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In 1808 and 1809 Moore published three satirical poems, two of them political, and the third a satire upon
the schoolmen. These poems were not successful. The stately tone of Juvenal but ill became the light Horatian vein of Moore. He could ridicule folly with more force than he could lash vice. There is, however, another reason for the failure of Moore's serious political satires. They were written in a spirit which England could not then understand ; they were neither Whig nor Tory, which was a defect in a partisan age. The poet looks at the Revolution of 1688 from an Irish point of view, and writes (to use his own language) as becomes to
a man to whose country that Revolution brought nothing but insult and injury, and who recollects that Molyneux's book was burned by order of William's Whig parliament, for daring to extend to unfortunate Ireland those principles on which the Revolution was professedly founded.”
The Whigs came in for the severest strokes of the satirist's pen.
How applicable to much later times than 1808 are the following lines from the poem of “Corruption," on those who, when out, preach liberty, and when in, practise tyranny :
Not bolder truths of sacred freedom hung
But bees on flowers alighting cease their hum, So settling upon places, Whigs grow dumb. Surely most base is he who, 'neath the shade Of Freedom's ensign, plies Corruption's trade, And makes the sacred flag he dares to show, His passport to the market of the foe. Moore, in this poem, recounts many of Ireland's wrongs, and speaks with indignation of
-the Union thrown Into her bitter cup, when that alone
Of slavery's draught was wanting. A poem which attacked Whigs, and on the other hand called the Tory Pitt the “great artizan of mischief,” was not likely to find favour in an age remarkable for party spirit.
Those who seek to disgrace religion by making her the pretext for bigotry and persecution, he vigorously describes, in the poem of “ Intolerance,” as
-a canting crew, So smooth, so godly, yet so devilish too ; Who, ar med at once with prayer-books and with whips, Blood on their hands, and scripture on their lips; Tyrants by creed, and torturers by text, Make this life hell in horror of the next.
For Fox and Grattan, Moore had a deep veneration, considering them as far above the level of niere party men. After drawing a fine picture of pure and tolerant Christianity, he thus writes :
Such was the spirit, gently, grandly bright,
Last of the great, farewell! yet not the last,
The object of the “Sceptic” is to ridicule mere human learning, to teach man to distrust reason and to follow a more luminous guide. “If,” says Moore, in the preface, a man with an ardent love of truth has sought her in vain through the ways of this life, he will turn with the more hope to that better world where all is simple, true, and everlasting.” Moore does not treat this subject with his usual skill. The labours of Newton, Descartes, Locke, and many other men of gigantic intellect, are not fairly dealt with. Moore's forte was clearly not in the didactic satire--a department of literature in which many distinguished writers have failed; for which Johnson was too serious, Moore too cheerful, Darwin too flowery and shallow, Byron too misanthropic, and which it taxed the combined wit and learning of Pope to carry to perfection.
We cannot leave the “ Sceptic” without quoting the following lines on England, in 1808—but not inapplicable to the same country at a much later date, showering unbounded honours on continental rebels, while leaving far better men to pine in chains for venturing on a course similar to that for which she lauded such men as Garibaldi
Self pleased still the same dishonouring chain She binds in Ireland, she would break in Spain ; While praised at distance, but at home forbid, Rebels in Cork are patriots at Madrid. Moore thus speaks of his satirical poems, and with too much truth.
" To that kind of satire which deals only with the lighter follies of social life, with the passing modes, whims, and scandals of the day, such illustrative comments become, after a short time, necessary. But the true preserving salt of political satire is its applicability to future times and generations, as well as to those which had first called it forth ; its power of transmitting the scourge of ridicule through succeeding periods, with a lash still fresh for the back of the bigot and the oppressor, under whatever new shape they present themselves. I can hardly flatter myself with the persuasion that any one of the satirical pieces contained in this volume is likely to possess this principle of vitality; but I feel quite certain that without it, not all the notes and illustrations in which even the industry of Dutch commentatorship could embalm them, would ensure to those trifles a life much beyond the present hour. Already, to many of them, that sort of relish-by far the least worthy source of their success—which the names of living victims lend to such sallies, has become, in the course of time, wanting. But as far as their appositeness to the passing political events of the day has yet been tried and the dates of these satires range over a period of nearly thirty years—their ridicule, thanks to the undying nature of human absurdity, appears to have lost, as yet, but little of the original freshness of its first application. Nor is this owing to any peculiar felicity of aim in the satire itself, but to the sameness, throughout that period, of all its original objects ; the unchangeable nature of that spirit of monopoly, by which, under all its various impersonations, commercial, religious, and political, these satires had been first provoked."
THE IRISH MELODIES.
With the immortal “IRISH MELODIES” the fame of Moore will be inseparably twined. The poet had, from an early age, cherished the hope of linking his name with the music of his country. The melodies were published in detached numbers, and their period of publication ranged over nearly thirty years, from 1807 to 1834. Their success was unequivocal, the severest critics admiring their poetical beauties. Moore himself spoke of them as the “only work of his pen whose fame could boast a chance of prolonging its existence to a day much beyond his own. This was too modest a statement for the author of Lalla Rookh; but that the “ Melodies” will always be deemed Moore's greatest work is universally admitted. Whether we look upon them simply as a series of exquisite songs, giving evidence of the purest poetical taste, or whether
them as the vehicle of national sentiment, they are equally entitled to our admiration. These matchless lyrics exercised a marked influence upon political subjects; the applicability of many of the passages to the popular feelings of the time gave these beautiful songs an additional claim to the admiration of the people of Ireland. The brilliant speeches of Shiel were frequently studded with patriotic quotations from these truly national poems; and even the massive eloquence of O'Connel disdained not to borrow many an ornament from the “ Bard of Erin.”
Of the close connection by which the national music of Ireland is linked with her history, Moore thus beautifully and impressively writes in his