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First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

“It is decreed, nor shall thy fate, &c.” musical setting by Samuel Pepys composed in 1666 (begun 5 April) to words from Catiline's first soliloquy from Ben Jonson's play by that name. (L&M say the setting is in the Pepys Library of Magdalene College, Cambridge.)

Samuel Pepys, By Robert Louis Stevenson, Part II — “A Liberal Genius”:

“Nothing, indeed, is more notable than the heroic quality of the verses that our little sensualist in a periwig chose out to marry with his own mortal strains. Some gust from brave Elizabethan times must have warmed his spirit, as he sat tuning his sublime theorbo. “To be or not to be. Whether `tis nobler” - “Beauty retire, thou dost my pity move” - “It is decreed, nor shall thy fate, O Rome”; - open and dignified in the sound, various and majestic in the sentiment, it was no inapt, as it was certainly no timid, spirit that selected such a range of themes. ” http://stevenson.classicauthors.n…

Catiline by Ben Jonson


A: It is decree’d. Nor shall thy Fate, o Rome,
Resist my vow. Though Hils were set on Hils,
And Seas met Seas, to guarde thee; I would through:
Aye, plough up rockes, steepe as the Alpes, in dust;
And laue the Tyrrhene waters, into cloudes;
But I would reach thy head, thy head, proud Citty:
The ills, that I have done, cannot be safe
But by attempting greater; and I feele
A spirit, within me, chides my sluggish handes,
And sayes, they have beene innocent too long.

Bradford  •  Link

That Pepys presumably set blank verse to a song-form tune is interesting, and rare; the only similar example I can think of is a setting of an adaptation of Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy. Rhymed poetry, whose form dictates, or is emphasized by, the structure, is the norm. Can anyone else think of other exceptions?

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.