Tag Archives: music

[John Scott], “Verses occasioned by the Description of the Eolian Harp”


“Verses occasioned by the Description of the EOLIAN HARP”

Untaught o’er strings to draw the rosin’d bow,
Or melting strains on the soft flute to blow,
With others long I mourn’d the want of skill,
Resounding roofs with harmony to fill;
Till happy ! now the Eolian lyre is known,                                        5
And all the pow’rs of musick are my own.
Swell all thy notes, delightful harp , O swell!
Inflame thy poet to describe thee well,
When the full chorus rises with the breeze,
Or slowly sinking lessens by degrees,                                              10
To sounds more soft than am’rous gales disclose,
At evening panting on the blushing rose;
More sweet than all the notes that organs breathe,
Or tuneful echoes, when they die, bequeathe.
Oft where some sylvan temple decks the grove,                          15
The slave of easy indolence I rove;
There the wing’d breeze the lifted sash pervades,
Each breath is musick, vocal all the shades;
Charm’d with the soothing sound at ease reclin’d,
To fancy’s pleasing pow’r I yield my mind:                                     20
And now enchanted scenes around me rise,
And some kind Ariel the soft air supplies:
Now lofty Pindus through the shades I view,
Where all the nine their tuneful art persue,
To me the sound the parting gale conveys,                                  25
And all my heart is extasy and praise:
Now to Arcadian plains at once convey’d,
Some shepherd’s pipe delights his fav’rite maid;
Mix’d with the murmurs of a neighb’ring stream,
I hear soft notes that suit an am’rous theme;                              30
Ah! then a victim to the fond deceit,
My heart begins with fierce desires to beat;
To fancy’d sighs I real sighs return,
By turns I languish, and by turns I burn.
Ah Delia haste! and here attentive prove,                                      35
Like me that ‘music is the voice of love,’
So shall I mourn my rustic strains no more,
While pleas’d you listen who could frown before.
Hertfordshire, Nov. 15, 1754.


 Author This poem is signed “R.S”; identified by Emily Lorraine de Montluzin as John Scott of Amwell (1731-1783), a Quaker poet who published a number of poems in the GM between 1753-1758 (“The Poetry of the Gentleman’s Magazine, 1731-1800”).

Title EOLIAN HARP “A stringed instrument producing musical sounds on exposure to a current of air” (OED).  Named after Aeolus, the Greek god of wind.  The “description” Scott is responding to appeared in the GM, vol. 24 (February 1754), p. 74.

15 sylvan Of the woods (OED).

23 Pindus Grecian mountain range that includes Mount Parnassus, home of the nine muses.

27 Arcadian Belonging to Arcadia; ideally rural or rustic (OED).

36 ‘music is the voice of love’ Quoted from James Thomson, Spring (1735), line 569.

SOURCE: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 24 (November, 1754), p. 525. [Internet Archive]

Edited by Neil Donovan


Michael Bruce, “Ode: To a Fountain”


“Ode: To a Fountain”


O Fountain of the wood! whose glassy wave
Slow-welling from the rock of years,
Holds to heav’n a mirrour blue,
And bright as ANNA’S eye,

With whom I’ve sported on the margin green:                                5
My hand with leaves, with lilies white,
Gaily deck’d her golden hair,
Young NAIAD of the vale.

Fount of my native wood! thy murmurs greet
My ear, like poets heav’nly strain:                                                 10
Fancy pictures in a dream
The golden days of youth.

O state of innocence! O paradise!
In Hope’s gay garden, Fancy views
Golden blossoms, golden fruits,                                                  15
And EDEN ever green.

Where now, ye dear companions of my youth!
Ye brothers of my bosom! where
Do ye tread the walks of life,
Wide scatter’d o’er the world?                                                    20

Thus winged larks forsake their native nest,
The merry minstrels of the morn;
New to heav’n they mount away,
And meet again no more.

All things decay; the forest like the leaf;                                            25
Great kingdoms fall; the peopled globe,
Planet-struck, shall pass away;
Heav’ns with their hosts expire:

But Hope’s fair visions, and the beams of Joy,
Shall chear my bosom: I will sing                                                      30
Nature’s beauty, Nature’s birth,
And heroes on the lyre.

