheerful shout:
And last the cannon's voice, that shook the skies,
And as it fares in sudden ecstasies,
At once bereft us both of ears and eyes.
The Naseby, now no longer England's shame,
But better to be lost in Charles' name,
(Like some unequal bride in nobler sheets)
Receives her lord: the joyful London meets
The princely York, himself alone a freight;
The Swiftsure groans beneath great Gloster's weight:
Secure as when the halcyon breeds, with these,
He that was born to drown might cross the seas.
Heaven could not own a Providence, and take
The wealth three nations ventured at a stake.
The same indulgence Charles' voyage bless'd,
Which in his right had miracles confess'd.
The winds that never moderation knew,
Afraid to blow too much, too faintly blew;
Or, out of breath with joy, could not enlarge
Their straighten'd lungs, or conscious of their charge.
The British Amphitrite, smooth and clear,
In richer azure never did appear;
Proud her returning prince to entertain
With the submitted fasces of the main.
And welcome now, great monarch, to your own!
Behold the approaching cliffs of Albion:
It is no longer motion cheats your view,
As you meet it, the land approacheth you.
The land returns, and, in the white it wears,
The marks of penitence and sorrow bears.
But you, whose goodness your descent doth show,
Your heavenly parentage and earthly too;
By that same mildness, which your father's crown
Before did ravish, shall secure your own.
Not tied to rules of policy, you find
Revenge less sweet than a forgiving mind.
Thus, when the Almighty would to Moses give
A sight of all he could behold and live;
A voice before his entry did proclaim
Long-suffering, goodness, mercy, in his name.
Your power to justice doth submit your cause,
Your goodness only is above the laws;
Whose rigid letter, while pronounced by you,
Is softer made. So winds that tempests brew,
When through Arabian groves they take their flight,
Made wanton with rich odours, lose their spite.
And as those lees, that trouble it, refine
The agitated soul of generous wine;
So tears of joy, for your returning spilt,
Work out, and expiate our former guilt.
Methinks I see those crowds on Dover's strand,
Who, in their haste to welcome you to land,
Choked up the beach with their still growing store,
And made a wilder torrent on the shore:
While, spurr'd with eager thoughts of past delight,
Those, who had seen you, court a second sight;
Preventing still your steps, and making haste
To meet you often wheresoe'er you past.
How shall I speak of that triumphant day,
When you renew'd the expiring pomp of May!
(A month that owns an interest in your name:
You and the flowers are its peculiar claim.)
That star that at your birth shone out so bright,
It stain'd the duller sun's meridian light,
Did once again its potent fires renew,
Guiding our eyes to find and worship you.

And now Time's whiter series is begun,
Which in soft centuries shall smoothly run:
Those clouds, that overcast your morn, shall fly,
Dispell'd to farthest corners of the sky.
Our nation with united interest blest,
Not now content to poise, shall sway the rest.
Abroad your empire shall no limits know,
But, like the sea, in boundless circles flow.
Your much-loved fleet shall, with a wide command,
Besiege the petty monarchs of the land:
And as old Time his offspring swallow'd down,
Our ocean in its depths all seas shall drown.
Their wealthy trade from pirates' rapine free,
Our merchants shall no more adventurers be:
Nor in the farthest East those dangers fear,
Which humble Holland must dissemble here.
Spain to your gift alone her Indies owes;
For what the powerful takes not, he bestows:
And France, that did an exile's presence fear,
May justly apprehend you still too near.

At home the hateful names of parties cease,
And factious souls are wearied into peace.
The discontented now are only they
Whose crimes before did your just cause betray:
Of those, your edicts some reclaim from sin,
But most your life and blest example win.
Oh, happy prince! whom Heaven hath taught the way,
By paying vows to have more vows to pay!
Oh, happy age! oh times like those alone,
By fate reserved for great Augustus' throne!
When the joint growth of arms and arts foreshow
The world a monarch, and that monarch you.