A word from the Editor

The e-text on which this version is based was downloaded from the invaluable and inexhaustible Project Gutenberg site (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/8187). The book they had digitized was called: The Complete Poems of Sir Thomas Moore, Collected by Himself, with Explanatory Notes; with a Biographical Sketch by William M. Rossetti. This edition is probably the one published in New York by A. L. Burt, in the 1920's; the Columbia University Library doesn't seem to know the exact year. I've included the Biographical Sketch as useful basic background.

And what a poem it is! A lively, energetic hymn to freedom, nationalism, piety, and young love, all dressed up as an "Eastern Romance" and hung round the neck of Aurangzeb's daughter! It's really the footnotes and allusions that particularly fascinate me-- such a jumble of South Asian, Middle Eastern, and occasionally Chinese bits and pieces, all mined for their picturesqueness, and all carefully attributed to their exact sources! They form a dense layer of (timeless and placeless) local color, laid on with the broadest imaginable brush.  But why not, indeed? The poem was extraordinarily popular in its time: it went through multiple editions, and inspired both imitations and parodies. Nowadays it seems that hardly anyone reads "Lalla Rookh" in the English Literature world; so perhaps a few students of South Asia can enjoy its strange cultural minglings, as I did. Moore's reading is wide-ranging, and his imaginary gardens have in them, if not exactly real toads, then ravishing, impossible, exotic hummingbirds, each with a pedigree of cultural authenticity carefully hung round its tiny neck. "Lalla Rookh" captivated me through the sheer passion of its bizarrerie. I wanted to make for it a beautiful web home, where it could receive visitors graciously, in proper Eastern-Romance style.

My editing has consisted only of correcting a few remaining OCR typos, adjusting some oddities of punctuation in the prose portions, and breaking this very long poem into web-page-manageable units. I did this latter task very carefully, and following Moore's own narrative structure. Thus I began each part with the prose passage that introduced a recitation session, and I ended each part when that particular recitation session was over. So although my divisions aren't marked in Moore's text, they're certainly latent there; I've simply formalized the rhythmic structure of the poem.

Further discussion of the poem's popularity and textual history: *Gill Stoker*.

Fran Pritchett
February 2005


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