LANGUAGE VIEWPORT Saint Caecilia Information - St Caecilia - Verse Written in Honour


ST CAECILIA - VERSE WRITTEN IN HER HONOUR

As well as music, St Cecilia (St Caecilia) has also influenced poetry and, to show another example of how St Cecilia has influenced the arts, samples are either included on this page or can be accessed from this page.

Geoffrey Chaucer commemorates her in his Second Nun’s Tale (a poem wholly devoted to her) from ‘The Canterbury Tales’, (Group G of the set of The Canterbury Tales, written between 1385 and 1390). The full text to both the prologue to the Second Nun’s Tale and also the Second Nun’s Tale itself can be accessed by clicking here, which will directly access the Prologue. The Second Nun’s Tale itself can be accessed by a link at the bottom of the Prologue page.

There are a number of other poetic works which are mentioned for the sake of showing their existence.

Firstly there is the poem (“Moschus Moschiferus”, by Australian poet A. D. Hope (1907–2000), is subtitled “A Song for St Cecilia’s Day”. The poem is of 12 stanzas and was written in the 1960s.

Cecilia is a symbol for the divine power of music in Heinrich von Kleist’s extended anecdote “St. Cecilia, or the Power of Music”.

Saint Cecilia also features in the 1979 collection of short stories by Angela Carter “The Bloody Chamber” in the story of the same name.

Below there are examples of seven different poets and by clicking on their names you will see an example from each of them where they have paid tribute to St Cecilia (St Caecilia). These examples cover the period from the 17th century up until the present day.

John Dryden

Nicholas Brady

Joseph Addison

Alexander Pope

Edmund Blunden

W.H Auden

Jennifer Harrison

 

POETRY OF JOHN DRYDEN

The following early poetic example by John Dryden is included below. To hear an example of Georg Frideric Händel’s ‘Ode for St Cecilia’s Day’,using this work as its lyrics, please click here to access.

 

Portrait of St Cecilia by Rubens

Portrait of St Cecilia by Rubens



St Cecilia Prayers

St Cecilia Prayers



St Cecilia Childhood

Childhood of St Cecilia



St Cecilia Inspiration

Inspiration of St Cecilia



Ecstasy of St Cecilia

Ecstasy of St Cecilia



Icon of St Cecilia

Icon of St Cecilia

Portrait of John Dryden

Portrait of John Dryden

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250 - 1900.

John Dryden (1631 - 1700)

399. A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1687

 
FROM harmony, from heavenly harmony,  Sharp violins proclaim 
This universal frame began:  Their jealous pangs and desperation, 
When nature underneath a heap  Fury, frantic indignation, 
Of jarring atoms lay,  Depth of pains, and height of passion,40
And could not heave her head,5 For the fair, disdainful dame. 
The tuneful voice was heard from high,    
‘Arise, ye more than dead!’  But O, what art can teach, 
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,  What human voice can reach, 
In order to their stations leap,  The sacred organ’s praise? 
And Music’s power obey.10 Notes inspiring holy love,45
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,  Notes that wing their heavenly ways 
This universal frame began:  To mend the choirs above. 
From harmony to harmony    
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,  Orpheus could lead the savage race; 
The diapason closing full in Man.15 And trees unrooted left their place, 
   Sequacious of the lyre;50
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?  But bright Cecilia rais’d the wonder higher: 
When Jubal struck the chorded shell,  When to her organ vocal breath was given, 
His listening brethren stood around,  An angel heard, and straight appear’d 
And, wondering, on their faces fell  Mistaking Earth for Heaven. 
To worship that celestial sound:20   
Less than a God they thought there could not dwell  GRAND CHORUS. 
Within the hollow of that shell,    
That spoke so sweetly, and so well.  As from the power of sacred lays55
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?  The spheres began to move, 
   And sung the great Creator’s praise 
The trumpet’s loud clangour25 To all the Blest above; 
Excites us to arms,  So when the last and dreadful hour 
With shrill notes of anger,  This crumbling pageant shall devour,60
And mortal alarms.  The trumpet shall be heard on high, 
The double double double beat  The dead shall live, the living die, 
Of the thundering drum30 And Music shall untune the sky! 
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,35   
Whose dirge is whisper’d by the warbling lute.    
 
