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Poems About Music

Table of Contents

  1. Music by William Francis Barnard
  2. Music by Charles Baudelaire, translated by Jack Collings Squire
  3. Music by Walter de la Mare
  4. Music by John Edward Everett
  5. On Music by Thomas Moore
  6. The Opening of the Piano by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
  7. To a Violin by Bertha F. Gordon
  8. Music by Amy Lowell
  9. The Musical Box by Hannah Flagg Gould
  10. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony by Christopher Pearse Cranch
  11. Compensation by Sara Teasdale
  12. Master of Music by Henry Van Dyke
  13. Alexander's Feast; or, the Power of Music by John Dryden
  14. Sister's Harp by Eliza and Sarah Wolcott
  15. The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls by Thomas Moore
  16. On Music by William Stanley Braithwaite
  17. The Music of the Trees by Charles A. Heath

  1. Music

    Music, the language of the soul,
    Which words can never teach:

    - William Francis Barnard
    by William Francis Barnard

    Music, the language of the soul,
    Which words can never teach:
    A miracle of sound, that gives
    The unutterable to speech.

  2. Music

    by Charles Baudelaire, translated by Jack Collings Squire

    Oft Music, as it were some moving mighty sea,
    Bears me toward my pale
    Star: in clear space, or 'neath a vaporous canopy
    On-floating, I set sail.

    With heaving chest which strains forward, and lungs outblown,
    I climb the ridged steeps
    Of those high-piled clouds which 'thwart the night are thrown,
    Veiling its starry deeps.

    I suffer all the throes, within my quivering form.
    Of a great ship in pain,
    Now a soft wind, and now the writhings of a storm

    Upon the vasty main
    Rock me: at other times a death-like calm, the bare
    Mirror of my despair.

  3. Music

    When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
    And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;

    - Walter de la Mare
    by Walter de la Mare

    When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
    And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
    Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
    Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.

    When music sounds, out of the water rise
    Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes,
    Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face,
    With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.

    When music sounds, all that I was I am
    Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came;
    And from Time's woods break into distant song
    The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.

  4. Music

    by John Edward Everett

    Mystic music flows into our hearts and makes them grow tender,
    And it also expresses the tenderness already there;
    It awakens memories old and neglected that render
    The present an antique museum of relics rare.

    It opens the soul to visions of bright revelation,
    While dreams of the may-be and might-have-been charm all our thought;
    It leads us along the fair highway of pure aspiration,
    Till we think that "I will" will unceasingly walk with "I ought".

    It brings to our knowledge new phases of self, and it teaches
    The lesson divine of the greatness of souls that can feel;
    It gives hint of the depth and the height of emotion that reaches
    Far down and far up to where throbs awful woe and bless'd weal.

    Or again, when our spirits are stirred in joy or dejection,
    Often music affords us an outlet for grief or for praise;
    And when we grow tender while bathing in old recollection,
    We oft give our emotion expression in soft, longing lays.

    Blessed music, sweet music, clear music, oh, music supernal!
    Holy music, chaste music, loved music, oh, music benign!
    That persuades us the present is part of existence eternal,
    And changes our minutes from commonplace into divine.

  5. On Music

    Music, oh, how faint, how weak,
    Language fades before thy spell!
    Why should Feeling ever speak,
    When thou canst breathe her soul so well?

    - Thomas Moore
    On Music
    by Thomas Moore

    When through life unblest we rove,
    Losing all that made life dear,
    Should some notes we used to love,
    In days of boyhood, meet our ear,
    Oh! how welcome breathes the strain!
    Wakening thoughts that long have slept,
    Kindling former smiles again
    In faded eyes that long have wept.

    Like the gale, that sighs along
    Beds of oriental flowers,
    Is the grateful breath of song,
    That once was heard in happier hours.
    Fill'd with balm the gale sighs on,
    Though the flowers have sunk in death;
    So, when pleasure's dream is gone,
    Its memory lives in Music's breath.

    Music, oh, how faint, how weak,
    Language fades before thy spell!
    Why should Feeling ever speak,
    When thou canst breathe her soul so well?
    Friendship's balmy words may feign,
    Love's are even more false than they;
    Oh! 'tis only music's strain
    Can sweetly soothe, and not betray.

  6. The Opening of the Piano

    by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

    In the little southern parlor of tbe house you may have seen
    With the gambrel-roof, and the gable looking westward to the green,
    At the side toward the sunset, with the window on its right,
    Stood the London-made piano I am dreaming of to-night!

