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James Joyce at the Piano in Paris, 1939 James Joyce: Music in the Novels and Poems
CD #1 Songs
Artwork for CD #1 cover

James Joyce Quote
Balfe's most enduring work is The Bohemian Girl, a favorite of audiences of the mid-19th century; and one of the most familiar songs from that opera is the ballad I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls.
James Joyce Unquote

Click to play music clip of track 3

From CD #1:
I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls

From an opera composed by Michael Balfe;
libretto by Alfred Bunn

Song Lyrics

From The Bohemian Girl

The Gipsy Girl's Dream*

I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls,
With vassals and serfs at my side,
And of all who assembled within those walls,
That I was the hope and the pride.

I had riches too great to count, could boast
Of a high ancestral name;
But I also dreamt, which pleased me most,
That you lov'd me still the same...

That you lov'd me, you lov'd me still the same,
That you lov'd me, you lov'd me still the same.

I dreamt that suitors sought my hand;
That knights upon bended knee,
And with vows no maiden heart could withstand,
They pledg'd their faith to me;

And I dreamt that one of that noble host
Came forth my hand to claim.
But I also dreamt, which charmed me most,
That you lov'd me still the same...

That you lov'd me, you lov'd me still the same,
That you lov'd me, you lov'd me still the same.

*Sung by the character of Arline in the opera.

Notes on the Song


The Bohemian Girl is an opera in three acts by Michael W. Balfe, with a libretto by Alfred Bunn. It was first performed at Drury Lane Theatre in London on November 27, 1843, with Elizabeth Rainforth and William Harrison in the main roles, and ran for over 100 nights. The first American performance in New York followed in 1844.

The text of the opera is based on La Gypsy, an 1839 ballet-pantomime by J.H. Vernoy de Saint-Georges. This story was in turn adopted from the novel La Gitanilla (1614), by Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote, which later metamorphosed into The Man of La Mancha on Broadway).

Theater people are a superstitious lot. One of the things an actor should never do is whistle in the dressing room certain songs that have been deemed "unlucky." According to Jan and Cora Gordon, writing in The London Roundabout (1933), "You try whistling Tosti's Good-bye or I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls, and see what happens. You'll get thrown out on the pavement."


The story is set in Germany and tells of Arline, who is in love with Thaddeus, a Polish nobleman and political exile. Unbeknownst to her, she is the beloved daughter of the wealthy Count Arnheim. However, as a child she had been kidnapped from her home by gypsies and was raised by them, so she had only the vaguest recollection of her former life (hence, her "dream"). Accused of stealing a jewel in the city of Pressburg (Bratislava, now part of Slovakia), she is arrested, but then is recognized by her father, who is the governor of the city. Overjoyed at finding his long-lost daughter, he gives her in marriage to Thaddeus.

Performances Old and New

Click to hear sample

Enya, Shepherd Moons

Enya's Shepherd Moons

Laurel & Hardy in The Bohemian Girl

Laurel & Hardy in The Bohemian Girl, with Jacqueline Wells as Arline

Balfe's most enduring work is The Bohemian Girl, which was a favorite opera among audiences of the mid-19th century, both in England and abroad. It remained continually in the repertory for a long time, with frequent performances at Drury Lane and Covent Garden. It is rarely staged nowadays (moreso in Ireland than elsewhere), but some of the arias continue to be performed in concert settings.

The best-known song from the opera is "I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls." A fairly recent recording of this popular piece was made by the Irish singer and musician Enya and released on her album Shepherd Moons in 1988. Included here for purposes of comparison is a short clip from that CD. (To hear the clip, just click on the image of the CD to the right). The verse sung in this sample is the same one performed by the character of Maria in Joyce's short story "Clay." The sound in Enya's version of "Marble Halls" has a characteristically ethereal, dreamy quality to it, with a bit of reverb; but all in all, it's not a bad rendition. Nope, you can't go wrong with poor old Balfe.

One notable filmed version of The Bohemian Girl was produced in 1936 by Hal Roach and featured Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as the Gypsy foster parents of the Count's daughter. The young Arline is played by Darla Hood (of Our Gang fame), while the grown-up Arline is played by Jacqueline Wells, whose singing was dubbed by Rosina Lawrence. The film plays very unevenly, since it had to be extensively re-shot and edited because of the sudden (and still unsolved) death of co-star Thelma Todd, who was originally cast as the Gypsy Queen.

This is the last of the three operettas in which Laurel & Hardy starred (the others being Babes in Toyland, with a score by Victor Herbert, and Daniel Auber's Fra Diavolo). Though generally not highly regarded in terms of plot and characterization, the movie does contain several of the pair's best routines. One of the funniest is a solo scene in which Stan tries to bottle some wine that has been fermenting in a barrel. The wine comes out of the hose faster than he can bottle it, so he repeatedly sticks the hose in his mouth to keep from spilling the precious liquid. In this way he winds up guzzling half the barrel, with hilarious results.

Laurel gets guzzled

Stan Laurel plays a bibulous gypsy.

And now for some completely useless facts. Oliver Hardy started out in vaudeville and, like Joyce, had a professional-quality singing voice; instead, he found his fame in comedy. And did you know that Stan Laurel was born on June 16, 1890? Of course, in 1890 Bloomsday hadn't been invented yet. But still....

Finally, a curious historical footnote. Jacqueline Wells (AKA Julie Bishop Shoop, 1914-2001), who played the role of Arline in the L&H film, had a daughter Pamela Shoop, a minor actress in Hollywood. One of her friends was a Jesuit priest, Terrance A. Sweeney, who had been the consultant to Richard Chamberlain during the filming of The Thorn Birds. Sweeney and Shoop eventually fell in love; later on, as a couple, they achieved some notoriety as the first priest and woman to marry publicly in the United States. Their story is told in the jointly written memoir, What God Hath Joined. For more on this "Eveline" who did board her ship, visit the Pamela Shoop Web site.

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