Ye NAIADS! blue-eyed sisters of the wood!
Who by old oak, or storied stream,
Nightly tread your mystic maze,                                                     35
And charm the wand’ring Moon,

Beheld by poet’s eye; inspire my dreams
With visions, like the landscapes fair
Of heav’n’s bliss, to dying faints
By guardian angels drawn.                                                            40

Fount of the forest! in thy poet’s lays
Thy waves shall flow: this wreath of flow’rs,
Gather’d by my ANNA’S hand,
I ask to bind my brow.


7 Gaily “Airily; cheerfully” (Johnson).

8 NAIAD “A nymph of fresh water, thought to inhabit a river, spring, etc.” (OED).

9 Fount “Fountain, a well; a spring” (Johnson).

11 Fancy Poetic imagination.

21 larks “A small singing bird” (Johnson).

27 Planet-struck “Blasted” (Johnson).

32 lyreA harp; a musical instrument to which poetry is, by poetical writers, supposed to be sung” (Johnson).

41 poet’s lays “A lay may be a song, a melody, a simple narrative poem, or a ballad” (Britannica).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (Edinburgh, 1770), pp. 45-47. [Google Books]

Edited by Yaneli Lopez

Matthew Pilkington, “The Progress of Musick in Ireland, to Mira”


“The Progress of Musick in Ireland, to Mira”

The poet in fact is taught by Love, even if he has no skill before.
Eurip[ides], Sthenoboea.

By thee enjoyn’d th’ obsequious Muse obeys,
Yet, trembling, dreads the Danger she surveys,
But vain are Infant Fears, I plead in vain,
The Task too Noble, too Sublime the Strain,
The Fancy’s wing’d, and springs to bolder Flights,                                                    5
When Beauty bids, and Harmony invites;
For each, our Passions pleasingly controuls;
Love’s but the purer Harmony of Souls:
Musick and Love the savage World refin’d,
Reform’d the Manners, while they rais’d the Mind,                                                  10
Gave Man a Foretaste of the Joys above;
For what is Heav’n but Harmony and Love?

Hibernia long beheld, with Sorrow fill’d,
Her Poets and her Sons in Arts unskill’d:
Sons! dead to Fame, nor comely to the Sight,                                                            15
Their Customs wild, their Manners unpolite;
Nor yet cou’d Musick boast persuasive Charms,
To tempt one sprightly Genius to her Arms:
The Muse, in mournful Pomp, laments her Case,
Pale Grief and Anguish painted in her Face;                                                               20
To lonely Woods retire the tuneful Throng,
Uncharm’d by Sound, and negligent of Song:
The silent Lark forgets to wake the Dawn
With early Song, suspended o’er the Lawn,
On Earth he Pines, and droops his useless Wings                                                      25
With dumb Concern, and neither Soars nor Sings.

At length a Swain, long tortur’d with Despair,
The Scorn of some inexorable Fair,
Haunted each Grove, each dark Retreat of Grief,
Bereft of Ease, and hopeless of Relief;                                                                          30
Nightly he heard sad Philomel complain,
And wish’d to copy so divine a Strain,
So clear, so soft the plaintive Warbler sung,
The Groves, and Hills with plaintive Echoes rung.
Her Notes so mournfully melodious flow,                                                                     35
They calm his Soul, and mitigate his Woe,
Distressful Passion both alike bewail,
He sighs his Grief, she chants her piteous Tale.

Fain would he Sing; his Voice was still supprest
By swelling Sighs, which struggled from his Breast.                                                     40
Despair, whose Sting can haughtiest Minds controul,
Unstrings his Nerves, and quite unmans his Soul,
Breathes a wild Horror into ev’ry Part,
Restrains his Tongue, and preys upon his Heart.

But near the Grove, where comfortless he lies,                                                    45
The spiky Reeds in waving Clusters rise,
He models one, and his Invention tires,
Varying its Form as Art or Chance inspires:
Then gives it Breath to sing: With gentle Mirth
It strikes the Ear, as conscious of its Birth.                                                                    50
With sharpen’d Steel he lanc’d its tender Skin,
In order rang’d the op’ning Wounds are seen,
Wounds! less than he receiv’d, with piercing Smart,
In that soft Instrument of Love, the Heart:
To these his active Fingers he applies,                                                                            55
Which bid the changing Musick fall, and rise,
While in the Road of Harmony they guide
Each infant Sound, and o’er the Notes preside.

