Purcell’s ‘Song upon a ground’, setting Sir George Etherege’s poem, was written around 1684 and appears in the fourth volume of The Theatre of Music. The four-bar ground presents the continuo players as the grinding world which, the poet tells, should give up (the word ‘cease’ being repeated three times by Purcell) its struggle to achieve impossible feats such as alchemy; our poet’s breast is ripening ‘seeds of far more precious ore’ (continuing the alchemistic metaphor). Lucinda, a stock Cavalier character, ensures that ‘ev’ry smile and touch she gives’ brings ‘golden joys’ to the poet, affectionately set by Purcell. The last verse changes mood and metre; for our carefree lover there is no need to try to fathom the impossibilities of alchemy as love brings him all the happiness that he wants.
from notes by Robert King © 2003