At first sight, Thomas Moore’s song The Meeting of the Waters is simply a celebration of the famous beauty spot in the Vale of Avoca in Co Wicklow in Ireland.
But, Moore was far too skilful and deep a writer to settle for just describing an attractive scene.
He knew that what really moved people in songs was emotion, and that’s what he puts into The Meeting of the Waters.
He begins by praising the beauty of the area and announcing that it is dear to his heart but he doesn’t stop there.Straightaway in the second verse he tells us that it isn’t the natural beauty of the area that makes it special to him; it’s something deeper and more personal.
In the third verse he tells us the real reason he loves the area so much is that he spent time there with friends and people he loved. The scene may be attractive, but it gains its main power through being associated with the people he holds dear.
This takes the song to a deeper emotional level, invoking listeners to recall scenes and friends that are particularly dear to them.
It’s a tribute to Moore’s great skills as a writer that he does all this in four short verses.
Below is a stained glass window celebrating some great writers. From bottom left, then all the way round, Thomas Moore, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Archibald Lampman, Lord Byron and Duncan Campbell Scott. This is in Ottawa Public Library.
The song is less well know than many of Moore’s compositions but is still performed on a regular basis by artists across the world. The recordings by Maureen Hegarty and Tommy Fleming are among the best known.
Moore wrote his poem The Meeting of the Waters in 1807 but the music wasn’t added until many years later. His poem was set to a traditional Irish tune called The Old Head of Dennis. This old tune was collected by George Petrie and published in his collection, Ancient Music of Ireland, in 1855.
Petrie said he first heard the tune being sung in Rathcarrick in Co Sligo by a woman called Biddy Monaghan in 1837.
The Meeting of the Waters beauty spot is still popular today and still attracts visitors from all over the world. It’s part of the Vale of Avoca and is close to other areas of natural beauty such as Glendalough.