Hymn to St. Cecilia

09:55 Download
Oberlin College Choir
05/1991
Britten/Auden

Lyrics

Hymn to St. Cecilia 

  

BENJAMIN BRITTEN (1913-1976) 
TEXT: W.H. AUDEN (1907-1973) 

 

I. 

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.

 

II.

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. 
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 
To all musicians, appear and inspire: 
Translated Daughter, come down and startle 
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

 

III. 

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. 
Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 
To all musicians, appear and inspire: 
Translated Daughter, come down and startle 
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

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