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Music

Written by: Henry Van Dyke | Biography
 | Quotes (25) |
 I

PRELUDE

Daughter of Psyche, pledge of that last night
When, pierced with pain and bitter-sweet delight,
She knew her Love and saw her Lord depart,
Then breathed her wonder and her woe forlorn
Into a single cry, and thou wast born?
Thou flower of rapture and thou fruit of grief;
Invisible enchantress of the heart;
Mistress of charms that bring relief
To sorrow, and to joy impart
A heavenly tone that keeps it undefiled,--
Thou art the child
Of Amor, and by right divine
A throne of love is thine,
Thou flower-folded, golden-girdled, star-crowned Queen,
Whose bridal beauty mortal eyes have never seen!


II

Thou art the Angel of the pool that sleeps,
While peace and joy lie hidden in its deeps,
Waiting thy touch to make the waters roll
In healing murmurs round the weary soul.
Ah, when wilt thou draw near,
Thou messenger of mercy robed in song?
My lonely heart has listened for thee long;
And now I seem to hear
Across the crowded market-place of life,
Thy measured foot-fall, ringing light and clear
Above the unmeaning noises and the unruly strife;
In quiet cadence, sweet and slow,
Serenely pacing to and fro,
Thy far-off steps are magical and dear.
Ah, turn this way, come close and speak to me!
>From this dull bed of languor set my spirit free,
And bid me rise, and let me walk awhile with thee


III

Where wilt thou lead me first?
In what still region
Of thy domain,
Whose provinces are legion,
Wilt thou restore me to myself again,
And quench my heart's long thirst?
I pray thee lay thy golden girdle down,
And put away thy starry crown:
For one dear restful hour
Assume a state more mild.
Clad only in thy blossom-broidered gown
That breathes familiar scent of many a flower,
Take the low path that leads thro' pastures green;
And though thou art a Queen,
Be Rosamund awhile, and in thy bower,
By tranquil love and simple joy beguiled,
Sing to my soul, as mother to her child.


IV

O lead me by the hand,
And let my heart have rest,
And bring me back to childhood land,
To find again the long-lost band
Of playmates blithe and blest.

Some quaint, old-fashioned air,
That all the children knew,
Shall run before us everywhere,
Like a little maid with flying hair,
To guide the merry crew.

Along the garden ways
We chase the light-foot tune,
And in and out the flowery maze,
With eager haste and fond delays,
In pleasant paths of June.

For us the fields are new,
For us the woods are rife
With fairy secrets, deep and true,
And heaven is but a tent of blue
Above the game of life.

The world is far away:
The fever and the fret,
And all that makes the heart grow gray,
Is out of sight and far away,
Dear Music, while I hear thee play
That olden, golden roundelay,
"Remember and forget!"


V

SLEEP SONG

Forget, forget!
The tide of life is turning;
The waves of light ebb slowly down the west:
Along the edge of dark some stars are burning
To guide thy spirit safely to an isle of rest.
A little rocking on the tranquil deep
Of song, to soothe thy yearning,
A little slumber and a little sleep,
And so, forget, forget!

Forget, forget,--
The day was long in pleasure;
Its echoes die away across the hill;
Now let thy heart beat time to their slow measure
That swells, and sinks, and faints, and falls, till all is still.
Then, like a weary child that loves to keep
Locked in its arms some treasure,
Thy soul in calm content shall fall asleep,
And so forget, forget.

Forget, forget,--
And if thou hast been weeping,
Let go the thoughts that bind thee to thy grief:
Lie still, and watch the singing angels, reaping
The golden harvest of thy sorrow, sheaf by sheaf;
Or count thy joys like flocks of snow-white sheep
That one by one come creeping
Into the quiet fold, until thou sleep,
And so forget, forget!

Forget, forget,--
Thou art a child and knowest
So little of thy life! But music tells
One secret of the world thro' which thou goest
To work with morning song, to rest with evening bells:
Life is in tune with harmony so deep
That when the notes are lowest
Thou still canst lay thee down in peace and sleep,
For God will not forget.


VI

HUNTING SONG

Out of the garden of playtime, out of the bower of rest,
Fain would I follow at daytime, music that calls to a quest.
Hark, how the galloping measure
Quickens the pulses of pleasure;
Gaily saluting the morn
With the long clear note of the hunting-horn
Echoing up from the valley,
Over the mountain side,--
Rally, you hunters, rally,
Rally, and ride!

Drink of the magical potion music has mixed with her wine,
Full of the madness of motion, joyful, exultant, divine!
Leave all your troubles behind you,
Ride where they never can find you,
Into the gladness of morn,
With the long, clear note of the hunting-horn,
Swiftly o'er hillock and hollow,
Sweeping along with the wind,--
Follow, you hunters, follow,
Follow and find!

What will you reach with your riding? What is the charm of the chase?
Just the delight and the striding swing of the jubilant pace.
Danger is sweet when you front her,--
In at the death, every hunter!
Now on the breeze the mort is borne
In the long, clear note of the hunting-horn,
Winding merrily, over and over,--
Come, come, come!
Home again, Ranger! home again, Rover!
Turn again, home!


VII

DANCE-MUSIC

Now let the sleep-tune blend with the play-tune,
Weaving the mystical spell of the dance;
Lighten the deep tune, soften the gay tune,
Mingle a tempo that turns in a trance.
Half of it sighing, half of it smiling,
Smoothly it swings, with a triplicate beat;
Calling, replying, yearning, beguiling,
Wooing the heart and bewitching the feet.
Every drop of blood
Rises with the flood,
Rocking on the waves of the strain;
Youth and beauty glide
Turning with the tide--
Music making one out of twain,
Bearing them away, and away, and away,
Like a tone and its terce--
Till the chord dissolves, and the dancers stay,
And reverse.

