FolkWorld Issue 37 11/2008; Song Collection

Sing, Sweet Harp of Erin
Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies (1808)

2008 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Moore’s collections of songs, the ‘Irish Melodies’; 124 poems set to traditonal Irish tunes published in ten volumes between 1808 and 1834. Martin Cullen, Irish Minister for the Arts, said at the launch of the exhibition ‘My Gentle Harp’ at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin: “It was the ‘Irish Melodies’ with their international fame that defined Irish culture throughout the nineteenth century at home and abroad.”

Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies

Irish Melodies: Go Where Glory Waits Thee / War Song / Erin! The Tear and the Smile in Thine Eyes / Oh! Breathe Not His Name / When He, Who Adores Thee / The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls / Fly Not Yet / Oh! Think Not My Spirits Are Always As Light / Though the Last Glimpse of Erin With Sorrow I See / Rich and Rare Were the Gems She Wore / As a Beam O'er the Face of the Waters May Glow / The Meeting of the Waters / St. Senanus and the Lady / How Dear to Me the Hour / Take Back the Virgin Page / The Legacy / How Oft Has the Benshee Cried / We May Roam Through This World / Eveleen's Bower / Let Erin Remember the Days of Old / The Song of Fionnuala / Come, Send Round the Wine / Sublime Was the Warning / Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms / Erin, Oh Erin / Drink to Her / Oh! Blame Not the Bard / While Gazing on the Moon's Light / Ill Omens / Before the Battle / After the Battle / 'Tis Sweet to Think / The Irish Peasant to his Mistress / On Music / It Is Not the Tear At This Moment Shed / The Origin of the Harp / Love's Young Dream / The Prince's Day / Weep On, Weep On / Lesbia Hath a Beaming Eye / I Saw Thy Form in Youthful Prime / By That Lake, Whose Gloomy Shore / She Is Far From the Land / Nay, Tell Me Not, Dear / Avenging and Bright / What the Bee Is To the Floweret / Love and the Novice / This Life is All Chequer'd With Pleasures and Woes / Oh, the Shamrock / At the Mid Hour of Night / One Bumper at Parting / 'Tis the Last Rose of Summer / The Young May Moon / The Minstrel-Boy / The Song of O'Ruark / Oh! Had We Some Bright Little Isle of Our Own / Farewell! -- But Whenever You Welcome the Hour / Oh! Doubt Me Not / You Remember Ellen / I'd Mourn the Hopes / Come O'er the Sea / Has Sorrow Thy Young Days Shaded / No, Not More Welcome / When First I Met Thee / While History's Muse / The Time I've Lost in Wooing / Where is the Slave / Come, Rest in this Bosom / 'Tis Gone, And For Ever / Fill the Bumper Fair / In the Morning of Life / I Saw From the Beach / Dear Harp of My Country / My Gentle Harp / As Slow Our Ship / When Cold in the Earth / Remember Thee! / Wreath the Bowl / Whene'er I See Those Smiling Eyes / If Thou'lt Be Mine / To Ladies' Eyes / Forget Not the Field / They May Rail at this Life / Oh For the Swords of Former Time! Ne'er Ask the Hour / Sail On, Sail On / The Parallel / Drink of This Cup / The Fortune-Teller / Oh, Ye Dead! / O'Donohue's Mistress / Echo / Oh, the Sight Entrancing / Thee, Thee, Only Thee / Shall the Harp Then Be Silent / Sweet Innisfallen / 'Twas One of Those Dreams / Oh, Banquet Not / Fairest! Put on a While / Quick! We Have But a Second / And Doth Not a Meeting Like This / The Mountain Sprite / As Vanquished Erin / Desmond's Song / They Know Not My Heart / I Wish I Was By That Dim Lake / She Sung of Love / Sing -- Sing -- Music Was Given / Though Humble the Banquet / Sing, Sweep Harp / Song of the Battle Eve / The Wandering Bard / Alone in Crowds to Wander On / I've a Secret to Tell Thee / Song of Innisfail / The Night Dance / There Are Sounds of Mirth / Oh Arranmore, Loved Arranmore / Lay His Sword By His Side / The Wine-Cup is Circling / Oh, Could We Do With This World of Ours / From This Hour the Pledge is Given / The Dream of Those Days / Silence is in Our Festal Halls

Miscellaneous: A Canadian Boat Song / Ballad Stanzas / Give Me the Harp of Epic Song / Hip, Hip, Hurra! / The Lake of the Dismal Swamp / Oft in the Stilly Night / Those Evening Bells /

Ronan Kelly, Bard of Erin - The Life of Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore was born in Dublin on the 28th of May 1780. Both his parents were Roman-Catholics; and he was, as a matter of course, brought up in the same religion, and adhered to it -- not perhaps with any extreme zeal -- throughout his life. His father was a decent tradesman, a grocer and spirit-retailer -- or "spirit-grocer," as the business is termed in Ireland. Thomas received his schooling from Mr. Samuel Whyte, who had been Sheridan's first preceptor, a man of more than average literary culture. He encouraged a taste for acting among the boys: and Moore, naturally intelligent and lively, became a favorite with his master, and a leader in the dramatic recreations.

His aptitude for verse appeared at an early age. In 1790 he composed an epilogue to a piece acted at the house of Lady Borrows, in Dublin; and in his fourteenth year he wrote a sonnet to Mr. Whyte, which was published in a Dublin magazine.

Like other Irish Roman-Catholics, galled by the hard and stiff collar of Protestant ascendancy, the parents of Thomas Moore hailed the French Revolution, and the prospects which it seemed to offer of some reflex ameliorations. In 1792 the lad was taken by his father to a dinner in honor of the Revolution; and he was soon launched upon a current of ideas and associations which might have conducted a person of more self-oblivious patriotism to the scaffold on which perished the friend of his opening manhood, Robert Emmet. Trinity College, Dublin, having been opened to Catholics by the Irish Parliament in 1793, Moore was entered there as a student in the succeeding year. He became more proficient in French and Italian than in the classic languages, and showed no turn for Latin verses. Eventually, his political proclivities, and intimacy with many of the chiefs of opposition, drew down upon him (after various interrogations, in which he honorably refused to implicate his friends) a severe admonition from the University authorities; but he had not joined in any distinctly rebellious act and no more formidable results ensued to him.

In 1793 Moore published in the "Anthologia Hibernica" two pieces of verse; and his budding talents became so far known as to earn him the proud eminence of Laureate to the Gastronomic Club of Dalkey, near Dublin, in 1794. Through his acquaintance with Emmet, he joined the Oratorical Society, and afterwards the more important Historical Society; and he published "An Ode on Nothing, with Notes, by Trismegistus Rustifucius, D. D.", which won a party success. About the same time he wrote articles for "The Press", a paper founded towards the end of 1797 by O'Connor, Addis, Emmet, and others. He graduated at Trinity College in November, 1799.

The bar was the career which his parents, and especially his mother, wished Thomas to pursue; neither of them had much faith in poetry or literature as a resource for his subsistence. Accordingly, in 1799, he crossed over into England, and studied in the Middle Temple; and he was afterwards called to the bar, but literary pursuits withheld him from practicing. He had brought with him from Ireland his translations from Anacreon; and published these by subscription in 1800, dedicated to the Prince Regent (then the illusory hope of political reformers), with no inconsiderable success. Lord Moira, Lady Donegal, and other leaders of fashionable society, took him up with friendly warmth, and he soon found himself a well-accepted guest in the highest circles in London. No clever young fellow -- without any advantage of birth or of person, and with intellectual attractions which seem to posterity to be of a rather middling kind -- ever won his way more easily or more cheaply into that paradise of mean ambitions, the "beau monde". Moore has not escaped the stigma which attaches to almost all men who thus succeeded under the like conditions -- that of tuft-hunting and lowering compliances. He would be a bold man who should affirm that there was absolutely no sort of ground for the charge; or that Moore -- fêted at Holland House, and hovered-round by the fashionable of both sexes, the men picking up his witticisms, and the women languishing over his songs -- was capable of the same sturdy self-reliance and simple adhesion to principle which might possibly have been in him, and forthcoming from him, under different conditions. Who shall touch pitch and not be defiled, -- who treacle, and not be sweetened? At the same time, it is easy to carry charges of this kind too far, and not always through motives the purest and most exalted. It may be said without unfairness on either side that the sort of talents which Moore possessed brought him naturally into the society which he frequented; that very possibly the world has got quite as much out of him by that development of his faculties as by any other which they could have been likely to receive; and that he repaid patronage in the coin of amusement and of bland lenitives, rather than in that of obsequious adulation. For we are not required nor permitted to suppose that there was the stuff of a hero in "little Tom Moore;" or that the lapdog of the drawing-room would under any circumstances have been the wolf-hound of the public sheepfold. In the drawing-room he is a sleeker lapdog, and lies upon more and choicelier-clothed laps than he would in "the two-pair back;" and that is about all that needs to be said or speculated in such a case. As a matter of fact, the demeanor of Moore among the socially great seems to have been that of a man who respected his company, without failing to respect himself also -- any ill-natured caviling or ready-made imputations to the contrary notwithstanding.

