Howells, Herbert: A Hymn for St Cecilia


A Hymn for St Cecilia (1960)

Sing for the morning’s joy, Cecilia, sing,

in words of youth and praises of the Spring,

walk the bright colonnades by fountains’ spray,

and sing as sunlight fills the waking day;

till angels, voyaging in upper air,

pause on a wing and gather the clear sound

into celestial joy, wound and unwound,

a silver chain, or golden as your hair.

Sing for your loves of heaven and of earth,

in words of music, and each word a truth;

marriage of heart and longings that aspire,

a bond of roses, and a ring of fire.

Your summertime grows short and fades away,

terror must gather to a martyr’s death;

but never tremble, the last indrawn breath

remembers music as an echo may.

Through the cold aftermath of centuries,

Cecilia’s music dances in the skies;

lend us a fragment of the immortal air,

that with your choiring angels we may share,

a word to light us thro’ time-fettered night,

water of life, or rose of paradise,

so from the earth another song shall rise

to meet your own in heaven’s long delight.

Words: Ursula Vaughan Williams (1911–2007)
Music: Herbert Howells (1892–1983)