Immortal Harmony! thy heavenly strain
Coeval grew with sea, and earth, and skies.—
What time from chaos’ rude primeval reign
The Almighty Fiat bade creation rise,
The angelic host around applauding stood,
And loud their golden lyres proclaim’d that all was good.—
Those sacred lays whose voice sublime
High heaven’s eternal mansions hear,
Amid the transient lapse of time
Shall never meet the human ear,
Till, torn the veil of flesh away,
Stand to the soul confess’d the realms of endless day.
Yet streams from that immortal source,
Were not to mortal sense denied,
On Israel’s race with swelling force
Unbounded rush’d the sacred tide:
Judea’s palmy groves around
Re-echo to the hallow’d sound.—
Now to the harp’s responsive strings
His plaintive hymn Jessides sings,
Now with exulting rapture glows
O’er dread Jehovah’s prostrate foes,
Isaiah now with fiercer fire
Strikes loud the bold prophetic wire,
And treads, or seems in act to tread,
O’er proud Assyria’s vanquish’d head.
While now the lay pathetic thrills
By Babel’s willow-border’d rills,
As from Judea’s captive train
The victor’s taunting voice demands the choral strain.
But hark!—what lays enchanting sound
Unroots the forest from the ground?
By the persuasive powers subdu’d
Charm’d from the prey the savage brood
Attentive listen round.—
‘Tis he, the first of Grecia’s choir,
‘Tis Orpheus strikes the living lyre!
And see Alcæus’ sterner hand
Appals pale slavery’s trembling band,
See rapid Pindar loosely flings
His fingers o’er the warbling strings,
While, as the drama’s potent art
Or melts or terrifies the heart,
More sighs arise, more sorrows flow,
As Music’s aiding hand strikes deep the shafts of woe.
Nor yet amid the wreck of time
The rapturous powers are lost:
Soft breathe her airs on every clime,
And visit every coast.—
What though Hesperia’s sunnier day
Now boast to wake the sweetest lay;
Yet sure, if ere the throbbing breast
Sweet Music’s native voice confess’d,
To the soft measures that proceed
From Caledonia’s northern reed,
No feeling bosom shall deny
The genuine claim of Melody.
Though wild caprice with frantic hand
Awhile may seize the sacred lyre,
While folly’s sons applauding stand
To hear her strike the wire:
O Albion! as thy polish’d ear
Will none but classic numbers hear,
So let thy voice propitious own
Those thrilling notes that strike the heart alone.
Whether the soft melodious lay
In simple measures flow,
Now warbling elegantly gay,
Now tuned to placid woe.
Or Harmony with choral song
Pour her impetuous stream along,
While loud the swelling strains of rapture roll,
O’ercome the captive sense, and shake the astonish’d soul.
– Henry James Pye