THOUGH aware that, in works not of a purely scientific nature and which will be chiefly I opened with a view to amusement, a Preface receives but little attention from the majority of readers, yet I cannot refrain from availing myself of the old privilege accorded to Authors and Editors to offer a few prefatory remarks on the occasion of presenting to the public this first volume of a collection of Irish Tunes. which I have edited under the patriotic auspices of the "Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland." In the first place. I feel it due to that Society, and more particularly to some of the most zealous members of its Committee. to state that, but for their solicitation and warm encouragement, it is not at all likely that I should have entered on the compilation of a work requiring necessarily, not only a great devotion of time and labour, but also an amount of varied talents and powers of research. scarcely to be hoped for in any single individual, and to the possession of which I, at least, could make but little pretension.
A passionate lover of music from my childhood. and of melody especially - that divine essence without which music is but as a soulless body - the indulgence of this passion has been, indeed, one of the great, if not the greatest, sources of happiness of my life. Coupled with a never-fading love for nature and its consequent attendant, an appreciation of the good and beautiful, it has refreshed and reinvigorated my spirits when depressed by the fatigues of mental labour. In the hours of worldly trials, of cares and sorrows, I have felt its power to soothe and console, to restrain from the pursuit of worthless and debasing pleasures, of soul-corrupting worldly ambitions destructive of mental peace, and to give contentment in an humble station.
But though I have been thus for my whole life a devoted lover of music, and more particularly of the melodies of my country - which are, as I conceive, the most beautiful national melodies in the world - neither the study nor the practice of this divine art has ever been with me an absorbing or continuous one, or anything more than the occasional indulgence of a pleasure, during hours of relaxation, from the fatigues of other studies, or the general business of life. It was in this way only that I acquired any little knowledge or skill which I may possess in the practice of the musical art, and, until lately, it was in this way only that I gradually formed the large collection of Irish melodies of which a portion is now submitted to the public. From my very boy-days, whenever I heard an air which in any degree touched my feelings, or which appeared to me to be either an unpublished one, or a better version of an air than what had been already printed, I never neglected to note it down, and my summer ramblings through most parts of Ireland, for objects more immediately connected with my professional pursuits, afforded me opportunities for a long period almost annually, for increasing the collection which so early in life I had felt a desire, and considered it as a kind of duty to endeavour to form.
In making such collection, however, I never seriously thought of giving even any portion of it to the public in my own name. The desire to preserve what I deemed so worthy of preservation, and so honourable to the character of my country was my sole object and my sole stimulus in this, to me, exciting and delightful pursuit: and hence I was ever ready to encourage and aid to the utmost of my ability all persons whom, from their professional talents as well as their freedom from other occupations, I deemed better qualified than myself to give such collection to the world.
Thus, as early as 1807 or 1808, I communicated, through my friend the late Richard Wrightson. Esq., M.A., a number of airs to the poet Moore, some of which subsequently appeared, for the first time, in his "Irish Melodies," and shortly afterwards I gave a much larger number to my then young friend the late Francis Holden, Mus. Doc., and which were printed in his collection, and amongst these were many airs, such as "Lough Sheelin," "Arrah, my dear Eveleen," and "Luggela," on which time has stamped her mark of approval, and which have carried the deepest emotions of pleasure to thousands of hearts in almost every part of the globe. For it was from this collection, which - with the exception of Bunting's three volumes - has been the only published collection of our melodies of any importance worthy of a respectful notice, that Moore derived many of those airs which his poetry has consecrated and made familiar to the world. And I may further state that my contributions to Mr. Moore's admirable work, as well directly as indirectly, did not end here, for, subsequently to the publication of Frank Holden's volume, I again supplied the poet, through his Irish publisher, Mr. William Power, with several other airs, which found a place in the later numbers of his "Melodies," and among these was that beautiful one called "Were I a clerk," but now better known as "You remember Ellen."
In thus imparting to others the results of my young enthusiasm for the preservation of our melodies, I never asked, and so never obtained, even the acknowledgement, to which I might have felt myself justly entitled, of having my name coupled with those airs as their preserver nor is it from any vain or egotistical feeling, that I state such circumstances now, but as simple facts in the history of the preservation of our music that might be looked for hereafter, and which, without such statement, would be looked for in vain.
