Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Irish Melodies in Europe: 1808-1880

Although Moore himself was adverse to the separation of music and text for his Irish Melodies, by 1817 J.P. Reynolds – an enterprising publisher in Salem, New York— had issued Irish Melodies, Sacred Melodies, and other Poems. This appeared to open the way for a spate of similar publications across Europe, led by Moore’s Parisian agents the Galignanis, who issued various compilations of his poetic works in 1819, 1820, 1823, and 1829. This firm and Baudry’s European Library—also based in Paris—appeared to be addressing an English-language market. Moore’s four titles with Baudry (1821, 1841, 1843, and 1847) made him—along with Walter Scott and Washington Irvine—their fifth most represented author. The 1820s was the most intense decade for English-language publications of the Irish Melodies, which—in combination with the poems for the National Airs—were issued in Brussels (1822), Pisa (1823), and Jersey (1828).

Title-pages for the Jersey (1828) and Paris (1841) editions

of Moore’s Poetry

By 1825 we also have an actual translation of Moore’s poetry, Louise Swanton Belloc’s Les amours des anges et les Mélodies irlandaises. It is interesting to note that Belloc, whose father was Irish, also translated selected works of Moore’s Irish contemporaries Oliver Goldsmith and Maria Edgeworth as well as Moore’s own Memoirs of Lord Byron for various Parisian publishers. By 1835 we have the first Swedish translation of the Irish Melodies; by 1839 the first German. Leipzig (1839, 1843, and 1874), Berlin (1841) and Hamburg (1875) each published Moore’s Irish Melodies in translation. Added to the polyglot profile of Moore’s Irish Melodies were a new French translation by Henri Jousselin (1869), a Spanish translation issued in New York (1875), and an Italian translation issued in Pisa (1880). By a strange quirk of market forces, the first Latin translation of the Irish Melodies (1835) preceded the first in Irish (1842) by some seven years. If we add to this the some seventy editions of the Irish Melodies issued by Moore’s London-based publisher Longmans, and the over 100 editions issued in Dublin, we can appreciate that Moore’s response to the native tunes of his own country held a universal appeal.

(Irish) The Harp that once

“The Harp that once in Tara’s Halls” in Latin and Irish

Are you aware of editions of the Irish Melodies at locations or in languages not mentioned here? If so, we would welcome a comment on the blog.

Images reproduced courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast.


Moore statue 001

As part of the Horizon 2020 project ERIN: Europe’s Reception of the National Airs and Irish Melodies; Thomas Moore in Europe, Dr Sarah McCleave and Dr Triona O’Hanlon of Queen’s University Belfast are seeking proposals towards a volume of essays on the theme, ‘Thomas Moore and the Global Marketplace’. The purpose of this project will be to track Moore’s reception across the globe.

Proposals of circa 1000 words are invited by 1 July 2016; please send to We will be collecting completed essays by 1 July 2017. If you have any questions, please contact us at the project email.

Image Courtesy of ContentDM Thomas Moore Music Project


The Minstrel Boy from Irish Melodies Number 5
The Minstrel Boy from Irish Melodies Number 5

Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies are his best-known works. These 124 Irish tunes, arranged for voice and piano with newly-minted lyrics by Moore, were published in ten numbers between 1808 and 1834. The Gibson-Massie Moore collection evidences their popularity as domestic entertainment in the Romantic era with the multiple distinct imprints of each number (thirty for Number one alone) and in the multi-national circulation of Moore’s lyrics (a topic for a future blog post). The series gained a renewed popularity in the Victorian period through the 1846 edition illustrated by Irish artist Daniel Maclise.

Indeed, the most iconic of Moore’s Melodies have become thoroughly ingrained in our modern culture. Foremost amongst these is The Minstrel Boy from Number five. This is often associated specifically with the cause of Irish political freedom–for example as featured in ‘Reflecting the Rising’, the RTÉ centenary concert to mark the 1916 Easter Rising–but which in brass band arrangement has also become a regular feature during the annual Remembrance Sunday service held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London in November to honour all who have suffered or died in war. The Minstrel Boy, with its celebration of freedom and homage to brave personal sacrifice, has also been adopted by film-makers to mark or commemorate actions as diverse as those of the ‘1st United States Voluntary Calvary’ in the Spanish-American War of 1898 (Rough Riders, 1997), the American Invasion of Normandy in World War II (Saving Private Ryan, 1998), and a failed US Army mission in Somalia during the early 1990s (Black Hawk Down, 2001). It is Moore’s poignant lyrics that have given the tune, ‘The Moreen’, this particular resonance:

“The Minstrel-Boy to the war is gone,

In the ranks of death you’ll find him;

His father’s sword he had 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 lov’d 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.’”

Are you aware of any arrangements or recordings of Moore’s The Minstrel Boy? If so, we would be delighted to learn of these through the comments page of this blog.

Images Courtesy of Special Collections, The McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast