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“The 22d of November, being St Cecilia's day, is observed throughout all Europe by the lovers of music. In Italy, Germany, France, and other countries, prizes are distributed on that day, in some of the most considerable towns, to such as make the best anthem in her praise. ..... On that day, or the next when it falls on a Sunday, ... most of the lovers of music, whereof many are persons of the first rank, meet at Stationers' Hall in Lon. don, not through a principle of superstition, but to propagate the advancement of that divine science. A splendid entertainment is provided, and before it is always a performance of music, by the best voices and hands in town; the words, which are always in the patronesses praise, are set by some of the greatest masters. This year  Dr John Blow, that famous musician, composed the music; and Mr D'Urfey, whose skill in things of that nature is well known, made the words. Six stewards are chosen for each ensuing year; four of which are either persons of quality or gentlemen of note, and the two last either gentlemen of their majesties music, or some of the chief masters in town. ..... This feast is one of the genteelest in the world; there are no formalities nor gatherings as at others, and the appearance there is always very splendid. Whilst the company is at table, the hautboys and trumpets play successively."
The merit of the following Ode has been so completely lost in that of “ Alexander's Feast,” that few readers give themselves even the trouble of attending to it. Yet the first stanza has exquisite merit ; and although the power of music is announced, in those which follow, in a manner more abstracted and general, and, therefore, less striking than when its influence upon Alexander and his chiefs is placed before our eyes, it is perhaps only our intimate acquaintance with the second ode that leads us to undervalue the first, although containing the original ideas, so exquisitely brought out and embodied in “ Alexander's Feast."
ST CECILIA’S DAY,
220 NOVEMBER, 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,
His listening brethren stood around,
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.
Excites us to arms,
And mortal alarms.
Of the thundering drum,
Cries, Hark! the foes come:
* The diapason, with musicians, is a chord including all notes. Perhaps Dryden remembered Spenser's allegorical description of the human figure and faculties :
“ The frame thereof seem'd partly circular,
And part triangular; 0, work divine !
The one imperfect, mortal, feminine,
The other immortal, perfect, masculine ;
Proportiond equally by seven and nine ;
Fairy Queen, Book II. canto ix. stanza 22.
The woes of hopeless lovers;
What human voice can reach,
Notes inspiring holy love,
Sequacious of the lyre :
When to her organ* vocal breath was given, An angel heard, and straight appear’d,
Mistaking earth for heaven.
* St Cecilia is said to have invented the organ, though it is not known when or how she came by this credit. Chaucer introduces her as performing upon that instrument:
" And while that the organes maden melodie,
The spheres began to move,
great Creator's praise
The descent of the angel we have already mentioned. She thus announces this celestial attendant to her husband :
“ I have an angel which that loveth me;
The Second Nonne's Tale.