The Centenary of Moore, May 28th, 1879. An Ode. By Denis Florence Mac Carthy, M.R.I.A. With a Translation into Latin Verse, by the Rev. Julius Maxwell Blacker, A. M. London: printed for private circulation, 1880.



JOY to Ierné, joy,
     This day a deathless crown is won,
     Her Child of Song, her glorious son,
Her Minstrel Boy,[1]
Attains his Century of fame,
     Completes his time-allotted zone,
And proudly with the world’s acclaim
     Ascends the Lyric Throne.


Yes, joy to her whose path so long,
      Slow journeying to her realm of rest
      O’er many a rugged mountain’s crest,
He charmed with his enchanting song:
Like his own princess in the tale,
      When he who had her way beguiled
       Through many a bleak and desert wild
Until she reached Cashmere’s bright vale
Had ceased those notes to play and sing
       To which her heart responsive swelled,
       She looking up, in him beheld
Her minstrel lover and her king--
So Erin now, her journey well-nigh o’er,
Enraptured sees her minstrel king in Moore.[2]


And round that throne whose light to-day
      O’er all the world is cast,
In words though weak, in hues though faint,
Congenial Fancy rise and paint
      The spirits of the past
Who here their homage pay--
      Those who his youthful muse inspired,
      Those who his early genius fired
To emulate their lay:--
And as in some phantasmal glass
Let the immortal spirits pass,
Let each renew the inspiring strain,
And fire the poet’s soul again.


First there comes from classic Greece,
Beaming love and breathing peace,
With her pure sweet smiling face,
The glory of the Æolian race,
Beauteous Sappho, violet-crowned,
Shedding joy and rapture round:--
In her hand a harp she bears,
Parent of celestial airs,--
Love leaps trembling from each wire,
Every chord a string of fire:--
How the poet’s heart doth beat,
How his lips the notes repeat,
Till in rapture borne along,
The Sapphic lute, the lyrist’s song
Blend in one delicious strain,
Never to divide again.[3]


And beside the Æolian Queen
Great Alcæus’ form is seen,
He takes up in voice more strong
The dying cadence of the song,
And on loud resounding strings
Hurls his wrath on tyrant kings:--
Like to incandescent coal
On the poet’s kindred soul
Fall these words of living flame,
Till their songs become the same,--
The same hate of slavery’s night,
The same love of freedom’s light--
Scorning aught that stops its way,
Come the black cloud whence it may,
Lift alike the inspirèd song,
And the liquid notes prolong.


Carolling a livelier measure
Comes the Teian Bard of Pleasure,
Round his brow where joy reposes
Radiant love enwreaths his roses,
Rapture in his verse is ringing,
Soft persuasion in his singing:--
’Twas the same melodious ditty
Moved Polycrates to pity,
Made that tyrant heart surrender
Captive to a tone so tender:
To the younger bard inclining,
Round his brow the roses twining,
First the wreath in red wine steeping,
He his cithern to his keeping
Yields, its glorious fate foreseeing,
From her chains a nation freeing,
Fetters new around it flinging
In the flowers of his own singing.


But who is that from the misty cloud
      Of immemorial years,
Wrapped in the vesture of his vaporous shroud
      With solemn step appears?
His head with oak-leaves and with ivy crowned
       Lets fall its silken snow,
While the white billows of his beard unbound
       Athwart his bosom flow:--
Who is this venerable form
Whose hands, prelusive of the storm
       Across his harp-strings play--
That harp which trembling in his hand
Impatient waits its lord’s command
       To pour the impassioned lay?
Who is it comes with reverential hail
       To greet the Bard who sang his country best?
’Tis Ossian--primal poet of the Gael--
       The Homer of the West.


He sings the heroic tales of old
      When Ireland yet was free,
Of many a fight and foray bold,
      And raid beyond the sea.

Of all the famous deeds of Fin,
      And all the wiles of Maev,
Now thunders ’mid the battle’s din,
      Now sobs beside the wave.

That wave empurpled by the sword
      The hero used too well,
When great Cuchullin held the ford,
      And fair Ferdiah fell.