But to resume: retaining, with even an increasing zeal, my ardour in collecting the melodies of Ireland, I found in the course of a few years that my gatherings had mounted to a number but little short of two hundred as yet unpublished airs, and with a view to their being secured to the public with suitable harmonies, I presented them to a lady, now long deceased, who to other varied accomplishments added a sound professional knowledge of music, and who possessed a true feeling for Irish melody. The lady to whom, with a grateful reminiscence, I thus allude, was the late Mrs. Joseph Hughes, the daughter of Smollet Holden, the most eminent British composer of military music in his time, and the sister of my young friend, Dr. Francis Holden, to whose published collection of Irish melodies I have been, as already stated, so large a contributor. But the untimely death of this most estimable lady prevented the accomplishment of this project after some progress had been made in preparing the work for publication.
Still adding to my collection, however, and indulging in the expectation that an opportunity for giving it publicly, would sooner or later occur, I thought such expectation likely to be realised when, at a later period of my life, I formed a close intimacy with the late Mr. Edward Bunting. This intimacy, which had its origin in, at least, one common taste, occurred shortly after the publication of the second volume of that gentleman's collection, and with the double object in view of giving my airs publicity, and, still more, of stimulating him to the preparation of a third volume for publication, I freely offered him the use of the whole of my collection, or such portions of it as he might choose to select. Such offer was, however, accompanied by one condition, namely, that in connection with such tunes as he chose to accept from me, he should make an acknowledgement in his work that I had been their contributor. This condition, however - which I thought a not unreasonable one, but rather suggestive of a course which, in all similar cases, as supplying a sort of evidence of authenticity, should have been followed - had the effect of preventing the accomplishment of my wish that Mr. Bunting should be the medium through which my collection of airs should be given to the public. After the acceptance of some five and twenty or more airs - of which, however, he printed only seventeen - my friend sturdily refused to take even one more, assigning as his reason that, as he should acknowledge the source from which they had been derived, the public would say that the greater and better portion of the work was mine. In my primary object, however - that of stimulating him to the preparation and publication of his third volume - I had the satisfaction of believing that I had been more decidedly successful. The threat, put forward in playful insincerity, but which was taken rather seriously, that if he did not bestir himself in the preparation of his work, I might probably, by the publication of my own collection, anticipate him in the printing of many of his best airs, coupled with Mrs. Bunting's as well as my own continual goadings - and which he was accustomed to say had made his life miserable - had ultimately the desired effect of exciting into activity a temperament which, if it had ever been naturally active, had then, at all events, ceased to be so from the pressure of years, and of a state of health which was far from vigorous. After the devotion of his leisure hours for several years to the collecting-together of his materials, and the patient elaboration of his harmonic arrangements of the airs, Mr. Bunting gave to the world the third and last volume of his collections, and I confess that its appearance afforded me a more than ordinary pleasure, not only on account of the many very beautiful melodies which it contained, but also from a feeling that my zeal in urging on their publication had been instrumental, to some extent, in their preservation. For it was Mr. Bunting's boast that, with the exception of those airs which had been drawn from previously published works, the settings of his tunes would be wholly worthless to any other person into whose hand they might ultimately fall, and this I knew to have been not altogether an idle boast, for those settings were - as it would appear intentionally - but jottings down of dots, or heads of notes, without any musical expressions of their value with regard either to key, time, accent, phrase, or section, so that their interpretation would necessarily have been a matter of uncertainty to others, and probably was often so even to himself.