In 1802 Moore produced his first volume of original verse, the "Poetical Works of the late Thomas Little" (an allusion to the author's remarkably small stature), for which he received £60. There are in this volume some erotic improprieties, not of a very serious kind either in intention or in harmfulness, which Moore regretted in later years. Next year Lord Moira procured him the post of Registrar to the Admiralty Court of Bermuda; he embarked on the 25th of September, and reached his destination in January 1804. This work did not suit him much better than the business of the bar; in March he withdrew from personal discharge of the duties: and, leaving a substitute in his place, he made a tour in the United States and Canada. He was presented to Jefferson, and felt impressed by his republican simplicity. Such a quality, however, was not in Moore's line; and nothing perhaps shows the essential smallness of his nature more clearly than the fact that his visit to the United States, in their giant infancy, produced in him no glow of admiration or aspiration, but only a recrudescence of the commonest prejudices -- the itch for picking little holes, the petty joy of reporting them, and the puny self-pluming upon fancied or factitious superiorities. If the washy liberal patriotism of Moore's very early years had any vitality at all, such as would have qualified it for a harder struggle than jeering at the Holy Alliance, and singing after-dinner songs of national sentimentalism to the applause of Whig lords and ladies, this American experience may beheld to have been its death-blow. He now saw republicans face to face; and found that they were not for him, nor he for them. He returned to England in 1806; and soon afterwards published his "Odes and Epistles", comprising many remarks, faithfully expressive of his perceptions, on American society and manners.

The volume was tartly criticised in the "Edinburgh Review" by Jeffrey, who made some rather severe comments upon the improprieties chargeable to Moore's early writings. The consequence was a challenge, and what would have been a duel at Chalk Farm, but for unloaded pistols and police interference. This "fiasco" soon led to an amicable understanding between Moore and Jeffrey; and a few years later, about the end of 1811, to a friendship of closer intimacy between the Irish songster and his great poetic contemporary Lord Byron. His lordship, in his youthful satire of "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers", had made fun of the unbloody duel. This Moore resented, not so much as a mere matter of ridicule as because it involved an ignoring or a denial of a counter-statement of the matter put into print by himself. He accordingly wrote a letter to Byron on the 1st of January 1810, calculated to lead to further hostilities. But, as the noble poet had then already for some months left England for his prolonged tour on the Continent, the missive did not reach him; and a little epistolary skirmishing, after his return in the following year, terminated in a hearty reconciliation, and a very intimate cordiality, almost deserving of the lofty name of friendship, on both sides.

Re-settled in London, and re-quartered upon the pleasant places of fashion, Moore was once more a favorite at Holland House, Lansdowne House, and Donington House, the residence of Lord Moira. His lordship obtained a comfortable post to soothe the declining years of Moore's father, and held out to the poet himself the prospect -- which was not however realized -- of another snug berth for his own occupancy. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland never received the benefit of the Irish patriot's services in any public capacity at home -- only through the hands of a defaulting deputy in Bermuda: it did, however, at length give him the money without the official money's-worth, for in 1835, under Lord Melbourne's ministry, an annual literary pension of £300 was bestowed upon the then elderly poet. Nor can it be said that Moore's worth to his party, whether we regard him as political sharpshooter or as national lyrist, deserved a less recognition from the Whigs: he had at one time, with creditable independence, refused to be indebted to the Tories for an appointment. Some obloquy has at times been cast upon him on account of his sarcasms against the Prince Regent, which, however well merited on public grounds, have been held to come with an ill grace from the man whose first literary effort, the "Anacreon", had been published under the auspices of his Royal Highness as dedicatee, no doubt a practical obligation of some moment to the writer. It does not appear, however, that the obligation went much beyond this simple acceptance of the dedication: Moore himself declared that the Regent's further civilities had consisted simply in asking him twice to dinner, and admitting him, in 1811, to a fête in honor of the regency.

The life of Moore for several years ensuing is one of literary success and social brilliancy, varied by his marrying in 1811, Miss Bessy Dyke, a lady who made an excellent and devoted wife, and to whom he was very affectionately attached, although the attractions and amenities of the fashionable world caused from time to time considerable inroads upon his domesticity. After a while, he removed from London, with his wife and young family, to Mayfield Cottage, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire -- a somewhat lonely site. His "Irish Melodies", the work by which he will continue best known, had their origin in 1797, when his attention was drawn to a publication named "Bunting's Irish Melodies", for which he occasionally wrote the words. In 1807 he entered into a definite agreement with Mr. Power on this subject, in combination with Sir J. Stevenson, who undertook to compose the accompaniments. The work was prolonged up to the year 1834; and contributed very materially to Moore's comfort in money matters and his general prominence -- as his own singing of the Melodies in good society kept up his sentimental and patriotic prestige, and his personal lionizing, in a remarkable degree. He played on the piano, and sang with taste, though in a style resembling recitative, and not with any great power of voice: in speaking, his voice had a certain tendency to hoarseness, but its quality became flute-like in singing. In 1811 he made another essay in the musical province; writing, at the request of the manager of the Lyceum Theatre, an operetta named "M.P., or the Bluestocking". It was the reverse of a stage-success; and Moore, in collecting his poems, excluded this work, save as regards some of the songs comprised in it. In 1808 had appeared anonymously, the poems of "Intolerance and Corruption", followed in 1809 by "The Sceptic". "Intercepted Letters, or The Twopenny Postbag, by Thomas Brown the Younger", came out in 1812: it was a huge success, and very intelligibly such, going through fourteen editions in one year. In the same year the project of writing an oriental poem -- a class of work greatly in vogue now that Byron was inventing Giaours and Corsairs -- was seriously entertained by Moore. This project took shape in "Lalla Rookh", written chiefly at Mayfield Cottage -- a performance for which Mr. Longman the publisher paid the extremely large sum of £3150 in advance: its publication hung over till 1817. The poem has been translated into all sorts of languages, including Persian, and is said to have found many admirers among its oriental readers. Whatever may be thought of its poetic merits -- and I for one disclaim any scintilla of enthusiasm -- or of its power in vitalizing the "disjecta membra" of orientalism, the stock-in-trade of the Asiatic curiosity-shop, there is no doubt that Moore worked very conscientiously upon this undertaking: he read up to any extent, -- wrote, talked, and perhaps thought, Islamically -- and he trips up his reader with some allusion verse after verse, tumbling him to the bottom of the page, with its quagmire of explanatory footnotes. In 1815 appeared the "National Airs"; in 1816, "Sacred Songs, Duets, and Trios", the music composed and selected by Stevenson and Moore; in 1818, "The Fudge Family in Paris", again a great hit. This work was composed in Paris, which capital Moore had been visiting in company with his friend Samuel Rogers the poet.

The easily earned money and easily discharged duties of the appointment in Bermuda began now to weigh heavy on Moore. Defalcations of his deputy, to the extent of £6000, were discovered, for which the nominal holder of the post was liable. Moore declined offers of assistance; and, pending a legal decision on the matter, he had found it apposite to revisit the Continent. In France, Lord John (the late Earl) Russell was his travelling companion: they went on together through Switzerland, and parted at Milan. Moore then, on the 8th of October 1819, joined in Venice his friend Byron, who had been absent from England since 1816. The poets met in the best of humor, and on terms of hearty good-fellowship -- Moore staying with Byron for five or six days. On taking leave of him, Byron presented the Irish lyrist with the MS. of his autobiographical memoirs stipulating that they should not be published till after the donor's death: at a later date he became anxious that they should remain wholly unpublished. Moore sold the MS. in 1831 to Murray for £2100, after some negotiations with Longman, and consigned it to the publisher's hands. In 1824 the news arrived of Byron's death. Mr. (afterwards Sir Wilmot) Horton on the part of Lady Byron, Mr. Luttrell on that of Moore, Colonel Doyle on that of Mrs. Leigh, Lord Byron's half-sister, and Mr. Hobhouse (afterwards Lord Broughton) as a friend and executor of the deceased poet, consulted on the subject. Hobhouse was strong in urging the suppression of the Memoirs. The result was that Murray, setting aside considerations of profit, burned the MS. (some principal portions of which nevertheless exist in print, in other forms of publication); and Moore immediately afterwards, also in a disinterested spirit, repaid him the purchase-money of £2100. It was quite fair that Moore should be reimbursed this large sum by some of the persons in whose behoof he had made the sacrifice, this was not neglected.