And now his prophet eye is cast
      As o’er a boundless plain,
He sees the future as the past,
      And blends them in his strain.

The Red-Branch Knights their flags unfold
      When danger’s front appears,
The Sun-burst breaks through clouds of gold
       To glorify their spears.

But ah! a darker hour drew nigh,
       The hour of Erin’s woe,
When she, though destined not to die
       Lay prostrate ’neath the foe.

When broke were all the arms she bore,
       And bravely bore in vain,
Till even her harp could sound no more
        Beneath the victor’s chain.

Ah! dire constraint, ah! cruel wrong,
       To fetter thus its chord,
But well they knew that Ireland’s song
       Was keener than her sword.

That song would pierce where swords would fail,
        And o’er the battle’s din,
The sweet sad music of the Gael
        A peaceful victory win.

Long was the trance, but sweet and low
        The harp breathed out again
Its speechless wail, its wordless woe
        In Carolan’s witching strain.

Until at last the gift of words
        Denied to it so long,
Poured o’er the now enfranchised chords
        The articulate light of song.

Poured the bright light from genius won
        That woke the harp’s wild lays--
Even as that statue which the sun
        Made vocal with his rays.

Thus Ossian in departed dream
       Outpoured the varied lay,
But now in one united stream
        His rapture finds its way:--

"Yes, in thy hands, illustrious son,
        The harp shall speak once more,
Its sweet lament shall rippling run
        From listening shore to shore.

Till mighty lands that lie unknown
        Far in the fabled West,
And giant isles of verdure thrown
        Upon the South Sea’s breast.

And plains where rushing rivers flow--
         Fit emblems of the free--
Shall learn to know of Ireland’s woe,
         And Ireland’s weal through thee."


’Twas thus he sang,
And while tumultuous plaudits rang,
       From the immortal throng,
In the younger minstrel’s hand
He placed the emblem of the land--
        The harp of Irish song.


Oh! what dulcet notes are heard.
Never bird
Soaring through the sunny air
Like a prayer
Borne by angel’s hands on high
So entranced the listening sky
As his song--
Soft, pathetic, joyous, strong,
Rising now in rapid flight
Out of sight
Like a lark in its own light,
Now descending low and sweet
To our feet,
Till the odours of the grass
With the light notes as they pass
Blend and meet:
All that Erin’s memory guards
In her heart,
Deeds of heroes, songs of bards,
Have their part,
Brian’s glories reappear,
Fionualla’s song we hear,
Tara’s walls resound again
With a more inspirèd strain,
Rival rivers meet and join,
Stately Shannon blends with Boyne,
While on high the storm-winds cease
Heralding the arch of peace.


And all the bright creations fair
      That ’neath his master-hand awake,
Some in tears and some in smiles,
Like Nea in the summer isles,
      Or Kathleen by the lonely lake,
Round his radiant throne repair:
Nay, his own Peri of the air
      Now no more disconsolate,
      Gives in at Fame’s celestial gate
His passport to the skies--
      The gift to heaven most dear,
      His country’s tear.
From every lip the glad refrain doth rise,
"Joy, ever joy, his glorious task is done,
The gates are passed and Fame’s bright heaven is won!"[4]


Ah! yes, the work, the glorious work is done,
And Erin crowns to-day her brightest son,
Around his brow entwines the victor bay,
And lives herself immortal in his lay--
Leads him with honour to her highest place,
For he had borne his more than mother’s name
Proudly along the Olympic lists of fame
When mighty athletes struggled in the race.
Byron, the swift-souled spirit, in his pride
Paused to cheer on the rival by his side,
And Lycidas so long [5]
Lost in the light of his own dazzling song,
Although himself unseen,
Gave the bright wreath that might his own have been
To him whom ’mid the mountain shepherd throng,
The minstrels of the isles,
When Adonais died so fair and young,[6]
Ierné sent from out her green defiles
"The sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong,
And love taught grief to fall like music from his tongue."--[7]
And he who sang of Poland’s kindred woes,
And Hope’s delicious dream,
And all the mighty minstrels who arose
In that Auroral gleam
That o’er our age a blaze of glory threw
Which Shakespere’s only knew--
Some from their hidden haunts remote,
Like him the lonely hermit of the hills,
Whose song like some great organ note
The whole horizon fills.
Or the great Master, he whose magic hand,
Wielding the wand from which such wonder flows,
Transformed the lineaments of a rugged land,
And left the thistle lovely as the rose.
Oh! in a concert of such minstrelsy,
In such a glorious company,
What pride for Ireland’s harp to sound,
For Ireland’s son to share,
What pride to see him glory-crowned,
And hear amid the dazzling gleam
Upon the rapt and ravished air
Her harp still sound supreme!


