If music be the food of love

‘If music be the food of love’ is one of the most of popular songs by the English composer Henry Purcell (1659 (?) – 1695) and probably the most famous version of the song has been performed by Dame Carolyn Emma Kirkby.

The lyrics of ‘If music…’, by Colonel Henry Heveningham (1651-1700)  are very similar to a fragment of the text from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ and some people who are not very familiar with maestro Shakespeare’s works may connect him with the  lyrics,  but they would be mistaken, as only the opening verse of the song is the same as the original Shakespearean text.

 One thing is certain, the text by Shakespeare was written nearly a century earlier and there is no doubt that Shakespeare had not only influenced Heveningham but also many, many other artists from various disciplines.

If music be the food of love,
Sing on till I am fill’d with joy;
For then my list’ning soul you move
To pleasures that can never cloy.
Your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
That you are music ev’rywhere.

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
So fierce the transports are, they wound,
And all my senses feasted are,
Tho’ yet the treat is only sound,
Sure I must perish by your charms,
Unless you save me in your arms.

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