Wednesday, February 17, 2016

From Calcutta to Tübingen - Thomas Moore's "All That's Bright Must Fade" (1818)


Poet and songwriter Thomas Moore is today best known for the famous Irish Melodies, one of the most successful collection of songs ever. But just like others at that time he also wrote new lyrics for international national airs, foreign tunes said to be from all kind of different countries. In fact there was a great fashion for this genre particularly from the 1790s until 1830. Moore's Selection of Popular National Airs, published in six volumes between 1818 and 1828, may have been the most popular collection of this kind (see in this blog: "Melodies of Different Nations": Anthologies of International "National Airs" in Britain 1800-1830 - Pt. 2). In the first booklet (at the Internet Archive) we can find for example airs described as French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Sicilian, Indian and Russian. 

But I have always wondered: where did Mr. Moore get all those tunes? In fact he was not forthcoming about his sources. Of course he traveled much and he may have heard one or the other melody somewhere during his trips. He also knew many people and they may have supplied him with what they knew. But often enough one gets the impression that he had simply invented some of these melodies himself. This collection includes for example a couple of "Scottish" tunes but as far as I could find out they are not known in Scotland and they can't be found in any of the anthologies of Scottish airs that were available at that time (see in this blog: Thomas Moore's "Scottish Songs"). 

But recently I happened to come across the source for at least one tune, the "Indian Air" of "All That's Bright Must Fade" in the first volume (pp. 9-15). This particular song also became the starting-point for an interesting discussion in the music press about the copyright of national airs. Not at least it was later also published in Germany, in one of the most popular anthologies of international "Volkslieder". Therefore a closer look at the song and its history should be worthwhile:

All that's bright must fade, the brightest still the fleetest;
All that's sweet was made but to be lost when sweetest.
Stars that shine and fall; the flower that drops in springing;
These, alas! are types of all to which our hearts are clinging.
All that's bright must fade, the brightest still the fleetest;
All that's sweet was made but to be lost when sweetest?

Who would seek our prize delights that end in aching?
Who would trust to ties that every hour are breaking?
Better far to be in utter darkness lying,
Than to be blest with light and see that light for ever flying.
All that's bright must fade, the brightest still the fleetest;
All that's sweet was made but to be lost when sweetest? 


At that time melodies from India had been popular in England for nearly 30 years. In the late 1780s some open-minded members of the the new English elite in Calcutta became interested in the music of the indigenous population (see for example Bor 1988, Woodfield 1995, pp. 281-95; Farrell 1997, pp. 15-44; see also in this blog: "Exotic" Airs in Germany - Dalberg's "Ueber die Musik der Indier", chapter III). Among them was one William Hamilton Bird. Not much is known about him except that he was quite busy as an impresario, conductor and instrumentalist in the local music scene of Calcutta (see Farrell, p. 32). But he compiled and published the very first collection of Indian tunes for an English audience and also included some helpful and interesting information about the different genres: Rekhtahs, Teranas, Tuppahs and Raagnies
  • William Hamilton Bird, The Oriental Miscellany; Being A Collection Of The Most Favourite Airs of Hindoostan, Compiled And Adapted For The Harpsichord, &c., Cooper, Calcutta, 1789 (at the Internet Archive
Of course these 30 melodies - all arranged for piano - were not "authentic" in an ethnomusicological sense. He adapted them to Western musical style to make them playable. They were intended "for the entertainment of his friends, and the public" ([p. IV]). The tunes appeared "in a form in which doubtless almost every trace of their original character has been lost, except perhaps their general melodic contour" (Woodfield 1995, p. 294). In this collection we can find the original version of the tune later used by Moore for his "All That's Bright Must Fade", a so-called Tuppah (p. 37). According to Hamilton Bird's explanations Tuppahs are "wild, but pleasing, when understood. They are of Mogul extraction, and have a peculiar style of their own" ([p. II]):