I have thus endeavoured to show, by a statement which I trust will not be deemed wholly without interest or irrelevant to the purpose of the present work, that though I have been during the whole course of my life a zealous collector of Irish melodies, I have been actuated in this pursuit by no other feelings than those of a deep sense of their beauty, a strong conviction of their archaeological interest, and a consequent desire to aid in the preservation of remains so honourable to the national character of my country, and so inestimable as a pure source of happiness to all sympathetic minds to whom they might become known. And though, when I had long despaired of finding anyone qualified, according to my ideas, to give to the public in a worthy manner the collection which I had formed. I may have occasionally contemplated the possible production of such a work myself, as a delightful and not over laborious occupation of my declining years; it is most probable that, like my friend Bunting, if the stimulating pressure of friends had not been applied to me I should have gone on to the end absorbed in the completion of works of a different nature, and to which my studies had long been more particularly directed. Such a stimulus was supplied on the formation, in Dublin, of the "Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland," and it was strengthened, not only by the honour which that Society conferred on me in electing me their President, but still more by the flattering proposal and expression of their desire to give precedence to my collection in the publications of the Society.
But though this proposal was entirely free from any conditions which I could for a moment hesitate to accept, and though, moreover, I was sincerely anxious to promote the objects of the Society by every means in my power, I confess that I was startled at a proposal so unexpected on my part, and it was not till I had given the matter a very ample consideration that I could bring my mind to agree to it. For, on the one hand, I could not but feel doubtful of my ability to accomplish, without a greater previous preparation, a work of so much national importance in such a manner as might not seriously, lower whatever little reputation I had acquired by the production of works of a different nature, and disappoint, moreover, the partial expectations of the Society and those friends that had pressed me to the undertaking: and I also felt that if I did venture n such a work with the desire to accomplish it not unworthily, it would necessarily require for its production the exclusive devotion of many years of a life now drawing towards its close, and the consequent abandonment of the completion of other works on which I had been long engaged, as well as of the practice of that art which is so productive of happiness to its lovers, and so suited to the peaceful habits of declining years. And lastly, as I cannot but confess, I could not suppress a misgiving, that let a work of this nature possess whatever amount of interest or value it may, there no longer existed amongst my countrymen such sufficient amount of a racy feeling of nationality and cultivation of mind - qualities so honourable to the Scottish character - as would secure for it the steady support necessary for its success, and which the Society, as I thought, somewhat too confidently anticipated. In short, I could not but fear that I might be vainly labouring to cultivate mental fruit which, however indigenous to the soil, was yet of too refined and delicate a flavour to be relished or appreciated by a people who had been, from adversities, long accustomed only to the use of food of a coarser and more exciting nature. May this feeling prove an erroneous one! On the other hand, however, I could not but be sensible that, viewed in many ways, the object which the Society had taken in hand was of great importance; that, with an equal hope of success, such an effort might probably never again be made, and that it was a duty at least of every right- minded Irishman who might have it in his power to contribute in any way to its support to allow, if possible, no cold calculations of a selfish prudence, or an unmanly fear of critical censure, to withhold him from joining ardently in such an effort. I considered too, that if, as Moore perhaps somewhat strongly states, "We have too long neglected the only talent for which our English neighbours ever deigned to allow us any credit," our apparent want of appreciation of the value of that talent was, at least to some extent, an evidence of the justice of such limited praise. I called to mind that, but for the accidentally directed researches of Edward Bunting - a man paternallv of an English race - and the sympathetic excitement to follow in his track which his example had given to a few others, the memory of our music would have been but little - more than as a departed dream, never to be satisfactorily realized, and that, though much bad been done by those persons, yet that Moore's statement still remained substantially true, namely, that "our national music never had been properly collected," or, in other words, that it had never been collected truly and perfectly, as it might and should have been, and that it cannot be so collected now. I could not but feel that what must have been, at no distant time, the inevitable result of the changes in the character of the Irish race which had been long in operation, and which had already almost entirely denationalized its higher classes, had been suddenly effected, as by a lightning flash, by the calamities which, in the year 1846-7, had struck down and well nigh annihilated the Irish remnant of the great Celtic family. Of the old, who had still preserved as household gods the language, the songs, and traditions of their race and their localities, but few survived. Of the middle-aged and energetic whom death had yet spared, and who might for a time, to some extent, have preserved such relics, but few remained that had the power to fly from the plague and panic stricken land, and of the young who had come into existence, and become orphaned, during those years of desolation, they, for the most part, were reared where no mother's eyes could make them feel the mysteries of human affections - no mother's voice could sooth their youthful sorrows, and implant within the memories of their hearts her songs of tenderness and love - and where no father's instructions could impart to them the traditions and characteristic peculiarities of feeling that would link them to their remotest ancestors. The green pastoral plains, the fruitful valleys, as well as the wild hill-sides and the dreary bogs, had equally ceased to be animate with human life. "The land of song" was no longer tuneful, or, if a human sound met the traveller's car, it was only that of the feeble and despairing wail for the dead. This awful, unwonted silence, which, during the famine and subsequent years, almost everywhere prevailed, struck more fearfully upon their imaginations, as many Irish gentlemen informed me, and gave them a deeper feeling of the desolation with which the country had been visited, than any other circumstance which had forced itself upon their attention, and I confess that it was a consideration of the circumstances of which this fact gave so striking an indication, that, more than any other, overpowered all my objections, and influenced me in coming to a determination to accept the proposal of the Irish-Music Society.
