Poets were challenged to write in a specific rhythmical style that could be easily sung to the tune of the well known and greatly loved “Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms”, and all rose to the occasion with an array of topics that demonstrate the diversity of anapestic verse. (The anapest is a unit of metrical measurement that corresponds with three-quarter time in music.)
Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852) was an Irish writer, poet, and lyricist. By setting his fresh lyrics to traditional Irish melodies, he tapped into a medium with enduring appeal. Read his exquisite love poem below, but first enjoy how well the words fit the music. Not only will you want to sing along, you can also clearly hear the downbeat on every third note as the couples waltz across the smooth floor of imagination.
The classic masterpiece takes on even greater significance if you know the legend behind it. Although the timeline doesn’t jive as a literal historical account, the story goes like this:
In 1811, Moore married the beautiful actress Elizabeth Dyke. It’s said that while Moore was away working in Bermuda, Elizabeth contracted smallpox, which disfigured her face.
When Moore returned, she was reluctant to let him see her in her changed state for fear he would no longer love her.
Moore responded by going to his study and sitting down to write. A few hours later, he knocked on his wife’s door and read the poem he had just written – Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms.
Encouraged by his words that he loved her regardless of her looks, she allowed him back into her room.
– Irish Music Daily
Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms
by Thomas Moore (1808)
Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be ador’d, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.
It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofan’d by a tear,
That the fervour and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear;
No, the heart that has truly lov’d never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sun-flower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turn’d when he rose.