To resume. Bidding adieu to Byron at Venice, Moore went on to Rome with the sculptor Chantrey and the portrait-painter Jackson. His tour supplied the materials for the "Rhymes on the Road", published, as being extracted from the journal of a travelling member of the Pococurante Society, in 1820, along with the "Fables for the Holy Alliance". Lawrence, Turner, and Eastlake, were also much with Moore in Rome: and here he made acquaintance with Canova. Hence he returned to Paris, and made that city his home up to 1822, expecting the outcome of the Bermuda affair. He also resided partly at Butte Goaslin, near Sèvres, with a rich and hospitable Spanish family named Villamil. The debt of £6000 was eventually reduced to £750: both the Marquis of Lansdowne and Lord John Russell pressed Moore with their friendly offers, and the advance which he at last accepted was soon repaid out of the profits of the "Loves of the Angels" -- which poem, chiefly written in Paris, was published in 1823. The prose tale of "The Epicurean" was composed about the same time, but did not issue from the press till 1827: the "Memoirs of Captain Rock" in 1824. He had been under an engagement to a bookseller to write a "Life of Sheridan". During his stay in France the want of documents withheld him from proceeding with this work: but he ultimately took it up, and brought it out in 1825. It was not availed to give Moore any reputation as a biographer, though the reader in search of amusement will pick out of it something to suit him. George the Fourth is credited with having made a neat "bon mot" upon this book. Some one having remarked to him that "Moore had been murdering Sheridan," -- "No," replied his sacred majesty, "but he has certainly attempted his life." A later biographical performance, published in 1830, and one of more enduring interest to posterity, was the "Life of Byron". This is a very fascinating book; but more -- which is indeed a matter of course -- in virtue of the lavish amount of Byron's own writing which it embodies than, on account of the Memoir-compiler's doings. However, there is a considerable share of good feeling in the book, as well as matter of permanent value from the personal knowledge that Moore had of Byron; and the avoidance of "posing" and of dealing with the subject for purposes of effect, in the case of a man whose career and genius lent themselves so insidiously to such a treatment, is highly creditable to the biographer's good sense and taste. The "Life of Byron" succeeded, in the list of Moore's writings, a "History of Ireland", contributed in 1827 to "Lardner's Cyclopaedia", and the "Travels of an Irishman in Search of a Religion", published in the same year: and was followed by a "Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald", issued in 1881. This, supplemented by some minor productions, closes the sufficiently long list of writings of an industrious literary life.

In his latter years Moore resided at Sloperton Cottage, near Devizes in Wiltshire, Where he was near the refined social circle of Lord Lansdowne at Bowood, as well as the lettered home of the Rev. Mr. Bowles at Bremhill. Domestic sorrows clouded his otherwise cheerful and comfortable retirement. One of his sons died in the French military service in Algeria; another of consumption in 1842. For some years before his own death, which occurred on the 25th of February 1853, his mental powers had collapsed. He sleeps in Bromham Cemetery, in the neighborhood of Sloperton.

Moore had a very fair share of learning, as well as steady application, greatly as he sacrificed to the graces of life, and especially of "good society." His face was not perhaps much more impressive in its contour than his diminutive figure. His eyes, however, were dark and fine; his forehead bony, and with what a phrenologist would recognize as large bumps of wit; the mouth pleasingly dimpled. His manner and talk were bright, abounding rather in lively anecdote and point than in wit and humor, strictly so called. To term him amiable according to any standard, and estimable too as men of an unheroic fibre go, is no more than his due.

No doubt the world has already seen the most brilliant days of Moore's poetry. Its fascinations are manifestly of the more temporary sort: partly through fleetingness of subject-matter and evanescence of allusion (as in the clever and still readable satirical poems); partly through the aroma of sentimental patriotism, hardly strong enough in stamina to make the compositions national, or to maintain their high level of popularity after the lyrist himself has long been at rest; partly through the essentially commonplace sources and forms of inspiration which belong to his more elaborate and ambitious works. No poetical reader of the present day is the poorer for knowing absolutely nothing of "Lalla Rookh" or the "Loves of the Angels". What then will be the hold or the claim of these writings upon a reader of the twenty-first century? If we expect the satirical compositions, choice in a different way, the best things of Moore are to be sought in the "Irish Melodies", to which a considerable share of merit, and of apposite merit, is not to be denied: yet even here what deserts around the oases, and the oases themselves how soon exhaustible and forgettable! There are but few thoroughly beautiful and touching lines in the whole of Moore's poetry. Here is one --

"Come rest in this bosom, mine own stricken deer."

A great deal has been said upon the overpowering "lusciousness" of his poetry, and the magical "melody" of his verse: most of this is futile. There is in the former as much of "fadeur" as of lusciousness; and a certain tripping or trotting exactitude, not less fully reducible to the test of scansion than of a well-attuned ear, is but a rudimentary form of melody -- while of harmony or rhythmic volume of sound Moore is as decisively destitute as any correct versifier can well be. No clearer proof of the incapacity of the mass of critics and readers to appreciate the calibre of poetical work in point of musical and general execution could be given than the fact that Moore has always with them passed, and still passes, for an eminently melodious poet. What then remains? Chiefly this. In one class of writing, liveliness of witty banter, along with neatness; and, in the other and ostensibly more permanent class, elegance, also along with neatness. Reduce these qualities to one denomination, and we come to something that may be called "Propriety": a sufficiently disastrous "raw material" for the purposes of a poet, and by no means loftily to be praised or admired even when regarded as the outer investiture of a nobler poetic something within. But let desert of every kind have its place, and welcome. In the cosmical diapason and august orchestra of poetry, Tom Moore's little Pan's-pipe can at odd moments be heard, and interjects an appreciable and rightly-combined twiddle or two. To be gratified with these at the instant is no more than the instrument justifies, and the executant claims: to think much about them when the organ is pealing or the violin plaining (with a Shelley performing on the first, or a Mrs. Browning on the second), or to be on the watch for their recurrences, would be equally superfluous and weak-minded.

A Biographical Sketch by William M. Rossetti

  • The Complete Poems (Gutenberg)
  • Thomas Moore (Wikipedia)
  • Thomas Moore (Cath. Ency.)
  • Thomas Moore (Contemplator)
  • Patrick Byrne,

    "The Moore I discovered was a gifted scholar, a brilliant satirist and a fairly disastrous dramatist; he was a much-loved oriental fabulist and a much-censored coy eroticist; he was a pioneering historian, a struggling journalist and a daring biographer. He was a celebrated singer, a sometime rebel, and, by the by, quite the dandy littérateur; he was a duellist (over a bad review) and a sort of accidental tourist. Politically, he was a committed liberal, particularly in the cause of Catholic Emancipation." (Ronan Kelly)

    Sing, Sweet Harp

    Sing, sweet Harp, oh sing to me
    Some song of ancient days,
    Whose sounds, in this sad memory,
    Long buried dreams shall raise;--
    Some lay that tells of vanished fame,
    Whose light once round us shone;
    Of noble pride, now turned to shame,
    And hopes for ever gone.--
    Sing, sad Harp, thus sing to me;
    Alike our doom is cast,
    Both lost to all but memory,
    We live but in the past.

    How mournfully the midnight air
    Among thy chords doth sigh,
    As if it sought some echo there
    Of voices long gone by;--
    Of Chieftains, now forgot, who seemed
    The foremost then in fame;
    Of Bards who, once immortal deemed,
    Now sleep without a name.--
    In vain, sad Harp, the midnight air
    Among thy chords doth sigh;
    In vain it seeks an echo there
    Of voices long gone by.

    Couldst thou but call those spirits round.
    Who once, in bower and hall,
    Sat listening to thy magic sound,
    Now mute and mouldering all;--
    But, no; they would but wake to weep
    Their children's slavery;
    Then leave them in their dreamless sleep,
    The dead, at least, are free!--
    Hush, hush, sad Harp, that dreary tone,
    That knell of Freedom's day;
    Or, listening to its death-like moan,
    Let me, too, die away.

    Brian Bóru,

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] Brien Boromhe, the great monarch of Ireland, who was killed at the battle of Clontarf, in the beginning of the 11th century, after having defeated the Danes in twenty-five engagements.
    [2] Munster.
    [3] The palace of Brien.
    [4] This alludes to an interesting circumstance related of the Dalgais, the favorite troops of Brien, when they were interrupted in their return from the battle of Clontarf, by Fitzpatrick, prince of Ossory. The wounded men entreated that they might be allowed to fight with the rest, -- "Let stakes [they said] be stuck in the ground, and suffer each of us to be tied to and supported by one of these stakes, to be placed in his rank by the side of a sound man." "Between seven and eight hundred men (adds O'Halloran) pale, emaciated, and supported in this manner, appeared mixed with the foremost of the troops; -- never was such another sight exhibited." -- "History of Ireland," book xii. chap i.

    "In the Melodies, the spirit of Erin is always oppressed, and always indomitable; it is the spirit of love, fidelity and friendship; it is right -- ancient, moral, Irish - against might -- modern, military and, if not exactly English, then at least its poetic equivalents, Saxon or Dane. To sing of Ireland was to stir up English anxieties, but Moore went even further: in the Melodies, Ireland was heroic, dignified, even -- amazingly -- respectable." (Ronan Kelly)

    War Song - Remember the Glories of Brien the Brave

    Remember the glories of Brien the brave,
    Tho' the days of the hero are o'er;
    Tho' lost to Mononia and cold in the grave,[2]
    He returns to Kinkora no more.[3]
    That star of the field, which so often hath poured
    Its beam on the battle, is set;
    But enough of its glory remains on each sword,
    To light us to victory yet.