In this resolution, however, I was actuated no less by a desire to secure to the public, by publication, the large store of melodies which I had already collected, than by the hope of increasing that store, during the progress of the work, by a more exclusive devotion of mind and time to this object than I had ever previously given to it. I felt assured that it was still possible, by a zealous exertion, to gather from amongst the survivors of the old Celtic race, innumerable melodies that would soon pass away for ever, but that such exertion should be immediate. For, though I had no fear that this first swarm from the parent hive of the great Indo-Germanic race would perish in this their last western asylum, or that they would not again increase, and, as heretofore, continue to supply the empire with their contribution of fiery bravery, lively sensibility, and genius in all the aesthetic arts, yet I felt that the new generations, unlinked as they must be with those of the past, and subjected to influences and examples scarcely known to their fathers, will necessarily, have lost very many of those peculiar characteristics which so long had given them a marked individuality and, more particularly, that among the changes sure to follow, the total extinction of their ancient language would be. inevitably, accompanied by the loss of all that, as yet unsaved, portion of their ancient music which had been identified with it.
To this task I accordingly applied myself zealously, and with all the means at my disposal, feeling that I could not render a better service to my country: and of the success which followed my exertions some correct idea may be formed from the volume now presented to the reader, in which it will be seen that of the airs which it contains, nearly a moiety has been collected within the last two or three years, in truth, that success has gone far beyond any expectations which I might have ventured to indulge, for, aided, as I am happy to confess I have been, not only by my personal friends, but by the voluntary exertions of several young men of talents who have sympathized in my object, I have been enabled, within these years, to obtain not only a great variety of settings of airs already printed, or in my own collection, but to add to that collection more than four hundred melodies previously unpublished, and unknown to me.
Having premised thus far in reference to the motives and feelings which influenced me in under-taking a work. of this nature. I feel it necessary to make a few remarks in reference to the objects which I proposed to myself during the progress of its compilation, and which I have kept in view, as far as it was in my power to do so.
Independently, then, of the desire to collect and preserve the hitherto unpublished melodies of Ireland, these objects may, in a general way, be stated as having a common end in view, namely, to fix, as far as practicable, by evidences, the true forms of our melodies, whether already published or not, and to throw all available light upon their past history. By a zealous-attention to such points, Mr. Chappell, in his collection of national English airs, has ably, as well as enthusiastically, asserted the claims of his country to the possession of a national music, and, with an equal zeal and ability, Mr. G. Farquhar Graham has illustrated Scottish music in the valuable introductory Dissertation and Notes which he has supplied to Wood's work, "The Songs of Scotland." For the illustration of the national music of Ireland, however, but little of this kind has been hitherto attempted, and that little, I regret to say, is not always of much value or authority. Such as it is, however, it is wholly comprised in the remarks upon a few of the tunes printed in Bunting's first publication, and his remarks upon some fifty of these given in his third and last volume, and even these latter remarks, together with the statement of names and dates authenticative of the airs comprised in that volume, were only made at my suggestion and on my earnest solicitation. But I confess that I found those remarks to be far inferior in copiousness, interest, and value, to what I had hoped for from one who had far greater facilities for gathering the varied knowledge necessary for the illustration of our music than can be obtained now, and whom I knew to have been possessed of all the oldest printed, as well as many MS., settings of