Thursday, May 17, 2007


Poetry Thursday--Oft in the stilly night

This poem by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) was the selection for May 17 in my "A poem a day" book, so I decided to do a little research. It certainly reflects the thoughts and conversations of people my age. That stays consistent over the years. It was put to music and very popular in the 19th century. I haven't written any poetry for awhile, but am reading it.

Oft in the stilly night
Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond Mem'ry brings the light
Of other days around me:
The smiles, the tears of childhood's* years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimm'd and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus in the stilly night
Ere slumber's chain has bound me,
Sad Mem'ry brings the light
Of other days around me.

When I remember all
The friends, so link'd 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 Mem'ry brings the light
Of other days around me.
*boyhood's was in the original
    Moore was a precocious child, publishing his first verses at the age of 11. As a boy he studied French, Italian, and music, and in 1794 he entered Trinity College. Later, by dint of his verses and singing, he became a familiar and well-liked figure in London, where he had gone to study law.

    With the first publication of his Melodies, he found himself both rich and a popular hero. Although not a revolutionary, he was a friend of Robert Emmet; and his songs, which were performed for and acclaimed by the English aristocracy, had the effect of arousing sympathy for the Irish nationalist movement.

    Influenced in part by Scott's historical novels, Lord Byron's "oriental" tales, and the popularity of the newly translated 1001 Nights, Moore in 1817 published Lalla Rookh, a narrative poem set in the Mideast (or at least an 18th-century Irishman's conception of the Mideast). It was wildly successful, selling out in a matter of days and running through half a dozen editions over the next six months. It quickly became the most translated work of its time. In 1818 Moore published the first of his National Airs, and in that collection appeared the song "Oft in the Stilly Night." Lord Byron was a devoted friend; and after the poet died in Greece, his personal memoirs fell into Moore's possession. In one of the great belletristic tragedies of the Romantic period, Moore and the publisher John Murray decided to burn these priceless pages — probably out of concern for Byron's reputation. Moore later wrote a biography of the poet, which was published with the Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1830). In poor health and his mind failing, Moore died in Wiltshire, England, in 1852. Thomas Moore, Music in the works of James Joyce

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