Mr Purcell's Maggot

John Buller (1927)

Mr Purcell's Maggot 1994

2212 - 2120 - perc - strings
Duration 
20
Language 

1995 was the tercentenary of Purcell's death and I was asked to bear this in mind. So the 'maggot' - used in the seventeenth century meaning as a whim, quirk or obsession - starts from something very like the frozen wood or glade in Purcell's King Arthur but it becomes darker: Dryden's text gives way to the Dante dark wood; there is again the lure of the siren, but a different one, until the wood lightens and Dryden's more optimistic words are heard.
© John Buller

Text
Chorus
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made us rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow?
See'st thou not how stiff and wondrous old
Far, far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
We can scarcely move or draw our breaths
Let us freeze again to death

Tenor
Halfway through this life we're bound upon, I woke again to find myself
in a dark wood, where the straight path was lost and gone.
Ah, how hard it is to speak of it.
That wild and rough and savage wood, even to think of it renews the
fear.
I know not how I got into it being so heavy with sleep, when I lost the
true way.

Tenor
A leopard light and fast in its dappled coat stopped me from moving for-
ward

Chorus (at same time)
Ed ecco una leggieri e presto molto

Tenor
And then a lion moving towards me ravenous with hunger and so fierce
the very air seemed terrified

Tenor
A she-wolf lean and gaunt with infinite craving, the aged cause of grief
and despair, she overwhelmed me with such fear I lost all hope of ever
escaping out of that wood

Chorus (at same time)
una lupa

Tenor
I slept and in a dream a woman came to me stuttering, deformed with
twisted feet and hands.
But as I gazed at her she seemed to straighten, and her squinting look
became coloured with love and her speech melted and she began to sing

Chorus
Lo the sweet siren, I am she who lures to please
Lo the sweet siren, few there are who know to leave me

Tenor
The darkness fled on all sides and with it my sleeping, and when I moved
again with slow steps within that ancient wood the whole forest stirred to
music

Chorus (at same time)
Tis I, tis I...
See, see, we assemble
Thy revels to hold

Tenor
Tis love that has warmed us, he bought us together.

Chorus & Solo
See, see, we assemble
Thy revels, to hold
In spite of cold weather
He brought us together.

adapted from Dryden's King Arthur and Dante's Divine Comedy

2
Flute
2
Oboe
2nd playing cor anglais
1
Clarinet
2
Bassoon
2nd playing contrabassoon
2
Horn
1
Trumpet
2
Trombone
2nd playing bass trombone
1
Percussion
tam, timb, vib, med cym
3
Violin
3
Violin II
4
Viola
3
Cello
2
Double bass
(Esc)