Henry Purcell: The English Musical Tradition

By A. K. Holland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
POETIC MATERIALS

PURCELL'S musical life was passed under the triple dominion of the court, the church and the stage. For the first he wrote Odes and Welcome Songs, for the second services and anthems and for the last incidental music and semi-operas. He served under three reigns -- Charles II, James II and William and Mary -- and during his life there were three poets-laureate -- Dryden, Shadwell and Tate -- of whom only one was a poet and even he not all the time. Dryden was certainly one of the most energetic writers who have ever used the English language. If there was a moment in English musical history when the union of poetry and music seemed destined to produce something in the nature of a national music-drama, it was when Dryden invited Purcell to collaborate with him in his operatic play 'King Arthur.' The foremost English poet and the leading English composer of the day -- it was a promising combination.1 The subject was

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1
'Music,' said Purcell, 'is the exaltation of poetry. Both of them may exist apart, but they are most excellent when they are joined.'

-149-

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Henry Purcell: The English Musical Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Part One - The Times 1
  • Chapter I - Antecedents 3
  • Chapter II - The Restoration Scene 33
  • Chapter III - Purcell and His Age 62
  • Part Two - The Music 105
  • Chapter I - Elements of Style 107
  • Chapter II - Poetic Materials 149
  • Chapter III - Music and Spectacle 192
  • Epilogue 236
  • Short Bibliography 242
  • Index 243
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