a large number of our airs, together with an extensive collection of the Irish songs sung to them, and other materials now difficult, if not impossible, to procure, but of which, strange to say, Mr. Bunting made scarcely any use. To the use of all printed authorities, or such as could be tested by reference, Mr. Bunting, indeed, appears to have had a rooted aversion, and, in all cases. he preferred the statement of facts on his own unsupported authority to every other. Nor would such authority have been without value if he had every reason to believe it trustworthy. But what reliance can be place on the statements of one who, in reference to that strange musical farrago - compounded no doubt of Irish materials - called "The Irish Cry as sung in Ulster," given in his last volume, tells us that it was procured in 1799 "from O'Neill, harper, and from the hired mourners or keeners at Armagh, and from a MS. above 100 years old"? - or who gravely acquaints us that he obtained the well-known tune called "Patrick's Day," in 1792, from "Patrick Quin, harper," as if he could not have gotten as accurate a set of it from any human being in Ireland that could either play, sing, or whistle a tune, and though he knew that the air had been printed-and more correctly too-in Playford's "Dancing Master" more than a century previous. Thus, in like manner, he refers us to dead harpers as his authorities for all those tunes of Carolan, and many others, which he printed, nearly all of which had been already given in Neal's, and other publications of the early part of the last century.
The truth is indeed unquestionable, that not only has our music never as yet been properly studied and analyzed, or its history been carefully and conscientiously investigated, but that our melodies, generally, have never been collected in any other than a careless, desultory, and often unskilful manner. For the most part caught up from the chanting of some one singer, or, as more commonly was the case, from the playing of some one itinerant harper, fiddler, or piper, settings of them have been given to the world as the most perfect that could be obtained, without a thought of the possibility of getting better versions, or of testing their accuracy by the acquisition, for the purpose of comparison, of settings from other singers or performers, or from other localities, and the result has often been most prejudicial to the character of our music.
If indeed we were so simple and inconsiderate as to place any faith in the dogma of the immutability of traditionally preserved melodies, so boldly put forward by Mr. Bunting in the preface to his last work, it would follow that all such labour of research, investigation, and analysis, was wholly unnecessary, and as we are fairly authorized to conclude that he took no such useless labour upon himself, it will, to a great extent, account for the imperfections which may be found in many of his settings of even our finest airs.
This strange dogma of Mr. Bunting's is thus stated: "The words of the popular songs of every country vary according to the several provinces and districts in which they are sung, as for example, to the popular air of Aileen-a-roon, we here find as many different sets of words as there are counties in one of our provinces. But the case is totally different with music. A strain of music, once impressed on the popular ear, never varies. It may be made the vehicle of many different sets of words, but they are adapted to it, not it to them, and it will no more alter its character on their account than a ship will change the number of its masts on account of an alteration in the nature of its lading. For taste in music is so universal, especially among country people, and in a pastoral age, and airs are so easily, indeed in many instances, so intuitively acquired, that when a melody has once been divulged in any district, a criterion is immediately established in almost every ear, and this criterion being the more infallible in proportion as it requires less effort in judging, we have thus, in all directions and at all times, a tribunal of the utmost accuracy and of unequalled impartiality (for it is unconscious of the exercise of its own authority) governing the musical traditions of the people, and preserving the native airs and melodies of every country in their integrity from the earliest periods." - Ancient Music of Ireland - Preface, pp. 1. 2.