    Mononia! when Nature embellished the tint
    Of thy fields, and thy mountains so fair,
    Did she ever intend that a tyrant should print
    The footstep of slavery there?
    No! Freedom, whose smile we shall never resign,
    Go, tell our invaders, the Danes,
    That 'tis sweeter to bleed for an age at thy shrine,
    Than to sleep but a moment in chains.

    Forget not our wounded companions, who stood[4]
    In the day of distress by our side;
    While the moss of the valley grew red with their blood,
    They stirred not, but conquered and died.
    That sun which now blesses our arms with his light,
    Saw them fall upon Ossory's plain;--
    Oh! let him not blush, when he leaves us to-night,
    To find that they fell there in vain.

    Lesbia Has a Beaming Eye

    Lesbia hath a beaming eye,
    But no one knows for whom it beameth;
    Right and left its arrows fly,
    But what they aim at no one dreameth.
    Sweeter 'tis to gaze upon
    My Nora's lid that seldom rises;
    Few its looks, but every one,
    Like unexpected light, surprises!
    Oh, My Nora Creina, dear,
    My gentle, bashful Nora Creina,
    Beauty lies
    In many eyes,
    But love in yours, My Nora Creina.

    Lesbia wears a robe of gold,
    But all so close the nymph hath laced it,
    Not a charm of beauty's mould
    Presumes to stay where nature placed it.
    Oh! my Nora's gown for me,
    That floats as wild as mountain breezes,
    Leaving every beauty free
    To sink or swell as Heaven pleases.
    Yes, my Nora Creina, dear.
    My simple, graceful Nora Creina,
    Nature's dress
    Is loveliness--
    The dress you wear, my Nora Creina.

    Lesbia hath a wit refined,
    But, when its points are gleaming round us,
    Who can tell if they're designed
    To dazzle merely, or to wound us?
    Pillowed on my Nora's heart,
    In safer slumber Love reposes--
    Bed of peace! whose roughest part
    Is but the crumpling of the roses.
    Oh! my Nora Creina dear,
    My mild, my artless Nora Creina,
    Wit, though bright,
    Hath no such light,
    As warms your eyes, my Nora Creina.

    Bard & Harper from John Derricke's Images of Ireland (1581)

    "No one writes songs like Moore. Sentiment and imagination are joined to the most harmonious versification, and I know of no greater treat than to hear him sing his own compositions: the powerful expression he gives to them and the pathos of the tunes of his voice, tend to produce an effect on my feelings that no other songs, or singer, ever could." (Lord Byron)

    "He will live in his Irish Melodies; they will go down to posterity with the music; both will last as long as Ireland, or as music and poetry." (Lord Byron)

    What are you doing now?
    Oh Thomas Moore?
    What are you doing now?
    Oh Thomas Moore?
    Sighing or suing now,
    Rhyming or wooing now,
    Billing or cooing,
    Which, Thomas Moore?
    (Lord Byron)

    The Harp That Once Thro' Tara's Halls

    The harp that once thro' Tara's halls
    The soul of music shed,
    Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls.
    As if that soul were fled.--
    So sleeps the pride of former days,
    So glory's thrill is o'er,
    And hearts, that once beat high for praise,
    Now feel that pulse no more.

    No more to chiefs and ladies bright
    The harp of Tara swells;
    The chord alone, that breaks at night,
    Its tale of ruin tells.
    Thus Freedom now so seldom wakes,
    The only throbs she gives,
    Is when some heart indignant breaks.
    To show that still she lives.

    Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms

    Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
    Which I gaze on so fondly today,
    Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
    Like fairy-gifts fading away,
    Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art.
    Let thy loveliness fade as it will.
    And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
    Would entwine itself verdantly still.

    It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
    And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
    That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
    To which time will but make thee more dear;
    No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
    But as truly loves on to the close,
    As the sun-flower turns on her god, when he sets,
    The same look which she turned when he rose.

    Come, Rest in this Bosom

    Come, rest in this bosom, my own stricken deer,
    Tho' the herd have fled from thee, thy home is still here;
    Here still is the smile, that no cloud can o'ercast,
    And a heart and a hand all thy own to the last.

    Oh! what was love made for, if 'tis not the same
    Thro' joy and thro' torment, thro' glory and shame?
    I know not, I ask not, if guilt's in that heart,
    I but know that I love thee, whatever thou art.

    Thou hast called me thy Angel in moments of bliss,
    And thy Angel I'll be, mid the horrors of this,--
    Thro' the furnace, unshrinking, thy steps to pursue,
    And shield thee, and save thee,--or perish there too!

    "To our great-grandparents the Irish Melodies of Thomas Moore were as familiar as the songs of John Lennon, Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen today. During the nineteenth century a million and a half copies of the sheet music for 'Tis the Last Rose of Summer were sold in the United States alone, making it one of the most popular songs ever written." (James Flannery)

    "He left behind a body of work which gave the downtrodden Irish a sentimental but real sense of identity. It not only succoured them at home but provided them with a transportable solace when, in their millions, they left." (Sean McMahon)

    'Tis the Last Rose of Summer

    'Tis the last rose of summer
    Left blooming alone;
    All her lovely companions
    Are faded and gone;
    No flower of her kindred,
    No rose-bud is nigh,
    To reflect back her blushes,
    Or give sigh for sigh.

    I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
    To pine on the stem;
    Since the lovely are sleeping.
    Go, sleep thou with them.
    Thus kindly I scatter
    Thy leaves o'er the bed,
    Where thy mates of the garden
    Lie scentless and dead.

    So soon may I follow,
    When friendships decay,
    And from Love's shining circle
    The gems drop away.
    When true hearts lie withered,
    And fond ones are flown,
    Oh! who would inhabit
    This bleak world alone?

    Moore's lament in memory of his friend Robert Emmet and Emmet's lover, Sarah Curran (1783-1808). In 1803 Emmet led an abortive Dublin rebellion, was captured and hanged. He made a famous speech from the dock: "Let no man write my epitaph. When my country shall have taken her place amongst the nations of the world, then and only then let my epitaph be written."

    "He was indeed a poet who, by a process of transference, was able to make his audiences identify with their own hidden feelings through the archetypal images contained within his songs. But beyond purely personal identification, he was also able to bring their sympathy to bear upon larger public issues. In this regard Moore was the first in a long line of poet-performers who combined personal expression with a zeal for political and social reform." (James Flannery)

    Oh! Breathe Not His Name

    Oh! breathe not his name, let it sleep in the shade,
    Where cold and unhonored his relics are laid:
    Sad, silent, and dark, be the tears that we shed,
    As the night-dew that falls on the grass o'er his head.

    But the night-dew that falls, tho' in silence it weeps,
    Shall brighten with verdure the grave where he sleeps;
    And the tear that we shed, tho' in secret it rolls,
    Shall long keep his memory green in our souls.

    She is Far from the Land

    She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps,
    And lovers are round her, sighing:
    But coldly she turns from their gaze, and weeps,
    For her heart in his grave is lying.

    She sings the wild song of her dear native plains,
    Every note which he loved awaking;--
    Ah! little they think who delight in her strains,
    How the heart of the Minstrel is breaking.

    He had lived for his love, for his country he died,
    They were all that to life had entwined him;
    Nor soon shall the tears of his country be dried,
    Nor long will his love stay behind him.

    Oh! make her a grave where the sunbeams rest,
    When they promise a glorious morrow;
    They'll shine o'er her sleep, like a smile from the West,
    From her own loved island of sorrow.

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] "The Meeting of the Waters" forms a part of that beautiful scenery which lies between Rathdrum and Arklow, in the county of Wicklow, and these lines were suggested by a visit to this romantic spot, in the summer of the year 1807.
    [2] The rivers Avon and Avoca.

    A bronze bust of Moore marks the spot, and a plague records the tribute offered by Eamon de Valera: "During the dark and all but despairing days of the nineteenth century, Thomas Moore's songs kept the love of country and the lamp of hope burning in millions of Irish hearts here in Ireland and in many lands beyond the seas. His songs and his poems and his prose works, translated into many foreign tongues, made Ireland's cause known throughout the civilized world and won support for that cause from all who loved liberty and hated oppression."

    In James Joyce's "Ulysses," Leopold Bloom remarks about the Moore statue in College Green Dublin: "They did right to put him up over a urinal: meeting of the waters."

    The Meeting of the Waters

    There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
    As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet;[2]
    Oh! the last rays of feeling and life must depart,
    Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart.

    Yet it was not that nature had shed o'er the scene
    Her purest of crystal and brightest of green;
    'Twas not her soft magic of streamlet or hill,
    Oh! no,--it was something more exquisite still.

    'Twas that friends, the beloved of my bosom, were near,

    Who made every dear scene of enchantment more dear,
    And who felt how the best charms of nature improve,
    When we see them reflected from looks that we love.

    Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
    In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best.
    Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease,
    And our hearts, like thy waters, be mingled in peace.

    The Minstrel-Boy

    The Minstrel-Boy to the war is gone,
    In the ranks of death you'll find him;
    His father's sword he has girded on.
    And his wild harp slung behind him.
    "Land of song!" said the warrior-bard,
    "Tho' all the world betrays thee,
    "One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
    "One faithful harp shall praise thee!"