But o’er his Airs a gloomy Sorrow hung;
For still he lov’d, and Love distress’d he sung,                                                                60
His Heart in ev’ry Accent seem’d to bleed,
And Grief harmonious trembled from the Reed.

And still the Tenor of Hibernian Strains,
Those pleasing Labours of enamour’d Swains,
From his a melancholly Turn receive,                                                                               65
The Airs are moving, and the Numbers grieve.

Musick thus wak’d to Life, fair Child of Love!
Time’s rip’ning Touch, and growing Arts improve,
While to the feeble Voice of slender Reeds,
The manlier Musick of the Fife succeeds.                                                                        70
Alike in Form, but of a larger Mold,
More durable its Frame, its Tone more bold;
Now lively Numbers, born on willing Gales,
Flow to the Hills, and echo in the Vales;
The rural Throng now chearful croud around,                                                               75
And catch, enamour’d, the inspiring Sound,
They walk and move with correspondent Mien,
And Dance exulting on the level Green:
No Secret now the raptur’d Heart conceals,
The conscious Maid her hidden Flame reveals                                                               80
In glowing Blushes on her Cheeks they rise,
Burst from her Tongue, and kindle in her Eyes.

But secret Pleasures once disclos’d to Sight,
Give Birth to fresh Successions of Delight.
On Objects new the restless Fancy strays,                                                                       85
And wantons in the search of nobler Lays.
Extended Strings at length Experience found,
Start at the Touch, and tremble into Sound;
Of which a Vocal Multitude conspire,
In shining Order plac’d to form the Lyre:                                                                          90
And thus the Strings, as in a Choir combin’d,
Have each their parts of Harmony assign’d:
Some heav’nly Sounds transportingly create,
Like Echo some the heav’nly Sounds repeat,
Those plac’d above, rejoyce in sprightly Tones,                                                               95
Below the rough, hoarse Base, responsive, Groans.

If the judicious Artist bids them Play,
The dancing Cords in Silver Sounds obey,
But struck with Hands unskill’d, they spring to War,
Hiss out their Rage, and in harsh Discords jar.                                                               100

Musick henceforward more Domestick grew,
Courts the throng Towns, and from the Plains withdrew:
The Vagrant Bard his circling Visits pays,
And charms the Villages with venal Lays.
The solemn Harp, beneath his Shoulder plac’d,                                                             105
With both his Arms is earnestly embrac’d,
Sweetly irregular, now swift, now slow,
With soft Variety his Numbers flow,
The shrill, the deep, the gentle, and the strong,
With pleasing Dissonance adorn his Song;                                                                      110
While thro’ the Cords his Hands unweary’d range,
The Musick changing as his Fingers change.

The Croud transported in Attention hung,
Their Breath in Silence sleeps upon the Tongue,
The Wheels forget to turn, the Labours cease,                                                                 115
And ev’ry Sound but Musick sinks to Peace.

So when the Thracian charm’d the Shades below,
And brought down Raptures to the Realms of Woe,
Despairing Ghosts from Labour stand releas’d,
Each Wheel, each Instrument of Torture ceas’d;                                                            120
The Furies drop their Whips, afflictive Pain
Suspends, with ghastly Smiles, her Iron Reign,
All Groans were still’d, all Sorrow lull’d to Rest,
And ev’ry Care was hush’d in ev’ry Breast.

Joy spreads her Wings o’er all the raptur’d Isle,                                                        125
And bids each Face be bright’ned to a Smile.
Now Nature, pleas’d, her Gifts profusely Pours,
To Paint the chearful Earth with od’rous Flow’rs,
So chang’d a Scene she wonders to survey,
And bids ev’n Things inanimate look Gay.                                                                        130

The Muses now from Albion’s Isle retreat,
And here with kind Indulgence fix their Seat:
Then Viner rose, with all their warmth inspir’d,
A Bard caress’d by all, by all admir’d;
He Choral strings, in sleepy Silence bound,                                                                      135
Touch’d into Voice, and waken’d into Sound;
Then taught those Sounds to flow with easy Art,
To wooe the Soul, and glide into the Heart,
In Notes, untry’d before, his Fancy dress’t,
And bid new transports rise in ev’ry Breast.                                                                     140

While round in Crouds the fair Creation stand,
The polish’d Viol trembling in his Hand,
While swift as Thought, from note to note he springs,
Flies o’er th’ unerring Tones, and sweeps the sounding Strings,
The Old, the Young, the Serious, and the Gay,                                                                 145
With ravish’d Ears devour the ’witching Lay;
The Lover’s Eyes now languishingly Roll,
And speak the Dictates of the raptur’d Soul;
Foes, in whose Breasts the wildest Passion strove,
Forget their Rage, and soften into Love:                                                                            150
The prideful Beauty, feels with new Surprize
Her Bosom swell, and wonders why she Sighs,
Each Passion acts as he affects the Heart,
And Nature answers ev’ry stroke of Art.

