From: Satan: a Libretto (1874)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Roberts Brothers 1874 Boston

A Libretto.

  I CALL this poem a Libretto, because, as in a Cantata, Opera, or Oratorio, the verses may suggest or accompany a music they only in part embody. A Libretto is too often a mere thread on which the composer strings his pearls,- a text for some work of art nobler than itself. While this poem makes no claim to be full-strung, it may perhaps serve to awaken a few snatches of a music containing some vital symbolic conceptions of the grandest of all harmonies,—the Divine Order in Creation.

C. P. C.

CAMBRIDGE, December, 1873.

OH that I could sinne once see!
We paint the devil foul, but he
Hath some good in him, all agree.
Sinne is flat opposite to the Almighty, seeing
It wants the good of virtue, and of being.

But God more care of us hath had.
If apparitions make us sad,
By sight of sinne we should grow mad.
Yet as in sleep we see foul death, and live,
So devils are our sinnes in prospective.





HAD I—instead of unsonorous words—
The skill that moves in airy melodies
And modulations of entrancing chords
Through mystic mazes of all harmonies,—
The sounding 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 would allow the harsh Titanic strains
To wrestle with Apollo and with Jove;
The savage war-cries on barbaric plains
To affright the chords of wisdom and of love.
For still the evolutions of old Time,
Amid the wrecks in wild confusion hurled,
Would move with grander rhythm and nobler rhyme
Along the eternal order of the world.
The swift contending fugue,—the wild escape
Of passions,—long-drawn wail, and sudden blast,
And heavy-footed bass should weave and shape
The prelude of a symphony so vast,
That only to the ears
Of spirits listening from serener spheres
Of thought, the differing tones would blend and twine
Into the semblance of a work divine.
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 dreams
Of viols and bassoons,
Groping for light athwart the clouds and streams
That drown the laboring moons;
The tones of crude half-truth,—the good within
The mysteries of evil and of sin;
The trumpet-cries of anger and despair;
The mournful marches of the muffled drums;
The bird-like flute-notes leaping into air,
Ere the great human-heavenly music comes
Emerging from the dark, with bursts of song
And hope and victory, delayed too long.

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

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