One day, Thomas Moore, a young Irishman, is crossing the marshes of his homeland when he comes across a copse of English elm trees. Entering the small forest, Thomas is immediately struck by the absolute silence and impenetrable darkness of the place. After stumbling his way through the first of the trees, he beholds a faint light behind a very large tree ahead of him. As young Tom approaches the light, he sees a chain wrapped tightly around the tree, and trapped by the chain is an old Irish harp. Though ages have passed since the shining harp was tied there, it remains beautiful, and Tom feels that if he could only free it from the chain, the most enchanting music in the world may come from the instrument. Kneeling down before the tree, Tom puts his hands on the chain, intending to break that which keeps the harp silent. As soon as he pulls the chain, the harp begins to shine brighter and brighter. Forced to close his eyes, Tom looks away. After a moment, he hears a lilting sigh, a cross between the sound of a summer breeze and the relieved sound of a mother who has found her lost child. Opening his eyes, Tom falls to his backside as he beholds the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. With eyes as green as the Irish hills and hair that flows down her back like wheat in a field, the woman stares into Tom’s eyes.
She speaks with the voice of a melody, “What is your name?”
The normally timid man feels unnatural strength within him as he looks at the woman, and replies firmly, “Thomas Moore ma’am, although most call me Tom.”
“I am Iré, daughter of Erin,” she replies, “Are you here to help me?”
Rising from his place on the ground, Tom realizes that this lady, Iré, is more disheveled than at first he perceived. Her dress, many years out of style, is covered in mud, and her hair is full of tangles and twigs. Feeling the strength of his own loneliness and the certainty that he is somehow connected to this woman, Tom responds,
“If you think I may be of some service, ask me for anything and I will deliver it to you, my lady Iré. My home is not far from this place. You are more than welcome to come refresh yourself there.”
With true excitement and gratitude in her voice, Ireland simply states, “Thank you Tom. I would love to see your home.”
This first meeting between Tom and the Irish harp-turned woman Iré sparked a joy within Tom that he could not understand. Whenever he was around the lady, he felt at home. After some time together, they journeyed together throughout the country of Ireland to make music and spread joy. Ireland’s voice when raised in song made all who heard her lose all of their worries, but something was always a little off when they performed. Tom did everything he could to complement the lovely Iré in their music, but he was never as skilled as she was, and no matter how beautiful their songs were, he knew that he wasn’t the right person to be Iré’s partner. She radiated happiness, but like the country she reflected, the despair of how long she was shackled to that English tree always peeked through her smiles and songs.
After making his decision, Tom tearfully turns to Iré one day while they are at home. He sings to her, “My one true love, dear Iré, you know I’ll always be true.
And this last song we weave as one will mark my love for you.
To sleep you must go now,
back to those trees, and you
must wait for one who will save you
From the tears you’ve shed anew.”
Iré joins in the song,
“The time for sleep has come to us,
oh Iré you must go.
But look for one whose song is right
for freedom you shall know.”
As the embodiment of Ireland returns to her tree, her shackles are gone, but still the English elm stands tall above her, and she knows that it will still be a long time before her music will be heard again. Tom leaves the place with the wind, and the harp again sits waiting for a lover, a soldier, or a patriot to set her song free forever.
Thomas Moore’s original “Dear Harp of my Country” is a short poem composed of moving lines about the suppression of the Irish. Speaking to the Irish harp, a symbol of Ireland and its people, Moore uses beautiful phrases that he would perform as a song to make the plight of his nation known. This short story rendition transforms the Irish harp into a woman embodiment of Ireland. The lyrical lines are gone, but in their place is a simple tale the likes of which a novel or a movie would contain. For a modern audience, such a story is better understood and more likely to spread than a poem. Using the character of the original author brings attention to the era the story addresses, and having the character Iré and Thomas Moore perform together connects the story to the reality of what Moore presented with his poem. The Irish harp indeed was a focus at the time of the poem’s publication, and its unpopularity was seen as a mark of sadness connected to English influences. Having the Irish harp/woman shackled to an English elm tree also brings this connection to light in the short story. The story is quick paced, resembling the original poem in the needless manner it addresses plot. There is no need to add superfluous scenes or nuances in the story because everyone at the time the poem was published would make the necessary connections. For a modern audience at all familiar with European history as well, added context is unnecessary to understand how the Irish perspective is presented in this story. The change in medium from a poem to a short story makes the presentation of this tale more modern, but music is still a present force in the final lines of the story. Moore’s poem begins Part II by calling the poem itself the last song woven by the narrator and the harp; likewise, this rendition calls to a final song before the harp goes to sleep again. The elements of the original “Dear Harp of my Country” are present in this short story, with the simplistic writing of the rendition adding to its ability to connect with a present-day audience.