But now refin’d Hibernia’s ravish’d Throng,                                                               155
With wonder dwell on Nicholini’s Song,
Whose warbling Voice and tuneful Tongue dispence,
The blended harmony of Sound and Sense:
With these he knew the list’ning Soul to charm,
And ev’ry Torment of its Sting disarm,                                                                               160
Cou’d calm the harsh disturber Care, to ease,
With Fear delight us, and with Sorrow please;
Cou’d warm the kindling Soul with am’rous Fire,
And Raptures, which he never felt, inspire.

While Musick thus its native Beauty shows,                                                              165
And, from its living Spring delightful flows,
How does it raise! how gladden ev’ry Heart!
How far transcend the mimic Voice of Art!

So, when Belinda’s heav’nly Beauties stand,
Wrought into Life, by Kneller’s magic Hand,                                                                     170
Her Face, her Shape, have all that Art can give,
Start from the animated Paint, and Live;
But, when the real Nymph, divin’ly bright,
Array’d in native Lustre, strikes our Sight,
Some nameless transport in our Bosom plays,                                                               175
That Shade and Colour want the Force to raise.

Dubourg next sways the Soul with nicest Art,
And binds in airy Chains the captive Heart,
While from the vocal Strings, and shifting Bow,
At his nice Touch th’ obsequious Numbers flow.                                                            180
With easy toil he swells the Notes aloud,
Now on the Ear precipitant they croud,
Now, scarcely heard, they gradually decay,
And with melodious Cadence waste away,
While at his melting Falls, and dying Notes,                                                                    185
Around the Heart the liquid Rapture floats.

With martial Ardor if he boldly warms,
The animated Hero pants for Arms,
With guiltless Rage th’ impetuous Spirit glows,
And prostrates Legions of imagin’d Foes.                                                                         190

But, if to Mirth, a sprightly strain inclines,
With Humour fraught his quick’ning Genius shines,
Then, smiling Joys thro’ ev’ry Aspect fly,
Glow in the Lips, and wanton in the Eye.

Next Bocchi Reigns, whom Art and Nature grace                                                    195
To smooth the roughness of the sullen Base,
Directs his Notes distinct to rise or fall,
Tries ev’ry Tone to charm, and charms in all.

Th’ awaken’d Muse thus rises, thus refines,
Improves with Time, and in Perfection shines;                                                                200
The first rude Lays are now but meanly priz’d,
As rude, neglected, as untun’d, despis’d:
Dead—(in Esteem too dead) the Bards that sung,
The Fife neglected, and the Harp unstrung.

So when the Thrush exalts his chearful Throat,                                                       205
To glad the Fields with many an artless Note,
With rude Delight the List’ner’s Breast he warms,
Wild tho’ he sings, his sylvan Wildness charms;
But if the warbling Nightingale prepares
Her softer Voice, that melts with thrilling Airs,                                                                 210
The Winds are hush’d, still Silence reigns around,
And list’ning Echo dwells upon the Sound;
Harsh seem the Strains which gave Delight before,
And far excell’d, those Strains delight no more.

The pausing Muse now shuts her vent’rous Wings,                                                  215
And, anxious of Success, distrustful sings;
O! might her Lays to thy Esteem succeed,
For whom she tun’d her artless Voice and Reed,
Thy Smiles wou’d swell her Heart with honest Pride,
Approv’d by thee she scorns the World beside.                                                                220


Title  Mira  Laetitia Van Lewen (1709-1750) married Pilkington in 1725, noted for her exceptional singing voice.  Several other pieces in his Poems on Several Occasions are dedicated to her.

