Purcell,”King Arthur, or the British Worthy” (1691)

 

 

Purcell,”King Arthur, or the British Worthy” (1691)

 

 

 

 

 

The libretto to this work is by John Dryden.

 

King Arthur
or
The British Worthy
FIRST ACT

Bass
Woden, first to thee
A milk-white steed, in battle won,
We have sacrific’d.

Chorus
We have sacrific’d.

Tenor
Let our next oblation be
To Thor, thy thund’ring son,
Of such another.

Chorus
We have sacrific’d.

Bass
A third (of Friesland breed was he)
To Woden’s wife, and to Thor’s mother;
And now, we have aton’d all three.

Chorus
We have sacrific’d.

Tenor & Alto
The white horse neigh’d aloud.
To Woden thanks we render,
To Woden we have vow’d.

Chorus
To Woden, our defender, thanks we render?

Soprano
The lot is cast, and Tanfan pleas’d;
Of mortal cares you shall be eas’d.

Chorus
Brave souls, to be renown’d in story,
Honour prizing,
Death despising,
Fame acquiring
By expiring,
Die and reap the fruit of glory.

Alto
I call you all
To Woden’s Hall,
Tour temples round
With ivy bound
In goblets crown’d,
And plenteous bowls of burnish’d gold,
Where ye shall laugh
And dance and quaff
The juice that makes the Britons bold.

Chorus
To Woden’s Hall all
Where in plenteous bowls of burnish’d gold
We shall laugh
And dance and quaff
The juice that makes the Britons bold.

Tenor
“come if you dare”, our trumpets sound.
“Come if you dare”, the foes rebound.
“We come, we come, we come, we come”,
Says the double beat of the thund’ring drum.

Chorus
“Come if you dare”, our trumpets sound?

Tenor
Now they charge on amain,
Now they rally again.
The Gods from above the mad labour behold,
And pity mankind that will perish for gold.

Chorus
Now they charge on amain?

Tenor
The fainting Saxons quit their ground,
Their trumpets languish in their sound,
They fly, they fly, they fly, they fly,
“Victoria”, the bold Britons cry.

Chorus
The fainting Saxons quit their ground?

Tenor
Now the victory’s won,
To the plunder we run,
We return to our lasses like fortunate traders,
Triumphant with spoils of the vainquishe’d invaders.

Chorus
Now the victory’s won?

SECOND ACT

Philidel
Hither, this way, this way bend,
Trust not the malicious fiend.
Those are false deluding lights
Wafted far and near by sprites.
Trust’em not, for they’ll deceive ye,
And in bogs and marshes leave ye.

Chorus of Philidel’s Spirits
Hither, this way, this way bend.

Chorus of Grimbald’s Spirits
This way, hither, this way bend.

Philidel
If you step no longer thinking,
Down you fall, a furlong sinking.
‘Tis a fiend who has annoy’d ye;
Name but Heav’n, and he’ll avoid ye.
Hither, this way.

Chorus of Philidel’s Spirits
Hither, this way, this way bend.

Chorus of Grimbald’s Spirits
This way, hither, this way bend.

Chorus of Philidel’s Spirits
Trust not the malicious fiend.
Hither, this way, this way bend.

Grimbald
Let not a moonborn elf mislead ye
From our prey and from your glory;
To fear, alas, he has betray’d ye;
Follow the flames that wave before ye,
Sometimes sev’n and sometimes one.
Hurry, hurry, hurry on.

See, see the footsteps plan appearing.
That way Oswald chose for flying.
Firm is the turf and fit for bearing,
Where yonder pearly dews are lying.
Far he cannot hence be gone.
Hurry, hurry, hurry on.

Chorus of Philidel’s Spirits
Hither, this way, this way bend.

Chorus of Grimbald’s Spirits
This way, hither, this way bend.

Chorus of Philidel’s Spirits
Trust not the malicious fiend.
Hither, this way, this way bend.

Philidel & 2 Sopranos, Alto, Bass
Come, follow me.

