Harmony and Order: Giving Thanks ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Of course, I do not want or desire to conflate that which is sacred with that which is profane. The Sabbath does not exist for the right of association. Yet, as we pause and reflect on the many great and grand blessings bestowed upon us as Americans, we would be foolish to ignore the tradition of self-governance, of community building, and of the right to association. Once again, it is healthy to remember what we should cherish. Plato, after all, told us we must love what should be loved and hate what should be hated. In rough times, we too readily remember the hate part but forget the love part. As you celebrate your time with your family, eat turkey and mashed potatoes, and watch, for the 1000th time, Home Alone, don’t forget to give thanks—to all of those who came before us and, especially, to He who created us in His image to know, to serve, and to love Him.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2018/11/harmony-order-thanksgiving-bradley-birzer.html

Cecilian Ode #2: “Welcome to All the Pleasures”

In 1683, a new organization, the Musical Society of London, commissioned a setting of Christopher Fishburn’s ode Welcome to All the Pleasures for performance on St. Cecilia’s Day — November 22nd.  The Society chose Henry Purcell, 24 years old and already the organist at both Westminister Abbey and the Chapel Royal, as the composer.

Welcome to All the Pleasures proved a hit, with Purcell’s innovative use of the ritornello (a riff for strings punctuating a section of the work) and the ground (a repeating bass line anchoring vocal variations) causing quite the sensation.  Not only it was published the following year  — a rarity for an extended work in Restoration England — it became the first in a series of Cecilian odes commissioned by the Musical Society for their annual celebration.  Purcell wrote three more such odes before his untimely death in 1695, as did contemporaries like John Blow and successors like George Frederic Handel, often setting libretti by renowned poets such as John Dryden and Alexander Pope.

This year, St. Cecilia’s Day is also Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  Why not give thanks for the gifts of music and poetry by spending 15 minutes with Welcome to All the Pleasures?  The text of Christopher Fishburn’s ode follows below the playlist.

Welcome to All the Pleasures:

Symphony

Alto, tenor and bass: chorus: ritornello
Welcome to all the pleasures that delight
Of ev’ry sense the grateful appetite,
Hail, great assembly of Apollo’s race.
Hail to this happy place, this musical assembly
That seems to be the arc of universal harmony.

Alto: ritornello
Here the Deities approve
The God of Music and of Love;
All the talents they have lent you,
All the blessings they have sent you,
Pleas’d to see what they bestow,
Live and thrive so well below.

Two sopranos and bass: ritornello
While joys celestial their bright souls invade
To find what great improvement you have made.

Alto, tenor and bass: chorus
Then lift up your voices, those organs of nature,
Those charms to the troubled and amorous creature.
The power shall divert us a pleasanter way,
For sorrow and grief find from music relief,
And love its soft charms must obey.
Then lift up your voices, those organs of nature,
Those charms to the troubled and amorous creature.

Tenor: ritornello
Beauty, thou scene of love,
And virtue thou innocent fire,
Made by the powers above
To temper the heat of desire,
Music that fancy employs
In rapture of innocent flame,
We offer with lute and with voice
To Cecilia, Cecilia’s bright name.

Tenor: chorus
In a consort of voices while instruments play
With music we celebrate this holy day;
Iô Cecilia!

(This is the second in a series exploring the Cecilian Ode, a uniquely English poetic and musical genre that spans the centuries from the late 1600s to the present.  Check out Ode #1 here; look for a new ode on or about the 22nd of each month!)

— Rick Krueger

 

 

St. Cecilia’s Day

St. Cecilia’s Day

Annals of the ages
preserved no evidence,
not a trace esconced
in the walls of titular tombs.

Yet her spirit guided
the hand of history
to the bones of her testament

in her name,
carved into stone
of a sepluchre in the catacomb.

She lives,
enlivened by the virginal joy
not given over
to earthly ecstacy.

Hers, the empassioned embrace,
of the sacrificial body.

Hers, the voice
ringing out the sweet sounds
of certainty.

A life, emboldened to stand
firm in the face of gallows,
flourishes
and runs free
into welcoming elysian fields.

The haunting gaze of conviction
urges us to run abreast,
yet fixed souls stand in awe
of such simple,
wonderous,
radiance.

This, the heart of the saint.
This, the incantation of eternal love,
a wordless aria
soaring to heaven.

And so she is here,
as present as you and I
as we, in unearthly voices,
sound the passing knell

to cast the thundering waves
of joy—the light engaged
to cast aside the trappings
that sustain the worldly
mammon and the madness

Faith and light and trembling
hope—you know the voice
sung out to angels,
the censorial sonance to the cold
hand of the rex legem

Condemned now,
the responding smile
opens the heart
to the flowing blood of truth.

There, the bejeweled
backdrop of guilded stones,
reveals the maiden betrothed,
not defiled.

Eyes cast aloft,
her soul ascends
through winds divine

and just below,
the angelic gaze,
a perfect alabaster nape
which twice and again
the henchman cleaved
but could not sever.

A final sign
of love revealed,
of three in one—
her love now sealed.

Kevin McCormick
22 November, 2018

 

Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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