“Let there be Light!” God spake of old,
And over chaos dark and cold,
And through the dead and formless frame
Of nature, life and order came.
Faint was the light at first that shone
On giant fern and mastodon,
On half-formed plant and beast of prey,
And man as rude and wild as they.
Age after age, like waves o’erran
The earth, uplifting brute and man;
And mind, at length, in symbols dark
Its meanings traced on stone and bark.
On leaf of palm, on sedge-wrought roll,
On plastic clay and leathern scroll,
Man wrote his thoughts; the ages passed,
And lo! the Press was found at last!
Then dead souls woke; the thoughts of men
Whose bones were dust revived again;
The cloister’s silence found a tongue,
Old prophets spake, old poets sung.
And here, to-day, the dead look down,
The kings of mind again we crown;
We hear the voices lost so long,
The sage’s word, the sibyl’s song.
Here Greek and Roman find themselves,
Alive along these crowded shelves;
And Shakspere treads again his stage,
And Chaucer paints anew his age.
As if some Pantheon’s marbles broke
Their stony trance, and lived and spoke,
Life thrills along the alcoved hall,
The lords of thought awake our call.
John Greenleaf Whittier, ‘The Library’ (Sung at the opening of the Library at Haverhill, Massachusetts on November 11, 1875.)
Now I am really curious to know how this ballad would have sounded like, being sung to tune. I wonder if there is any possibility that this ballad might still be sung in any part of the world today, like an old tradition or old hymn that has been passed down through the generations, perhaps? Wouldn’t it be lovely to know, if it was?