Chorus
Come, follow me?

2 Voices
And green-sward all your way shall be.

Chorus
Come, follow me?
No goblin or elf shall dare to offend ye.

3 Voices
We brethren of air
You heroes will bear,
To the kind and the fair that attend ye.

Chorus
We brethren of air?

One Shepherd
How blest are shepherds, how happy their lasses,
While drums and trumpets are sounding alarms!
Over our lowly sheds all the storm passes,
And when we die ’tis in each other’s arms,
All the day on our herds and flocks employing,
All the night on our flutes and in enjoying.

Chorus
How blest are shepherds, how happy their lasses?

One Shepherd
Bright nymphs of Britain with graces attended,
Let not your days without pleasure expire.
Honour’s but empty, and when youth is ended,
All men will praise you but none will desire.
Let not youth fly away without contenting;
Age will come time enough for your repenting.

Chorus
Bright nymphs of Britain with graces attended?

Two Shepherdesses
Shepherd, shepherd, leave decoying:
Pipes are sweet on summer’s day,
But a little after toying,
Women have the shot to pay.
Here are marriage-vows for signing:
Set their marks that cannot write,
After that, without repining,
Play, and welcome, day and night.

Chorus of Shepherds
Come, Shepherds, lead up a lively measure;
The cares of wedlock are cares of pleasure:
But whether marriage brings joy or sorrow,
Make sure of this day and hang tomorrow.
THIRD ACT

Cupid
What ho! thou genius of this isle, what ho!
Liest thou asleep beneath those hills of snow?
Stretch out thy lazy limbs. Awake, awake!
And winter from thy furry mantle shake.

Cold Genius
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow?
See’st thou not how stiff and wondrous old
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath?
Let me, let me freeze again to death.

Cupid
Thou doting fool, forbear, forbear!
What dost thou mean by freezing here?
At Love’s appearing,
All the sky clearing,
The stormy winds their fury spare.
Thou doting fool, forbear, forbear!
What dost thou mean by freezing here?
Winter subduing,
And Spring renewing,
My beams create a more glorious year.

Cold Genius
Great Love, I know thee now:
Eldest of the gods art thou.
Heav’n and earth by thee were made.
Human nature is thy creature.
Ev’rywhere thou art obey’d.

Cupid
No part of my dominion shall be waste:
To spread my sway and sing my praise,
E’en here, e’en here I will a people raise
Of kind embracing lovers and embrac’d.

Chorus of Cold People
See, see, we assemble
Thy revels to hold,
Tho’ quiv’ring with cold,
We chatter and tremble.

Cupid
‘Tis I, ’tis I that have warm’d ye.
In spite of cold weather
I’ve brought ye together.

Chorus
‘Tis Love that has warm’d us?

Cupid & Genius
Sound a parley, ye fair, and surrender.
Set yourselves and your lovers at ease.
He’s a grateful offender
Who pleasure dare seize:
But the whining pretender
Is sure to displease.
Sound a parley?
Since the fruit of desire is possessing,
‘Tis unmanly to sigh and complain.
When we kneel for redressing,
We move your disdain.
Love was made for a blessing
And not for a pain.

Chorus
‘Tis Love that has warm’d us?

FOURTH ACT

Two Sirens
Two daughters of this aged stream are we,
And both our sea-green locks have comb’d for ye.
Come, come, bathe with us an hour or two;
Come, come, naked in for we are so,
What danger from a naked foe?
Come, come, bathe with us and share
What pleasures in the floods appear.
We’ll beat the waters till they bound
And circle round.

Tenor
How happy the lover,
How easy his chain!
How sweet to discover
He sighs not in vain.

Chorus
How happy the lover?

Soprano & Bass
For love ev’ry creature
Is form’d by his nature.
No joys are above
The pleasures of love.

Chorus
No joys are above
The pleasures of love.

Three Nymphs
In vain our graces
In vain are your ayes.
If love you despise,
When age furrows faces
‘Tis too late to be wise.

