Who but a slave
appears in a manuscript collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, that seems to have been copied around 1683/85 and includes four solo songs by Purcell; some of the songs are copied from contemporary published song-books, but others appear to derive from manuscript sources. Among a handful of songs copied from Choice Ayres IV
(published in 1683) comes Who but a slave
, suggesting that Purcell’s song may have been written around early 1683. The melody of the three strophic verses contains the attractively angular vocal lines that often characterize Purcell’s earlier works.
from notes by Robert King © 2003