The Last Rose of Summer

"The Last Rose of Summer" is a poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore. He wrote it in 1805, while staying at Jenkinstown Castle in County Kilkenny, Ireland, where he was said to have been inspired by a specimen of Rosa 'Old Blush'.[1]

Rosa 'Old Blush'

The poem is set to a traditional tune called "Aisling an Óigfhear", or "The Young Man's Dream",[2] which was transcribed by Edward Bunting in 1792, based on a performance by harper Denis Hempson (Donnchadh Ó hAmhsaigh) at the Belfast Harp Festival.[3] The poem and the tune together were published in December 1813 in volume 5 of Thomas Moore's A Selection of Irish Melodies. The original piano accompaniment was written by John Andrew Stevenson, several other arrangements followed in the 19th and 20th centuries. The poem is now probably at least as well known in its song form as in the original.


Sheet music of The Last Rose of Summer

'Tis the last rose of summer,
    Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
    Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
    No rose-bud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes
    Or give sigh for sigh!

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one.
    To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
    Go, sleep thou with them;
Thus kindly I scatter
    Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
    Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
    When friendships decay,
And from love's shining circle
    The gems drop away!
When true hearts lie withered,
    And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit
    This bleak world alone?[4]

Musical settings




The following is an incomplete selection of "theme and variations" created during the 19th and 20th centuries.[5]

  • Ludwig van Beethoven used "The Last Rose of Summer" twice:
    • as no. 6 "Sad and Luckless was the Season" in volume 2 of his Irish Songs, WoO 153 (written 1814, published 1816)
    • as no. 4 of his Six National Airs with Variations, Op. 105 for flute and piano (composed 1818, published 1819)
  • Ferdinand Ries: Grand sestetto ... in which is introduced the admired air 'The Last Rose Summer', Op. 100, for string quartet, double bass, piano (1819)
  • Friedrich Kalkbrenner: Eighth Fantasia for the piano forte in which is introduced a favourite Irish melody, Op. 50, for piano (1821)
  • Charles Bochsa: Fantaisie et variations sur un air favori irlandais, for harp (1822)
  • Mauro Giuliani: No. 2 of Six Airs irlandois nationales variés, Op. 125, for guitar (c.1825)
  • Ignaz Moscheles: The Recollections of Ireland, Op. 69, for piano and orchestra (1826)
  • Felix Mendelssohn: Fantasia on 'The Last Rose of Summer', Op. 15, for piano (c.1827)
  • Jean-Louis Tulou: Souvenir anglais, Op. 51, for 2 flutes and piano (1828)
  • Friedrich Kuhlau: Variations on an Irish Folksong, Op. 105, for flute and piano (1829)
  • Kaspar Kummer: Des Sommers letzte Rose, no. 6 in: Transcriptionen über beliebte Themen, Op. 57, for 2 flutes (1829)
  • Auguste Franchomme: Variations sur des thèmes russes et écossais, Op. 6 (1835)
  • Henri Herz: The Last Rose of Summer, Op. 159, for piano (1842)
  • William Vincent Wallace: The Last Rose of Summer (1846)
  • Friedrich von Flotow: aria "Letzte Rose" in the opera Martha (1847)
  • Charles Mayer: La Dernière rose. Fantaisie variée, for piano (mid-1840s)
  • Mikhail Glinka: Theme ecossais varie based on the Irish tune 'The Last Rose of Summer', for piano (1847)
  • Joseph Joachim Raff: The Last Rose of Summer. La Dernière rose. Impromptu, Op. 46, for piano (1849)
  • August Neithardt [de]: Des Sommers letzte Rose, Op. 141 no. 3, for mixed choir (1850)
  • Brinley Richards: The Last Rose of Summer, Op. 45, for piano (1853)
  • Charles Oberthür: Fantaisie brillante, on motives of Flotow's Martha, introducing the air 'The Last Rose of Summer', Op. 116, for harp (1854)
  • Sigismond Thalberg: The Last Rose of Summer. Air irlandais varié, Op. 73, for piano (1857)
  • Jean-Chrisostome Hess: La Dernière rose d'été. Rêverie, Op. 66, for piano (1860)
  • Henri Vieuxtemps: No. 5 of Bouquet Américain, Op. 33 ("Dernière rose de l'été"), for violin and piano (1860)
  • Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst: No. 6 of Sechs mehrstimmige Etüden (Six Polyphonic Studies): Variations on 'The Last Rose of Summer', for violin solo (1865)
  • Joseph O'Kelly: La Dernière rose; no. 6 of Les Soirées enfantines, 2nd series, versions for piano solo and 4-hands (1866)
  • Jules Danbé: La Dernière rose. Mélodie irlandaise, fantaisie, for violin and piano (1870)
  • Charles Gounod: The Last Rose of Summer, for mixed choir (1873)
  • Dudley Buck: The Last Rose of Summer, Op. 59; introduction, theme, and variations for organ (1877)[6]
  • Sydney Smith: The Last Rose of Summer. Paraphrase de concert, Op. 173, for piano (c.1880)
  • Félix Godefroid: La Dernière rose d'été. Mélodie irlandaise, for harp (1891)
  • Max Reger: Vierstimmiger Kanon über das Lied 'Letzte Rose', for piano (1903)
  • Paul Hindemith alluded to both words and music in his On Hearing 'The Last Rose of Summer', part of Nine English Songs (1944)
  • Benjamin Britten: no. 9 of Folksong Arrangements, vol. 4: Moore's Irish Melodies (1958)
  • Jörg Widmann: The Last Rose of Summer. A Farewell Song for viola and small orchestra (2023)[7]

