Thomas Moore a conduit to Ancient Ireland
James Joyce’s books are an amazing fusion of language and music and Thomas Moore looms large in his compilation of race memory.

James Joyce’s mother Mary Jane Murray was born in Terenure’s Eagle House pub, in 1859 and studied music and dancing from the age of five. The Musical Academy at 15 Usher’s Island was run by her Aunts, the Misses Flynn and Mrs Callanan, sisters of her mother Margaret Theresa Flynn. Joyce’s immersion in this musical world was alive in the core of his being and was the touchstone for all his talent.

In “Dubliners” Joyce evokes this world in his short story “The Dead”.  The title comes from “Oh! Ye Dead” by Thomas Moore from the old Irish air “Plough Whistle”.  Moore’s notes describes a mountain in some part of Ireland, where the ghosts of persons walk about and converse with those they meet, like living people. This theme is evoked by Joyce in his story through the haunting presence of the dead Michael Furey. The American composer Otto Luening remembers Joyce in Zurich sometimes hummed Thomas Moore's Irish melodies, particularly 'O Ye Dead’. He describes an evening with  Joyce where he had learned so much about the relationship of language to music. “Joyce had heard Hans Zimmerman, a student of mine and later director of the Zurich Opera, conduct a chamber orchestra for which I had arranged and performed a suite of Gluck's music, including the famous flute solo "Dance of the Departed Spirits" from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. Afterwards, Joyce said that he considered this solo to be the greatest piece of music ever written. He began going through the piece, note by note and phrase by literally transposing it first into word inflections and then into verbal images.”

In “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” Stephen is unimpressed as he walks passed "the droll statue of the national poet of Ireland" in College Street. However when he returns to the family home, he is deeply moved when he hears his younger brothers and sisters singing Moore's "Oft in the Stilly Night". Stephen representing the Irish race is set adrift in the alien syntax of the English invader. Medieval writers such as Dante and Aquinas gave Joyce the medieval terminology to orchestrate essential essences alive in modern language. Joyce felt the Irish were cut off from the founding spirit of their own language and his literary journey strives to ‘awaken’ us with the sounds of the ancient Ireland from Medieval times. Joyce considered efforts by revivalists artificial and through the conduit of phonemes of English merely fabricating a dead language. Joyce’s dismisses the poet William Rooney and Lady Gregory: Joyce held true to the manifestation which he had already embodied singing with his Mother the songs of Thomas Moore.
The essence of language flows through the generations and is timeless. The spirit of humanity enables the sound of words, rather than the meaning per se to shift from one era to another and transfer a timeless wisdom.
Thomas Moore’s musical and poetic fusions connected Ireland back to an innate sense of identity. Thomas Moore’s songs permeate the Irish consciousness with songs that provide a through line to ancient Ireland. Moore’s setting of English-language verse to old Irish tunes marked the transition in popular Irish culture from Irish to English.      
Edward Bunting published “A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music in 1797 it contained 66 tunes which he had notated at the Belfast Harp Festival, the airs were remnants from the medieval Irish Bardic tradition. Moore chose 21 airs from the 66 of Bunting’s collection and put new words to them with the composer John Andrew Stevenson arranging the music. Bunting acknowledged that they were “the most beautiful popular songs composed by any lyric poet.” This project began in 1806 to 1807, with the support of the publishers James and William Power,
‘Irish Melodies’; 124 poems set to traditional Irish tunes published in 10 volumes 1808 to 1834. The Melodies were an immediate success and included "Tis the Last Rose of  Summer", "The Minstrel Boy", "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms" and "Oft in the Stilly Night"

"Tis the Last Rose of Summer," was said to have sold 1.5 million copies of sheet music. It was adapted twice by Ludwig van Beethoven, who included it in Vol II of his Irish Songs (published in 1816).
Byron said he knew them all "by rote and by heart"; setting them above epics and Moore above all other poets for his "peculiarity of talent, or rather talents, – poetry, music, voice, all his own". They were also praised by Sir Walter Scott who conceded that neither he nor Byron could attain Moore's power of adapting words to music.
Moore not only reproduced the rhythm of Gaelic poetry, but reproduced its metrical structure. When Edgar Allen Poe read that lyric of Moore’s that begins “At the mid-hour of night,” he perceived a distinctive metrical achievement. The poem was written to an ancient Irish air, and its rhythm, like the rhythm of the song that begins “Through grief and through danger,” is distinctively Irish. The last book he read was Moore's Irish Melodies. “In the compass of the English language I can call to mind no poem more profoundly—more weirdly imaginative, in the best sense, than the lines commencing— "I would I were by that dim lake".

Moore was born over his parents' grocery shop in Aungier Street, Dublin in 1779. Thomas Moore’s father, John Moore was from Kerry growing up on the banks of the Annamoy river in Moyvane. He was educated at John Lynn’s hedge school at Trien, Knockanure so was most likely a native Irish speaker and certainly had a local accent.  Thomas Moore’s mother Anastasia Codd was from Wexford so it was a home where multiple Irish accents blended with an interest in music.