The irrationality, and untruthfulness of this dogma, as applied to national melody generally, has been well exposed by Mr. G. Farquhar Graham, in his "Introduction" to "Wood's Songs of Scotland," and, as applied to the melodies of Ireland, abundant proofs of its unsoundness will be found in the present and succeeding volumes of this work. I shall only, therefore, state here, as the result of my own experience as a collector of our melodies, that I rarely, if ever, obtained two settings of an unpublished air that were strictly the same, though, in some instances, I have gotten as many as fifty notations of the one melody. In many instances, indeed, I have found the differences between one version of an air and another to have been so great, that it was only by a careful analysis of their structure, aided perhaps by a knowledge of their history and the progress of their mutations, that they could be recognised as being essentially the one air. And thus, from a neglect of, or incapacity for, such analysis, Moore, in his Irish Melodies, has given as different airs Aisling an Oighfear, or "The Young man's dream," and the modern version of it known as "The groves of Blarney," and "Last rose of summer," Sin sios agus suas lium, or "Down beside me," and the modern version known as "The Banks of Banna," Cailin: deas donn, or "The pretty brown-haired girl," and Shield's inaccurate setting of it, noted from the singing of Irish sailors at Wapping. Nor has Bunting himself, from whom more accuracy might have been expected, been able to avoid such oversights, for, in his last volume, he has given us as different airs: 1. The well-known tune called Bean an fhir ruadh, or "The red-haired man's wife" - or as he calls it, "O Mollv dear" - and a barbarized piper's version of it, which he calls Cailin deas ruadh, or "The pretty red-haired girl," the first of these settings, as he states, having been obtained from Patrick Quin, harper, in 1800, and the second from Thomas Broadwood, Esq. (of London), in 1815. 2. The very common air called "The rambling boy," and a corrupted version of it, with a fictitious second part, which he calls Do bi bean uasal, or "There was a young lady," - obtained, as he states, from R. Stanton. of Westport, in 1802. And 3. The very popular old tune of Ta me mo chodhladh, or "I am asleep," and a modified version of it, which he calls Maidin bog aoibhin, or "Soft mild morning," both of which, he tells us. were noted from the playing of Hempson, the harper of Magilligan, the first in 1792, and the second in 1796. Harpers and other instrumentalists are indeed Bunting's most common authorities for his tunes, whenever he gives any, but I must say that, except in the case of tunes of a purely instrumental character, I have found such authorities usually the least to be trusted, and that it was only from the chanting of vocalists, who combined words with the airs, that settings could be made which would have any stamp of purity and authenticity. For our vocal melodies. Even when in the hands of those players whose instruments will permit a true rendering of their peculiar tonalities and features of expression, assume a new and unfixed character, varying with the caprices of each unskilled performer, who, unshackled by any of the restraints imposed upon the singer by the rhythm and metre of the words connected with those airs. thinks only of exhibiting, and gaining applause for, his own powers of invention and execution. by the absurd indulgence of barbarous licenses and conventionalities, destructive not only of their simpler and finer song qualities, but often rendering even their essential features undeterminable with any degree of certainty.
It is, in fact, to this careless or mistaken usage of Mr. Bunting and other collectors of our melodies, of noting them from rude musical interpreters, instead of resorting to the native singers-their proper depositories-that we may ascribe the great inaccuracies - often destructive of their beauty, and always of their true expression-which may be found in the published settings of so many of our airs. For those airs are not, like so many modern melodies, mere ad libitum arrangements of a pleasing succession of tones, unshackled by a rigid obedience to metrical laws, they are arrangements of tones, in a general way expressive of the sentiments of the songs for which they were composed', but always strictly coincident with, and subservient to, the laws of rhythm and metre which govern the construction of those songs, and to which they consequently owe their peculiarities of structure. And hence it obviously follows that the entire body of our vocal melodies may be easily divided into, and arranged under, as many classes as there are metrical forms of construction in our native lyrics-but no further, and that any melody that will not naturally fall into some one or other of those classes must be either corrupt or altogether fictitious. Thus, for example, if we take that class of airs in triple time which is the most peculiarly Irish in its structure, namely, that to which I have applied the term narratives in the numerous examples given in the present volume, a reference to the words sung to those airs would at once have shown that the bar should be marked at the first crotchet, or dotted quaver, after a start, or introduction, of half a measure, so that the accents throughout the melody would fall on the emphatic words as well as notes; whereas, by a neglect of such reference, even Mr. Bunting, in his settings of such tunes, has very frequently marked the bar a full crotchet, or two quavers sooner-thus falsifying the accents, and marring the true expression of the melody through its entirety, and rendering it incapable of being correctly sung to the original song or to any other of similar structure that had been, or could be, adapted to it. I should add, moreover, that this rhythmical concordance of the notes of the melody with the words of the song must, to secure a correct notation, be not only attended to in the general structure of the air, but even in the minutest details of its measures. Thus, in Mr. Bunting's setting of the beautiful melody called Droighneann donn, or "The brown thorn," given in his first collection - and which is one of the class here alluded to - though the tune throughout is correctly barred, yet, from a neglect of such attention, the rhythm is violated, in the third phrase of the second strain, or section, by the substitution of a minim for a crotchet followed by two quavers, and this rhythmical imperfection, trivial as it might be deemed-for the time is still perfect-had the effect of constraining the poet Moore, in his words to this melody, to make the corresponding, phrase in each stanza of his song defective of a metrical foot. As thus
"For on thy deck - though dark it be,
A female form . . . . . . I see."
