Selections from Five English Poets eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 100 pages of information about Selections from Five English Poets.

Dryden is often called “the first of the moderns.”  This is because he was one of the earliest to write clear, strong English prose, and because as a poet he was thoughtful and brilliant rather than highly imaginative.  Lowell says of him:  “He had, beyond most, the gift of the right word. . . .  In ripeness of mind and bluff heartiness of expression he takes rank with the best.”  Beside prose works and dramas he wrote poems of many kinds, including translations and paraphrases.  His satires are unrivaled.  The finest is, perhaps, the first part of Absalom and Achitophel.  He is now best known by two lyric poems, Alexander’s Feast and the Song for St. Cecilia’s Day; while his Palamon and Arcite, a paraphrase of Chaucer’s Knightes Tale, still delights the reader who cares for a good story in verse.

A SONG FOR ST. CECILIA’S DAY

  1

  From harmony,[1] from heavenly harmony
      This universal frame[2] began. 
    When Nature underneath a heap
      Of jarring atoms lay,
    And could not heave her head, 5
  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. 10
  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.[3] 15

  2

  What passion cannot Music raise and quell? 
      When Jubal[4] struck the corded shell,[5]
    His list’ning brethren stood around,
      And, wond’ring, on their faces fell
    To worship that celestial sound, 20
  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?

  3

      The trumpet’s loud clangor 25
        Excites us to arms,
      With shrill notes of anger
        And mortal alarms.[6]
      The double double double beat
        Of the thundering drum 30
        Cries, “Hark, the foes come! 
  Charge, charge, ’t is too late to retreat!”

  4

      The soft complaining flute
      In dying notes discovers[7]
      The woes of hopeless lovers, 35
  Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.

  5

      Sharp violins proclaim
  Their jealous pangs and desperation,
  Fury, frantic indignation,
  Depth of pains and height of passion, 40
      For the fair disdainful dame.

  6

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Selections from Five English Poets from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.