He had two younger sisters, Kate and Ellen and together from a young age they staged musical plays with their friends. Thomas was placed at the grammar school kept by Samuel Whyte. An excellent scholar, Moore excelled in Latin, Italian, French, and particularly in Greek. His memory was prodigious and he could readily call to mind long passage from the Italian or French masters, as well as quote freely from the Latin and Greek classics.

In 1795, Moore was among the first Catholics admitted to Trinity College Dublin to study law. Moore researched in Marsh’s library and explored at length the Greek and Latin folios and other historical sources pertaining to Anacreon a Greek lyric poet from the 5th century BC who wrote his poetry in the ancient Ionic dialect. Anacreon, (born c. 582 bce, Teos, Ionia [now Si
ğacık, Turkey]—died c. 485).
Moore began a metrical translation of the classical Greek composer of drinking songs and erotic verse. This he completed when he moved to London and was published as “Odes of Anacreon” in 1800. This work was a defining moment in his life and with success he became known as "Anacreon Moore".

Anacreon wrote all of his poetry in the ancient Ionic dialect and like all early lyric poetry  it was composed to be sung or recited to the accompaniment of music, usually the lyre.

At a deeper level this work with the ancient Ionic dialect provided the perfect consolidation of his talent for metrical poetry and prepared him for his work with Irish Melodies. Thomas Moore, singing his own songs, was recreating this ancient oral fusion with performance.
Metrical poetry is a particularly rhythmic form, deriving its structure from patterns of phonetic features within and between the lines of verse. The phonetic patterning in Anacreon's poetry, like all the Greek poetry of the day, is found in the structured alternation of "long" and "short" syllables. The Ionic dialect also had a tonal aspect to it that lends a natural melodic quality to the recitation. The Greek language is particularly well suited to this metrical style of poetry but the sound of the verses does not easily transfer to English so  translators have historically tended to substitute rhyme, stress rhythms, stanzaic patterning and other devices for the style of the originals.

In English a strict foot iambic ruled supreme from Chaucer onwards as a skilful variation of pattern. It was only in burlesque verse and in songs that the trisyllabic feet was still heard and Goldsmith and Sheridan were great masters of burlesque anapaests. Moore’s substitution of the trisyllabic feet in Chaucer’s iambic line was very significant. 

Thomas Moore songs are interwoven throughout Finnegans Wake “thoh the dayses gone still they loves young dreams” FW 398.21-22
Joyce made 12th Century Medieval, Tristen a Universal Triangle into a Celtic tale with the archetypal Irish songs of Thomas Moore’s ‘Irish Melodies’.

In a 1979 tribute to Moore, Seamus Heaney remarks that modern Ireland rescinded Moore's title of 'national bard' because his characteristic tone was 'too light, too conciliatory, too colonisé' Yet this was the note I often heard coming over the wireless from Athlone in the forties, the note that John McCormack struck, the note that was struck in the schoolroom for generations. This was the music of what happened in the sentimental national heart, where Tara and Avoca and Lough Neagh's banks glimmered fitfully in the light of other days. Before I read my Corkery [...]      my own sense of an Irish past was woven from the iconography of AOH [Ancient Order of Hibernians] banners and phantoms out of Moore's Melodies. 

Colm Tóibín has called Thomas Moore 'the most influential figure in shaping the Irish political psyche'.
1852 Thomas Moore’s epitaph at his St. Nicholas churchyard grave is inscribed: “Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee,  The cold chain of silence had hung o'er thee long, /When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee, /And gave all thy chords to light, freedom and song!”
Thomas Moore lives on not least in Leopoold Bloom: “The Meeting of the Waters,” appears in the Lestrygonians episode of Ulysses. (8.414-418). Bloom approaches the statue of “Tommy Moore’s roguish finger” (414) and thinks that they did a good thing by putting him “over a urinal, a meeting of the waters,” (414-415). Bloom goes on to quote the first line of the song in 416-417: “There is not in this wide world a vallee,”  

Thomas  Moore  wrote  the  lyrics  while  sitting  under  a  tree watching  the  Avonmore  and  Avonbeg  rivers  join ‘a meeting  of  the waters ‘ to  form the  Avoca  River which flows into the sea at  Arklow.
Carola Giedion-Welcker was part of Joyce’s inner sanctum in later life and she shares a reflection in 'Meetings with Joyce', Portraits of the Artist in Exile.“To hear  Joyce sing with his beautiful tenor was an enchanting experience. It meant access to the sound of his innermost being....the human voice, when elevated into song, seemed to him the highest and purest manifestation of music.
Clara Mason Bloomsday 2023
‘Irish Melodies’; 124 poems set to traditional Irish tunes published in 10 volumes 1808 to 1834.