Epigraph  From Stheneboea, a play fragment by Euripides (c. 480-c. 406 BC), given in ancient Greek.  Translation from C. Collard, et al, eds., Euripides: Selected Fragmentary Plays (Liverpool UP, 2009), fragment 663, p. 88.

13  Hibernia  Ireland (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

31  Philomel  A nightingale (OED).

51  its  Emended from “it’s,” a printer’s error.

66  Numbers  “Verses” (OED).

70  Fife  “A small shrill-toned instrument of the flute kind” (OED).

77  Mien  “The look, bearing, manner, or conduct of a person, as showing character, mood” (OED).

103  Bard  Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738, also Terrence O’Carolan), blind Irish composer and harpist; renowned for his improvisational verse (Brittanica).

117  the Thracian charm’d the Shades below  A reference to Orpheus, mythological Greek poet and musician of Thracian origin.  After the death of his wife, Eurydice, at the suggestion of the gods, Orpheus descended to the underworld and charmed Hades and Persephone with his song (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

121  Furies  Also called Erinyes; Greek spirits of punishment, avenging wrongs done to kindred (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

131  Albion’s Isle  Britain (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

133  Viner  William Viner (1650-1716), English violinist, composer and Master of the State Music in Ireland from 1703 until his death (Dictionary of Irish Biography).

138  wooe  Alternate form of  “woo;” to court a person, typically a woman (OED).

156  Nicholini  Nicolo Grimaldi (1673-1732), Italian opera singer, alto castrato (The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music).

160  its  Emended from “it’s,” a printer’s error.

161  Care  “A burdened state of mind arising from fear, doubt or concern about anything” (OED).

169  Belinda  The main character in Alexander Pope’s popular mock-heroic poem The Rape of the Lock (1714); based on Arabella Fermor (1696-1737), who was renowned at the time for her beauty.

170  Kneller  Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), English portrait painter.  One of the three known portraits of Arabella Fermor is attributed to him.

177  Dubourg  Matthew Dubourg (1703-1767), English violinist, preternaturally gifted and was appointed Master of the State Music in Ireland in 1728, a position he held until his death (Dictionary of Irish Biography).

195  Bocchi  Lorenzo Bocchi (d. 1725), Italian cellist; he is believed to be responsible for introducing the cello to both Scotland and Ireland (R. Cowgill and P. Holman, eds., Music in the British Provinces, 1690-1914, p. 4).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (Dublin, 1730), pp. 3-25.  [Google Books]

Edited by Jerry Andersen

Stephen Duck, “On Music”




MUSIC the coldest Heart can warm,
The hardest melt, the fiercest charm;
Disarm the Savage of his Rage,
Dispel our Cares, and Pains assuage;
With Joy it can our Souls inspire,                                                  5
And tune our Tempers to the Lyre;
Our Passions, like the Notes, agree,
And stand subdu’d by Harmony.
This found the melancholy King,
When David tun’d the trembling String:                                     10
Sweet Music chas’d the fullen Spleen away,
And made his clouded Soul serenely gay.


WHILE Music breathes in martial Airs,
The Coward dares forget his Fears;
Or, if the Notes to Pity sound,                                                     15
Revenge and Envy cease to wound:
The Pow’r of MUSIC has been known,
To raise or tumble Cities down:
Thus Theban Turrets, Authors say,
Were rais’d by MUSIC’s Magick Lay;                                            20
And antient Jericho’s Heav’n-hated Wall,
To sacred MUSIC, ow’d its destin’d Fall.


NOR Mortals only MUSIC love;
It chears celestial Saints above:
Sweet Hallelujahs Angels sing                                                      25
Around their great Ethereal King;
CeaslessCeasless they sound the FATHER’S Praise,
The FATHER too approves their Lays;
For HE (as all Things) MUSIC made,
And SERAPHIMS before Him play’d:                                            30
When over Horeb’s Mount He came,
Array’d in Majesty and Flame;
After the sounding Trump, sublime, He rode;
The sounding Trump proclaim’d the’ approaching GOD.


MUSIC had Being, long before                                                     35
The solemn Organ learnt to roar:
When MICHAEL, o’er the heav’nly Plain,
Advanc’d, to fight the rebel Train;
Loud Trumpets did his Wrath declare,
In MUSIC, terrible to hear:                                                             40
And when the Universe was made,
On golden Harps the Angels play’d:
And when it falls, (as fall it must)
MUSIC shall penetrate the Dust;
The Trump shall sound with the Archangel’s Breath;                       45
And, sweetly dreadful! wake the Dead from Death.


