HAD I, instead of unsonorous words,
The skill that moves in rapturous melodies,
And modulations of entrancing chords
Through mystic mazes of all harmonies —
The bounding pulses of an overture
Whose grand orchestral movement might allure
The listener's soul through chaos and through night,
And seeming dissonance to concord and to light —
I might allow some harsh Titanic strains
To wrestle with Apollo and with Jove;
And let the war-cries on barbaric plains
Clash through the chords of wisdom and of love.
For still the harmonies should sing and soar
Above the discord and the battle's roar;
E'en as the evolving art and course of time,
Amid the wrecks in wild confusion hurled,
Move with impartial rhythm and cosmic rhyme
Along the eternal order of the world.

Then would I bid my lyric band express
In music the old earth's long toil and stress:
How the dumb iron centuries have foretold
The coming of the future age of gold:
How, ere the morning stars together sang,
Divine completeness out of chaos sprang
Through shapeless germs of lower forms that climb
By slow vast æons of a dateless time:
Till, through the impulse of the primal plan
They reach their flowering in the soul of man.

All swift-contending fugues — all wild escapes
Of passion — long-drawn wail and sudden blast —
Weird, winding serpent-chords, their writhing shapes
Shot through with arrowy melodies that fast
Pursue them, or that fall and lose themselves
In changing forms, as in some land of elves;
The shadows and the lights
Of joyous mornings, and of sorrowing nights —
Strange tones of crude half-truth — the good within
The mysteries of evil and of sin,
Should weave the prelude of a symphony
Whose music voiced the world's vast harmony;
And only to the ears
Of spirits listening from serener spheres
Of thought, the differing tones should blend and twine
Into the semblance of a work divine;
Where, not in strife but peace, should meet
What single were but incomplete.

I would unloose the soul beneath the wings
Of every instrument;
I would enlist the deep-complaining strings
Of doubt and discontent;
The low sad mutterings and entangled tunes
Of viols and bassoons; —
Shy horns with diffident tones —
The insolent trombones —
The reedy notes
From mellow throats
Of oboë and of clarionet —
Their pure and pastoral singing met
By clash of bacchanal cymbals, and a rout
Of tipsy satyrs dancing all about: —
Carols of love and hope checked by the blare
Of trumpet-cries of anger and despair: —
All differing mingling voices of the deep —
All startling blasts, all airs that lull to sleep;
The mountain cataract that whirls and spins
And bursts in spray asunder :—
Swift puttering rains of flutes and violins, —
The tymbal's muffled thunder:
Æolian breathings wild and soft,
Notes that sink or soar aloft —
Soar or sink with harp-strings pulsing under :—
Ravishing melodies that stream
Through chords entrancing as a dream
Out of a realm of wonder.

Or else, from off the full and large-leaved score
Into the willing instruments I'd pour
A noise of battle in the air unseen;
Of ghostly squadrons sending tremors strange
Of trouble and disastrous change
From beyond their cloudy screen;
Low rumbling thunders — drops of bloody rain —
Earthquake and storm — presentiment of pain —
Strange sobbings in the air
Hushed by degrees in fading semitones
And softened sighs and moans,
As when a mother by the cradle stills
At night her weeping child, ere morn peeps o'er the hills,
And all the world again is bright and fair.
While, with receding feet,
Far off is heard the beat
Of mournful marches of the muffled drums;
And nearer now and nearer,
Sweeter still and clearer,
The bird-like flute-notes leap into the air,
While the great human-heavenly music comes
Emerging from the dark with bursts of song
And hope and victory delayed too long.

So should my music fill its perfect round
With dewy sunrise, and with peace profound.

Ah, what are all the discords of all time
But stumbling steps of one persistent life
That struggles up through mists to heights sublime
Forefelt through all creation's lingering strife: —
The deathless motion of one undertone,
Whose deep vibrations thrill from God to God alone!

More verses by Christopher Pearse Cranch