Oh! Breathe Not His Name
DESCRIPTION: Someone who must not be named has been buried "in the shade Where cold and un-honoured has relics are laid! ... And the tear that we shed, though in secret it rolls, Shall long keep his memory green in our souls"
AUTHOR: Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
EARLIEST DATE: 1846 (_Irish Melodies_ by Thomas Moore, according to Zimmermann)
KEYWORDS: grief memorial nonballad patriotic
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Moylan 159, "Oh! Breathe Not His Name" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bodleian, Harding B 18(20), "Oh! Breathe Not His Name" ("Oh! breathe not his name, let it sleep in the shade ," H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878
LOCSheet, sm1879 06663, "Oh, Breathe Not His Name ," Edw. Schuberth (New York), 1879 (tune)
cf. "She is Far From the Land" (subject: concealed allusions to Robert Emmet)
cf. "When He Who Adores Thee" (subject: concealed allusions to Robert Emmet)
cf. "The Man from God-Knows-Where" (subject: concealed allusions to Robert Emmet)
cf. ""I Don't Mean to Tell You Her Name (I)" (theme of hidden name)
NOTES [352 words]: Zimmermann p. 77 Fn. 11 speculates that this is "perhaps inspired by Lord Edward Fitzgerald's death." Moylan 159 in The Age of Revolution: "This, the third of Moore's songs on [Robert] Emmet, seems to echo Emmet's dying request from the world for 'the charity of its silence'. [Lord Edward Fitzgerald [1763-1798], head of the military committee of the United Irishmen died June 4, 1798, in Newgate, Dublin after being wounded and arrested by Major Henry Charles Sirr on May 19; Wexford Rebellion begins May 26, 1798 (source: The Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco) site entry for [Lord] Edward Fitzgerald)] [Robert Emmet (1780-1803) "Irish nationalist rebel leader. He led an abortive rebellion against British rule in 1803 and was captured and executed." (source: "Robert Emmet" at the Wikipedia site)]
Broadside Bodleian Harding B 18(20): H. De Marsan dating per Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS
The song is so short (two stanzas, neither of which describes the dead man beyond noting that he's dead) that we cannot be dogmatic about the man being memorialized. On the one hand, Emmet asked that no epitaph be written for him (see the notes to "Bold Robert Emmet"), but if he were meant, I'd think the song would be a little more specific. Still, if it is certain that Moore's other poems were about Emmet, then he seems the best candidate. And we should note that Moore knew Emmet; according to Robert Kee, who quotes this song on p. 168 of The Most Distressful Country (being volumeI of The Green Flag), Moore was "Emmet's old friend and fellow student at Trinity." Kee regards Moore as having "set the tone" for Emmet's legend; the phrase "set the tone" apparently is derived from Marianne Elliot (Ruth Dudley Edwards, The Seven: The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic, Oneworld Books, 2016, p. 69).
There was a mid-nineteenth century song, "Oh, Breathe Not Her Name," by L. A. Jones and Frederick Buckley"; I would assume it was inspired by this poem. - RBW
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