In his poem, You Remember Ellen, Thomas Moore takes a popular theme among 18th and 19th century Irish songs and reworks it his own way.
The basic story is about a stranger who meets a simply country girl one day and falls in love.
The stranger doesn’t tell the girl that he is rich because he wants to be certain that she loves him for himself rather than for his wealth.
Only when he has tested the girl’s true emotions does he reveal his real identity.
In several songs like The Green Mantle and The Lady Fair, the stranger is the woman’s husband or lover who has been away for many years. He returns in disguise to check whether she has been true to him.
In other songs, like You Remember Ellen, the stranger meets the girl for the first time. He doesn’t reveal his wealth and status until she has proved her love.
All of these stories tap into the desire for men of those times to be sure that wives and lovers were both faithful and honest.
The songs possibly appealed to women because of the ‘Cinderella’ factor – the idea that a handsome stranger would come along and love them even though they had no wealth, and take them away from a life of poverty and hardship.
You Remember Ellen was set to an old traditional melody called, Were I a Clerk, as part of Moore’s Irish Melodies collection.
The poem is shown here in full. Click the link at the bottom of the page to find out about and see the silent movie version of You Remember Ellen.
You remember Ellen, our hamlet’s pride,
How meekly she blest her humble lot,
When the stranger, William, had made her his bride,
And love was the light of their lowly cot.
Together they toiled through winds and rains,
Till William, at length, in sadness said,
“We must seek our fortune on other plains;”–
Then, sighing, she left her lowly shed.
They roamed a long and a weary way,
Nor much was the maiden’s heart at ease,
When now, at close of one stormy day,
They see a proud castle among the trees.
“To-night,” said the youth, “we’ll shelter there;
“The wind blows cold, the hour is late:”
So he blew the horn with a chieftain’s air,
And the Porter bowed, as they past the gate.
“Now, welcome, Lady,” exclaimed the youth,–
“This castle is thine, and these dark woods all!”
She believed him crazed, but his words were truth,
For Ellen is Lady of Rosna Hall!
And dearly the Lord of Rosna loves
What William the stranger wooed and wed;
And the light of bliss, in these lordly groves,
Shines pure as it did in the lowly shed.