Ah! cruel nymph!
was probably copied into the Gresham Manuscript around May 1693. It was also later printed in the second edition of Orpheus Britannicus
. A mini-cantata, it shows Purcell’s development of the Italian style, fusing arioso and recitative. The opening explores a running bass line, which is only finally established after an extravagantly florid roulade for the singer on ‘delight’. Despite this peacock-like display, the lover’s ‘nymph’ still refuses his entreaties to cease reproaching him for a previous flirtation with Sylvia. In a more serious section of recitative the singer complains that Sylvia sustained for too long ‘Her conquest when her love was feign’d’. In a dancing triple time the poet realizes that this new lady, ‘charming, airy, humorous and gay’, has finally enabled him to see true love.
from notes by Robert King © 2003