This collection served as a first introduction to original Indian music and in England it initiated a long-lasting fashion for what was called "Hindostannie Airs" (see f. ex. Cook 2007). More similar anthologies would follow. Around 1800 composer Edward Smith Biggs took 18 of Hamilton Bird's tunes and tried to make them even more digestible for English music fans and musicians. He wrote new arrangements and popular poet and writer Amelia Opie added new English lyrics. 
  • E. S. Biggs, Twelve Hindoo Airs with English Words Adapted to them by Mrs. Opie and Harmonized for One, Two, Three, and Four Voices, with an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte or Harp, R. Birchall, London, n. d. [c. 1800] (at the Internet Archive & Gallica BnF
  • E. S. Biggs, A Second Set of Hindoo Airs with English Words Adapted to them by Mrs. Opie and Harmonized for One, Two, Three, and Four Voices, (or for a Single Voice) with an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte or Harp, R. Birchall, London, n. d. [c. 1800] (at the Internet Archive & Gallica BnF
Among the tunes used here was also this particular Tuppah: "Dream of Soft Delight", Air VIII in the first of these volumes (pp. 28-9). It was the first attempt to turn it into a modern popular song, nearly 20 years before Moore's "All That's Bright Must Fade": 

Not much is known about Edward Smith Biggs (?-1833; see AAOA, composers; year of death from IMSLP), not even when he was born. But it seems he was an industrious composer and arranger of popular songs. He also may have been a kind of pioneer regarding the publication and modernization of national airs. Biggs was among the first who adopted the model introduced by publisher George Thomson in the Select collection of Original Scotish Airs since 1793: take a tune, give it a modern arrangement and add, if necessary, new poetry. Thomson had hired continental composers Kozeluch and Pleyel - later Haydn and even Beethoven would work for him - and new words were written at first by Robert Burns.

Biggs had to write the arrangements himself and Amelia Opie (1769-1853; see AAOA) took care of the lyrics. Already in 1796 they had produced a small collection of Welsh songs, Six Welch Airs Adapted to English Words, and Harmonized for Two, Three, and Four Voices With an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte or Harp (at the Internet Archive; date: Kassler, 2/4/1796). After the Indian collection the two worked together on some more similar publications: Swiss songs, a "Favorite Irish Air", a ballad "written to a provincial melody" as well as a "Collection of Melodies, chiefly Russian" (see Kassler, 19/6/1802, 21/3/1803, 29/12/1804, 7/3/1808). A contemporary critic was impressed by her texts (The Cabinet 1, 1807, pp. 217-9, here pp. 218-9): 
"Mr. Biggs is indebted to her, for the poetry adapted to the Hindu and Welsh airs, which he collected [sic!] and published. This difficult task of writing appropriate words to such various and singular metres, she executed with an uncommon degree of ability". 
This approach was then perfected by Thomas Moore since 1808 with the Irish Melodies. Of course he had a little bit more to offer: his own lyrical imagination and the musical prowess of Sir John Stevenson. But nonetheless there is good reason to assume that he was familiar with Biggs' and Opie's work which looks just like a possible missing link between Thomson and him. 

It is not clear if he knew this particular tune from the Oriental Miscellany or if he borrowed it directly from Biggs collection. His version of the melody is not completely identical to the one in the Hindoo Airs. But of course Moore was a good musician and singer and it would have been no problem for him to modify it and make it fit for his own purposes. In fact he did and also showed how to turn a relic of of an original Indian melody into a modern popular song without loosing the "exotic" aura. 