In offering these remarks, which have been necessarily somewhat critical, on the errors of preceding collectors of our music-and which I confess I have made with great reluctance as regards the labours of Mr. Bunting, whose zealous exertions for the preservation of our national music should entitle his name to be for ever held in grateful remembrance by his country - I must not allow it to be inferred that I consider myself qualified to give to the public a work in which no such imperfections shall be found. Whatever may be the value of the qualifications necessary for doing so which I possess, the means necessary to ensure such an end have been, to a great extent, wanting. Like my predecessors, I have been, and am, but a desultory collector, dependent upon accident for the tunes which I have picked up, not always, as I would have desired. obtaining such acquisitions from the best sources, but sometimes from pipers, fiddlers, and such other corrupting and uncertain mediums, sometimes from old MS. or printed music books, and often, at second-hand, from voluntary contributors, who had themselves acquired them in a similar manner. And though the airs thus acquired have but rarely borne the stamp of unsullied purity, they have often retained such an approach to beauty as seemed to entitle them to regard, and as would not permit me, willingly, to reject them as worthless.
But I may, perhaps without presumption, claim the merit of an ardent enthusiasm in the prosecution of this undertaking, and of a reasonable share of industry in endeavouring to qualify myself to accomplish it with, at least, some amount of ability. I have availed myself of every opportunity in my power to obtain the purest settings of the airs, by noting them from the native singers, and more particularly, from such of them as resided, or had been reared, in the most purely Irish districts, and I have sedulously endeavoured to test their accuracy, and free them from, the corruptions incidental to local and individual recollections, by seeking for other settings from various localities and persons: and whenever, as has often happened, I found such different settings exhibit a want of agreement which has made it difficult to decide upon the superior accuracy, and perhaps beauty, of one over others, I have deemed it desirable to preserve such different versions. And as the true rhythm of traditionally preserved airs can often be determined only by a reference to the songs which had been sung to them or from their strict analogy to airs whose rhythmical structure had been thus determined, I have endeavoured, in all instances, to collect such songs, or even fragments of them, and though these songs or fragments are not often in themselves valuable, and are even sometimes worthless, I have considered them not unworthy of preservation as evidences of, at least, the general accuracy of the settings of the airs, as well as being illustrative, to some extent, of their history, and in all cases I have truly stated the sources and localities from which both tunes and word have been obtained. Finally, I have endeavoured carefully to analyze the peculiarities of rhythm and structure found in the airs, as well as in the songs sung to them, and I have thus, as I conceive, been enabled to lay a solid foundation for a future general classification of our melodies, which must be free from error, and be of great value in illustrating the origin and progress of our music.
That I have been at all times successful in these efforts, or that the settings of the airs now first published, as well as of those intended to follow them, are always the best that could possibly be obtained, is more than I would venture to arrogate, or perhaps than should be expected. My whole pretensions are limited to the accumulation of a greater and more varied mass of materials for the formation of a comprehensive and standard publication of our national music than has previously existed, including, as a necessary contribution towards the accomplishment of such a desideratum, corrected or varied versions of airs already printed, as well as settings of airs previously unnoticed.
The value of these efforts may, however, be fairly estimated from the volume now presented to the public, for, should it meet support, and a few years of life be spared me, to enable the Society to bring the work to completion, this volume will be found to be a fair specimen of the materials of which the others shall consist. For though, by a selection of the finest airs in my possession, it would have been easy to have made this volume one of far higher interest and value, I have abstained from doing so, as the consequent deterioration in the quality of the matter in the succeeding volumes would create a just cause of complaint, and, indeed, I have been so studious in taking these tunes in such relative proportions, as to merit and variety of character. as would afford an average measure of the materials which remained, that I would fain hope, should any difference hereafter be found between them, it will not be unfavourable to the character of the latter.
