1740
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Il Moderato.

L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato. In three Parts. Set to Musick by Mr. Handel.

Charles Jennens


Handel's oratorio was first performed 27 February 1740 and seems to have been influential in bringing Milton's early, long-neglected verses to general attention. It may even have been partly responsible for the large number of mid-century poems on the "Choice of Hercules" theme: "Come, with gentle Hand restrain, | Those who fondly court their Bane." Charles Jennens, the librettist for Handel's Messiah, freely adapts Milton's texts, adding the third part in this once-popular oratorio. The original publication was anonymous.

Thomas Sheridan: "The Allegro and Penseroso were confined to the closets of the judicious, 'till the celebrated Handel by the charms of his music forced them into fame" British Education (1756) 263.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Charles Jennens, d. 1773, called 'Solyman the Magnificent,' from the splendour in which he lived, attempted an edition of Shakspeare, which elicited more ridicule than compliments. Hamlet was published in 1772; Othello in 1773, and Julius Caesar in 1774" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:963.

W. Davenport Adams: "Charles Jennens (d. 1773), deserves mention as the compiler of the words for Handel's Messiah and other oratorios. He was also the author of editions of separate plays by Shakespeare, which were very severely handled by the critics. See the Biographia Dramatica" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 314.

Edmund Gosse: "L'Allegro and Il Penseroso had been entirely neglected, and practically unknown, until a date long after the rehabilitation of Paradise Lost. The date at which Handel set them to music, 1740, is that of the revived or discovered popularity of these two odes, which then began to be fashionable, at all events among the younger poets. They formed a bridge, which linked the new writers with the early seventeenth century across the Augustan Age, and their versification as well as their method of description were as much resisted by the traditional Classicists as they were attractive, and directly preferred above those of Pope, by the innovators" "Joseph and Thomas Warton" in Some Diversions of a Man of Letters (1920) 80.



RECITATIVE, accompany'd.
Hence! boast not, ye Profane,
Of vainly fancy'd, little tasted Pleasure,
Pursu'd beyond all measure,
And by its own Excess transform'd to Pain.

AIR.
Come, with native Lustre shine,
Moderation, Grace Divine;
Whom the wise God of Nature gave
Mad Mortals from themselves to save.
Keep, as of old, the Middle-way,
Nor deeply sad, nor idly gay,
But still the same in Look and Gaite,
Easy, chearful, and sedate.

RECITATIVE, accompany'd.
Sweet Temp'rance in thy Right-hand bear,
With her let rosy Health appear;
And in thy Left Contentment true,
Whom headlong Passion never knew.
Frugality, by Bounty's Side,
Fast friends, Tho' oft as Foes bely'd;
Chaste Love, by Reason led secure,
With Joy sincere, and Pleasure pure;
Happy Life, from Heaven descending,
Crowds of smiling Years attending.

CHORUS.
All this Company serene,
Join to fill thy beauteous Train.

AIR.
Come, with gentle Hand restrain
Those who fondly court their Bane;
One Extreme with Caution shunning,
To another blindly running.
Kindly teach, how blest are they
Who Nature's equal Laws obey;
Who safely steer two Rocks between,
And prudent keep the golden Mean.

RECITATIVE.
No more short Life they then will spend,
In straying further from its End;
In frantick Mirth, and childish Play,
In Dance and Revels, Night and Day;
Or else like lifeless Statues seeming,
Ever musing, moping, dreaming.

AIR.
Each Action will derive new Grace,
From Order, Measure, Time, and Place;
'Till Life, the goodly Structure, rise
In due Proportion to the Skies.

L'ALLEGRO AND PENSEROSO.
As steals the Morn upon the Night
And melts the Shades away,
So Truth does Fancy's Charm dissolve,
And rising Reason puts to flight
The Fumes that did the Mind involve,
Restoring intellectual Day.

CHORUS.
Thy Pleasures, Moderation give;
In Them alone we truly live.

[pp. 16-19]