The Hundred Best Poems (lyrical) in the English language - second series/Alexander's Feast

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And innocence is closing up his eyes,
 Now if thou would' st, when all have given him over,
 From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.

1810 Edition.


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32.
Alexander's Feast: or, the Power of Music.

An Ode in Honour of St Cecilia's Day.

'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 plac'd 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.


Chorus.

 Happy, happy, happy pair!
 None but the brave,
 None but the brave,
 None but the brave deserves the fair.

Timotheus, plac'd on high
 Amid the tuneful choir,
 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 press'd:
 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.


Chorus.

 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.


Chorus.

 Bacchus' blessings are a treasure,
 Drinking is the soldier's pleasure;
 Rich the treasure,
 Sweet the pleasure;
 Sweet is pleasure after pain.

 Sooth'd 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,
 Chang'd 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 weltring in his blood;
 Deserted, at his utmost need,
 By those his former bounty fed:
 On the bare earth expos'd 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.


Chorus.

 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 smil'd, 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 sooth'd 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,
 Gaz'd on the fair
 Who caus'd 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 oppress'd,
The vanquish'd victor sunk upon her breast.


Chorus.

 The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
 Gaz'd on the fair
 Who caus'd 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 oppress'd,
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 rais'd up his head!
 As awak'd from the dead,
 And amaz'd, 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 seiz'd a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
 Thais led the way,
 To light him to his prey,
And, like another Helen, fir'd another Troy.


Chorus.

And the king seiz'd a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
 Thais led the way,
 To light him to his prey,
And, like another Helen, fir'd 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,
 Enlarg'd 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,