6 Lyre “A stringed instrument of the harp kind, used by the Greeks for accompanying song and recitation” (OED).

9 melancholy King An allusion to King Saul in the Bible.

10 David tun’d the trembling String In the first book of Samuel, David would play the lyre to calm Saul when the evil spirit of God was upon him (1 Samuel 16:23).

11 Spleen “Excessive dejection or depression of spirits; gloominess and irritability.” (OED).

19 Theban Turrets A structure or tower belonging to Thebes, ancient capital of Boeotia in Greece.

20 Lay “A short lyric or narrative poem intended to be sung” (OED).

21 Jericho’s Heav’n-hated Wall In the Bible Joshua is instructed to sound trumpets before taking over the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:20).

30 Seraphims Biblical angels.

31 Horeb’s Mount The mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

32 Majesty and Flame Allusion to the Burning bush that the Lord appeared as to give Moses the Ten Commandments.

37 MICHAEL, o’er the heav’nly Plain Michael was an archangel who fought the Devil in heaven.

45-46 The Trump shall sound with the Archangel’s Breath/…wake the Dead from Death Alludes to the literary tradition of the archangel Gabriel sounding a trumpet to welcome Christ back to Earth for the Last Judgement (see John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XI, ll. 72-76).  In the Biblical tradition, Gabriel is neither an archangel, not is it clear that he’s the trumpeter (see I Corinthians 15:52).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions, (3rd Edition) (London, 1753), pp. 49-51. [Google Books]

 Edited by Noelle Gallagher

Rev. John Langhorne, The Tears of Music. A Poem, to the Memory of Mr. Handel


The Tears of Music. A Poem, to the Memory of Mr. Handel


SPIRITS of Music, and ye Powers of Song,
That wak’d to painful Melody the Lyre
Of young JESSIDES, when, on GILBOA’s Mount,
He wept o’er bleeding Friendship; ye that mourn’d,
While Freedom drooping o’er EUPHRATES’ Stream                                  5
Her pensive Harp on the pale Osier hung,
Begin once more the Sorrow-soothing Lay.
Ah! where shall now the Muse fit Numbers find?
What Accents pure to greet thy tuneful Shade?
Sweet Harmonist! ’Twas thine, the tender Fall                                          10
Of Pity’s plaintive Lay; for thee the Stream
Of silver-winding Music sweeter play’d,
And purer flow’d for Thee, ―all silent now
Those Airs that, breathing o’er the Breast of THAMES,
Led amorous ECHO down the long, long Vale,                                         15
Delighted; studious from thy sweeter Strain
To melodize her own; when the sad Hour
She mourns in Anguish o’er the golden Breast
Of young NARCISSUS. From their Amber Urns,
Parting their green Locks streaming in the Sun,                                       20
The NAIADS rose and smil’d: Nor since the Day,
When first by Music, and by Freedom led
From Grecian ACIDALE; nor since the Day,
When last from ARNO’s weeping Fount they came,
To smooth the Ringlets of SABRINA’s Hair,                                               25
Heard They like Minstrelsy—Fountains and Shades
Of TWIT’NAM, and of WINDSOR fam’d in Song!
Ye Mounts of CLERMONT, and ye Bowers of HAM!
That heard the fine Strain vibrate thro’ your Groves,
Ah! where were then your long-lov’d Muses fled,                                     30
When HANDEL breath’d no more?—and Thou, sweet Queen,
That nightly wrapt thy MILTON’s hallow’d Ear
In the soft Ecstasies of LYDIAN Airs,
And since attun’d to HANDEL’s high-wound Lyre
The Lay by Thee suggested; could’st not Thou                                          35
Soothe with thy sweet Song the grim Fury’s Breast?
Ah! no: from Thee too, heav’d the helpless Sigh,
Thy fair Eyes floating in a mournful Tear,
When MILTON died, and HANDEL breath’d no more.
COLD-HEARTED Death! his wanly-glaring Eye                                            40
Nor Virtue’s Smile attracts, nor Fame’s loud Trump
Can pierce his Iron Ear, for ever barr’d
To gentle Sounds: the golden Voice of Song,
That charms the gloomy Partner of his Birth,
That soothes Despair and Pain, He hears no more,                                 45
Than rude Winds, blust’ring from the CAMBRIAN Cliffs,
The Traveller’s feeble Lay. To court fair Fame,
To toil with slow Steps up the Star-crown’d Hill,
Where Science, leaning on her sculptur’d Urn,
Looks conscious on the secret-working Hand                                            50
Of Nature; on the Wings of Genius borne,
To soar above the beaten Walks of Life,
Is, like the Paintings of an Evening Cloud,
Th’ Amusement of an Hour. Night, gloomy Night
Spreads her black Wings, and all the Vision dies.                                      55
ERE long, the Heart, that heaves this Sigh to Thee,
Shall beat no more! ere long, on this fond Lay
Which mourns at HANDEL’s Tomb, insulting Time
Shall strew his cankering Rust. Thy Strain, perchance,
Thy sacred Strain shall the hoar Warrior spare;                                        60
For Sounds like thine, at Nature’s early Birth,
Arous’d Him slumbering on the dead Profound
Of dusky Chaos; by the golden Harps
Of choral Angels summon’d to his Race:
And Sounds like thine, when Nature is no more,                                      65
Shall call him weary from the lengthen’d Toils
Of twice Ten Thousand Years.—O would his Hand
Yet spare some Portion of this vital Flame,
The trembling Muse that now faint Effort makes
On young and artless Wing, should bear thy Praise                                 70
Sublime, above the mortal Bounds of Earth,
With heavenly Fires relume her feeble Ray,
And learn of Seraphs how to sing to Thee.