    Ah me! how I remember the evening when it came!
    What a cry of eager voices, what a group of cheeks in flame,
    When the wondrous box was opened that had come from over seas,
    With its smell of mastic-varnish and its flash of ivory keys!

    Then the children all grew fretful in the restlessness of joy,
    For the boy would push his sister, and the sister crowd the boy,
    Till the father asked for quiet in his grave paternal way,
    But the mother hushed the tumult with the words, "Now, Mary, play."

    For the dear soul knew that music was a very sovereign balm;
    She had sprinkled it over Sorrow and seen its brow grow calm,
    In the days of slender harpsichords with tapping tinkling quills,
    Or carolling to her spinet with its thin metallic thrills.

    So Mary, the household minstrel, who always loved to please,
    Sat down to the new "Clementi," and struck the glittering keys.
    Hushed were the children's voices, and every eye grew dim,
    As, floating from lip and finger, arose the "Vesper Hymn."

    Catharine, child of a neighbor, curly and rosy-red,
    (Wedded since, and a widow,— something like ten years dead,)
    Hearing a gush of music such as none before,
    Steals from her mother's chamber and peeps at the open door.

    Just as the "Jubilate" in threaded whisper dies,
    "Open it! open it, lady!" the little maiden cries,
    (For she thought 't was a singing creature caged in a box she heard,)
    "Open it! open it, lady! and let me see the bird!"

  7. To a Violin

    by Bertha F. Gordon

    Strange shape, who moulded first thy dainty shell?
    Who carved these melting curves? Who first did bring
    Across thy latticed bridge the slender string?
    Who formed this magic wand, to weave the spell,
    And lending thee his own soul, bade thee tell,
    When o'er the quiv'ring strings, he drew the bow,
    Life's history of happiness and woe,
    Or sing a paean, or a fun'ral knell?

    Oh come, beloved, responsive instrument,
    Across thy slender throat with gentle care
    I'll stretch my heart-strings; and be quite content
    To lose them, if with man I can but share
    The springs of song, that in my soul are pent,
    To quench his thirst, and help his load to bear.

  8. Music

    by Amy Lowell

    The neighbour sits in his window and plays the flute.
    From my bed I can hear him,
    And the round notes flutter and tap about the room,
    And hit against each other,
    Blurring to unexpected chords.
    It is very beautiful,
    With the little flute-notes all about me,
    In the darkness.

    In the daytime,
    The neighbour eats bread and onions with one hand
    And copies music with the other.
    He is fat and has a bald head,
    So I do not look at him,
    But run quickly past his window.
    There is always the sky to look at,
    Or the water in the well!

    But when night comes and he plays his flute,
    I think of him as a young man,
    With gold seals hanging from his watch,
    And a blue coat with silver buttons.
    As I lie in my bed
    The flute-notes push against my ears and lips,
    And I go to sleep, dreaming.

  9. The Musical Box

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    My little friend, 't is a stormy day,
    But we are left together;
    I to listen, and thou to play;
    So we'll not heed the weather.
    The clouds may rise and the tempest come,
    The winds and the rain may heat:
    With thee to gently play "Sweet Home,"
    I feel that home is sweet!

    The yellow leaf, from the shivering tree,
    On Autumn's blast is flying;
    But a spirit of life enshrined in thee,
    While all abroad is dying,
    Calls up the shadows of many a year
    With their joys that were bright as brief;
    And, if perchance it start the tear,
    'T is not the tear of grief.

    'T is a hallowed offering of the soul,
    From her purest fountain gushing;
    A warm, bright gift, that has spurned control,
    To the eye for freedom rushing;
    As music's angel, hovering near
    To touch the tender key,
    The numbers of a higher sphere
    Is pouring forth from thee.

    And while his powerful, magic hand
    O'er memory's chords is sweeping,
    To wake and bring from the spirit-land
    The things that else were sleeping—
    It lifts my thoughts to a world to come,
    Where those parted here shall meet,
    From the storms of life secure at home,
    And sing, that home is sweet!

  10. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony

    Heaven's light is glancing on the brow,
    And turns to boundless hope the old despair.

    - Christopher Pearse Cranch
    Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
    by Christopher Pearse Cranch

    The mind's deep history here in tones is wrought,
    The faith, the struggles of the aspiring soul,
    The confidence of youth, the chill control
    Of manhood's doubts by stern experience taught;
    Alternate moods of bold and timorous thought,
    Sunshine and shadow — cloud and aureole;
    The failing foothold as the shining goal
    Appears, and truth so long, so fondly sought
    Is blurred and dimmed. Again and yet again
    The exulting march resounds. We must win now!
    Slowly the doubts dissolve in clearer air.
    Bolder and grander the triumphal strain
    Ascends. Heaven's light is glancing on the brow,
    And turns to boundless hope the old despair.

