Michael Moran [Zozimus]

Life
?1794-1846 [pseud. “Zozimus”]; born in Faddle Alley, off Black Pitts, Liberties of Dublin, not ten years later as in memoir by Guliemus, which sets his age at forty-three at death; blind from birth; recited ‘Life of St Mary of Egypt’ in verse version by Bishop Anthony Coyle; performed at Essex Bridge, Wood Quay, Church St., Dame St., Capel St., Sackville St., Grafton St., Henry St., and Conciliation Hall; began each oration with the verse, ‘Ye sons and daughters of Erin, / Gather round poor Zozimus, yer friend; / Listen boys, until yez hear / My charming song so dear’; named after him were the magazine Zozimus, 1870-72; also Zoz, or the Irish Charivari, 1876-79; and New York collection of stories, The Zozimus Papers (1889); he was twice married, one son; d. 15 Patrick St., his lodging, 3 April 1846. DIB DIH OCIL

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Criticism

  • Gulielmus Dubliniensis Humoriensis [unknown pseud.], Memoir of the Great Original Zozimus (Michael Moran), the celebrated Dublin street rhymer and reciter, with his songs, sayings and recitations (Dublin: M’Glashan and Gill 1871), 34pp., 8°;
  • W. B. Yeats, ‘Zozimus, Michael Moran, the Last of the Gleemen’, in Yeats’s Celtic Twilight (1893. 1902) [prev. printed as “The Last Gleeman”, from The National Observer, 6 May 1893].
Modern studies

Georges Denis Zimmerman, Songs of Irish Rebellion: Irish Political Street Ballads and Rebel Songs, 1780-1900 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2002), 352pp. [rep. edn.; ultimately based in thesis first publ. as Do., Génève: Imprimerie La Sirene, 1966].


Reprint: Gulielmus Dubliniensis Humoriensis [pseud.], Memoir of the Great Original Zozimus (Michael Moran), the celebrated Dublin street rhymer and reciter, with his songs, sayings and recitations [facs. of 1871 Edn.] introduced by Dr. Thomas Wall [Carraig Chapbooks, 6] (Blackrock: Carraig Books 1976), 34pp., ill.

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Commentary
W. B. Yeats
, ‘Zozimus, Michael Moran, the Last of the Gleemen’, in Yeats’s Celtic Twilight (1893) [prev. printed as “The Last Gleeman”, from The National Observer, 6 May 1893). Michael Moran was born about 1794 in Faddle Abbey, off Black Pitts, in the Liberties of Dublin. A fortnight after birth he went stone blind from illness and became thereby a blessing to his parents, who were soon able to send him to rhyme and beg at street corners and at the bridges over the Liffey … his mind became a perfect echoing chamber where every movement of the day and every change of public passion whispered itself into rhyme or quaint saying … He was not much to look at [80] … he would have been a woeful shock to the gleeman MacConglinne could that friend of kings have beheld him in prophetic vision from the pillar stone at Cork. And yet … he was a true gleeman, being alike poet, jester and newsman of the people. [His wife would read him the paper at breakfast] That’ll do. I have me meditations’. / He had not, however, MacConglinne’s hatred of the Church and clergy … ‘Boys, Am I standin’ in a puddle, am I standin’ in wet?’ … The best known of his religious tales was ‘St Mary’, a long poem of exceeding solemnity, condensed from a much longer work of a certain Bishop Coyle [An immoral woman is converted in the Holy Land and attended by Bishop Zozimus.] The poem has the intolerable cadence of the eighteenth century, but was so popular an so often called for that Moran was soon nicknamed Zozimus. He had also a poem of his own called ‘Moses’ … Once an officious peeler arrested him as a vagabond, but was triumphantly routed amid the laughter of the court, when Moran reminded his worship of the precedent set by Homer, who was also he declared a poet and a blind man and a beggar-[82] man. [82] Various imitators started up on all sides.’ [Tells tale of a 40 shilling wager to impersonate Moran.] (Cont.)

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W. B. Yeats, ‘Zozimus, Michael Moran, the Last of the Gleemen’, in Yeats’s Celtic Twilight (1893) - cont.: ‘… In April 1846 word was sent to the priest that Michael Moran was dying, He found him at 15 (now 14 and a half) Patrick Street on a straw bed in a room full of ragged ballad singers come to cheer his last moments … a fine wake … merriment … rann, tale, old saw, or quaint rhyme. [Tale of drunken funeral procession] Moran must have felt strange and out of place in that other kingdom he was entering perhaps, while his friends were drinking in his honour. Let us hope some middle region was found for him where he can call dishevelled angels about him with some new and more rhythmical form of his old [84] / Gather round me boys (&c) / and fling outrageous quips and cranks at cherubim and seraphim. Perhaps he may have found and gathered, ragamuffin though he be, the Lily of High Truth, the Rose of Far-sight Beauty, for whose lack so many of the writers of Ireland, whether famous or forgotten, have been futile as the blown froth upon the shore.’ [85] (Writings on Irish Folklore, Legend and Myth, ed. Robert Welch, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1993). See also George Moore, Vale (1915 ed.) p.174: ‘one of the tales, “The Last of the Gleemen”, put it into Yeats’s mind the idea that he has followed ever since, that the Irish people write very well when they are not trying to write that worn-out and defaced idiom which educated people speak and write, and which is known as English.’

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Quotations
‘St Patrick was a gentleman, he came from decent people, // In Dublin town he built a church and on it put a steeple. / His father was a Callaghan, his mother was a Brady, / His aunt was an O’Shaughnessy, his uncle an O’Grady.’

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“Pharoah’s Daughter”: ‘In Agypt’s land contaygious to the Nile, / Old Pharaoh’s daughter went to bathe in style, / She tuk her dip and came unto the land, / And for to dry her royal pelt she ran along the strand: // A bull-rush tripped her, whereupon she saw / A smiling babby in a wad of straw, / She took it up and said in accents mild, / ’Tare-an-ages, girls, which o’yees own the child?’ (Given in Colm Ó Lochlainn, Anglo-Irish Song Writers.)

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Reference
ODNB: Hugh Shields, ‘Zozimus’, in Dictionary of National Biography : Missing Persons (1993); see also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 3, p.26.

His ‘Song of Moses’ is given in Frank Harte, ed., Songs of Dublin (1978).

Notes
Gleeman: W. B. Yeats employs an engraving of ‘Zozimus’ by Jack B. Yeats as front. port. for The Celtic Twilight (1893) in which ‘The Last of the Gleemen’ concerns Moran [supra].

H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (London: Walter Scott 1888), makes deprecatory comments about Zozimus: ‘lest anyone should weep too much for the loss of his line, I give an extract from one of the few specimens of his power that are extant, ‘In Egypt’s land [… // …] which av yes owns the child?’ (p.514); note also the poem ‘Pharaoh’s Daughter’ by Nuala Ni Dhomhaill giving a new currency to the theme.

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