Handel, Dryden, and Alexander the Great

Sudip Bose at The American Scholar:

When George Frideric Handel arrived in London in 1710—he was in his mid-20s at the time and would reside in the capital for the duration of his life, becoming a naturalized British subject—he made his reputation composing operas, their librettos written not in his native German but in Italian, as was the fashion of the dayWorking tirelessly and continuously, Handel produced an astonishing succession of operatic masterpieces: Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, Rodelinda, Orlando, and Alcina, to name just a few. Eventually, however, he turned to the language of his adopted land, and it was in his English oratorios—Esther, Saul, Israel in Egypt, Samson, Judas Maccabaeus, Jephtha, and most famously of all, Messiah—that he arguably made his most striking contributions to Western music. Handel was attracted not only to the Bible but also to secular poetry, his subjects inspired by the likes of Milton, Pope, and Dryden. The composer’s command of English was never stellar (he was hardly a fluent exophone in the manner of Voltaire, Conrad, or Beckett), which makes his facility with the cadences, imagery, rhythms, and rhymes of English verse all the more remarkable.

more here.