Violins leading, take up the measure,
Turn with the tune again,--clarinets clear
Answer their pleading,--harps full of pleasure
Sprinkle their silver like light on the mere.
Semiquaver notes,
Merry little motes,
Tangled in the haze
Of the lamp's golden rays,
Quiver everywhere
In the air,
Like a spray,--
Till the fuller stream of the might of the tune,
Gliding like a dream in the light of the moon,
Bears them all away, and away, and away,
Floating in the trance of the dance.

Then begins a measure stately,
Languid, slow, serene;
All the dancers move sedately,
Stepping leisurely and straitly,
With a courtly mien;
Crossing hands and changing places,
Bowing low between,
While the minuet inlaces
Waving arms and woven paces,--
Glittering damaskeen.
Where is she whose form is folden
In its royal sheen?
>From our longing eyes withholden
By her mystic girdle golden,
Beauty sought but never seen,
Music walks the maze, a queen.


VIII

THE SYMPHONY

Music, they do thee wrong who say thine art
Is only to enchant the sense.
For every timid motion of the heart,
And every passion too intense
To bear the chain of the imperfect word,
And every tremulous longing, stirred
By spirit winds that come we know not whence
And go we know not where,
And every inarticulate prayer
Beating about the depths of pain or bliss,
Like some bewildered bird
That seeks its nest but knows not where it is,
And every dream that haunts, with dim delight,
The drowsy hour between the day and night,
The wakeful hour between the night and day,--
Imprisoned, waits for thee,
Impatient, yearns for thee,
The queen who comes to set the captive free
Thou lendest wings to grief to fly away,
And wings to joy to reach a heavenly height;
And every dumb desire that Storms within the breast
Thou leadest forth to sob or sing itself to rest.

All these are thine, and therefore love is thine.
For love is joy and grief,
And trembling doubt, and certain-sure belief,
And fear, and hope, and longing unexpressed,
In pain most human, and in rapture brief
Almost divine.
Love would possess, yet deepens when denied;
And love would give, yet hungers to receive;
Love like a prince his triumph would achieve;
And like a miser in the dark his joys would hide.
Love is most bold:
He leads his dreams like armed men in line;
Yet when the siege is set, and he must speak,
Calling the fortress to resign
Its treasure, valiant love grows weak,
And hardly dares his purpose to unfold.
Less with his faltering lips than with his eyes
He claims the longed-for prize:
Love fain would tell it all, yet leaves the best untold.

But thou shalt speak for love. Yea, thou shalt teach
The mystery of measured tone,
The Pentecostal speech
That every listener heareth as his own.
For on thy head the cloven tongues of fire,--
Diminished chords that quiver with desire,
And major chords that glow with perfect peace,--
Have fallen from above;
And thou canst give release
In music to the burdened heart of love.

Sound with the 'cellos' pleading, passionate strain
The yearning theme, and let the flute reply
In placid melody, while violins complain,
And sob, and sigh,
With muted string;
Then let the oboe half-reluctant sing
Of bliss that trembles on the verge of pain,
While 'cellos plead and plead again,
With throbbing notes delayed, that would impart
To every urgent tone the beating of the heart.
So runs the andante, making plain
The hopes and fears of love without a word.

Then comes the adagio, with a yielding theme
Through which the violas flow soft as in a dream,
While horns and mild bassoons are heard
In tender tune, that seems to float
Like an enchanted boat
Upon the downward-gliding stream,
Toward the allegro's wide, bright sea
Of dancing, glittering, blending tone,
Where every instrument is sounding free,
And harps like wedding-chimes are rung, and trumpets blown
Around the barque of love
That sweeps, with smiling skies above,
A royal galley, many-oared,
Into the happy harbour of the perfect chord.


IX

IRIS

Light to the eye and Music to the ear,--
These are the builders of the bridge that springs
>From earths's dim shore of half-remembered things
To reach the spirit's home, the heavenly sphere
Where nothing silent is and nothing dark.
So when I see the rainbow's arc
Spanning the showery sky, far-off I hear
Music, and every colour sings:
And while the symphony builds up its round
Full sweep of architectural harmony
Above the tide of Time, far, far away I see
A bow of colour in the bow of sound.

Red as the dawn the trumpet rings,
Imperial purple from the trombone flows,
The mellow horn melts into evening rose.
Blue as the sky, the choir of strings
Darkens in double-bass to ocean's hue,
Rises in violins to noon-tide's blue,
With threads of quivering light shot through and through.
Green as the mantle that the summer flings
Around the world, the pastoral reeds in time
Embroider melodies of May and June.
Yellow as gold,
Yea, thrice-refined gold,
And purer than the treasures of the mine,
Floods of the human voice divine
Along the arch in choral song are rolled.
So bends the bow complete:
And radiant rapture flows
Across the bridge, so full, so strong, so sweet,
That the uplifted spirit hardly knows
Whether the Music-Light that glows
Within the arch of tones and colours seven
Is sunset-peace of earth, or sunrise-joy of Heaven.


X

SEA AND SHORE

Music, I yield to thee;
As swimmer to the sea
I give my Spirit to the flood of song:
Bear me upon thy breast
In rapture and at rest,
Bathe me in pure delight and make me strong;
From strife and struggle bring release,
And draw the waves of passion into tides of peace.

Remember'd songs, most dear,
In living songs I hear,
While blending voices gently swing and sway
In melodies of love,
Whose mighty currents move,
With singing near and singing far away;
Sweet in the glow of morning light,
And sweeter still across the starlit gulf of night.

Music, in thee we float,
And lose the lonely note
Of self in thy celestial-ordered strain,
Until at last we find
The life to love resigned
In harmony of joy restored again;
And songs that cheered our mortal days
Break on the coast of light in endless hymns of praise.



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