Dark Be The Tears

Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852)

Though an angel should write, still ’tis devils that print.

Sir Thomas Moore

To Althea, From Prison

by Richard Lovelace (1617 -1657)

When Love with unconfinèd wings
Hovers within my Gates,
And my divine Althea brings
To whisper at the Grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair,
And fettered to her eye,
The Gods that wanton in the Air,
Know no such Liberty.
When flowing Cups run swiftly round
With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with Roses bound,
Our hearts with Loyal Flames;
When thirsty grief in Wine we steep,
When Healths and draughts go free,
Fishes that tipple in the Deep
Know no such Liberty.
When (like committed linnets) I
With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,
And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
He is, how Great should be,
Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,
Know no such Liberty.
Stone Walls do not a Prison make,
Nor Iron bars a Cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an Hermitage.
If I have freedom in my Love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such Liberty.

It may seem an odd pairing, Richard Lovelace and Thomas Moore, but each were keenly attuned to the romanticism of their age and very much politically opposed to British Episcopalian rule. Lovelace has faded off into obscurity, while Moore is beloved by the Irish, as much for his biography of his friend Lord Byron as his book Irish Melodies.. Moore was so popular that he was paid exorbitant sums for future work, his publishers confident in his hit making ability.  It’s unclear if Lovelace died as penniless as it is sometimes reported, his family connections having bailed him out of prison more than once, but he certainly was diminished in stature at the time of his death.

Moore was the only son of Catholic parents, born in London at a time when Irish Catholics could not vote, serve on juries, bear arms or attend elite schools.  Moore was afforded an upper middle class upbringing because of his father’s business success, allowing him the means combined with the talent to give voice to Ireland’s plight of laboring under British rule.

Moore was one of the first Catholics accepted into Trinity College in Dublin. Emboldened by his friends Emmet and Hudson at Trinity, he wrote an impassioned anonymous letter opposing English rule, which was published in an Irish newspaper. His friends were captured following an armed rebellion in 1798, Robert Emmet was hanged for his involvement,  Edward Hudson was imprisoned and then exiled.  Moore was called to testify against his friends during the investigation, but refused to answer questions about the rebels.  Emmet was immortalized by Moore  in his poem below, as well as by James Joyce who incorporated Emmet’s words at his sentencing into his poem Ulysses; “When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written….”

O Breathe Not His Name

By Sir Thomas Moore

Oh! breathe not his name, let it sleep in the shade,
Where cold and unhonored his relics are laid:
Sad, silent, and dark, be the tears that we shed,
As the night-dew that falls on the grass o’er his head.
But the night-dew that falls, tho’ in silence it weeps,
Shall brighten with verdure the grave where he sleeps;
And the tear that we shed, tho’ in secret it rolls,
Shall long keep his memory green in our souls.

Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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