    The Minstrel fell!--but the foeman's chain
    Could not bring his proud soul under;
    The harp he loved ne'er spoke again,
    For he tore its chords asunder;
    And said, "No chains shall sully thee,
    "Thou soul of love and bravery!
    "Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
    "They shall never sound in slavery."

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] The words of this song were suggested by the very ancient Irish story called "Deirdri, or the Lamentable Fate of the Sons of Usnach." The treachery of Conor, King of Ulster, in putting to death the three sons of Usna, was the cause of a desolating war against Ulster, which terminated in the destruction of Eman.
    [2] "Oh Nasi! view that cloud that I here see in the sky! I see over Eman-green a chilling cloud of blood-tinged red." -- Deirdri's Song.
    [3] Ulster.

    Avenging and Bright

    Avenging and bright fall the swift sword of Erin[1]
    On him who the brave sons of Usna betrayed!
    For every fond eye he hath wakened a tear in,
    A drop from his heart-wounds shall weep o'er her blade.

    By the red cloud that hung over Conor's dark dwelling,[2]
    When Ulad's[3] three champions lay sleeping in gore--
    By the billows of war, which so often, high swelling,
    Have wafted these heroes to victory's shore--

    We swear to revenge them!--no joy shall be tasted,
    The harp shall be silent, the maiden unwed,
    Our halls shall be mute and our fields shall lie wasted,
    Till vengeance is wreaked on the murderer's head.

    Yes, monarch! tho' sweet are our home recollections,
    Tho' sweet are the tears that from tenderness fall;
    Tho' sweet are our friendships, our hopes, our affections,
    Revenge on a tyrant is sweetest of all!

    "This extraordinary plea for religious tolerance is consistent with Moore's lifelong battle against English laws that imposed massive restrictions on the rights of his fellow Irish Catholics. 'The heretic girl' referred to in the second stanza is Moore's wife, Bessie, herself a Protestant, whom he married in 1811." (James Flannery)

    Come, Send Round the Wine

    Come, send round the wine, and leave points of belief
    To simpleton sages, and reasoning fools;
    This moment's a flower too fair and brief,
    To be withered and stained by the dust of the schools.
    Your glass may be purple, and mine may be blue,
    But, while they are filled from the same bright bowl,
    The fool, who would quarrel for difference of hue,
    Deserves not the comfort they shed o'er the soul.
    Shall I ask the brave soldier, who fights by my side
    In the cause of mankind, if our creeds agree?
    Shall I give up the friend I have valued and tried,
    If he kneel not before the same altar with me?
    From the heretic girl of my soul should I fly,
    To seek somewhere else a more orthodox kiss?
    No, perish the hearts, and the laws that try
    Truth, valor, or love, by a standard like this!

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] "The inhabitants of Arranmore are still persuaded that, in a clear day, they can see from this coast Hy Brysail or the Enchanted Island, the paradise of the Pagan Irish, and concerning which they relate a number of romantic stories", -- Beaufort's "Ancient Topography of Ireland."

    Oh! Arranmore, Loved Arranmore

    Oh! Arranmore, loved Arranmore,
    How oft I dream of thee,
    And of those days when, by thy shore,
    I wandered young and free.
    Full many a path I've tried, since then,
    Thro' pleasure's flowery maze,
    But ne'er could find the bliss again
    I felt in those sweet days.

    How blithe upon thy breezy cliffs,
    At sunny morn I've stood,
    With heart as bounding as the skiffs
    That danced along thy flood;
    Or, when the western wave grew bright
    With daylight's parting wing,
    Have sought that Eden in its light,
    Which dreaming poets sing;[1]--

    That Eden where the immortal brave
    Dwell in a land serene,--
    Whose bowers beyond the shining wave,
    At sunset, oft are seen.
    Ah dream too full of saddening truth!
    Those mansions o'er the main
    Are like the hopes I built in youth,--
    As sunny and as vain!

    An Irish Piper,

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] "In the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Henry VIII, an Act was made respecting the habits, and dress in general, of the Irish, whereby all persons were restrained from being shorn or shaven above the ears, or from wearing Glibbes, or Coulins (long locks), on their heads, or hair on their upper lip, called Crommeal. On this occasion a song was written by one of our bards, in which an Irish virgin is made to give the preference to her dear Coulin (or the youth with the flowing locks) to all strangers (by which the English were meant), or those who wore their habits. Of this song, the air alone has reached us, and is universally admired." -- Walker's "Historical Memoirs of Irish Bards," p. 184. Mr. Walker informs us also, that, about the same period, there were some harsh measures taken against the Irish Minstrels.

    Though the Last Glimpse of Erin With Sorrow I See

    Tho' the last glimpse of Erin with sorrow I see,
    Yet wherever thou art shall seem Erin to me;
    In exile thy bosom shall still be my home,
    And thine eyes make my climate wherever we room.

    To the gloom of some desert or cold rocky shore,
    Where the eye of the stranger can haunt us no more,
    I will fly with my Coulin, and think the rough wind
    Less rude than the foes we leave frowning behind.

    And I'll gaze on thy gold hair as graceful it wreathes;
    And hang o'er thy soft harp, as wildly it breathes;
    Nor dread that the cold-hearted Saxon will tear
    One chord from that harp, or one lock from that hair.[1]

    Sweet Innisfallen

    Sweet Innisfallen, fare thee well,
    May calm and sunshine long be thine!
    How fair thou art let others tell,--
    To feel how fair shall long be mine.

    Sweet Innisfallen, long shall dwell
    In memory's dream that sunny smile,
    Which o'er thee on that evening fell,
    When first I saw thy fairy isle.

    'Twas light, indeed, too blest for one,
    Who had to turn to paths of care--
    Through crowded haunts again to run,
    And leave thee bright and silent there;

    No more unto thy shores to come,
    But, on the world's rude ocean tost,
    Dream of thee sometimes, as a home
    Of sunshine he had seen and lost.

    Far better in thy weeping hours
    To part from thee, as I do now,
    When mist is o'er thy blooming bowers,
    Like sorrow's veil on beauty's brow.

    For, though unrivalled still thy grace,
    Thou dost not look, as then, too blest,
    But thus in shadow, seem'st a place
    Where erring man might hope to rest--

    Might hope to rest, and find in thee
    A gloom like Eden's on the day
    He left its shade, when every tree,
    Like thine, hung weeping o'er his way.

    Weeping or smiling, lovely isle!
    And all the lovelier for thy tears--
    For tho' but rare thy sunny smile,
    'Tis heaven's own glance when it appears.

    Like feeling hearts, whose joys are few,
    But, when indeed they come divine--
    The brightest light the sun e'er threw
    Is lifeless to one gleam of thine!

    Daniel Maclise's The Origin of the Harp, 1842

    In 1798 Moore visited Edward Hudson in Kilmainham gaol: "As painting was one of his tastes, I found that he had made a large drawing with charcoal on the wall of the prison, representing that fancied origin of the Irish Harp." Daniel Maclise's "The Origin of the Harp" (1842) was inspired by Moore's song.

    The Origin of the Harp

    'Tis believed that this Harp, which I wake now for thee,
    Was a Siren of old, who sung under the sea;
    And who often, at eve, thro' the bright waters roved,
    To meet, on the green shore, a youth whom she loved.

    But she loved him in vain, for he left her to weep,
    And in tears, all the night, her gold tresses to steep;
    Till heaven looked with pity on true-love so warm,
    And changed to this soft Harp the sea-maiden's form.

    Still her bosom rose fair--still her cheeks smiled the same--
    While her sea-beauties gracefully formed the light frame;
    And her hair, as, let loose, o'er her white arm it fell,
    Was changed to bright chords uttering melody's spell.

    Hence it came, that this soft Harp so long hath been known
    To mingle love's language with sorrow's sad tone;
    Till thou didst divide them, and teach the fond lay
    To speak love when I'm near thee, and grief when away.

    On Music

    When thro' life unblest we rove,
    Losing all that made life dear,
    Should some notes we used to love,
    In days of boyhood, meet our ear,
    Oh! how welcome breathes the strain!
    Wakening thoughts that long have slept;
    Kindling former smiles again
    In faded eyes that long have wept.

    Like the gale, that sighs along
    Beds of oriental flowers,
    Is the grateful breath of song,
    That once was heard in happier hours;
    Filled with balm, the gale sighs on,
    Tho' the flowers have sunk in death;
    So, when pleasure's dream is gone,
    Its memory lives in Music's breath.

    Music, oh how faint, how weak,
    Language fades before thy spell!
    Why should Feeling ever speak,
    When thou canst breathe her soul so well?
    Friendship's balmy words may feign,
    Love's are even more false than they;
    Oh! 'tis only music's strain
    Can sweetly soothe, and not betray.

    "This eighteenth-century air was considerably arranged by Moore, including the introduction ot two echo effects in the accompaniment. In its purity, simplicity and elegance, the piece reminds one of the master of song, Franz Schubert." (James Flannery)


    How sweet the answer Echo makes
    To music at night,
    When, roused by lute or horn, she wakes,
    And far away, o'er lawns and lakes,
    Goes answering light.

