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Updated 05/23/2013


The Minstrel Boy

The Minstrel Boy is a song written by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) (shown above) who set it to the melody of The Moreen, an old Irish air. Moore was an Irish poet, singer, songwriter, and entertainer.  It is widely believed that Moore composed the song in remembrance of a number of his friends, whom he met while studying at Trinity College in Dublin and who had participated in (and were killed during) the 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen. However, the song gained widespread popularity and became a favorite of many Irishmen who fought during the United States Civil War.

Moore was far more than a balladeer, however. He had major success as a society figure in London and in 1803 was appointed registrar to the Admiralty in Bermuda. From there, he traveled in Canada and the USA.  Moore is considered Ireland's National Bard and is to it what Robert Burns is to Scotland. Moore is commemorated by a plaque on the house where he was born and by a large bronze statue near Trinity College Dublin.


Lyrics by Thomas Moore

The minstrel boy to the war has gone,
In the ranks of death you'll find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" cried the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy right 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 lov'd ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!

During the American Civil War, a third verse was added:

The minstrel boy will return one day,
When we hear the news, we will cheer it.
The minstrel boy will return we pray,
Torn in body, perhaps, but not in spirit.
Then may he play his harp in peace,
In a world such as Heaven intended,
For every quarrel of Man must cease,
And every battle shall be ended.