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The Harp in Literature

From The Eolian Harp (1795)

And what if all animated nature Be but organic Harps diversely fram’d, That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze, At once the soul of each, and God of all?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

From Paradise Canto 14; 11-123

“And as the chime of minstrel music, the harp and help With many strings, a pleasant dinning makes To him, who heareth not distinct the note. So from the lights, which there appear’d to me, Gathered across the cross a melody That, indistinctly heard, with ravishment posses’d me.

Dante Alighieri

From Fragments connected with Epipsychidion 1 134-9

There is a power, a Love, a Joy, a God Which makes in mortal hearts its brief abode, A Pythian exhalation, which inspires Love, only love – a wind which o’er the wires Of the soul’s giant harp There is a mood which language faints beneath

Percy Bysshe Shelley

I learnt a heavenly melody with my own two hands on the end of a bench, and what I learnt Brought honour to the harp for a while. This is the melody, there upon my bench That I composed for a love-tryst Weaving a noble girl’s praise On Love’s embroidering frame.

Dafydd ap Gwilym


The hope I dreamed of was a dream, 
 Was but a dream; and now I wake, 
 Exceeding comfortless, and worn, and old, 
 For a dream’s sake. I hang my harp upon a tree, 
A weeping willow in a lake; 
 I hang my silent harp there, wrung and snapped 
For a dream’s sake.Lie still, lie still, my breaking heart; 
My silent heart, lie still and break: 
Life, and the world, and mine own self, are changed 
For a dream’s sake.

Christina Rossetti

Lines on Parish Alvars

The harp he seized; The harp he loved – loved better than his life; The harp which uttered deepest notes, and held The ear of thought, a captive to its song. He searched, and meditated much, and whiles With rapturous hand in secret touched the lyre, Aiming at glorious strains – and searched again For theme deserving of immortal verse. …They sat entranced as it in some blest dream They heard the witching melody of heaven; For at that harpist’s touch such notes were given- So sweet and strange, they more than mortal seemed.