    Yet Love hath echoes truer far,
    And far more sweet,
    Than e'er beneath the moonlight star,
    Of horn or lute, or soft guitar,
    The songs repeat.

    'Tis when the sigh, in youth sincere,
    And only then,--
    The sigh that's breath'd for one to hear,
    Is by that one, that only dear,
    Breathed back again!

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] "This brought on an encounter between Malachi (the Monarch of Ireland in the tenth century) and the Danes, in which Malachi defeated two of their champions, whom he encountered successively, hand to hand, taking a collar of gold from the neck of one, and carrying off the sword of the other, as trophies of his victory." -- Warner's "History of Ireland," vol. i. book ix.
    [2] "Military orders of knights were very early established in Ireland; long before the birth of Christ we find an hereditary order of Chivalry in Ulster, called Curaidhe na Craiobhe ruadh, or the Knights of the Red Branch, from their chief seat in Emania, adjoining to the palace of the Ulster kings, called Teagh na Craiobhe ruadh, or the Academy of the Red Branch; and contiguous to which was a large hospital, founded for the sick knights and soldiers, called Bronbhearg, or the House of the Sorrowful Soldier." -- O'Halloran's Introduction, etc., part 1, chap. 5.
    [3] It was an old tradition, in the time of Giraldus, that Lough Neagh had been originally a fountain, by whose sudden overflowing the country was inundated, and a whole region, like the Atlantis of Plato, overwhelmed. He says that the fishermen, in clear weather, used to point out to strangers the tall ecclesiastical towers under the water.

    Let Erin Remember the Days of Old

    Let Erin remember the days of old.
    Ere her faithless sons betrayed her;
    When Malachi wore the collar of gold,[1]
    Which he won from her proud invader.
    When her kings, with standard of green unfurled,
    Led the Red-Branch Knights to danger;[2]
    Ere the emerald gem of the western world
    Was set in the crown of a stranger.

    On Lough Neagh's bank as the fisherman strays,
    When the clear cold eve's declining,
    He sees the round towers of other days
    In the wave beneath him shining:
    Thus shall memory often, in dreams sublime,
    Catch a glimpse of the days that are over;
    Thus, sighing, look thro' the waves of time
    For the long-faded glories they cover.[3]

    My Gentle Harp

    My gentle harp, once more I waken
    The sweetness of thy slumbering strain;
    In tears our last farewell was taken,
    And now in tears we meet again.
    No light of joy hath o'er thee broken,
    But, like those Harps whose heavenly skill
    Of slavery, dark as thine, hath spoken,
    Thou hang'st upon the willows still.

    And yet, since last thy chord resounded,
    An hour of peace and triumph came,
    And many an ardent bosom bounded
    With hopes--that now art turned to shame.
    Yet even then, while Peace was singing
    Her halcyon song o'er land and sea,
    Tho' joy and hope to others bringing,
    She only brought new tears to thee.

    Then, who can ask for notes of pleasure,
    My drooping Harp, from chords like thine?
    Alas, the lark's gay morning measure
    As ill would suit the swan's decline!
    Or how shall I, who love, who bless thee,
    Invoke thy breath for Freedom's strains,
    When even the wreaths in which I dress thee,
    Are sadly mixt--half flowers, half chains?

    But come--if yet thy frame can borrow
    One breath of joy, oh, breathe for me,
    And show the world, in chains and sorrow,
    How sweet thy music still can be;
    How gaily, even mid gloom surrounding,
    Thou yet canst wake at pleasure's thrill--
    Like Memnon's broken image sounding,
    Mid desolation tuneful still!

    "To make this story intelligible in a song would require a much greater number of verses than any one is authorized to inflict upon an audience at once; the reader must therefore be content to learn, in a note, that Fionnuala, the daughter of Lir, was, by some supernatural power, transformed into a swan, and condemned to wander, for many hundred years, over certain lakes and rivers in Ireland, till the coming of Christianity, when the first sound of the mass-bell was to be the signal of her release, -- I found this fanciful fiction among some manuscript translations from the Irish, which were begun under the direction of that enlightened friend of Ireland, the late Countess of Moira." (Tom Moore)

    Street ballad

    The Song of Fionnuala

    Silent, oh Moyle, be the roar of thy water,
    Break not, ye breezes, your chain of repose,
    While, murmuring mournfully, Lir's lonely daughter
    Tells to the night-star her tale of woes.
    When shall the swan, her death-note singing,
    Sleep, with wings in darkness furled?
    When will heaven, its sweet bell ringing,
    Call my spirit from this stormy world?

    Sadly, oh Moyle, to thy winter wave weeping,
    Fate bids me languish long ages away;
    Yet still in her darkness doth Erin lie sleeping,
    Still doth the pure light its dawning delay.
    When will that day-star, mildly springing,
    Warm our isle with peace and love?
    When will heaven, its sweet bell ringing,
    Call my spirit to the fields above?

    As Vanquished Erin

    As vanquished Erin wept beside
    The Boyne's ill-fated river,
    She saw where Discord, in the tide,
    Had dropt his loaded quiver.
    "Lie hid," she cried, "ye venomed darts,
    "Where mortal eye may shun you;
    "Lie hid--the stain of manly hearts,
    "That bled for me, is on you."

    But vain her wish, her weeping vain,--
    As Time too well hath taught her--
    Each year the Fiend returns again,
    And dives into that water;
    And brings, triumphant, from beneath
    His shafts of desolation,
    And sends them, winged with worse than death,
    Through all her maddening nation.

    Alas for her who sits and mourns,
    Even now, beside that river--
    Unwearied still the Fiend returns,
    And stored is still his quiver.
    "When will this end, ye Powers of Good?"
    She weeping asks for ever;
    But only hears, from out that flood,
    The Demon answer, "Never!"

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] We may suppose this apology to have been uttered by one of those wandering bards, whom Spenser so severely, and perhaps, truly, describes in his State of Ireland, and whose poems, he tells us, "were sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their natural device, which have good grace and comeliness unto them, the which it is great pity to see abused to the gracing of wickedness and vice, which, with good usage, would serve to adorn and beautify virtue."
    [2] It is conjectured by Wormius, that the name of Ireland is derived from Yr, the Runic for a bow in the use of which weapon the Irish were once very expert. This derivation is certainly more creditable to us than the following: "So that Ireland, called the land of Ire, from the constant broils therein for 400 years, was now become the land of concord." Lloyd's "State Worthies," art. The Lord Grandison.

    Oh! Blame Not the Bard

    Oh! blame not the bard, if he fly to the bowers,[1]
    Where Pleasure lies, carelessly smiling at Fame;
    He was born for much more, and in happier hours
    His soul might have burned with a holier flame.
    The string, that now languishes loose o'er the lyre,
    Might have bent a proud bow to the warrior's dart;[2]
    And the lip, which now breathes but the song of desire,
    Might have poured the full tide of a patriot's heart.

    But alas for his country!--her pride is gone by,
    And that spirit is broken, which never would bend;
    O'er the ruin her children in secret must sigh,
    For 'tis treason to love her, and death to defend.
    Unprized are her sons, till they've learned to betray;
    Undistinguished they live, if they shame not their sires;
    And the torch, that would light them thro' dignity's way,
    Must be caught from the pile, where their country expires.

    Then blame not the bard, if in pleasure's soft dream,
    He should try to forget, what he never can heal:
    Oh! give but a hope--let a vista but gleam
    Thro' the gloom of his country, and mark how he'll feel!
    That instant, his heart at her shrine would lay down
    Every passion it nurst, every bliss it adored;
    While the myrtle, now idly entwined with his crown,
    Like the wreath of Harmodius, should cover his sword.

    But tho' glory be gone, and tho' hope fade away,
    Thy name, loved Erin, shall live in his songs;
    Not even in the hour, when his heart is most gay,
    Will he lose the remembrance of thee and thy wrongs.
    The stranger shall hear thy lament on his plains;
    The sigh of thy harp shall be sent o'er the deep,
    Till thy masters themselves, as they rivet thy chains,
    Shall pause at the song of their captive, and weep!