In like manner, I might have made this volume one of far higher musical pretensions, and probably, popular interest, by intrusting the harmonization of the airs to professional musicians of known ability, many of whom I am proud to rank amongst the number of my friends. But I knew of none, at least within the latter circle, who had devoted any particular study to the peculiarities of structure and tonalities which so often distinguish our melodies from those of modern times, and I consequently feared that harmonies of a learned and elaborate nature, constructed with a view to the exhibition of scientific knowledge, as well as the gratification of conventional tastes, might often appear to me unsuited to the simple character and peculiar expression of the airs, and require me either to adopt what I might not approve, or, by the exercise of a veto, which would have the appearance of assumption, involve me in collisions which I should desire to avoid. From such feeling only, and not from any vain desire to exhibit musical knowledge which I am conscious I do not possess, I determined to arrange the melodies as I best could, to satisfy my own musical perceptions of propriety, and this determination I should have carried out through the present volume, and its successors, but that I soon found that my beloved and devoted eldest daughter, possessing a sympathizing musical feeling, and actuated by an ardent desire to lighten my labours by every means in her power, soon qualified herself by study and practice, not merely to give me an occasional assistance, but, as I may say, to take upon herself-subject of course to my approbation - the arrangements of the far greater portions of the airs which the volume contains. In order, however, to secure our arrangements from grammatical errors, or other glaring defects, I have, in most instances, submitted them to the correction of my friend Dr. Smith, Professor of Music in the University of Dublin, and he has, given me the aid of his deep scientific musical knowledge, with a zeal and warmth which entitle him to my most grateful acknowledgements.
Yet - as in matters of taste the judgement is usually more influenced by accidental associations, than by the aesthetic sense of the intrinsic beauty which may be inherent in the objects subjected to it-I am far from inducing the expectation that the general estimate formed of the worth of the airs in the present volume will be at all as high as my own. The young Subaltern will, most probably, consider the last new galop or polka, to which-intoxicated with the charms of his fair partner-he has skipped or cantered round the ball-room, superior in beauty to the finest melodies of Rossini or Mozart. The thoughtless, impulsive Irishman, of a lower social order will prefer the airs of "Patrick's Day" or "Garryowen.," to all the lively melodies of his country. The popular public singer has it in his power to make an air "the tune of the day" which, however high its merits, might have remained unknown but for his patronage. The people of every different race and country will not be persuaded that there is any national music in the world equal to their own, for it is expressive of their own musical sensations, and is associated with the songs and recollections of their youth. And thus the finest of our Irish melodies have obtained their just appreciation far less from any immediate estimate of their merits, than from their accidental union with the lyrics of Moore and others, which had taken a hold on the popular mind.
The airs presented to the public in this work have no such accidental associations, and no such interpreters of their meanings, to recommend them to general favour: and hence, they will have not only to encounter the prejudices of those who believe that all the Irish melodies worthy of preservation have been already collected-an opinion fostered in the public mind by Moore and Bunting, - but the still greater danger of disappointing the expectations of those who believe that airs presented to their cars for the first time, and without words, should at once take possession of their feelings, and give as much delight as those which had been embalmed there by various extrinsic associations.
But, though it is only natural to conclude that, as the best melodies of every country would, at least generally, be the most popular, and, therefore the first to present themselves to notice, and be appropriated by early collectors, those which remain to reward the industry of subsequent collectors - gleaners on an already reaped field - would be of an inferior quality, yet I cannot but indulge the belief that the airs in this work will, on the whole, be found to possess as great an amount of variety and excellence as belong to those which have preceded it, and that, should the support necessary to its completion be awarded to it, it will afford a valuable and enduring contribution to the store of simple pleasures necessary to minds of a refined and sensitive nature, and greatly add to the respect which Ireland has already obtained from the world from the beauty of her national music.
67, Rathmines Road
1st May, 1855