(Poem #565) Now Winter Nights Enlarge
Now winter nights enlarge The number of their hours, And clouds their storms discharge Upon the airy towers. Let now the chimneys blaze, And cups o'erflow with wine; Let well-tuned words amaze With harmony divine. Now yellow waxen lights Shall wait on honey love, While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights Sleep's leaden spells remove. This time doth well dispense With lovers' long discourse; Much speech hath some defence, Though beauty no remorse. All do not all things well; Some measures comely tread, Some knotted riddles tell, Some poems smoothly read. The summer hath his joys And winter his delights; Though love and all his pleasures are but toys, They shorten tedious nights.
Campion's poems have to be appreciated from close quarters; take a step away, and they lose much of their magic. The reasons are plain enough - the poems are short on particularity; their range of subject matter is narrow; the emotions they depict are too conventional, too _ordinary_... ... and yet the poems themselves are far from ordinary. On the contrary, they're possessed of a peculiar sort of enchantment, a delicate, ethereal sort of perfection, and one that's especially notable when set beside the towering but decidedly uneven verse of, say, a Marlowe or a Donne. The key to resolving this particular paradox is to realize that Campion's poems aren't poems at all: they're songs. Campion was "one of the outstanding songwriters of the brilliant English lutenist school of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His lyric poetry reflects his musical abilities in its subtle mastery of rhythmic and melodic structure" . Campion's words appeal to 'the auditory imagination' ; they do not depend on visual imagery or effects, hence their apparent lack of detail, their irritating vagueness. The empty spaces are to be filled with music; the phrases  gain depth and meaning from the aural background. thomas.  EB; more from EB in the Assessment section below.  the phrase is due to Campion's editor, the critic W. R. Davies.  Do I _have_ to say it? Pun fully intended <grin>. [Links] http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/campion.htm is an excellent Campion companion ; it includes a biography, essays and analyses, his (more-or-less) complete Poetickal Workes, and (an added bonus) MIDI files of several of his songs.  <grin> Say _that_ as quickly as you can! [Biography] b. Feb. 12, 1567, London d. March 1, 1620, London also spelled Campian, English poet, composer, musical and literary theorist, physician, and one of the outstanding songwriters of the brilliant English lutenist school of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His lyric poetry reflects his musical abilities in its subtle mastery of rhythmic and melodic structure. After attending the University of Cambridge (1581-84) Campion studied law in London, but he was never called to the bar. Little is known of him until 1606, by which time he had become a doctor. Possibly he studied medicine in France or Holland. He practiced medicine from 1606 until his death. Campion's first publication was five sets of verses appearing anonymously in the pirated 1591 edition of Sidney's Astrophel and Stella. In 1595 his Poemata (Latin epigrams) appeared, followed in 1601 by A Booke of Ayres (written with Philip Rosseter), of which much of the musical accompaniment and verses were Campion's. He wrote a masque in 1607 and three more in 1613, in which year his Two Bookes of Ayres probably appeared. The Third and Fourth Booke of Ayres came out in 1617, probably followed by a treatise (undated) on counterpoint. -- EB [Assessment] Campion's lyric poetry and songs for lute accompaniment are undoubtedly his works of most lasting interest. His music (always for "ayres," not madrigals) is delicate, singable, and expressive. Though his theories on music are slight, he thought naturally in the modern key system, with major and minor modes, rather than in the old modal system. Campion stated his theories on rhyme in Observations in the Art of English Poesie (1602). In this work he attacked the use of rhymed, accentual metres, insisting instead that timing and sound duration are the fundamental element in verse structure. Campion asserted that in English verse the larger units of line and stanza provide the temporal stability within which feet and syllables may be varied. With the exception of his classic lyric Rose-cheekt Lawra, Come, Campion usually did not put his advocacy of quantitative, unrhymed verse into practice. His originality as a lyric poet lies rather in his treatment of the conventional Elizabethan subject matter. Rather than using visual imagery to describe static pictures, he expresses the delights of the natural world in terms of sound, music, movement, or change. This approach and Campion's flowing but irregular verbal rhythms give freshness to hackneyed subjects and seem also to suggest an immediate personal experience of even the commonest feelings. The Selected Songs, edited by W.H. Auden, was published in 1972 -- EB [Moreover] Recently I bought a CD titled 'Shakespearean Songs', recorded by the Alfred Deller Consort. Most magical. (For those of you who haven't heard of Alfred Deller, he's a contratenor who specialized in medieval music, specifically, lute pieces from the Elizabethan and Jacobean age. Very celebrated, and justly so. The August 1998 issue of Gramophone has an excellent survey of his career). Deller has recorded some of Campion's songs as well; I must try to get hold of them.