Don’t confuse one Thomas with the other one. Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852) the writer, poet and singer was (of course) not the same person as Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535). One can be confused because they both marked history with their writings. The author of Sail on, sail on was most definitely the Irish poet Thomas Moore.
About Thomas Moore
At an early age, Thomas Moore showed an interest in music and performing arts. At a young age, he would play in musicals and decided to become a professional actor.
Moore was born on 28 May 1779 in Dublin as a son of a grocer. He was the oldest of three children. He attended various schools in Dublin, including Samuel Whyte’s English Grammar School, where he was taught to speak with a proper English accent.
In 1795 he finished his study at Trinity College. It was his mother’s wish to see her son take on a career as a lawyer. During the time he was in college, he needed to work hard to get a good result. He showed interest in the United Irishmen movement but was never an official member.
In 1799 he made his first trip to London. He was to study Law at the Middle Temple. He started writing during that time and got noticed by others. He published what he called Moore’s Melodies. A collection of Irish Melodies. They were published between 1808 and 1834. With the publication and rising fame, he met influential people. One of them was the Prince of Wales and Lord Moira.
When he was appointed registrar to the Admiralty in Bermuda, he got a lot of free time. The job wasn’t that difficult for him to perform. One might say, that Moore got bored. Still, the scenery of the Island was an inspiration for him to write about. From Bermuda, he travelled to Norfolk (Virginia). This was the beginning of a trip across the United States and Canada. It was clear to him, that the political system in the United States was not his favourite. He criticized Thomas Jefferson, who mistakenly thought Moore was just a child. Moore wasn’t that tall. It wasn’t all that bad. His stay in Philadelphia was the most enjoyable. From there, he travelled to the British part of Canada. He saw the Niagara Falls and visited Montreal after that. He arrived back in England in 1804.
The experiences he wrote down in the book Epistles, odes and other poems. He didn’t spare the Americans. He was strongly opposed to slavery. This book was met with outrage in the United States. In his own country, Moore had to face the criticism of Francis Jeffrey. This resulted in a duel, but both of them were arrested. This wasn’t so bad after all, since Moore was given an empty gun by his opponent. The duel inspired Lord Byron to write about these events, which lead to an angry Moore. He wanted to duel Byron. They met each other and the dispute was settled, without violence.
From 1808 Moore toke on more acting gigs, where he mostly played comic roles. In 1811 he married actress Elizabeth Dyke. Because of her descend, Moore did not tell his parents about the marriage. Meanwhile, his debts grew to an amount of £6,000. Still, the marriage was quite happy.
The debts he had were eventually the reason (1819) that he was forced to leave Britain. He travelled to France, Switzerland and Italy. Between 1819 en 1822 he would reside in Paris. A rich family paid off his debts so that he could return to Britain. He settled in Sloperton Cottage in Wiltshire and did nothing more than writing; novels and poetry. In his personal life, he was faced with pure tragedy, as all of his five children died. He suffered from a stroke and eventually died on February 26 1852. He was buried at St. Nicholas churchyard in Bromham.
Sail on, Sail on
Sail on, sail on, thou fearless bark —
Where’er blows the welcome wind,
It cannot lead to scenes more dark,
More sad than those we leave behind.
Each wave that passes seems to say,
“Though death beneath our smile may be,
Less cold we are, less false than they,
Whose smiling wreck’d thy hopes and thee.”
Sail on, sail on — through endless space —
Through calm — through tempest — stop no more:
The stormiest sea’s a resting-place
To him who leaves such hearts on shore.
Or — if some desert land we meet,
Where never yet false-hearted men
Profaned a world, that else were sweet —
Then rest thee, bark, but not till then.
— Thomas Moore