The first volume of the Popular National Airs was greeted by the critics with great enthusiasm. The reviewer of The Gentleman's Magazine (90 I, 1820, p. 521) called it "one of the most pleasing collections of the kind we ever recollect to have met with" and lauded the "delightful poetry [...], which comprizes, according to our idea of beauty, some of the most highly polished specimens of the art of Songwriting we know in the English language". The author of the review in the Quarterly Musical Magazine & Review (1, 1818, pp. 225-9, here p. 227) particularly liked "All that's Bright Must Fade", in his words "one of the most captivating things we ever met with": 
"[...] in the measure and the melody taken together there is something so exquisitely touching, that dull indeed must be his soul and rigidly severe his cast of thought, who can bar the passage of his heart against their combined insinuations". 
But the success and popularity of a song often inspired other publishers and musicians to jump on the bandwagon and throw a rival product on the market. In this case it was well-known composer John Davy who borrowed the tune, arranged it anew and added a new set of words: 
  • Is My Love Then Flown? A Favourite Song, Adapted to an Indian Melody, with an Accompaniment for the Piano Forte, by J. Davy, Chappell & Co., London, n. d. [1820] , at the Internet Archive
Is my love then flown,
That love I thought sincerest;
Art thou faithless grown
To him who lov'd thee dearest.
Yes, no more I see
Thine eyes in beams are sparkling;
Looks which once shed joy o'er me,
Are now both cold and darkling.

Yet an hour will come
When all thy charms so blooming,
Like flowers on a tomb,
Chill time will be consuming!
Then thou'lt think of him
Betray'd with hopes deceiving;
And a tear perhaps may dim
Thine eyes for me while grieving.
John Davy (1763-1824; see DNB 14, pp. 194-5, at wikisource) wasn't a nobody but a well-known composer and songwriter. "Bay of Biscay" was his greatest success. Nonetheless the editor of the Quarterly Magazine felt it necessary to question his honesty (2, 1820, p. 505): 
"We must take leave to ask Mr. Davy one question, in our character of the guardians of musical proprietorship, which is, whether he had already adapted this melody to these words before it appeared in the first volume of the National Airs [...]? If not, we know not how we will palliate the offence he has committed against good taste and against what ought in common fairness to be held the property of Mr. Power [...]" 
Of course the recycling of national airs was common practice. Everybody did it, including Moore himself. But in this case an interesting discussion followed. One correspondent endorsed the editor's stern remarks and found even stronger words (Vol. 3, pp. 151-3): 
"[...] I trust you will permit me to offer a few remarks in the shameful manner in which musical copy right has been invaded, and property which is, and ought to be considered sacred, wantonly violated. National airs are correctly supposed to be national property, but they are only so being the unmodulated ditties of the multitude [...] songs that have been orally preserved for centuries; such of course every person is at liberty to publish, or rather print; but when a man of genius and of science softens down the asperities of an air which has long been familiar to every ear, and by his labour and peculiar skill produces new beauties and harmony which the primitive melody never possessed; I would ask, is that melody, snatched from the vulgar mouth, refined, improved and adorned [...], is that melody, to be considered as common property, and the arranger possessed of no further control over the disposal of it than any other individual of the community? Certainly not [...]" 
He also referred to another case: one Mr. Walker had taken two tunes from the Irish Melodies and - just like Davy - published them with new words. But: songs were money, Moore received £ 500 a year for his work because he was able to turn obscure melodies into great hits. Of course the publisher wanted to protect his investment and any rival product was an attempt to deny him his well-deserved return. In fact this writer sounded like publisher Power's mouthpiece. 

