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Happy Valentine’s Day my dear Reader! What better day than today to visit a play and a composition all about love.

Cupid and my Campaspe play’d
At cards for kisses—Cupid paid:
He stakes his quiver, bow and arrows,
His mother’s doves, and team of sparrows;
Loses them too; then down he throws
The coral of his lip, the rose
Growing on’s cheek (but none knows how);
With these, the crystal of his brow,
And then the dimple of his chin:
All these did my Campaspe win.
At last he set her both his eyes,
She won, and Cupid blind did rise.
O Love! has she done this to thee?
What shall (alas!) become of me? — from Campaspe by John Lyly

The play, a comedy, by John Lyly centers around an ancient Greek love triangle. Above, Apelles laments his seemingly one-sided love for courtesan Campaspe, who just happens to be the mistress of Alexander the Great. The story begins when Alexander, wanting to capture the beauty of Campaspe, employs renowned artist Appelles to paint her portrait. Cupid’s arrow strikes the artist hard and he continually mars the painting in order to spend more time with her. Which drives the plot and the comedy.

Well, Apelles’ love is not entirely one-sided as he thinks, the beautiful Campaspe returns his feelings. Yet, would the mistress to a king turn away from a life of riches for a struggling artist…And more importantly would that king let her?

Composer Allan Blank, like Apelles, found inspiration in the beautiful Campaspe. Who supposedly stole the beauty directly from the source (Cupid/Love). Below is Blank’s musical interpretation of the tale.

Cupid and My Campaspe by Allan Blank, 1964

Rest assured, the artist and his lady do have a happy ending! I hope, you too, have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

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