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The Cold Song from Purcell’s opera King Arthur.jpeg


If anyone is interested:

the pen is a rotring ArtPen with a 1.5mm nib;
the paper is a sheet from a WH Smith A4 wide-ruled (8mm) refill pad of 70gsm paper;
the ink is from a cartridge of Waterman ‘Florida Blue’ - this is the ink that is nowadays sold as ‘Serenity Blue’. I bought my cartridges of it back when it was still being sold as ‘Florida Blue’ 😮😁 


Ok, so this is my hastily-&-impatiently scrawled transcription of the lyrics to a song, rather than an actual poem per se. So sue me! 😉


’The Cold Song’ is sung by ‘the Genius of Cold’ during the ‘semi-opera’ King Arthur, or The British Worthy, which was first staged in 1691.

The music for it was written by Henry Purcell, and the libretto is by John Dryden (a former Poet Laureate).


In my opinion, no ‘perfect’ recording of this song exists.

It was originally written for a bass voice, but the version that I have found to be most-moving is the one that was performed for German TV, with an orchestra, by the singer Klaus Nomi -  who was very much not a bass - when he was very near the end of his life.


That said, the most-effective (& affecting) performance of the music is (again, in my opinion) that performed in a French church by the period music ensemble ‘Les Inventions’, with the bass Dingle Yandell from VOCES8.

Les Inventions reversed the bows of their instruments, and also played the music ponticello - very close to the bridges of their instruments.

This gives the sound a wond’rous cold, icy and brittle quality, which is entirely appropriate for the piece.


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From the album:

Poems copied out by Mercian

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Photo Information

  • Taken with Apple iPad Pro
  • Focal Length 3.3 mm
  • Exposure Time 1/33
  • f Aperture f/2.4
  • ISO Speed 100

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