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James Joyce at the Piano in Paris, 1939 James Joyce: Music in the Novels and Poems
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James Joyce Quote
The song, like the rock garden, offers a stark contrast between an artificial and whimsical fantasy of Ireland's past created by and for her conquerors and the genuine remnants of Ireland's high, indigenous culture — clad in beggar's robes and ridiculed by those who destroyed it.
James Joyce Unquote

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The Groves of Blarney

Words by Richard Alfred Millikin;
air: Castle Hyde

Composer Biography

Richard Alfred Millikin (1767-1815)

According to Charles Read in his 1903 Cabinet of Irish Literature, Richard Alfred Millikin wrote "many [songs] on the impulse of the moment and in burlesque on the doggerel flights of the hedge schoolmasters and local bards." Below is Read's biography of Milliken.

"Honest Dick Millikin" was born at Castle Martyr, in the county of Cork, in 1767. When young he was placed in the office of a country attorney to serve an apprenticeship to the law, but he had the reputation of devoting more of his attention to painting, poetry, and music than to law. After some difficulty he was admitted a member of the King's Inns, and commenced business as an attorney in Cork. He found little employment, however, and that chiefly in the recovery of debts, an occupation ill suited to his genial character, and he was therefore left with leisure to indulge his taste for literature and the fine arts. Like most of his countrymen he possessed a keen sense of humour, and was the life and centre of convivial society in his native town. On the breaking out of the rebellion in 1798 he joined the Royal Cork Volunteers, and became a conspicuous member of that corps. He was also, through the exertions of his pen and pencil, and active promoter of various useful and benevolent objects in the town, among others he established a Society for the Promotion of the Fine Arts. In 1795 he published jointly with his sister — who was the authoress of several historical novels — The Casket or Hesperian Magazine, which appeared monthly until the troubles of the following year terminated its existence. Besides many short poems Millikin wrote a long one in blank verse, entitled "The River Side." None of his pieces seem to have attained wide popularity, and many of them, written on the impulse of the moment and in burlesque on the doggerel flights of the hedge schoolmasters and local bards, through carelessness were forgotten and lost.

At a convivial party a piece written by an itinerant poet in praise of Castle Hyde was discussed. This poem, from its ludicrous character, had attained a great popularity, but Mr. Millikin declared he would write a piece which for absurdity would far surpass it. With this view he wrote the well known and popular "Groves of Blarney." With much tact and cleverness he has introduced into this song local and historic truth dressed in burlesque. Blarney was forfeited by Lord Clancarty in 1689, and did pass into the hands of the Jeffery family. Millikin makes Cromwell the bogle who assaults the ill-used Lady Jeffers, and makes a breach in her castle. This may be true or not, but it is certain Lord Broghill took the castle in 1646.

When near the close of life, Mr. Millikin, it would seem, regretted the time wasted in the light class of poetry he had chiefly produced; had his life been longer spared, he would probably have left to posterity a worthy picture of the lovely scenery and country lying near and around the ruined castle of the MacCauras. He died in December, 1815, when only in the prime of life. A small volume, entitled Poetical Fragments of the late Richard Alfred Millikin, was printed in 1823.

(There follow three items: "The Groves of Blarney," with an additional verse by Fr. Prout; a "Convivial Song;" and a "Prologue written at an exhibition of puppets, named the 'Patagonian Theatre,' in the lecture-room of Cork Institution.")

Above excerpt is from
Read, Charles A. (ed): The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Vol. II, pp. 128-130. New York: P. Murphy & Son, 1903.

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