“Oh! Breathe Not His Name”


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"


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. - RBW

Cross references


  • 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)


  1. Moylan 159, "Oh! Breathe Not His Name" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, BrdOBNHN


Author: Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Earliest date: 1846 (_Irish Melodies_ by Thomas Moore, according to Zimmermann)