    "We cannot except the Irish Melodies from the same censure. If these national airs do indeed express the soul of impassioned feeling in his countrymen, the case of Ireland is hopeless. If these prettinesses pass for patriotism, if a country can heave from its heart's core only these vapid, varnished sentiments, lip-deep, and let its tears of blood evaporate in an empty conceit, let it be governed as it has been. There are here no tones to waken Liberty, to console Humanity. Mr. Moore converts the wild harp of Erin into a musical snuff-box!" (William Hazlitt, 1825)

    "Thus every Julia finds some poet -- Moore
    And greasy ballads greet each graceless whore." (John Cam Hobhouse)

    "Though he is perfect in his expression of the softer feelings, and unrivalled even by Burns in many of his gay songs, yet he is often deficient in vehemence, does not speak of the stronger passions, spoils some of his finest songs by pretty images, is too refined and subtle in his dialect, and too negligent of narrative. He is immeasurably our greatest poet, and the greatest lyrist, except Burns, that ever lived; but he has not given songs to the middle and poor classes in Ireland." (Thomas Davies, 1844)

    "... but excellent drawing-room songs, pretty with a prettiness which is the contraband of Parnassus ..." (W.B. Yeats)

    "In Ireland today, Moore's songs are rarely heard, and his music is viewed by some as anachronistic art--redolent of polite soirées in fine drawing rooms. In the current mood of celebration of all things Celtic there, is the added suspicion that his work was not really Irish, and was manufactured to appeal to more Anglo ears and foreign sensibilities. Indeed, my own work in writing Riverdance was profoundly influenced by my artistic collaboration with James Flannery on the plays of Yeats." (Bill Whelan)
    "Arguably, without Moore there wouldn't have been a Yeats; and without Yeats there wouldn't have been a Riverdance to celebrate all that political and intellectual freedom has brought to the Republic of Ireland." (James Flannery)

    Irish Dancing

    Sing--Sing--Music was Given

    Sing--sing--Music was given,
    To brighten the gay, and kindle the loving;
    Souls here, like planets in Heaven,
    By harmony's laws alone are kept moving.
    Beauty may boast of her eyes and her cheeks,
    But Love from the lips his true archery wings;
    And she, who but feathers the dart when she speaks,
    At once sends it home to the heart when she sings.
    Then sing--sing--Music was given,
    To brighten the gay, and kindle the loving;
    Souls here, like planets in Heaven,
    By harmony's laws alone are kept moving.

    When Love, rocked by his mother,
    Lay sleeping as calm as slumber could make him,
    "Hush, hush," said Venus, "no other
    "Sweet voice but his own is worthy to wake him."
    Dreaming of music he slumbered the while
    Till faint from his lip a soft melody broke,
    And Venus, enchanted, looked on with a smile,
    While Love to his own sweet singing awoke.
    Then sing--sing--Music was given,
    To brighten the gay, and kindle the loving;
    Souls here, like planets in Heaven,
    By harmony's laws alone are kept moving.

    The Wandering Bard

    What life like that of the bard can be--
    The wandering bard, who roams as free
    As the mountain lark that o'er him sings,
    And, like that lark, a music brings
    Within him, where'er he comes or goes,--
    A fount that for ever flows!
    The world's to him like some playground,
    Where fairies dance their moonlight round;--
    If dimmed the turf where late they trod,
    The elves but seek some greener sod;
    So, when less bright his scene of glee,
    To another away flies he!

    Oh, what would have been young Beauty's doom,
    Without a bard to fix her bloom?
    They tell us, in the moon's bright round,
    Things lost in this dark world are found;
    So charms, on earth long past and gone,
    In the poet's lay live on.--
    Would ye have smiles that ne'er grow dim?
    You've only to give them all to him.
    Who, with but a touch of Fancy's wand,
    Can lend them life, this life beyond,
    And fix them high, in Poesy's sky,--
    Young stars that never die!

    Then, welcome the bard where'er he comes,--
    For, tho' he hath countless airy homes,
    To which his wing excursive roves,
    Yet still, from time to time, he loves
    To light upon earth and find such cheer
    As brightens our banquet here.
    No matter how far, how fleet he flies,
    You've only to light up kind young eyes,
    Such signal-fires as here are given,--
    And down he'll drop from Fancy's heaven,
    The minute such call to love or mirth
    Proclaims he's wanting on earth!

    "From her wilds Ierne sent the sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong, and love taught grief to fall like music from his tongue." (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

    The Night Dance

    Strike the gay harp! see the moon is on high,
    And, as true to her beam as the tides of the ocean,
    Young hearts, when they feel the soft light of her eye,
    Obey the mute call and heave into motion.
    Then, sound notes--the gayest, the lightest,
    That ever took wing, when heaven looked brightest!
    Again! Again!

    Oh! could such heart-stirring music be heard
    In that City of Statues described by romancers,
    So wakening its spell, even stone would be stirred,
    And statues themselves all start into dancers!

    Why then delay, with such sounds in our ears,
    And the flower of Beauty's own garden before us,--
    While stars overhead leave the song of their spheres,
    And listening to ours, hang wondering o'er us?
    Again, that strain!--to hear it thus sounding
    Might set even Death's cold pulses bounding--
    Again! Again!

    Oh, what delight when the youthful and gay,
    Each with eye like a sunbeam and foot like a feather,
    Thus dance, like the Hours to the music of May,
    And mingle sweet song and sunshine together!

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] These verses are meant to allude to that ancient haunt of superstition, called Patrick's Purgatory. "In the midst of these gloomy regions of Donegall (says Dr. Campbell) lay a lake, which was to become the mystic theatre of this fabled and intermediate state. In the lake were several islands; but one of them was dignified with that called the Mouth of Purgatory, which, during the dark ages, attracted the notice of all Christendom, and was the resort of penitents and pilgrims from almost every country in Europe."

    I wish I was by that dim Lake

    I wish I was by that dim Lake,[1]
    Where sinful souls their farewell take
    Of this vain world, and half-way lie
    In death's cold shadow, ere they die.
    There, there, far from thee,
    Deceitful world, my home should be;
    Where, come what might of gloom and pain,
    False hope should ne'er deceive again.

    The lifeless sky, the mournful sound
    Of unseen waters falling round;
    The dry leaves, quivering o'er my head,
    Like man, unquiet even when dead!
    These, ay, these shall wean
    My soul from life's deluding scene,
    And turn each thought, o'ercharged with gloom,
    Like willows, downward towards the tomb.

    As they, who to their couch at night
    Would win repose, first quench the light,
    So must the hopes, that keep this breast
    Awake, be quenched, ere it can rest.
    Cold, cold, this heart must grow,
    Unmoved by either joy or woe,
    Like freezing founts, where all that's thrown
    Within their current turns to stone.

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] "In every house was one or two harps, free to all travellers, who were the more caressed, the more they excelled in music." -- O'Halloran.

    Irish coinage

    The Legacy

    When in death I shall calmly recline,
    O bear my heart to my mistress dear;
    Tell her it lived upon smiles and wine
    Of the brightest hue, while it lingered here.
    Bid her not shed one tear of sorrow
    To sully a heart so brilliant and light;
    But balmy drops of the red grape borrow,
    To bathe the relic from morn till night.

    When the light of my song is o'er,
    Then take my harp to your ancient hall;
    Hang it up at that friendly door,
    Where weary travellers love to call.[1]
    Then if some bard, who roams forsaken,
    Revive its soft note in passing along,
    Oh! let one thought of its master waken
    Your warmest smile for the child of song.
    Keep this cup, which is now o'er-flowing,
    To grace your revel, when I'm at rest;
    Never, oh! never its balm bestowing
    On lips that beauty has seldom blest.
    But when some warm devoted lover
    To her he adores shall bathe its brim,
    Then, then my spirit around shall hover,
    And hallow each drop that foams for him.

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] Paul Zealand mentions that there is a mountain in some part of Ireland, where the ghosts of persons who have died in foreign lands walk about and converse with those they meet, like living people. If asked why they do not return to their homes, they say they are obliged to go to Mount Hecla, and disappear immediately.

    Oh, Ye Dead!

    Oh, ye Dead! oh, ye Dead![1] whom we know by the light you give
    From your cold gleaming eyes, tho' you move like men who live,
    Why leave you thus your graves,
    In far off fields and waves,
    Where the worm and the sea-bird only know your bed,
    To haunt this spot where all
    Those eyes that wept your fall,
    And the hearts that wailed you, like your own, lie dead?

    It is true, it is true, we are shadows cold and wan;
    And the fair and the brave whom we loved on earth are gone;
    But still thus even in death,
    So sweet the living breath
    Of the fields and the flowers in our youth we wander'd o'er,
    That ere, condemned, we go
    To freeze mid Hecla's snow,
    We would taste it awhile, and think we live once more!

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] The ancients prescribed certain laws of drinking at their festivals, for an account of which see the commentators. Anacreon here acts the symposiarch, or master of the festival.

    Give me the harp of epic song

    Give me the harp of epic song,
    Which Homer's finger thrilled along;
    But tear away the sanguine string,
    For war is not the theme I sing.
    Proclaim the laws of festal right,[1]
    I'm monarch of the board to-night;
    And all around shall brim as high,
    And quaff the tide as deep as I.
    And when the cluster's mellowing dews
    Their warm enchanting balm infuse,
    Our feet shall catch the elastic bound,
    And reel us through the dance's round.
    Great Bacchus! we shall sing to thee,
    In wild but sweet ebriety;
    Flashing around such sparks of thought,
    As Bacchus could alone have taught.

    Then, give the harp of epic song,
    Which Homer's finger thrilled along;
    But tear away the sanguine string,
    For war is not the theme I sing.

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] The Great Dismal Swamp is ten or twelve miles distant from Norfolk [Virginia], and the Lake in the middle of it (about seven miles long) is called Drummond's Pond.

    Long-song seller

    The Lake of the Dismal Swamp

    "They made her a grave, too cold and damp
    "For a soul so warm and true;
    "And she's gone to the Lake of the Dismal Swamp,[1]
    "Where, all night long, by a firefly lamp,
    "She paddles her white canoe.