Glory to Moore, eternal be the glory
      That here we crown and consecrate to-day,
Glory to Moore, for he has sung our story
      In strains whose sweetness ne’er can pass away.

Glory to Moore, for he has sighed our sorrow
       In such a wail of melody divine,
That even from grief a passing joy we borrow,
       And linger long o’er each lamenting line.

Glory to Moore, that in his songs of gladness
       Which neither change nor time can e’er destroy,
Though mingled oft with some faint sigh of sadness,
       He sings his country’s rapture and its joy.

What wit like his flings out electric flashes
       That make the numbers sparkle as they run--
Wit that revives dull history’s Dead-sea ashes,
       And makes the ripe fruit glisten in the sun?

What fancy full of loveliness and lightness
       Has spread like his as at some dazzling feast,
The fruits and flowers, the beauty and the brightness,
       And all the golden glories of the East?

Perpetual blooms his bower of summer roses,
       No winter comes to turn his green leaves sere,
Beside his song-stream where the swan reposes
       The bulbul sings as by the Bendemeer.

But back returning from his flight with Peris,
        Above his native fields he sings his best,
Like to the lark whose rapture never wearies,
        When poised in air he singeth o’er his nest.

And so we rank him with the great departed,
        The kings of song who rule us from their urns,
The souls inspired, the natures noble hearted,
        And place him proudly by the side of Burns.

And as not only by the Calton Mountain,
        Is Scotland’s bard remembered and revered,
But wheresoe’er, like some o’erflowing fountain
        Its hardy race a prosperous path has cleared.

There ’mid the roar of newly-rising cities,
        His glorious name is heard on every tongue,
There to the music of immortal ditties,
        His lays of love, his patriot songs are sung;

So not alone beside that Bay of beauty
       That guards the portals of his native town,
Where like two watchful sentinels on duty,
       Howth and Killiney from their heights look down.

But wheresoe’er the exiled race hath drifted,
        By what far sea, what mighty stream beside,
There shall to-day the poet’s name be lifted,
        And Moore proclaimed its glory and its pride.

There shall his name be held in fond memento,
       There shall his songs resound for evermore,
Whether beside the golden Sacramento,
       Or where Niagara’s thunder shakes the shore;--[8]

For all that’s bright indeed must fade and perish,
       And all that’s sweet when sweetest not endure,
Before the world shall cease to love and cherish
       The wit and song, the name and fame of Moore.

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1.  MacCarthy alludes to Moore's "The Minstrel-Boy" from Irish Melodies. [return to text]

2.  This verse alludes extensively to Moore's Lalla Rookh. [return to text]

3.  This verse alludes extensively to Moore's Odes of Anacreon. [return to text]

4.  This verse alludes extensively to Moore's "Paradise and the Peri" in Lalla Rookh. [return to text]

5.  MacCarthy alludes to Milton's elegy "Lycidas."   [return to text]

6.  MacCarthy alludes to P.B. Shelley's elegy on the death of John Keats, Adonais.  [return to text]

7.  These lines are taken from stanza XXX of Shelley's Adonais, where Shelley refers to Moore.  [return to text]

8.  MacCarthy alludes not only to the Irish diaspora, but also to Moore's writings on North America; see, e.g., "Ballad Stanzas," "Canadian Boat-Song," and other poems.  [return to text]