[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 6, August 4, 1832]
Thomas Furlong, the translator of Carolan's remains, and other ancient relics, was born in the county of Wexford - a portion of Ireland which has also given birth to Thomas Moore. Furlong's father was a respectable farmer. Our poet was born in the year 1794, at a place called Scarawalsh, a romantic part of the country, midway between Ferns and Enniscorthy. His education qualified him for a Counting-house, and, at fourteen, he was apprenticed to a respectable trader in the Irish Metropolis. The ledger, however, had less attraction for him than the muses; yet though he "lisped in numbers," he did not let his passion for poetry interfere with his more important duties. This is a feature in his character which should not be overlooked. Through life he retained the friendship of his employer; and when that gentleman died, Furlong vented his feelings in a poem, which, though it is one of his earliest productions, has the folllovving impressive stanzas:
"Oh! if the Atheist's words
If those we seek to save,
Sink-and in sinking from our view
Are lost beyond the grave!
If life thus closed-how dark and drear,
Would this bewildered earth appear,
Scarce worth the dust it gave.
A tract of black sepulchral gloom,
One yawning, ever-opening tomb.
''Blest be that strain of high belief,
More heaven-like, more sublime,
Which says that souls that part in grief,
Part only for a time!
That far beyond this speck of pain,
Far o'er the gloomy wave's domain,
There spreads a brighter clime,
Where care and toil and trouble o'er,
Friends meet-and meeting, weep no more."
These are the breathings of a poet, who though he did not excite a wonderful degree of attention during his lifetime, was yet possessed of all the qualifications of genius.
Mr. Furlong certainly escaped much of the miseries of a poet's life. He either had more common sense, or Providence better guided him - for his career, though short, does not exhibit any of those wild and wayward vagaries which at one and the same time, interest and pain us in reading the lives of some of the children of song. During the most valuable part of his life, he was in the employment of Mr. Jamieson, an eminent distiller of Dublin - a man of enlarged and liberal views - and it reflects great credit both on the poet and his employer, that Mr. Jamieson wept like a child on the day of Furlong's funeral.
Our poet was a large contributor to the New Monthly Magazine, and he projected, in 1822, the New Irish Magazine, which was printed in Dublin. During the years 1825 and 1826, he was employed occasionally in writing the Doom of Derenzie, a descriptive poem which was published, after his death, by Robins, of London. This poem was warmly eugolized by his friend, the late Rev. charles maturtn, with whom he had long been on habits of the closest intimacy. The following letter is a proof of the intimacy, and is interesting, as being written a short time before the death of the eccentric and talented Maturin.
"Wednesday.- I trust the
melancholy circumstance of my poor father's death will excuse my not
writing to you lately. I am confined with an inflammation in my eyes,
for which I am undergoing a severe mercurial course ; but if you can
have the charity to sit with a blind invalid, come and drink tea with
me this evening, from seven till ten. Bring your poem with you. I write
this with great difficulty. You see I have some chance of fame in being
ranked with ' Blind Thamyris and blind Maeonides,' though I confess it
is the last particular in which I wish to resemble those worthies.
C. R. MATURIN."
Such was the friendship and intercourse between the author of "Bertram, "Women, or Pour et Centre," "Melmoth," &c. and the translator of Carolan - for it is in this light we wish to regard Furlong. Yet when his aid was first solicited, (as Mr. Hardiman tells us in his Irish Minstrelsy,) to undertake the translation, he at first smiled at the idea of finding any thing of merit extant in the Irish language. But inspection convinced him that he was labouring under the common prejudice of the day; and his fine taste soon appreciated the worth of those old relics. Since we commenced this Journal more than one individual has called at the office, complaining that the translation given in the first number was very incorrect. We laboured to convince them that it was a poetic translation - in fact it ought to have been stated that it was translated by Furlong. But nothing would satisfy our worthy friends - who, being intimate with the Irish language, and but imperfectly acquainted with English, could not appreciate the meaning of a poetic translation, and insisted on a literal one. Furlong in his translations, endeavoured to enter into the spirit of the bard, and to express himself in English as he conceived the writer would have done, had he been acquainted with that language.
Mr. Furlong died in the year 1827, in the thirty-third year of his age. He thus did not live long enough for the expansion of his powers, or the maturing of his intellect; but he has left behind him proof sufficient that he was a poet of no mean order. He was interred in the church-yard of Drumcondra, near Dublin, and over his grave, which lies near that of the celebrated antiquarian Grose, his friends have erected a handsome monument, with the following inscription: -
TO THE MEMORY OF
THOMAS FURLONG, esq.
in whom the purest principles of
Patriotism and Honor
were combined with
Superior Poetical Genius,
This Memorial of Friendship,
is erected by those who valued and admired
His various Talents, Public Integrity,
And Private Worth. He died 25th July, 1827, aged 33 years.
MAY HE REST IN PEACE.
The following lines were the last which issued from the pen of Mr. Furlong, written a few days before his death:-
THE SPIRIT OF IRISH SONG.
Lov'd land of the Bards and
Saints! to me
There's nought so dear as thy minstrelsy:
Bright is nature in every dress,
Rich in unborrow'd loveliness;
Winning is every shape she wears,
Winning she is in thine own sweet airs;
What to the spirit more cheering can be
Than the lay whose ling'ring notes recal
The thoughts of the holy-the fair-the free,
Belov'd in life or deplor'd in their fall?
Fling, fling the forms of art aside,
Dull is the ear that these forms enthral;
Let the simple songs of our sires be tried,
They go to the heart-and the heart is all.
Give me the full responsive sigh,
The glowing cheek and the moisten'd eye;
Let these the minstrel might attest,
And the vain and the idle-may share the rest.