Another correspondent disagreed, at least regarding Davy's publication. According to him this song was not an attempt at deceiving the customers. He also strictly disagreed with the idea that a tune belonged for the standard copyright time of 28 years to the one who had used it first (Vol. 3, pp. 283-5): 
"[...] are we to be told, and have it laid down as a rule, that because Mr. Moore selects national airs to write poetry to, that a seal is thereby set on them, and that any man who dares to take some of the same airs to write other words to, is to be designated as a pirate [...] I admire as much as any one can, the beauty of the words set to the Irish Melodies, and Mr. Moore's patriotism in having collected [them]. But can it be said that it is patriotism or any thing short of 'money getting', that has since induced Mr. Moore to write words to the airs of Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, &c., and if this is his motto, why should he prevent others from adopting it, for who can tell whether after having run his course on the continent, he will not [...] return to his native home and select English melodies; if he does not in the mean time grow too rich , I shall consider this a very probable case [...]". 
This writer claimed to defend the "the rights of the public" although it seems to me that the right of publishers and composers to produce rival products were more important to him. But in a footnote the editor of the Quarterly Magazine defended again the "exclusive claim" of the original editor: 
"[...] if the second adaptor is led to his work by the first - it is the consideration that determines the question of plagiarism [...] Did Mr. Davy set these words to this air before Mr. Moore's national airs appeared? If not, he was led to it by Mr. Moore, and this exactly constitutes the difference between a plagiarism and no plagiarism. Nothing can be more clear or more simple, and no sophistry about common rights can involve it in difficulty. The second publication either did or did not arise out of the knowledge of the first and the celebrity obtained thereby to the air. If it did arise out of such knowledge, it was plagiarism to the fullest extent of the meaning of the term [...]". 
But interestingly none of them of them was aware of the fact that this particular tune had been available in England for 30 years - since the publication of the Oriental Miscellany - and that it already had been edited and published with new lyrics before: by Mr. Biggs in 1800. According to the logic of these defenders of copyright it would have at that time still belonged to Biggs and his publisher and it would have been Moore who was guilty of plagiarism, especially if he had found it in the Hindoo Airs. In fact this problem was much more complicated than they imagined. Thomas Moore's publisher and his supporters moved on very thin ice here because he also had to get his tunes somewhere and often enough they were borrowed from other printed collections. 

In this case apparently nothing more happened. Davy's song remained obscure and I don't get the impression that the publisher lost much money because of him. Moore's song remained available and by all accounts it was very popular throughout the century (see Copac), not only in England but of course also in the USA where it was published as single sheet music, for example by Blake in Philadelphia (c. 1818?, at UNC). Just like in Britain the text was easily available in numerous editions of Moore's poetry. Amusingly I found the opening lines of this song even quoted in a book about home laundry published in Minneapolis in 1912 (here, p. 57).


Moore's "All That's Bright Must Fade" also migrated to Germany, but only two decades later. It was Friedrich Silcher from Tübingen, apparently a great fan of Thomas Moore's songs, who took advantage of the non-existence of international copyright and plundered the Popular National Airs for his own collection of international "Volkslieder": 
  • No. 5: "Alle Lust Hat Leid. Indisch", in: Friedrich Silcher, Ausländische Volksmelodien, mit deutschem, zum Theil aus dem Englischen etc. übertragenem Text, gesammelt und für eine oder zwei Singstimmen mit Begleitung des Pianoforte und der Guitarre gesetzt, Heft 3, Fues, Tübingen, n. d. [1839], pp. 6-7)
Alle Lust hat Leid, das Schönste muss verderben,
Huld und Herrlichkeit lebt nur, um bald zu sterben.
Sternenschein vergeht, die Blume welkt im Keime,
Und so schnell sind auch verweht des Herzens liebste Träume!
Alle Lust hat Leid, das Schönste muss verderben,
Huld und Herrlichkeit lebt nur, um bald zu sterben.

Trau' der Freude nicht! nur Thränen sind ihr Ende:
Jede Stunde bricht entzwei die liebsten Hände.
Lieber bleibe fern im Dunkel ohne Schimmer,
Sieh nicht an dem lichten Stern, der dir verlischt auch immer!
Alle Lust hat Leid, das Schönste muss verderben,
Huld und Herrlichkeit lebt nur, um bald zu sterben.
I have discussed this anthology already several times (see in this blog: Ausländische Volkslieder" in 19th-Century Germany, Pt. 2). The Popular National Airs served as its backbone, it was in some way an unofficial German bootleg edition of Moore's collection. As far as I know Silcher never asked Moore or his publisher if he could use this songs nor is there any evidence that he ever sent any royalties to England. Just like everybody else he clearly believed that national airs were free to use for everyone - except his own, of course. Later he was annoyed when someone in England published some of his songs without permission and without even sending a complimentary copy (see Dahmen, p. 151). 

