[C. Litton Falkiner, ed., Poetry of Thomas Moore (London: Macmillan 1903), Introduction.

[ Source: C. Litton Falkiner, ed. & intro., Poetry of Thomas Moore, selected and arranged by C. Litton Falkiner [Golden Treasury Ser.] (London: Macmillan & Co. 1903), Introduction, vii-xxv - available at Internet Archive online; accessed 6.11.2010. ]

To realise that the vogue of Moore among his contemporaries was second only to the vogue of Byron and the vogue of Scott, requires something like an effort of historical imagination. Yes so it certainy was. And not only so, but by virtue of the rapidity with which his early fame was achieved the Irish poet, who had made his mark before either of his great coevals had become widely known, was for along time considered their equal. Never during his life was he ranked in any lower grade than theirs. [...; vii] No doubt Moore owed much of this sustaine eminence to the circumstance that, in the great poetical tournament with which the nineteenth century opened, he was the first to enter the lists. As Scott good-humouredly said of him, speaking of their numerous competitors, “We were in the luck of it to come before these fellows, whom we have taught to beat us with our own weapons.” Yet the fact remains, that despite the advent of the immortal band of moderns - of Byron and Shelley, of Wordsworth and Keats - Moore contrived to command to the close of a long career the unstinted applause of his contemporaries. That the praise thus bestowed on Moore was excessive, hardly requires demonstrartion. If we take the most prosaic standard of merit possible, the standard of a publisher’s appraisement for a writer’s market value, we shall find, irrespective of all literary canons of criticsm, a sufficient proof of it. No one considers, nor did any one evne in the acme of Moore’s popularity pretend to consider Lalla Rookh the greatest poem which was produced in the extraordinary fertile age in which it was written. Yet Longmans were willing to give the largest sum ever paid for a single poem for the right to publish Lalla Rookh, and that without seeing a line of the work. (p.viii.) [Writes scantingly of Lord Russell as a ‘biographical infelicity [whose] critical authority does not stand high’ though ‘warm and sincere in the appreciation of his friend.’

[Further:] Byron’s eulogy of some of the earlier Irish Melodies as “worth all the epics that ever were composed,” is hardly to be called criticism. But at any rate it is honest [x] enthusiasm.’


‘The savage onslaught of Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review need not be too seriously taken. It was only applied to Moore’s earliest and least considerable volumes of original poetry’. Admits that ‘there was some justice in Jeffrey’s needlessly acrimonious strictures on the poems of “Mr. Thomas Little” as “the most licentious of modern versifiers, and the most poetical of those who in our times have devoted their talents to the propagation of immorality.” (p.x.)

Notes that Byron wrote to Moore in 1820: ‘I believe that all the mischief I have ever done or sung has been owing to that confounded book of yours.’ (Lalla Rookh; here p.xi.) Cites Carlyle’s ‘contemptuous verdict on Moore as “a lascivious triviality of great fame”, calling it ‘unwarranted and excessive.’ (p.xi.) As someone ha said, he was “only an amateur rake”; and the tone of his amorous sallies has been admirably characterised in he description applied to the poet by one of his friends as “an infant sporting in the bosom of Venus”.’ (p.xi.)

Note that Falkiner makes reference to the marvellous success of Moore, ‘a youth ... of humble origin and of Irish birth’ (p.xi) without any further reflection on the influence of his Irish provenance. (idem.), assigning the rapidity of his rise to his ‘talents as a musician’ and ‘attractive personality’ and [xi] ‘extraordinary social talents’ which ‘won him his way into the most exclusive coteries of London long before the poems which are his chief title to fame had been written.’ (p.xi-xii.)

In such set pieces as Corruption, Intolerance, and The Sceptic, in which he assumed the role of the heavy father, Moore attempted a part quite unsuited to his powers.’ (p.xvi.)

In the introduction to the fourth volume of his complete works, he concludes his account of the Melodies by styling the “the only work of my pen, as I very sincerely believe, whose fame (thanks to the sweet music in which it is embalmed) may boast a chance of prolonging its eistince to a day much beyond our own.” And in “Dear Harp of My Country”” he has given poetical expression to the same sentiments:

‘I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,
And all the wild sweetness I waked was thy own.”

The generous modesty with which Moore is thus content to ascirbe the fame of the Melodies to their mustic is unjust to their merit as poetry. It is true, iindeed, that tose who only know these songs in association with the airs to which they are set will sometimes find a difficulty in appreciating their value considered simply as poems, so exquisitely intimate is their union of music and poetry. The music lingters in the memory and dominates the impression which the words alone should produce. The very success with which the poet subordinates his songs [xix] to their setting militates against the appreciation of their poetic merit. Those, however, who read the Melodies simply as verse, will find in them both the impulse and the form of genuine poetry. (pp.xix-xx.)

Though not all of the Melodies derive their inspiration from patriotisim it may fairly be said upon the whole that what gives to these poems their chief distinction is their note of simple, sincere, and natural patriotism. This sentiment of patriotism is [xx] a note as real and distinctive in the poems as the note of Celtic melancholy in the music of the Melodies. Not merely do they suply in their musical setting the most successful example which poetry can present of the happy union of national song with national sentiment, but they breathe in every line that genuine love of fatherland whcih appears to eveyr irish nature, and which acocunts for the affection with wich, all the world over, Moore is hailed by men of Irish blood as peculiarly the laureate of Erin. Not that Moore was at any time a patriot in the political sense. He was indeed the early friend of Robert Emmet, and there is no more wining trait in his character than his constant devotion to the memory of the friend whose fate inspired at least three of his most touching lyrics. Moore wa also at all times the energetic chamion of the rights of a creed which, however lightly it may have sat on him, he remained true to the end. Friend as he was to the Whig leaders, whose suport and favour were all his life long almost a vital element in his worldly prosperity, he did not hesitate to turn on them when they seemed to be false to their profession of solicitude for Ireland. It was anger at the desertion of the cause of Catholic Emancipation by the colleagues of Fox that drew from him that witty satire on the Whigs, already quoted, which redeems from worthlessness [xxi] his otherwise turgid poem “Corruption”. And it further illustrates the depth of Moore’s political feelings, that the only instances in which the arrows of his satirical wit ever seem to be poisoned by vindictiveness ar those with which he assailed Castlereagh as the author of the Union. In other respects Moore’s patriotism is singularly pure, singularly unsullied by personalities. [...].’ (pp.xxi-ii.)

[Falkiner quotes Alex. Pope’s strictures on the Restoration]:

“Who reads Cowley now? If he pleases yet,
His moral pleases, not his pointed wit,
Forget his epic, nay Pindaric art,
But still I love the language of his heart.’

‘And so it is with Moore [...] his Irish Melodies, the true language of Moore’s heart, endure and will endure. [...].’ Ends by quoting Macaulay: ‘That much of his poetry will unddergo a severe shifting, that [xxiv] much of what has been admired by his contemporaries will be rejected as worthless, we have little doubt. But we have as little doubt that after the closest scrutiny ther will still remain much that can ony perish with the English language.”’ [End; p.xxv.]

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