Drink to me only with thine eyes by joel meza published on 2013/06/13 07:26:10 +0000 Drink to me only with thine eyes Old English Air, text by Ben Jonson "Drink to me only with thine eyes," for voice and piano, is in a 6/8 meter. While this melody is a type of song called a "folk song," it more specifically falls into the category of a song form called an "English air." The English air can be traced back to its forerunner, the English 'ayre', for voice and lute, popular during the late Renaissance era (1450-1600). In this early usage, ayre referred primarily to the "strophic" (or verse form) songs by composers such as John Dowland. As the seventeenth century progressed, however, the air came into prevalence as a general term for English songs in a simple, popular style. In the late Baroque era (1600-1750), Italian opera was the fashion in England. However, an English style of vocal music coexisted alongside the more stylized Italian repertoire, consciously adopting a simpler style while still borrowing from the long, legato lines of the Italian aria. Many of these less pretentious English airs remained popular through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and were collected and published for amateur musicians. Often, the English air of this era either was based on a folk tune or was a new song composed in a folk-like style. At its essence, an air is a tuneful vocal setting with a simple keyboard accompaniment. The text of the air is set syllabically, and the structure commonly follows a strophic pattern. While some airs truly utilized folk melodies from the British Isles, many songs were composed to imitate the style of an Irish or Scottish folk song in accordance with current fashion. Some popular songs of the time, particularly those used in theatrical productions, were referred to as 'ballads', a genre whose name eventually was applied to the parlor songs of the Victorian era.