Text by John Dryden (E)
2S,A,T,2B; chorus with soloists
Boosey & Hawkes
Saxon Britain; a 'vision of Britain'
The musical sections of Purcell's semi-opera form interludes within the main action mostly at the ends of each of the acts of Dryden's text. In Act 1 there is a Sacrificial Scene, in which Saxon Priests and Chorus prepare to sacrifice horses and people to the gods Woden, Thor and Freya. Notwithstanding this, the British forces win a victory, which they celebrate in a Battle Scene. In Act 2, a Spirit Scene shows friendly and enemy spirits attempting variously to lead or mislead the British forces through a morass. A Pastoral Scene shows the happy life of shepherds, untouched by the warring around them. In Act 3, as an illustration of the power of love. Cupid descends on a wintry landscape and even the Cold Genius and his colleagues are warmed by his gift. In Act 4's Sylvan Scene, two sirens attempt to lure Arthur into the waters, succeeded by groups of nymphs and sylvans. The final scene brings on a tableau of Britannia and various celebrations of Britain, ending with a hymn to St George and the British state.