The text for "After Campion" is taken from four poems by Thomas Campion (1567-1620), poet, composer and physician who most likely died of bubonic plague contracted while treating too many patients with the same condition. The main text in the work, "What If A Day", was first published in Richard Alison's book An Houre's Recreation in Music (1606), and together with Alison's setting for five voices, became a popular "part song" of the time and remained in vogue for some decades.
This poem deals with the ultimate insignificance of man in relation to the universe and the general folly of his absorption in affairs of the heart. (The sexism here is, of course, authentically Elizabethan). The third verse ("Earth's but a point to the world...") has been referred to by some chroniclers as "obviously metaphysical", but they can only have been unaware of the sexual allusion so predominant in Elizabethan literature. While much of this text may be interpreted lightly or even flippantly, there is a bitter-sweet under-current to the poem which makes it rather more than just another delightful Elizabethan love song.
Three other poems by Campion, all dealing with the passage of time and the folly of love have been combined with "What If A Day" to create the complete text to "After Campion".
The first of these, "Oft have I sigh'd" appeared in Campion's Third Book of Ayres (1617) set to music by Campion himself. (Portions of this are quoted directly in "After Campion").This work wallows unashamedly in just the kind of unrequited love that "What If A Day" paints as being somewhat self-indulgent if not ultimately futile. The next, "What is a day, what is a year" was published in Rossiter's Book of Ayres (1601), though there is some doubt that Campion actually wrote the poem, and he may have been credited as author simply to give Rossiter's book greater credibility. FInally, "A daie, a night, an houre", is listed as Campion's Canto Quinto, and was published in 1591 in Astrophel And Stella by Thomas Newman, in an addendum described as "The Poems and Sonnets of Sundrie other Noblemen and Gentlemen".
"After Campion" was commissioned by the Sydney Philharmonia Society with financial assistance from the Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council and is dedicated to the choir who is giving the work its premiere performance.
"What If A Day"
What if a day, or a month, or a year
Crown thy delights with a thousand sweet contentings?
Cannot a chance of night or an hour
Cross thy desires with as many sad tormentings?
Fortune, honour, beauty, youth
Are but blossoms dying;
Wanton pleasure, doting love
Are but shadows flying.
All our joys are but toys,
Idle thoughts deceiving;
None have power of an hour
In their lives' bereaving.
INSERT 1 :
Oft have I sigh'd for him that heares me not;
Who absent hath both love and mee forgot.
O yet I languish still through his delay:
Dayes seem as yeares
(when wisht friends breake their day.)
Earth's but a point to the world, and a man
Is but a point to the world's comparéd centure° (°centre)
Shall then a point of a point be so vain
As to triumph in a silly point's adventure?
INSERT 2 :
What is a day, what is a year
Of vain delight and pleasure?
Like to a dream it endless dies,
And from us like a vapour flies:
And this is all the fruit that we find,
Which glory in worldly treasure.
INSERT 3 :
A daie, a night, an houre of sweet content
Is worth a world consum'd in fretful care.
Unequal Gods! in your Arbitrement
To sort us daies whose sorrows endless are!
And yet what were it? as a fading flower:
To swim in blisse a daie, a night, an hower.
All is hazard that we have,
There is nothing biding;
Days of pleasure are like streams
Through fair meadows gliding.
Weal and woe, time doth go,
Time is never turning;
Secret fates guide our states,
Both in mirth and mourning.