'St Cecilia', 1899, by Edward Reginald Frampton (1870-1923)
In a garden shady this holy lady With reverent cadence and subtle psalm, Like a black swan as death came on Poured forth her song in perfect calm: And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer, And notes tremendous from her great engine Thundered out on the Roman air.
Blonde Aphrodite rose up excited, Moved to delight by the melody, White as an orchid she rode quite naked In an oyster shell on top of the sea; At sounds so entrancing the angels dancing Came out of their trance into time again, And around the wicked in Hell’s abysses The huge flame flickered and eased their pain.
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions To all musicians, appear and inspire: Translated Daughter, come down and startle Composing mortals with immortal fire.
I cannot grow; I have no shadow To run away from, I only play.
I cannot err; There is no creature Whom I belong to, Whom I could wrong.
I am defeat When it knows it Can now do nothing By suffering.
All you lived through, Dancing because you No longer need it For any deed.
I shall never be Different. Love me.
O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall, O calm of spaces unafraid of weight, Where Sorrow is herself, forgetting all The gaucheness of her adolescent state, Where Hope within the altogether strange From every outworn image is released, And Dread born whole and normal like a beast Into a world of truths that never change: Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange.
O dear white children casual as birds, Playing among the ruined languages, So small beside their large confusing words, So gay against the greater silences Of dreadful things you did: O hang the head, Impetuous child with the tremendous brain, O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain, Lost innocence who wished your lover dead, Weep for the lives your wishes never led.
O cry created as the bow of sin Is drawn across our trembling violin. O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain. O law drummed out by hearts against the still Long winter of our intellectual will. That what has been may never be again. O flute that throbs with the thanksgiving breath Of convalescents on the shores of death. O bless the freedom that you never chose. O trumpets that unguarded children blow About the fortress of their inner foe. O wear your tribulation like a rose.
W.H. Auden, 1907-1973 set to music by Benjamin Britten OM CH, 1913-1976
O God, who makest us glad with the yearly festival of blessed Cecilia, thy Virgin and Martyr: grant that we who venerate her in our service, may also follow the example of her godly life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.