Silent, Oh Moyle
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

Thomas Moore (1779-1852) wrote these lyrics to the air Arrah, My Dear Eveleen. Moore used the legend of Lir's daughter as a political allegory.

The lyrics are based on the legend of Fionnula, Lir's daughter who was turned into a swan by her stepmother Aoife. Lir was the father of the sea god Manannan. His first wife had four children. Lir's second wife, Aoife was jealous of the children and ordered her servants to kill them.

The servants refused and so Aoife transformed the children into white swans and laid a curse on them. They would spend three hundred years on the waters of Lake Derryvargah, three hundred on the Straits of Moyle (between Scotland and Ireland) and three hundred on the Atlantic by Erris and Inishglory. Only then, and when a "woman of the South mated with a man of the North" would the curse end. Although swans, the children still had the gift of speech and music.

On Erris Bay they were befriended by a hermit who taught them of Christianity. Deoca, the princess of Munster (in the North) became betrothed to Lairgnen, of Connacht (in the South). Deoca asked for the four singing swans as a wedding gift. Lairgnen seized the swans, and when they arrived they were transformed back into human beings. As they died the hermit baptized them and they ascended to heaven.*

For a complete list of tunes by Thomas Moore at this site see the Contemplator's Short Biography of Thomas Moore.

Silent, Oh Moyle, be the roar of thy water,
Break not, ye breezes, your chain of repose;
While murmuring mournfully, Lir's lonely daughter
Tells to the night-star her tale of woes.
When shall the swan, her death-note singing,
Sleep with wings in darkness furl'd?
When shall heav'n its sweet bell ringing,
Call my spirit from this stormy world?

Sadly, Oh Moyle, to thy winter-wave weeping,
Fate bids me languish long ages away;
Yet still in her darkness doth Erin lie sleeping,
Still doth the pure light its dawning delay!
When will that day-star, mildly springing,
Warm our Isle with peace and love?
When shall heav'n, its sweet bell ringing,
Call my spirit to the fields above?
Related Links
Songs of Ireland
J. L. Hatton and J. L. Molloy
See Bibliography for full information.