Dido's Lament

Dido's Lament is the aria "When I am laid in earth" from the opera Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell (libretto by Nahum Tate).

Dido's Lament chromatic fourth ground bass, measures 1–6[1]

It is included in many classical music textbooks on account of its exemplary use of the passus duriusculus in the ground bass. The conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote a transcription of the piece for symphony orchestra. It is played annually in London by the massed bands of the Guards Division at the Cenotaph remembrance parade in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday nearest to November 11 (Armistice Day).

\time 3/2
\clef treble
\key g \minor
\override Score.BarNumber.break-visibility = ##(#f #f #t)
\set Score.barNumberVisibility = #all-bar-numbers-visible
\set Score.currentBarNumber = #14
\bar ""
\relative c''
\new Voice = "melody"
{ g2 a bes 
| bes( a) b
| c4.(bes8 a4. g8 fis4.) g8
| fis1 d'4. es8
| d4.( c8 bes2..\prall) a8
| bes1 es2
| es4( a,) a2 d
| d8( g,) g4 a2( g4.\prall) fis8
| a1 r2 }
\new Lyrics \lyricsto "melody" { \lyricmode
{ When I am
| laid, __ am
| laid __ in
| earth, may my
| wrongs __ cre --
| ate no
| trou -- ble, no
| trou -- ble in __ thy
| breast } }


The opening recitative secco, "Thy hand, Belinda", is accompanied by continuo only. Word painting is applied on the text "darkness" and "death" which is presented with chromaticism, symbolic of death.[citation needed]

Dido's Lament opens with a descending chromatic fourth line, the ground bass,


which is repeated eleven times throughout the aria, thus structuring the piece in the form of a passacaglia. The meter is 3
in the key of G minor.

Henry Purcell has applied word painting on the words "laid", which is also given a descending chromatic line portraying death and agony,


and "remember me", which is presented in a syllabic text setting and repeated


with its last presentation leaping in register with a sudden crescendo


displaying her desperate cry with urgency as she prepares for her fate: death. In one interpretation, Dido's relationship with Aeneas is portrayed in this moment as an "apocalyptic romance".[2]

The AeneidEdit

The text, and Purcell's opera, alludes to the Aeneid, the Roman legend of the Trojan warrior Aeneas, travelling to Italy from the betrayed and fallen Troy in order to settle there and secure his son Ascanius's lineage. Their ship is blown off course from Sicily, and they land on the shore of North Africa, in Carthage, a town newly settled by refugees from Tyre. Aeneas falls in love with their queen, Dido, but dutifully departs for Italy leaving her. Distraught at his betrayal, she orders a pyre to be built and set ablaze so that Aeneas will see from his ship that she has killed herself. She sings the lament before stabbing herself as Aeneas sails on.


Thy hand, Belinda, darkness shades me,
On thy bosom let me rest,
More I would, but Death invades me;
Death is now a welcome guest.

When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.


  1. ^ Kapilow, Robert (2008). All You Have to Do Is Listen, p. 151. ISBN 978-0-470-38544-9.
  2. ^ www.theretuned.com https://web.archive.org/web/20121220112752/http://www.theretuned.com/apocalyptic-romance-when-i-am-laid-in-earth/. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

External linksEdit