Purcell and doggerel verse

I was listening to Henry Purcell’s Odes and Welcome Songs on the way home. They’re worth a listen if you haven’t – various songs for birthdays, arrivals or general celebrations of the monarchy, plus some for Saint Cecilia’s Day (22 November). As always with Purcell, the English is set beautifully, with accent and quantity always absolutely right. The thing that really strikes you, however, is the ghastly doggerel verse he had to work with – presumably provided by some grovelling royal acolyte.

The most tortured and implausible brown-nosing surely comes in the Ode The Summer’s Absence Unconcern’d We Bear, one chorus of which ends with the lines:

Then would we conclude that our Isle,
Which of old was “the Fortunate” call’d,
Had her name but foretold
By some learned bard, who in times past foreknew
How in ages to come, she’d be happy in you.

What can you do with that? But Purcell sets it absolutely beautifully – what an artist!

Amazon link: Purcell: The Complete Odes and Welcome Songs