When was ‘Dido’s Lament’ composed and who wrote the lyrics?
Dido’s Lament is an aria from Henry Purcell‘s opera Dido and Aeneas, which he composed in around 1688. Although Purcell wrote the music, it was poet Nahum Tate who was responsible for the lyrics, as he was the opera’s librettist.
The opera’s tragic storyline is based on Book IV of Virgil’s Aeneid, and tells the story of how Dido, Queen of Carthage, falls in love with the Trojan hero Aeneas after he arrives in Carthage from Troy. The opera takes a turn when Dido’s despair takes over after having been abandoned by Aeneas.
Dido sings the aria just before she takes her own life. A funeral pyre is lit, so Aeneas will be able to see its flickering flames when he sails away.
The aria is often performed at Remembrance Sunday ceremonies.