When Night her purple vail
for bass (G-e'flat), 2 violins and bc
This work is to be found in Volume XXI of The Works of Henry Purcell published by the Purcell Society in 1917, being Part III of the Dramatic Music. The Purcell Society edition is in turn drawn from a manuscript in the Tenbury collection marked “The Musick in the Play, H.P.” The play has not been identified, and the music seems not to be by Henry Purcell, but may very well be by his brother Daniel.
When Night her purple vail depicts the despair of the shepherd Damon at his lack of success with the Nymph Silvia, who is enamoured of a satyr, who is very rudely described as a goat by the narrator and as a monster or beast by Damon. In fact, the satyrs, the ritual attendants of Bacchus/Dionysus, were usually depicted as rather comely, and their chief goat–like character was their sexual prowess, which might explain Silvia’s infatuation.