But on the other hand this was the first major publication of Moore's songs including the music in Germany. Thomas Moore was mostly known as a poet but the melodies were difficult to get by and were rarely published. It was this collection that brought his songs to the attention of German music fans and some of them became part of the popular singing tradition. 

The German text was by Hermann Kurtz (later Kurz; 1813-1873; see Wikipedia), a relative and friend of Silcher and formerly a student in Tübingen. He would later become a very popular poet and writer. He was also an early admirer and translator of Moore's poetry and songs as well a major contributor to the Ausländische Volksmelodien. Kurz did a good job with this song as with most of the others he wrote for Silcher. The German words are close to the original text and also singable. Unlike many other German translators of Moore's lyrics he was familiar with the tunes of these songs and knew how to write texts for singing. In fact he was a singer himself and during his time in Tübingen a member of Silcher's choir. 

For some reason this particular song didn't leave a lasting impression and it never became as popular as others from Silcher's collection. Of course one may assume that it was occasionally sung in German living-rooms. The Ausländische Volksmelodien remained available for the rest of the century and was regularly reprinted and republished, for example in the '70s in a nice edition in one volume (here No. 25, pp. 36-7). But the song was very rarely published anew as sheet music or in songbooks. I only found three later editions: 
  • No. 71: "Leid in Lust. Indisch", in: Wilhelm Meyer, Volks-Liederbuch. Auserlesene ältere und neuere Volkslieder und Nationalgesänge des In- und Auslandes mit ihren eigenthümlichen Sangweisen. Für den vierstimmigen Männerchor, Hahn'sche Hofbuchhandlung, Hannover, 1873, p. 77 
  • No. 6: "Alle Lust Hat Leid", in: Franz-Magnus Böhme, Heimische und fremde Weisen für vierstimmigen Männerchor gesetzt, Schott, Mainz, 1882 (see Hofmeister XIX, Februar 1882, p. 55
  • No. 74: "Lust und Leid. Indisches Volkslied", in: J. Heinrich Lützel, Chorlieder für Gymnasien und Realschulen, 3. verm. Auflage, J. J. Tascher, Kaiserslautern, 1885, pp. 157-9 
These were all arrangements for choirs. Meyer's book is an excellent collection of German and international songs and he borrowed a lot of them from Silcher's publications including this one. Böhme's version apparently wasn't sold very well. The sheet music is very rare. Lützel was - to my knowledge - the only one who included this piece in a songbook for schools. But that was all. It never became a standard like for example the German version of "Hark! The Versper Hymn is Stealing". For some reason German publishers and editors also tended to ignore the Popular National Airs. Besides Silcher nobody else made these songs available in Germany. Usually they confined themselves to the Irish Melodies, as did Alfons Kissner who compiled several anthologies of Moore's songs in the 1870s. 

Thomas Moore was very popular in Germany as a poet. German readers usually came to know Moore's songtexts as poetry, not so much as songs with music. Of course every up-and-coming writer tried his hand at translating these poems. Numerous adaptations were published in poetical anthologies, in newspapers and magazine. There were also at least 11 attempts at translating "All That's Bright Must Fade" anew (see Eßmann, p. 116), mostly by rather obscure minor poets. The best known of them may have been Luise Büchner, a writer and women's rights activist who included her own translation in the popular anthology Dichterstimmen aus Heimath und Fremde. Für Frauen und Jungfrauen (here 5th ed., Halle [1872], p. 489). But this text - called "Indisches Lied" - sounds very stiff and unmusical. It is hardly singable. I wonder if she knew the tune. Finally I don't want to forget to mention that at least one academic scholar took note of this song. Eduard Engel - in his Geschichte der Englischen Literatur (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1888, p. 436) - called it one of Moore's "most beautiful and heartfelt poems" and ranked it among his very few "more profound" songs - "tiefere Lieder" -, whatever that was supposed to mean.