I FEEL, I feel the sacred Impulse—hark!
Wak’d from according Lyres the sweet Strains flow                                 75
In Symphony divine; from Air to Air
The trembling Numbers fly: swift bursts away
The Flow of Joy; now swells the Flight of Praise.
Springs the shrill Trump aloft; the toiling Chords
Melodious labour thro’ the flying Maze;                                                     80
And the deep Base his strong Sounds rolls away,
Majestically sweet—Yet, HANDEL, raise,
Yet wake to higher Strains thy sacred Lyre:
The Name of Ages, the Supreme of Things,
The great MESSIAH asks it; He whose Hand                                              85
Led into Form yon everlasting Orbs,
The Harmony of Nature—He whose Hand
Stretch’d o’er the wilds of Space this beauteous Ball,
Whose Spirit breathes thro’ all his smiling Works
Music and Love—yet HANDEL raise the Strain.                                        90
Hark! what angelic Sounds, what Voice divine
Breathes thro’ the ravisht Air! My rapt Ear feels
The Harmony of Heaven. Hail sacred Choir!
Immortal Spirits, hail! If haply those
That erst in favour’d PALESTINE proclaim’d                                              95
Glory and Peace: her Angel-haunted Groves,
Her piny Mountain, and her golden Vales
Re-echo’d Peace—But, Oh! Suspend the Strain—
The swelling Joy’s too much for mortal Bounds!
’Tis Transport even to Pain. Oh, lead me then,                                         100
Convey me to the sad, the mournful Scene,
Where trembling Nature saw her GOD expire.
Flow, stupid Tears! and veil the conscious Eye
That yet presumes to gaze—
Flow, stupid Tears! in vain—ye too confess                                              105
That HE alone unequal’d Sorrow bore.

BUT, hark! what pleasing Sounds invite mine Ear,
So venerably sweet? ‘Tis SION’s Lute.
Behold her Hero! from his valiant Brow
Looks JUDAH’s Lyon, on his Thigh the Sword                                           110
Of vanquished APOLLONIUS—The shrill Trump
Thro’ BETHORON proclaims th’ approaching Fight.
I see the brave Youth lead his little Band,
With Toil and Hunger faint; yet from his Arm
The rapid SYRIAN flies. Thus HENRY once,                                                115
The British HENRY, with his way-worn Troop,
Subdued the Pride of France—now louder blows
The martial Clangor, lo NICANOR’s Host!
With threat’ning Turrets crown’d, slowly advance
The ponderous Elephants.—                                                                       120
The blazing Sun, from many a golden Shield
Reflected, gleams afar. Judean Chief!
How shall thy Force, thy little Force sustain
The dreadful Shock!
The Hero comes— ’Tis boundless Mirth and Song                                  125
And Dance and Triumph, every laboring String,
And Voice, and breathing Shell in Concert strain
To swell the Raptures of tumultuous Joy.
O Master of the Passions and the Soul,
Seraphic HANDEL! how shall Words describe                                          130
Thy Music’s countless Graces, nameless Powers!