  11. Compensation

    by Sara Teasdale

    I should be glad of loneliness
    And hours that go on broken wings,
    A thirsty body, a tired heart
    And the unchanging ache of things,
    If I could make a single song
    As lovely and as full of light,
    As hushed and brief as a falling star
    On a winter night.

  12. Master of Music

    by Henry Van Dyke

    Glory of architect, glory of painter, and sculptor, and bard,
    Living forever in temple and picture and statue and song, —
    Look how the world with the lights that they lit is illumined and starred,
    Brief was the flame of their life, but the lamps of their art burn long!

    Where is the Master of Music, and how has he vanished away?
    Where is the work that he wrought with his wonderful art in the air?
    Gone, — it is gone like the glow on the cloud at the close of the day!
    The Master has finished his work, and the glory of music is — where?

    Once, at the wave of his wand, all the billows of musical sound
    Followed his will, as the sea was ruled by the prophet of old:
    Now that his hand is relaxed, and his rod has dropped to the ground,
    Silent and dark are the shores where the marvellous harmonies rolled!

    Nay, but not silent the hearts that were filled by that life-giving sea;
    Deeper and purer forever the tides of their being will roll,
    Grateful and joyful, O Master, because they have listened to thee, —
    The glory of music endures in the depths of the human soul.

  13. Alexander's Feast; or, the Power of Music

    by John Dryden

    ‘Twas at the royal feast for Persia won
    By Philip’s warlike son—
    Aloft in awful state
    The godlike hero sate
    On his imperial throne;
    His valiant peers were placed around,
    Their brows with roses and with myrtles bound
    (So should desert in arms be crown’d);
    The lovely Thais by his side
    Sate like a blooming Eastern bride
    In flower of youth and beauty’s pride:—
    Happy, happy, happy pair!
    None but the brave
    None but the brave
    None but the brave deserves the fair!

    Timotheus placed on high
    Amid the tuneful quire
    With flying fingers touch’d the lyre:
    The trembling notes ascend the sky
    And heavenly joys inspire.
    The song began from Jove
    Who left his blissful seats above
    Such is the power of mighty love!
    A dragon’s fiery form belied the god;
    Sublime on radiant spires he rode
    When he to fair Olympia prest,
    And while he sought her snowy breast,
    Then round her slender waist he curl’d,
    And stamp’d an image of himself, a sovereign of the world.
    The listening crowd admire the lofty sound;
    A present deity! they shout around:
    A present deity! the vaulted roofs rebound:
    With ravish’d ears
    The monarch hears,
    Assumes the god;
    Affects to nod,
    And seems to shake the spheres.

    The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung,
    Of Bacchus ever fair and ever young:
    The jolly god in triumph comes;
    Sound the trumpets, beat the drums!
    Flush’d with a purple grace
    He shows his honest face:
    Now give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes!
    Bacchus, ever fair and young,
    Drinking joys did first ordain;
    Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,
    Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure:
    Rich the treasure,
    Sweet the pleasure,
    Sweet is pleasure after pain.

    Soothed with the sound, the king grew vain;
    Fought all his battles o’er again,
    And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain!
    The master saw the madness rise,
    His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes;
    And while he Heaven and Earth defied
    Changed his hand and check’d his pride.
    He chose a mournful Muse
    Soft pity to infuse:
    He sung Darius great and good,
    By too severe a fate
    Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,
    Fallen from his high estate.
    And weltering in his blood;
    Deserted at his utmost need
    By those his former bounty fed;
    On the bare earth exposed he lies
    With not a friend to close his eyes.
    With downcast looks the joyless victor sate,
    Revolving in his alter’d soul
    The various turns of chance below;
    And now and then a sigh he stole,
    And tears began to flow.

    The mighty master smiled to see
    That love was in the next degree;
    ‘Twas but a kindred sound to move,
    For pity melts the mind to love.
    Softly sweet, in Lydian measures
    Soon he soothed his soul to pleasures.
    War, he sung, is toil and trouble,
    Honour but an empty bubble;
    Never ending, still beginning,
    Fighting still, and still destroying;
    If the world be worth thy winning,
    Think, O think, it worth enjoying:
    Lovely Thais sits beside thee,
    Take the good the gods provide thee!
    The many rend the skies with loud applause;
    So Love was crown’d, but Music won the cause.
    The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
    Gazed on the fair
    Who caused his care,
    And sigh’d and look’d, sigh’d and look’d,
    Sigh’d and look’d, and sigh’d again:
    At length with love and wine at once opprest
    The vanquish’d victor sunk upon her breast.