Literary allusions


This poem is mentioned in Jules Verne's 1884 novel The Vanished Diamond (aka. The Southern Star), and by Wilkie Collins in The Moonstone (1868), in which Sergeant Cuff whistles the tune frequently.

The song is mentioned by James Joyce in Ulysses.[9] It is also referred to, disdainfully, in George Eliot's Middlemarch.

The song also mentioned in Rupert Hughes's 1914 book by the same name, The Last Rose of Summer, and by Betty Smith in her 1943 novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Film, television, radio and games


An American silent film titled The Last Rose of Summer was produced and released by the Lubin Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia in 1912.[10]

A British silent film of The Last Rose of Summer made in 1920 stars Owen Nares and Daisy Burrell.[11]

Deanna Durbin sings the song in the 1939 film, Three Smart Girls Grow Up.[12]

In the 1941 film Here Comes Mr. Jordan, it is the character Joe Pendelton's inability to play "The Last Rose of Summer" on his saxophone in any way other than badly that allows him to prove that he is alive in another man's body; all the other characters think he is the dead man from whom he got the body, but when he plays the sax for his old boxing manager, he uses the same wrong note in the melody as he always did, and which thus confirms his story of coming back from the after-life.

In the 1944 film Gaslight, the melody is associated with the opera singer Alice Alquist, the murdered aunt of the protagonist, Paula (Ingrid Bergman).

In the 1951 film The Great Caruso, actor Mario Lanza who played Caruso sang it as Caruso's swan song.

In the 1953 I Love Lucy, episode "Never Do Business With Friends" (Season 2, Episode 31), Ethel Mertz (played by Vivian Vance) sings the first lines of this song while doing housework.

This song is heard played on a 19.5/8-inch upright Polyphon musical box as Katie Johnson is walking to/away from the police station at the start/end of the 1955 Alec Guinness film The Ladykillers.

The Last Rose of Summer was also the title (later revised as Dying of Paradise) of a three-hour science fiction production written by Stephen Gallagher in 1977–78 for Piccadilly Radio.[citation needed]

This song was also featured in the 1970 West Germany Film Heintje – Einmal wird die Sonne wieder scheinen [de].

In the 1983–1984 Japanese TV drama Oshin, broadcast on NHK, the melody is played on harmonica by the characters.[citation needed]

In the 1995 film An Awfully Big Adventure, the song is used as P.L. O'Hara's theme music and is a recurrent musical motif in the film's score.

The song was featured in Ric Burns' documentary series, New York: A Documentary Film (1999–2003), broadcast on PBS in the USA.

In the 2000 Thai western film Tears of the Black Tiger (Thai: ฟ้าทะลายโจร, or Fa Thalai Chon), a translated version of the song called "Kamsuanjan" ("The Moon Lament") was used as the closing song concurrent with the tragic ending of the film.