When He of GAZA, blind, and sunk in Chains,
On female Treachery looks greatly down,
How the breast burns indignant! In thy strain,
When sweet-voic’d Piety resigns to Heaven,                                             135
Glows not each Bosom with the Flame of Virtue?
O’ER JEPTHA’s votive Maid when the soft Lute
Sounds the slow Symphony of Funeral Grief,
What youthful Breast but melts with tender Pity!
What Parent bleeds not with a Parents woe!                                            140

O, longer than this worthless Lay can live!
While Fame and Music sooth the human Ear;
Be this thy Praise: to lead the polish’d Mind
To Virtue’s noblest Heights; to light the Flame
Of British Freedom, rouse the generous Thought,                                   145
Refine the Passions, and exalt the Soul
To love, to Heaven, to Harmony and Thee.


Title George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), Baroque composer; he died in London, England.

3 GILBOA’s Mount  Mountain in Northern Israel. In “The Book of Samuel” of the Bible, Mount Gilboa is the location where the Philistines killed Saul and his son Jonathon. Handel composed Saul, an English Libretto, in 1738 (Charles Cudworth, Handel [1972], p. 28.).

5 EUPHRATES  This river appears in Handel’s Opera Belshazzar (opera.stanford.edu).

6 Osier  “A small Eurasian willow” (OED).

14 Those Airs…THAMES  The Water-Music (Author’s note). “Handel’s matchless delicacy as an orchestrator…makes him alert to the beauties of varied sonority and echo effects in the resonant clarity of a summer evening on the river [Thames]” (Jonathan Keates, Handel: The Man and his Music [1985], p. 77).

15-19 ECHO…NARCISSUS  From Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

21 NAIADS  Water nymphs.

22 Grecian ACIDALE  A fountain in Greece, referred to in Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (AC Hamilton, The Spenser Encyclopedia [1990], p. 4.).

24-25 ARNO’s weeping Fount…SABRINA’s Hair  An allusion to John Milton’s Comus. Arno is a river, and Sabrina, a nymph. In 1737, Handel “reworked Milton’s Comus for an opera, Sabrina” (Paul Henry Lang, George Frideric Handel [1966], p. 317).

27 TWIT’NAM…WINDSOR  Alexander Pope’s house and his poem “Windsor Forest.”

28 CLERMONT  A mansion built in the eighteenth century in Surrey, England.

28 HAM  A suburb of London, on the banks of the Thames.

33 LYDIAN  A musical scale.

34 And since attun’d…  “L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, set to Music by Mr. HANDEL [Author’s note].

36 sweet Song…  “See MILTON’s Lycidas” [Author’s note].

41 Trump  “Trumpet” (OED).

46 CAMBRIAN  Welsh.

73 Relume  “To relight, rekindle” (OED).

85 MESSIAH  Handel’s English oratorio, composed in 1741.

108 Sion’s  Zion.

109 her Hero  “Judas Maccabeus” [Author’s note]. Handel composed an oratorio by the same name in 1746 (Keates, p. 160).

110-112 JUDAH’s…BETHORAN  “The governor of Samaria, Apollonius, now assembled a large number of Gentiles into an army…to attack the people of Israel. When Judah learned of Apollonius’s movements, he went out to meet this army and defeated them, killing Apollonius…Among the spoils, Judah found Apollonius’s own sword, which he took and used in battle for the rest of his life” (The Inclusive Bible [2007], p. 571.) This battle took place in Bethoran.

115 HENRY Henry V (1386-1422), King of England from 1413-1422, famously defeated the French in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

118 NICANOR  A governor of Judea.

125 The Hero comes…  “Chorus of Youths, in Judas Maccabeus” [Author’s note].

132 When He of Gaza…  “See the Oratorio of Samson” [Author’s note].

137 JEPTHA  From Bible Judges 11. Handel composed his last oratorio, Jephtha, in 1751 (Cudworth, p. 49).

Source:  The Tears of Music. A Poem, to the Memory of Mr. Handel. With an Ode to the River Eden (London, 1760).  [Sutro Library of the California State University Library, San Francisco]

Edited by Gerald Barr