Tag Archives: America

Thomas Moore’s most popular songs: Bendemeer’s stream

There’s a bower of roses by Bendemeer’s stream,

And the nightingale sings round it all day long;

In the time of my childhood ’twas like a sweet dream,

To sit in the roses and hear the bird’s song.

That bower and its music I never forget,

But oft when alone in the bloom of the year,

I think–is the nightingale singing there yet?

Are the roses still bright by the calm Bendemeer?

No, the roses soon wither’d that hung o’er the wave,

But some blossoms were gather’d while freshly they shone,

And a dew was distill’d from their flowers, that gave

All the fragrance of summer, when summer was gone.

Thus memory draws from delight, ere it dies,

An essence that breathes of it many a year;

Thus bright to my soul, as ’twas then to my eyes,

Is that bower on the banks of the calm Bendemeer.

Zelica sings to Azim, drawn by John Tenniel

‘Bendemeer’s Stream’, from ‘The Veiled Prophet’ in Lalla Rookh (1817), is a nostalgic lyric sung by the concubine Zelica to fulfil the prophet’s demands that she seduce her former lover Azim. This individual lyric was set by more composers than any other from Lalla Rookh, with James Power of London publishing settings by Lord Burghersh, William Hawes, and Lady Flint shortly after Moore’s poem came out. A later setting, by Edward Bunnett, was published in 1865. American settings (as ‘Bower of roses’) include J. Wilson (New York, 1817), as well as R.W. Wyatt and S. Wetherbee (Boston, 1820). The song also appears in Charles Villiers Stanford’s opera, The Veiled Prophet (Hannover, 1881; London, 1893 as Il profeta valeto). Project ERIN has recorded a special arrangement of the Stanford (with piano and obbligato clarinet), which will be made available on the project website early in 2019.

Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Queen’s University Belfast

Thomas Moore: A European in the New World

On Leaving Halifax, PW Routledge 1864After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, Moore was a promising young man in need of employment. His amiability secured him the interest of Lord Moira, and it was through this connection that he was offered an administrative post in Bermuda. And so the young poet set sail from Portsmouth  to Norfolk, Virginia in September 1803, writing home whenever he could  about his adventures. Unsurprisingly, he responded to the brave new world of America as a well-educated, cultured, European. After a “boisterous crossing”, the young Irishman was touched by the “homely … and genuine civility” of Colonel Hamilton, the British consul. Moore was genuinely reassured by the presence of a harpsichord at the Hamiltons’, taking this to be a sign of “civilisation”. He relished opportunities for music-making and dancing, describing his role once he reached Bermuda as acting as the “whole orchestra” for music parties and attending balls once or twice a week. His sensibility as a cultured young man led him to pity the young women of St George’s, for although they were generally good dancers, they were so evidently untutored, being “thrown together in this secluded nook of the world, where they learn all the corruptions of human nature, without any one of its consolations or ornaments.” And Moore so valued the rare literary culture of Philadelphia that he was actively disappointed to have to leave there.

The young writer had a very profound response to the natural beauty he encountered, describing the Passaick Falls as “sweetly romantic”, the Coho Falls as “impressive”, and Niagara Falls as a “mighty flow of waters descending with calm magnificence”. This last experience was a spiritual one, as Moore “felt as if approaching the very residence of the Deity”. He was also moved by the Mohawk river, whose “immense banks” possessed a “holy magnificence”. Moore conveyed a profound respect for nature in his poetry of the time, including his “Lines Written on a Storm at Sea”:

Oh! There’s a holy calm profound

In awe like this, that ne’er was given

To pleasure’s thrill;

‘Tis as a solmen voice from heaven,

And the soul, listening to the sounds,

Lies mute on still.

While describing himself as “amused … by the novelty of [the] appearance” of the Oneida Indians, Moore was genuinely impressed with their chief, Seenando, describing him as “courteous … gentle and intelligent”. Moore’s Whig sensibilities are evident in his indignant response to the plight of the Oneida with regards to their land, which the American government had been “continually deceiving them” into surrendering. Moore’s deep appreciation of human fellowship is seen in his first success as a lyricist, the “Canadian Boat Song”– stimulated by his first experience of riding a canoe:

Faintly as tolls the evening chime,Canadian Boat Song, PW Routledge 1864

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.

Row, brother, row, the stream runs fast,

The rapids are near, and the daylight’s past.

 

Who is your favorite “nature poet”? Do you have a verse you would like to share on the blog?


Images courtesy of Special Collections, the McClay library, Queen’s University Belfast