A Song for St. Cecilia's Day

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Category: Literature

Date Submitted: 12/11/2012 05:31 PM

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In “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day” John Dryden describes music’s vast range of power. This theme is demonstrated within the contradictions throughout the poem. In the beginning of the poem, Dryden describes music as creating the world and at the end of the poem he describes music as destroying the world. The third and fourth stanzas within this poem were placed in this order to highlight the overall theme which is the vast range of music’s power as demonstrated through contrast. In the third and fourth stanza, Dryden creates a strong contrast through rhythm, diction, and figurative language to emphasize the vast range of music’s power.

After describing how music created the world and the first musical instrument discovered by Juba, Dryden proceeds in the poem to match instruments to certain feelings of human emotion. In the third stanza Dryden personifies the sounds of a trumpet to the human emotion of anger:

The trumpet’s loud clangour

Excites us to arms

With shrill notes of anger

And mortal alarms.

Dryden’s use of the word clangour embodies the sound of the trumpet. Clangour has a connotation of a loud resonating clang, which is being used as an onomatopoetic device. While the stanza itself is eight lines the first four lines are extremely short and quick. The diction Dryden uses are very short, low syllable words allowing the reader to quickly read through each and every line. This diction resembles the short, shrill sounds of the trumpet. Dryden uses this rhythm to emphasize not only the short sounds of the trumpet but to also signify the emotion of anger and urgency. The ability for the reader to read quickly through these lines signify the urgency that Dryden wants the readers to feel. Here, Dryden describes anger as having “shrill notes” these shrill notes are symbolized through Dryden’s short sentences and quick tempo rhythm. This quick tempo rhythm is highlighted by the quickness with which the rhyme scheme occurs. The rhyme scheme is ABAB...