Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy, 1844 – 1881
William Edgar O’Shaughnessy’s career may have been as an assistant in the British Museum, but his true love was literature. Epic of Women was published in 1870 when he was twenty-six, followed by Lays of France in 1872 and Music and Moonlight in 1874. He was friends with painters, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown.
In 1873, Arthur O’Shaughnessy married Eleanor Marston, the daughter of author John Westland Marston and sister of the poet Philip Bourke Marston. While he did not produce any more volumes of poetry for the remaining seven years of his life, he and his wife wrote Toy-land, a book of children’s stories. Songs of a Worker was published in 1881 after his passing.
“Ode,” also known as “We are the Music Makers” from O’Shaughnessy’s book Music and Moonlight was his most renowned poem. which was set to music in 1912 by Sir Edward Elgar.
“Ode” aka “We Are the Music-Makers”
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.