How Imperfect is Expression
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HOW IMPERFECT IS EXPRESSION. English, Air (2/4 time). G Major (O'Farrell): C Major (Aird). Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The popular air appears in several late 18th and early 19th century publication set as a song and as a country dance tune (sometimes with dance directions), and also appears in numerous period musicians' music manuscript collections. In one American publication it is even set as a bassoon duo! (W.W. Jones, The Bassoon Preceptor, New York, c. 1807-10). A c. 1785 English song sheet gives that the tune was "Introduced by Mrs. [Frances] Abington in the Twelfth Night," indicating is use as an entre-act piece. One of the earliest printings of the air is in Longman, Lukey & Broderip's A Pocket Book for the German Flute (London, 1778).
The lyric begins:
How imperfect is expression
Such emotions to impart,
When we mean a soft confession,
And yet seek to hide the heart.
When our bosoms all complying,
With enraptur'd tumults swell.
And beat what broken falt'ring, dying
Language would but cannot tell.
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 3), 1788; No. 530, p. 202. O'Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. IV), 1810; p. 122.