Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, ALEXANDER'S FEAST; OR, THE POWER OF MUSIC, by JOHN DRYDEN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

ALEXANDER'S FEAST; OR, THE POWER OF MUSIC, by         Recitation     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Alexander's Feast; or, The Power of Music" is an ode written by John Dryden in 1697 to commemorate the St. Cecilia's Day celebration in London. The poem celebrates the power of music to move and inspire the human spirit, and uses the story of Alexander the Great and the lyre-playing of Timotheus to illustrate this theme.


Dryden begins by describing the scene of the feast, where Alexander is surrounded by his nobles and courtiers. Timotheus, the celebrated musician, begins to play his lyre, and Dryden vividly describes the power of the music to move the audience. The music evokes a range of emotions, from joy and triumph to sorrow and despair, and Dryden emphasizes the transformative power of music to shape our moods and perceptions.

As the music reaches its climax, Dryden shifts the focus to the story of Alexander, and the role that music played in his life. He describes the battles and conquests of Alexander, and the way in which music was used to inspire and motivate his troops. The ode concludes with a celebration of the power of music to move us and elevate the human spirit.

Form and Style:

"Alexander's Feast" is written in a grand and formal style, befitting its subject matter. Dryden employs a range of literary devices, including alliteration, rhyme, and metaphor, to create a sense of musicality and rhythm in the poem. He also uses vivid and descriptive language to bring the scene to life, painting a rich and detailed picture of the feast and the power of the music.


"Alexander's Feast" is widely regarded as one of Dryden's greatest works, and has been praised for its powerful imagery and celebration of the transformative power of music. The poem continues to be studied and appreciated for its insights into the role that music can play in shaping our emotions and perceptions, and for its timeless celebration of the human spirit.

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