    "And her fire-fly lamp I soon shall see,
    "And her paddle I soon shall hear;
    "Long and loving our life shall be,
    "And I'll hide the maid in a cypress tree,
    "When the footstep of death is near."

    Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds--
    His path was rugged and sore,
    Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds,
    Through many a fen, where the serpent feeds,
    And man never trod before.

    And, when on the earth he sunk to sleep
    If slumber his eyelids knew,
    He lay, where the deadly vine doth weep
    Its venomous tear and nightly steep
    The flesh with blistering dew!

    And near him the she-wolf stirred the brake,
    And the copper-snake breathed in his ear,
    Till he starting cried, from his dream awake,
    "Oh! when shall I see the dusky Lake,
    "And the white canoe of my dear?"

    He saw the Lake, and a meteor bright
    Quick over its surface played--
    "Welcome," he said, "my dear one's light!"
    And the dim shore echoed, for many a night,
    The name of the death-cold maid.

    Till he hollowed a boat of the birchen bark,
    Which carried him off from shore;
    Far, far he followed the meteor spark,
    The wind was high and the clouds were dark,
    And the boat returned no more.

    But oft, from the Indian hunter's camp
    This lover and maid so true
    Are seen at the hour of midnight damp
    To cross the Lake by a fire-fly lamp,
    And paddle their white canoe!

    Known as "The Woodpecker Song," quoted in five Dickens novels.

    Ballad Stanzas

    I knew by the smoke, that so gracefully curled
    Above the green elms, that a cottage was near.
    And I said, "If there's peace to be found in the world,
    "A heart that was humble might hope for it here!"
    It was noon, and on flowers that languished around
    In silence reposed the voluptuous bee;
    Every leaf was at rest, and I heard not a sound
    But the woodpecker tapping the hollow beech-tree.

    And, "Here in this lone little wood," I exclaimed,
    "With a maid who was lovely to soul and to eye,
    "Who would blush when I praised her, and weep if I blamed,
    How blest could I live, and how calm could I die!

    "By the shade of yon sumach, whose red berry dips
    "In the gush of the fountain, how sweet to recline,
    "And to know that I sighed upon innocent lips,
    "Which had never been sighed on by any but mine!"

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] I wrote these words to an air which our boatmen sung to us frequently. The wind was so unfavorable that they were obliged to row all the way, and we were five days in descending the river from Kingston to Montreal, exposed to an intense sun during the day, and at night forced to take shelter from the dews in any miserable hut upon the banks that would receive us. But the magnificent scenery of the St. Lawrence repays all such difficulties.
    [2] "At the Rapid of St. Ann they are obliged to take out part, if not the whole, of their lading. It is from this spot Canadians consider they take their departure, as it possesses the last church on the island, which is dedicated to the tutelar saint of voyagers." -- Mackenzie, General History of the Fur Trade.

    A Canadian Boat Song

    Faintly as tolls the evening chime
    Our voices keep tune and our oars keep time.
    Soon as the woods on shore look dim,
    We'll sing at St. Ann's our parting hymn.[2]
    Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast,
    The Rapids are near and the daylight's past.

    Why should we yet our sail unfurl?
    There is not a breath the blue wave to curl,
    But, when the wind blows off the shore,
    Oh! sweetly we'll rest our weary oar.
    Blow, breezes, blow, the stream runs fast,
    The Rapids are near and the daylight's past.

    Utawas' tide! this trembling moon
    Shall see us float over thy surges soon.
    Saint of this green isle! hear our prayers,
    Oh, grant us cool heavens and favoring airs.
    Blow, breezes, blow, the stream runs fast,
    The Rapids are near and the daylight's past.

    Oft in the Stilly Night

    Oft in the stilly night,
    Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
    Fond Memory brings the light
    Of other days around me;
    The smiles, the tears,
    Of boyhood's years,
    The words of love then spoken;
    The eyes that shone,
    Now dimmed and gone,
    The cheerful hearts now broken!
    Thus, in the stilly night,
    Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
    Sad Memory brings the light
    Of other days around me.

    When I remember all
    The friends, so linked together,
    I've seen around me fall,
    Like leaves in wintry weather;
    I feel like one,
    Who treads alone,
    Some banquet-hall deserted,
    Whose lights are fled,
    Whose garlands dead,
    And all but he departed!
    Thus, in the stilly night,
    Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
    Sad Memory brings the light
    Of other days around me.

    "Thomas Moore was not trying to write lyrics based upon original texts in Gaelic. Yet remarkably, Moore introduced into English certain metrical, rhythmic and tonal patterns taken directly from the Gaelic tradition. What he truly created in his Irish Melodies were not folk songs but art songs that, at their best, approach Schubert and Schumann, Fauré and Duparc in their highly sophisticated combination of poetry and music. Moore thereby carried over into English the tradition of the amhrán moi, or classical high songs, of the aristocratic bardic tradition of ancient Ireland." (James Flannery)

    Hip, Hip, Hurra!

    Come, fill round a bumper, fill up to the brim,
    He who shrinks from a bumper I pledge not to him;
    Here's the girl that each loves, be her eye of what hue,
    Or lustre, it may, so her heart is but true.
    Charge! (drinks) hip, hip, hurra, hurra!

    Come charge high, again, boy, nor let the full wine
    Leave a space in the brimmer, where daylight may shine;
    Here's "the friends of our youth--tho' of some we're bereft,
    May the links that are lost but endear what are left!"
    Charge! (drinks) hip, hip, hurra, hurra!

    Once more fill a bumper--ne'er talk of the hour;
    On hearts thus united old Time has no power.
    May our lives, tho', alas! like the wine of to-night,
    They must soon have an end, to the last flow as bright.
    Charge! (drinks) hip, hip, hurra, hurra!

    Quick, quick, now, I'll give you, since Time's glass will run
    Even faster than ours doth, three bumpers in one;
    Here's the poet who sings--here's the warrior who fights--
    Here's the, statesman who speaks, in the cause of men's rights!
    Charge! (drinks) hip, hip, hurra, hurra!

    Come, once more, a bumper!--then drink as you please,
    Tho', who could fill half-way to toast such as these?
    Here's our next joyous meeting--and oh when we meet,
    May our wine be as bright and our union as sweet!
    Charge! (drinks) hip, hip, hurra, hurra!

    Arthur O'Neill (1734-1818)

    Moore's Footnotes:
    [1] The chain of Silence was a sort of practical figure of rhetoric among the ancient Irish. Walker tells us of "a celebrated contention for precedence between Finn and Gaul, near Finn's palace at Almhaim, where the attending Bards anxious, if possible, to produce a cessation of hostilities, shook the chain of Silence, and flung themselves among the ranks."

    Those Evening Bells

    Those evening bells! those evening bells!
    How many a tale their music tells,
    Of youth and home and that sweet time
    When last I heard their soothing chime.

    Those joyous hours are past away:
    And many a heart, that then was gay.
    Within the tomb now darkly dwells,
    And hears no more those evening bells.

    And so 'twill be when I am gone:
    That tuneful peal will still ring on,
    While other bards shall walk these dells,
    And sing your praise, sweet evening bells!

    Dear Harp of My Country

    Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee,
    The cold chain of silence had hung o'er thee long,[1]
    When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee,
    And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song!
    The warm lay of love and the light note of gladness
    Have wakened thy fondest, thy liveliest thrill;
    But, so oft hast thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness,
    That even in thy mirth it will steal from thee still.

    Dear Harp of my country! farewell to thy numbers,
    This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine!
    Go, sleep with the sunshine of Fame on thy slumbers,
    Till touched by some hand less unworthy than mine;
    If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,
    Have throbbed at our lay, 'tis thy glory alone;
    I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,
    And all the wild sweetness I waked was thy own.

    "And then I sang 'They Know Not My Heart' of Moore. After I finished, there was a long silence. Friends came up to thank me, but I'll never forget what one person said--a brilliant West African drummer: 'Man, I never thought any white man had that much soul.'" (James Flannery)

    They Know Not My Heart

    They know not my heart, who believe there can be
    One stain of this earth in its feelings for thee;
    Who think, while I see thee in beauty's young hour,
    As pure as the morning's first dew on the flower,
    I could harm what I love,--as the sun's wanton ray
    But smiles on the dew-drop to waste it away.

    No--beaming with light as those young features are,
    There's a light round thy heart which is lovelier far:
    It is not that cheek--'tis the soul dawning clear
    Thro' its innocent blush makes thy beauty so dear:
    As the sky we look up to, tho' glorious and fair,
    Is looked up to the more, because Heaven lies there!

    Photo Credits: (1) Thomas Moore's "Irish Melodies", (2) Ronan Kelly's "Bard of Erin - The Life of Thomas Moore", (3) Irish harper Patrick Byrne, (4) Brian Boru, (5) Bard & harper from John Derricke's "Images of Ireland" (1581), (6) Irish Piper, (7) Daniel Maclise's "The Origin of the Harp" (1842) @ Manchester Art Gallery, (9) Irish dancing, (10) Irish coinage, (12) Irish harper Arthur O'Neill (1734-1818); (8) Irish street balladeers, (11) long song seller (from Henry Mayhew's "London Labour and the London Poor," 1851).

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