Song Lyric Sunday: “The Minstrel Boy”

Jim got this week’s prompt from Di, "Army, Soldier, War." I went back in my archives and found another song that I played when I was with the pipe band.

"The Minstrel Boy," Wikipedia tells us, "is an Irish song written by Thomas Moore (1779–1852) and published as part of his Irish Melodies." It goes on to tell us, "The record of the melody to which the song is set, "The Moreen," begins in 1813 with Moore’s publication of it, which is the sole source of the statement that it is a traditional Irish air…

"Like with several other of the Irish Melodies, ‘The Minstrel Boy’ is melancholy and nostalgic. Its central icon is the image of a harp, which is a romantic symbol for Ireland, torn asunder; but, in contrast to the Irish political songs of some of Moore’s contemporaries, with no promise of restoration implied for the future. A ‘warrior bard’ is forced into silence by slavery.

"Some of Moore’s more subtle expressions of his politics in his songs were lost on early American audiences, who favoured the overt themes of freedom and liberty in ‘The Minstrel Boy,’ much in tune with the contemporary romantic notions of democracy that were also popular, and skipped over its references to slavery. Moore himself, who had travelled through the United States and Canada the previous decade, had a low opinion of the slavery still (then) employed in the former, expressing in 1806 his disappointment and his casting aside all ‘hope for the future energy and greatness of America’." Here are Derek Warfield & The Young Wolfe Tones.

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
His fathers sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him.

“Land of song!” said the warrior bard,
“Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword at least thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The minstrel fell! – but the foeman’s chain
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he loved ne’er spoke again
For he tore is chords asunder;

And said “no chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery.”

(lyrics courtesy

And that’s Song Lyric Sunday for April 10, 2022.

9 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday: “The Minstrel Boy”

  1. I know the song but not the history. I always thought it was patriotic and wanting to sing a long to it but not knowing the sadness


    1. In my piping days, we would play this, “Let Erin Remember,” and “Kelly, The Boy From Killane” when we won a competition. Used to drive the other bands crazy, because they were all Irish Republican tunes…

      I never knew the history behind it, either…


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