Three Men
The use the sweet blessing
While now in possessing.
No joys are above
The pleasures of love.

Three Women
No joys are above
The pleasures of love.

Chorus
No joys?

FIFTH ACT

AELOS
Ye blust’ring brethren of the skies,
Whose breath has ruffled all the wat’ry plain,
Retire and let Britannia rise
In triumph o’er the main.
Serene and calm and void of fear,
The Queen of Islands must appear.

Nereid & Pan
Round thy coast, fair nymph of Britain,
For thy guard our waters flow.
Proteus all his herd admitting
On thy green to graze below.
Foreign lands thy fish are tasting;
Learn from thee luxurious fasting.

Chorus
Round thy coast, fair nymph of Britain?

Alto, Tenor & Bass
For folded flocks, and fruitful plains,
The shepherd’s and the farmer’s gains,
Fair Britain all the world outvies;
And Pan, as in Arcadia, reigns
Where pleasure mix’d with profit lies.
Tho’ Jason’s fleece was fam’d of old,
The British wool is growing gold;
No mines can more of wealth supply,
It keeps the peasants from the cold,
And takes for kings the Tyrian dye.

Comus
Your hay it is mow’d and your corn is reap’d,
Your barns will be full and your hovels heap’d.
Come, boys, come,
And merrily roar out our harvest home.

Chorus
Come, boys, come,
And merrily roar out our harvest home.

Comus
We’ve cheated the parson, we’ll cheat him again,
For why shou’d a blockhead have one in ten?
One in ten, one in ten?

All
One in ten, one in ten,
For why shou’d a blockhead have one in ten?

Comus
For prating so long, like a book-learn’d sot,
Till pudding and dumpling are burnt to pot;
Burnt to pot, burnt to pot?

All
Burnt to pot, burnt to pot,
Till pudding and dumpling are burnt to pot.

Comus
We’ll toss off our ale till we cannot stand;
And heigh for the honour of old England;
Old England, old England?

All
Old England, old England,
And heigh for the honour of old England.

Venus
Fairest Isle, all isles excelling,
Seat of pleasure and of love,
Venus here will choose her dwelling,
And forsake her Cyprian grove.
Cupid from his fav’rite nation
Care and envy will remove;
Jealousy that poisons passion,
And despair that dies for love.
Gentle murmurs, sweet complaining,
Sighs that blow the fire of love,
Soft repulses, kind disdaining,
Shall be all the pains you prove.
Ev’ry swain shall pay his duty,
Grateful ev’ry nymph shall prove;
And as these excel in beauty,
Those shall be renown’d for love.

She
You say, ’tis Love creates the pain
Of which so sadly you complain,
And yet would fain engage my heart
In that uneasy cruel part;
But how, alas! think you that I
Can bear the wounds of which you die?

He
‘Tis not my passion makes my care
But your indifference gives despair:
The lusty sun begets no spring
Till gentle show’rs assistance bring;
So Love, that scorches and destroys,
Till kindness aids can cause no joys.

She
Love has a thousand ways to please,
But more to rob us of our ease;
For waking nights and careful days,
Some hours of pleasure he repays;
But absence soon, or jealous fears,
O’erflows the joy with floods of tears.

He
But one soft moment makes amends
For all the torment that attends.

She & He
Let us love and to happiness haste.
Age and wisdom come too fast.
Youth for loving was design’d.

She
You be constant, I’ll be kind.

He
I’ll be constant, you be kind.

She & He
Hev’n can give no greater blessing
Than faithful love and kind possessing.

Honour
Saint George the patron of our Isle!
A soldier and a saint!
On this auspicious order smile,
Which love and arms will plant.
Our Sov’reign high in awful state
His honours shall bestow;
And see his sceptred subjects wait
On his commands below.

Chorus
Our natives not alone appear
To court the martial prize;
But foreign kings adopted here
Their crowns at home despise.
Our Sov’reign high in awful state?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts a websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim Aleksandrovich Sorokin.
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