A Song For St. Cecilia's Day

1159 words - 5 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

The rhyme scheme is ABAB pattern emphasizing a short amount of time from one rhyme to the next. This quick recurrence of rhyme embodies the shrillness Dryden suggests.
In the second half of the stanza Dryden slows down the rhythm of the stanza only to increase it again:
The double double double beat
Of the thund’ring drum
Cries, “Hark the foes come;
Charge, charge ‘tis too late to retreat”

The fifth line of the stanza “The double double double beat” with its onomatopoetic qualities slows the reader down yet creates a steady rhythmic quality that is lacking within the first four lines. The fifth line embodies the sounds of snare drums right before battle. These snare drums represent the calm before the storm, essentially the few seconds of calm and quiet right before the passionate chaos of fury that is war. This steady rhythm is also evident in the shift in the rhyme scheme. In the last four lines of the stanza the rhyme scheme shifts to an ABBA pattern creating a longer, drawn out rhyme. This rhyme scheme would seem to suggest that the urgency within the first four lines is lost; however, in the last couplet the urgency that was demonstrated within the first four lines is renewed. The diction turns to short and smaller words. The words “charge, charge” renew this sense of urgency and rushing into battle. The alliteration on the t sounds in the words “’tis”, “too”, “to” within the last line emphasize this urgency. This alliteration is also onomatopoetic because the t sounds within these words resemble the sounds of the drums. This stanza represents the swift fury of the human emotions such as anger, passion, and revenge. Through diction, rhythm, and figurative language Dryden creates the sounds of the instruments he is describing to embody the emotions they illicit.
In stark contrast to this stanza is the very next stanza:
The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute
This stanza is completely different than the previous one. One of the first differences within this stanza we notice is Dryden’s diction choices to create rhythm. The longer words within these lines emphasize a slower, more drawn out rhythm. Dryden uses assonance with the long “o” sounds within “notes”, “woes”, and “hopeless” to emphasize the long, slow deliberate pace he is creating within this...

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