All in all we have here once again a tune with a most interesting history. It was collected by an English musician in the 1780s in India and it is not known how it looked and sounded originally. This melody was then published in an arrangement for piano in the Oriental Miscellany and that way it became available in England. Already in 1800 composer E. S. Biggs in cooperation with poet Amelia Opie turned it into a popular song, but apparently without much success. I must add that the tune was first published in Germany in 1802, in Dalberg's Musik der Indier (No. 28, p. 26). This extended German edition of Sir William Jones' important treatise On the Musical Modes of the Hindus (1792) offered as an additional bonus all the pieces from the Oriental Miscellany (see in this blog: "Exotic" Airs in Germany - Dalberg's Musik der Indier (1802)). But Dalberg only reprinted the melody and left out Hamilton Bird's piano arrangement because his aim was to document "original" Indian music. 

Only in 1818 Thomas Moore reanimated this tune - at that time already available for 30 years - and his song became a popular hit. There was at least one controversial offspring, John Davy's "Is My Love Then Flown". All three texts written up to that point had of course nothing to do with India. In 1839 the tune came to Germany a second time, now with Friedrich Silcher's German version of Moore's song. As already mentioned it wasn't such a big success but one may assume that during the next several decades it was at least occasionally sung in in living-rooms and by some choirs. In fact this tune from India made a trip around half the world but in the end barely anything was left of its original form except the "general melodic contour". Otherwise it was completely westernized and adapted to new genres. But it still gave the singers and listeners the idea that this was something "exotic" and that it was in some way still connected to Indian culture.

  • AAOA = The Amelia Alderson Opie Archive (Queen's University, Kingston, Canada) 
  • Joep Bor, The Rise of Ethnomusicology: Sources on Indian Music c.1780 - c.1890, in: Yearbook for Traditional Music 20, 1988, pp. 51-73 
  • Nicholas Cook, Encountering the Other, Redefining the Self: Hindostannie Airs, Haydn's Folksong Settings and the 'Common Practice' Style, in: Martin Clayton & Bennett Zon (eds.), Music and Orientalism in the British Empire 1780s - 1940s. Portrayal of the East, Aldershot & Burlington, 2007, pp. 13-38
  • Hermann Josef Dahmen, Friedrich Silcher, Komponist und Demokrat. Eine Biographie, Stuttgart & Wien 1989 
  • Helga Eßmann (ed.), Anthologien mit Dichtungen der Britischen Inseln und der USA. Mit einem Anhang: Amerikanische Short Stories in deutschsprachigen Anthologien, Stuttgart, 2000 (= Übersetzte Literatur in deutschsprachigen Anthologien: eine Bibliographie, Teilband 3) 
  • Gerry Farrell, Indian Music and the West, Oxford, 1997 
  • Michael Kassler, Music Entries at Stationers' Hall 1710-1818. From Lists prepared for William Hawes, D. W. Krummel, and Alan Tyson and from Other Sources, Burlington, 2004 (Online Edition, 2013, partly at Google Books
  • [Thomas Moore], A Selection of Popular National Airs with Symphonies and Accompaniments by Sir John Stevenson MusDoc; [Henry R. Bishop]. The Words by Thomas Moore, Esq., 6 Volumes, J. Power, London, 1818-1828 (first 3 Vols. digitized by BStB: 4 35243-(1-3) [click on Einzelbände], also at the Internet Archive
  • Ueber die Musik der Indier. Eine Abhandlung des William Jones. Aus dem Englischen übersetzt, mit erläuternden Anmerkungen und Zusätzen begleitet, von F. H. v. Dalberg. Nebst einer Sammlung indischer und anderer Volks-Gesänge und 30 Kupfern, Beyer und Maring, Erfurt, 1802 (available at BStB, München, 4 & at the Internet Archive
  • Ian Woodfield, English Musicians in the Age of Exploration, Stuyvesant NY, 1995 (= Sociology of Music 8)

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