1776 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas D'Urfey

Sir John Hawkins, in General History of Music (1776); Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 2:687-88.



Nothing distinguishes his songs more than the uncouthness and irregularity of the metre in which they are written; the modern Pindaric odes, which are humorously resembled to a comb with the teeth broken by frequent use, are nothing to them. Besides that he was able to set English words to Italian airs, as in the instance of "Blouzabella my buxom doxy," which he made to an air of Bononcini, beginning "Pastorella che tra le selve," he had the art of jumbling long and short quantities so dexterously together, that they counteracted each other, so that order resulted from confusion. Of this happy talent he has given us various specimens, in adapting songs to tunes composed in such measure as scarce any instrument but the drum would express; and, to be even with the musicians for giving him so much trouble, he composed songs in so metres broken and intricate, that few could be found that were able to suit them with musical notes. It is said that he once challenged Purcell to set to music such a song as he would write, and gave him that well-known ballad "One long Whitsun holiday," which cost the latter more pains to fit with a tune than the composition of his Te Deum.