Like She loves and she confesses
, Abraham Cowley’s youthful melodrama was also published in 1656 as part of The Mistress
in his Poems
where it was subtitled ‘The Concealment’. Purcell’s setting probably dates from 1683 and is also found in the substantial autograph manuscript now held in the British Library (20.h.8) which contains fair copies of church anthems, odes, songs and duets written between 1681 and 1690. Purcell sets Cowley’s lengthy poem as a mini-cantata. The mournful opening is written as semi-recitative, colourfully outlining the pining love – the ‘wretched heart’ that will ‘swell till you break’ – that the poet will take to his grave, rather than let the object of his passion know the heartbreak that she is causing him. In a triple-metre arioso the poet determines that the world will see this course of action as far nobler than revealing his love and risking the lady’s fury. The third section is highly dramatic, full of rich harmony, including a climactic dissonance on ‘death’; so broken-hearted will the author be that his heart will be sighed away (with a wonderfully drooping interval) with his last breath. For the triple-time chorus the soloist is joined by a bass voice; at the poet’s funeral the world and ‘she herself, the mighty she’ will realize that ‘’Twas only Love destroy’d the gentle youth’.
from notes by Robert King © 2003