Alexander's Feast Questions and Answers
by John Dryden

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Can you explain the following quote from "Alexander's Feast" by John Dryden with reference to the context? "He raised a mortal to the skies, / She drew an angel down." (lines 169-70) Alexander's Feast; or, The Power of Music:An Ode in Honour of St. Cecilia's Dayby John DrydenVIIAt last divine Cecilia came,      Inventress of the vocal frame;The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,      Enlarged the former narrow bounds,      And added length to solemn sounds, [165]With nature's mother-wit, and arts unknown before.         Let old Timotheus yield the prize,            Or both divide the crown;         He raised a mortal to the skies,            She drew an angel down. [170]

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You absolutely must understand the context of this poem by Dryden, inspired by Edmund Spenser's earlier work, in order to understand the quotation, otherwise "He" and "She" are meaningless or, at best, confusing pronouns. "He" in this case is Timotheus, the renowned musician and lyre player at Alexander the Great's court (356-323 BC). He is not to be confused with the earlier Timotheus of Miletus (c. 450-355 BC) of the Classical era who added an additional string to the classical lyre.

In Dryden's poem, Timotheus is exquisitely performing for Alexander in celebration of Saint Cecilia's Day. On a feast day, Timoteus's duties are two-fold: he must praise Alexander and diefy him while also praising and celebrating the patron saint of the feast, in this case, Saint Cecilia. She is renowned and sainted for creating the first organ ("voice frame") and initiating Christian religious...

(The entire section contains 436 words.)

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