 

POETRY OF NICHOLAS BRADY

The following example by Nicholas Brady is included below.

 

Portrait of St Cecilia by Rubens

Portrait of St Cecilia by Rubens



St Cecilia Prayers

St Cecilia Prayers



St Cecilia Childhood

Childhood of St Cecilia



St Cecilia Inspiration

Inspiration of St Cecilia



Ecstasy of St Cecilia

Ecstasy of St Cecilia



Icon of St Cecilia

Icon of St Cecilia

Portrait of Nicholas Brady

Portrait of Nicholas Brady

Nicholas Brady (1659 - 1726)

Hail! Bright Cecilia

Below are the lyrics to ‘Ode for St Cecilia’s Day’ by Henry Purcell written by Nicholas Brady based on John Dryden’s ‘A Song for St. Cecilia’s’ also included in this section as the first of these samples. To hear an example of Henry Purcell’s ‘Ode for St Cecilia’s Day’ please click here to access. The verse numbering in this poem is based on the music which has section numbers related to it. Number 1 is missing because it is an orchestral overture with no lyrics.

2.         Hail! Bright Cecilia, Hail! fill ev’ry Heart
With Love of thee and thy Celestial Art;
That thine and Musick’s Sacred Love
May make the British Forest prove
As Famous as Dodona's Vocal Grove.

3.         Hark! hark! each Tree its silence breaks,
The Box and Fir to talk begin!
This in the sprightly Violin
That in the Flute distinctly speaks!
’Twas Sympathy their list’ning Brethren drew,
When to the Thracian Lyre with leafy Wings they flew.

4.         ’Tis Natures's Voice; thro’ all the moving Wood
Of Creatures understood:
The Universal Tongue to none
Of all her num’rous Race unknown!
From her it learnt the mighty Art
To court the Ear or strike the Heart:
At once the Passions to express and move;
We hear, and straight we grieve or hate, rejoice or love:
In unseen Chains it does the Fancy bind;
At once it charms the Sense and captivates the Mind

5.         Soul of the World! Inspir’d by thee,
The jarring Seeds of Matter did agree,
Thou didst the scatter’d Atoms bind,
Which, by thy Laws of true proportion join’d,
Made up of various Parts one perfect Harmony.

6.         Thou tun’st this World below, the Spheres above,
Who in the Heavenly Round to their own Music move.

7.         With that sublime Celestial Lay
Can any Earthly Sounds compare?
If any Earthly Music dare,
The noble Organ may.
From Heav’n its wondrous Notes were giv’n,
(Cecilia oft convers’d with Heaven,)
Some Angel of the Sacred Choire
Did with his Breath the Pipes inspire;
And of their Notes above the just Resemblance gave,
Brisk without Lightness, without Dulness Grave.

  

8.         Wondrous Machine!
To thee the Warbling Lute,
Though us’d to Conquest, must be forc’d to yield:
With thee unable to dispute.

9.         The Airy Violin
And lofty Viol quit the Field;
In vain they tune their speaking Strings
To court the cruel Fair, or praise Victorious Kings.
Whilst all thy consecrated Lays
Are to more noble Uses bent;
And every grateful Note to Heav’n repays
The Melody it lent.

10.        In vain the Am’rous Flute and soft Guitarr,
Jointly labour to inspire
Wanton Heat and loose Desire;
Whilst thy chaste Airs do gentle move
Seraphic Flames and Heav’nly Love.

11.        The Fife and all the Harmony of War,
In vain attempt the Passions to alarm,
Which thy commanding Sounds compose and charm.

12.        Let these amongst themselves contest,
Which can discharge its single Duty best.
Thou summ'st their diff’ring Graces up in One,
And art a Consort of them All within thy Self alone.

13.        Hail! Bright Cecilia, Hail to thee!
Great Patroness of Us and Harmony!
Who, whilst among the Choir above
Thou dost thy former Skill improve,
With Rapture of Delight dost see
Thy Favourite Art
Make up a Part
Of infinite Felicity.
Hail! Bright Cecilia, Hail to thee!
Great Patroness of Us and Harmony!

 
 

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Version 1.6 November 17, 2018