Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Some notes on Irish poet Thomas Moore

In chapter 8 of Ulysses (Lestrygonians), Bloom walks beneath " Tommy Moore's roguish finger," observing that "they did right to put him up over a urinal...meeting of the waters" (133, lines 414-19). The Gifford concordance tells us that these lines reference Thomas Moore, an Irish poet whose work was not that of "vital Irish rebellion" but more of "sentimental complaint" (167). Perhaps this is why Bloom describes him in such "watery" terms. However, Thomas Moore was more radical than this gloss--and the inferences we might draw from Bloom's comment-- would lead us to believe.
For instance, according to a website I found about the Moore (http://lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/Moore.html), "his career was not without controversy and risk. He turned down the post of "Irish Poet Laureate" because he felt it required toning down his politics. He published a biography of Fitzgerald despite English fears it might lead to another rebellion. In the most controversial of his acts, he burned the manuscript of Byron's autobiography which Bryon had left him. He did so because of the pleas of Byron's half sister and Lady Byron who felt it would damage Byron's reputation."
Also interesting is the fact that "although a Catholic, Moore married a Protestant and had his children raised Protestant. Late is his life he suffered the loss of his five children and his life was further shadowed as he was condemned by many of his countrymen as a false patriot. An essay written by Thomas Davis in 1844 criticized Moore for not being strong enough in his passion for Irish nationalism and attacked him as being elitist. Others criticized his work as 'ersatz Irish music intended for an elite coterie.' Hmm... Perhaps Moore's religious choices are what truly led to the dismissal of his poetry as "weak" vis a vis a predominant Irish Catholicism.
For a concise biography of Thomas Moore, as well as for selected poetry and audio clips of his musical compositions, check out the above mentioned link.
Lastly, I think this famous poem of Moore's, "The Irish Peasant to His Mistress," makes for a nice contrast with Bloom's own playful and light "affair." Enjoy!
--Paul Sisko

"The Irish Peasant to His Mistress"

Through grief and through danger thy smile hath cheer'd my way,

Till hope seem'd to bud from each thorn that round me lay;

The darker our fortune, the brighter our pure love burn'd,

Till shame into glory, till fear into zeal was turn'd:

Yes, slave as I was, in thy arms my spirit felt free,
And bless'd even the sorrows that made me more dear to thee.

Thy rival was honour'd, while thou wert wrong'd and scorn'd;

Thy crown was of briers, while gold her brows adorn'd;

She woo'd me to temples, whilst thou lay'st hid in caves;

Her friends were all masters, while thine, alas! were slaves;
Yet cold in the earth, at thy feet, I would rather be

Than wed what I loved not, or turn one thought from thee.

They slander thee sorely, who say thy vows are frail—

Hadst thou been a false one, thy cheek had look'd less pale!

They say, too, so long thou hast worn those lingering chains,
That deep in thy heart they have printed their servile stains:

O, foul is the slander!—no chain could that soul subdue—

Where shineth thy spirit, there Liberty shineth too!


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