    Now strike the golden lyre again:
    A louder yet, and yet a louder strain!
    Break his bands of sleep asunder
    And rouse him like a rattling peal of thunder.
    Hark, hark! the horrid sound
    Has raised up his head:
    As awaked from the dead
    And amazed he stares around.
    Revenge, revenge, Timotheus cries,
    See the Furies arise!
    See the snakes that they rear
    How they hiss in their hair,
    And the sparkles that flash from their eyes!
    Behold a ghastly band,
    Each a torch in his hand!
    Those are Grecian ghosts, that in battle were slain
    And unburied remain
    Inglorious on the plain:
    Give the vengeance due
    To the valiant crew!
    Behold how they toss their torches on high,
    How they point to the Persian abodes
    And glittering temples of their hostile gods.
    The princes applaud with a furious joy:
    And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
    Thais led the way
    To light him to his prey,
    And like another Helen, fired another Troy!

    Thus, long ago,
    Ere heaving bellows learn’d to blow,
    While organs yet were mute,
    Timotheus, to his breathing flute
    And sounding lyre
    Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.
    At last divine Cecilia came.
    Inventress of the vocal frame;
    The sweet enthusiast from her sacred store
    Enlarged the former narrow bounds,
    And added length to solemn sounds,
    With Nature’s mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
    Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
    Or both divide the crown;
    He raised a mortal to the skies,
    She drew an angel down!

  14. Sister's Harp

    by Eliza and Sarah Wolcott

    When last those sweet notes I enjoy'd,
    O Sarah, thy hand gave the sound;
    But with angels thou now art employ'd,
    While thy harp seems to sigh at death's wound.

    How mournful's the strain that recalls
    Thy form so beloved to my mind;
    When the note of the wood-robbin falls,
    Deep sorrow and tears are combin'd.

    Though silent, thy harp seems to speak;
    Too transient these strings for her use;
    A harp of new strings, never weak,
    Thy sister holds forth to thy muse.

    The harp she has left thee behind,
    Is a pledge of the shortness of time;
    As her hand struck the last note sublime,
    May her sweet example be mine.

  15. The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls

    So sleeps the pride of former days,
    So glory's thrill is o'er,
    And hearts, that once beat high for praise,
    Now feel that pulse no more.

    - Thomas Moore
    The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls
    by Thomas Moore

    The harp that once through Tara's halls
    The soul of music shed,
    Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
    As if that soul were fled.
    So sleeps the pride of former days,
    So glory's thrill is o'er,
    And hearts, that once beat high for praise,
    Now feel that pulse no more.
    No more to chiefs and ladies bright
    The harp of Tara swells:
    The chord alone, that breaks at night,
    Its tale of ruin tells.
    Thus freedom now so seldom wakes,
    The only throb she gives
    Is when some heart indignant breaks,
    To show that still she lives.

  16. On Music

    by William Stanley Braithwaite

    I cannot tell how high my soul takes wing,
    Nor to what depths in liquid sweets it sinks—
    Yet well I know it suffers from thy sting,
    As one who of Cyceon mixture drinks.
    And I can feel a rose-stream thro' me creep,
    Curving about my senses, as they leap,
    And swell and rise and fall,
    As blossoms ambrosial
    Shook from some full blown orange-tree in spring,
    Sink wav'ring to the ground
    And bound
    Unto the zephyr's piping, in dizzy, dizzy ring!

  17. The Music of the Trees

    by Charles A. Heath

    How I love to hear the rustle of the leaves upon the trees
    When the foliage of summer is a moving in the breeze
    When the oak and beech and maple are a tuning up the air
    As they hear the quaking aspen sending signals everywhere.

    The deciduous forest people are a music making band
    With their symphonies so simple that a child can understand
    For there's meaning in their rythm and a pleasure 'mong the trees
    When the wind is blowing through them and a stirring all the leaves.

    There's an overture in whispers which is soothing to the ear
    Then a chorus full of comfort just a chasing out your fear
    As the louder it is sounding and the louder yet again
    Till at last are joys abounding when it falls in sweet refrain.

    Yes, it brings you heaps of solace when the wind is blowing soft
    In a lullaby of nature which will bear you way aloft
    Till you leave this world of trouble with its fretting and its care
    As you listen to the rustle of the leaves a playing there.

    O, I love to stop and hearken to the music of the trees
    As the wind is soughing through them or a playing with the leaves
    There's a harmony that holds you in the noises of the wood
    Where I never tire of listening for it does a fellow good.

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