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PREFACE.

(Originally prefixed to the Melodies in the collected

edition of Moore's Works.)

The recollections connected, in my mind, with that early period of my life, when I first thought of interpreting in verse the touching language of my country's music, tempt me again to advert to those long past days; and even at the risk of being thought to indulge overmuch in what Colley Cibber calls “the great pleasure of writing about one's self all day,” to notice briefly some of those impressions and influences under which the attempt to adapt words to our ancient Melodies was for some time meditated by me, and, at last, undertaken.

There can be no doubt that to the zeal and industry of Mr. Bunting his country is indebted for the preservation of her old national airs. During the prevalence of the Penal Code, the music of Ireland was made to share in the fate of its people. Both were alike shut out from the pale of civilized life; and seldom any where but in the huts of the pro-scribed race could the sweet voice of the songs of other days be heard. Even of that class, the itinerant harpers, among whom for a long period our ancient music had been kept alive, there remained but few to continue the precious tradition; and a great music-meeting held at Belfast in the year 1792, at which the two or three still remaining of the old race of wandering harpers assisted, exhibited the last public effort made by the lovers of Irish music to preserve to their country the only grace or ornament left to her, out of the wreck of all her liberties and hopes. Thus what the fierce legislature of the Pale had endeavoured vainly through so many centuries to effect, — the utter extinction of Ireland's Minstrelsy, — the deadly pressure of the Penal Laws had nearly, at the close of the eighteenth century, accomplished; and, but for the zeal and intelligent research of Mr. Bunting, at that crisis, the greater part of our musical treasures would probably have been lost to the world. It was in the year 1796 that this gentleman published his first volume; and the national spirit and hope then wakened in Ireland, by the rapid spread of the democratic principle throughout Europe, could not but insure a most cordial reception for such a work ;-flattering as it was to the fond dreams of Erin's early days, and containing in itself, indeed, remarkable testimony to the truth of her claims to an early date of civilization.

It was in the year 1797 that, through the medium of Mr. Bunting's book, I was first made acquainted with the beauties of our native music. A young friend of our family, Edward Hudson, the nephew of an eminent dentist of that name, who played with much taste and feeling on the flute, and unluckily for himself, was but too deeply warmed with the patriotic ardour then kindling around him, was the first who made known to me this rich mine of our country's melodies :—a mine, from the working of which

my humble labours as a poet have since derived their sole lustre and value. About the same period I formed an acquaintance, which soon grew into intimacy, with young Robert Emmet. He was my senior, I think, by one class, in the university ; for when, in the first year of my course, I became a member of the Debating Society,—a sort of nursery to the authorised Historical Society - I found him in full reputation, not only for his learning and eloquence, but also for the blamelessness of his life, and the grave suavity of his manners.

Of the political tone of this minor school of oratory, which was held weekly at the rooms of different resident members, some notion may be formed from the nature of the questions proposed for discussion, - one of which, I recollect, was, “Whether an Aristocracy or a Democracy is most favourable to the advancement of science and literature?” while another, bearing even more pointedly on the relative position of the government and the people, at this crisis, was thus significantly propounded : “ Whether a soldier was bound, on all occasions, to obey the orders of his commanding officer?” On the former of these questions, the effect of Emmet's eloquence upon his young auditors was, I recollect,

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most striking. The prohibition against touching upon modern politics, which it was subsequently found necessary to enforce, had not yet been introduced ; and Emmet, who took of course ardently the side of democracy in the debate, after a brief review of the republics of antiquity, showing how much they had all done for the advancement of science and the arts, proceeded lastly to the grand and perilous example, then passing before all eyes, the young Republic of France. Referring to the circumstance told of Cæsar, that, in swimming across the Rubicon, he contrived to carry with him his Commentaries and his sword, the young orator said, “ Thus France wades through a sea of storm and blood; but while, in one hand, she wields the sword against her aggressors, with the other she upholds the glories of science and literature, unsullied by the ensanguined tide through which she struggles." In another of his remarkable speeches, I remember his saying, “When a people advancing rapidly in knowledge and power perceive at last how far their government is lagging behind them, what then, I ask, is to be done in such a case? What, but to pull the government up to the people?”

In a few months after, both Emmet and myself were admitted members of the greater and recognised institution, called the Historical Society; and, even here, the political feeling so rife abroad contrived to mix up its restless spirit with all our debates and proceedings; notwithstanding the constant watchfulness of the college authorities, as well as of a

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