Not all my torments
is contained in the Gresham Manuscript, the autograph songbook written out by Purcell between 1692 and 1695. This song comes between movements from the birthday ode of April 1693, Celebrate this festival
, and Sawney is a bonny lad
, dated 25 January 1694, so may be presumed to have been written around the middle of 1693. Perhaps Purcell’s most florid song, representing the full extent of the ornate Italian influence, it seems strange that he did not include it in any published collection, and neither did it appear in Orpheus Britannicus
. Robert Spencer has written that ‘this wonderful song always seems disappointingly short’, musing on whether Purcell planned an aria to follow, or even wrote one which got lost. That said, the four lines of verse do in themselves make a pithy and rather poignant entity which Purcell sets in an astonishingly colourful style, swinging from the impassioned opening, through the manically increasing scorn with which the poet’s love is greeted to the desolate sorrows that he will take to the grave. The rising optimism of the repeated ‘I love’ is countered by the final sting in the tail, ‘I despair’.
from notes by Robert King © 2003