Dido’s Lament

When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in, in thy breast
When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in, in thy breast
Remember me, remember me, but ah!
Forget my fate
Remember me, but ah!
Forget my fate
Remember me, remember me, but ah!
Forget my fate
Remember me, but ah!
Forget my fate

Dido’s Lament” is the commonly-used name for the noted aria, “When I am laid in earth“, from the operaDido and Aeneas, by Henry Purcell(libretto by Nahum Tate).

It is included in many classical music textbooks on account of its exemplary use of ground bass. The conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote atranscription of the piece for symphony orchestra.

“Dido’s Lament” has been performed or recorded by artists far from the typical operatic school, such as Klaus Nomi (as “Death”), Ane Brun Anne Sofie von Otter and Jeff Buckley. It has also been transcribed or used in many scores, including the soundtrack to the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (renamed “Nixon’s Walk”). It is played annually (by a military band) at the Cenotaph remembrance ceremony, which takes place on the Sunday nearest to November 11 (Armistice Day) in London’s Whitehall.

The opening recitative secco, “Thy hand, Belinda”, is accompanied by continuo only. Word painting is applied on the text “darkness” and “death” which is presented with chromaticism, symbolic of death.

“Dido’s Lament” opens with a descending chromatic line, the ground bass, which is repeated eleven times throughout the aria. The meter is 3/2 in the key of G minor. Henry Purcell has applied word painting on the words “laid”, which is also given a descending chromatic line portraying death and agony, and “Remember me”, which is presented in a syllabic text setting and repeated with its last presentation leaping in register with a sudden crescendo displaying her desperate cry with urgency as she prepares for her fate: death.

Text

Recitative
Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.
Aria
When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

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