The song was used in the 2008 video game Endless Ocean 2: Adventures of the Deep as the theme of the Depths area of the Zahhab Region. It is also playable on the jukebox that the player can purchase in-game.

In the 16th (final) episode of the 6th season (2009) of the UK Channel 4 television series Shameless, the song was sung by Jamie Maguire (played by Aaron McCusker) at the funeral of his sister Mandy Maguire (Samantha Siddall).

The song was featured in FOX TV series,"The Chicago Code" Season 1 Episode 2, "Hog Butcher" (February 2011). This traditional Irish song was sung by Jason Bayle, as the uniformed officer during the memorial service of fallen Chicago police officer Antonio Betz.

In Rooster Teeth Productions' RWBY web series, the name of Summer Rose is a direct reference to the poem. The thirteenth line, "Thus Kindly I Scatter", is used as the epitaph on her gravestone in the trailer "Red" and episodes one and twelve of the third season (2015).[13]

In the Austenland (film) (2013), the character of Lady Amelia Heartwright plays a verse of the song while at the pianforte, in an affected and not particularly skilled manner.

In the Hangar 13 game Mafia III (2016), one of the main characters, Thomas Burke, can be heard singing this song with sorrow.

The 2017 film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri[14] starts with The Last Rose of Summer, performed by Renée Fleming from the CD The Beautiful Voice by Renée Fleming, the English Chamber Orchestra & Jeffrey Tate 1998. The song is played again late in the film, when the central character, Mildred Hayes, hurls Molotov cocktails at the police station.[15] The version performed is part of the opera Martha by Friedrich von Flotow.

In the season 9 premiere of The Walking Dead, Hilltop resident Alden (played by Callan McAuliffe) sang a rendition of The Last Rose of Summer at the funeral of the blacksmith's son Ken.[16]

Anya Taylor-Joy performs The Last Rose of Summer in another Austen-related film, the 2020 film adaptation of Emma, based on Jane Austen's 1815 novel of the same name.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 August 2016. Retrieved 31 December 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Corp, Hal Leonard (2011). Ireland: The Songs – Book Four. Waltons Irish Music. ISBN 978-1-85720-062-1.
  3. ^ Edward Bunting, A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music (1796)
  4. ^ Moore, Thomas; Stevenson, John (1813). A Selection of Irish Melodies. Vol. V. London: J. Power. p. 16.
  5. ^ For a description and listing of more than 200 such pieces, see Axel Klein: "'All her lovely companions are faded and gone' – How The Last Rose of Summer Became Europe's Favourite Irish Melody" and its appendix, "Utilisations of 'The Last Rose of Summer', respectively 'The Groves of Blarney', by European Composers in the Nineteenth Century, in Chronological Order", in: Sarah McCleave & Brian Caraher (eds.): Thomas Moore and Romantic Inspiration. Poetry, Music, and Politics (London: Routledge, 2018), pp. 128–145 & 231–253; ISBN 9781138281479 (hardback), ISBN 9781315271132 (e-book).
  6. ^ Buck, Dudley (1877). The Last Rose of Summer (PDF). New York: G. Schirmer. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  7. ^ "The Last Rose of Summer". (in German). Retrieved 31 December 2023.
  8. ^ "That summer night holdin' long and long, 'din long / Now waiting for the summer rose and (breathe) / And breathe and breathe / And breathe and breathe / And breathe and breathe / And live and learn / And live and learn / And livin' and livin' like I'm lonely / Lonely, lonely / And livin' all I have / And livin' all / And live / And live". Genius. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Ulysses by James Joyce: The Last Rose of Summer Archived 7 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 29 June 2009
  10. ^ "The Last Rose of Summer", The Moving Picture World (New York City), 5 October 1912. p. 14. Internet Archive, San Francisco. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  11. ^ Kenton Bamford, Distorted images: British national identity and film in the 1920s (1999), p. 8
  12. ^ "Three Smart Girls Grow Up". Deanna Durbin Devotees. Archived from the original on 12 August 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  13. ^ "Volume 3, Chapter 1: Round One – RWBY – S3E1 – Rooster Teeth".
  14. ^ "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) – IMDb". IMDb.
  15. ^ "Renée Fleming – Recordings". Archived from the original on 27 March 2010.
  16. ^ "Who Died in the Walking Dead Season 9 Premiere "A New Beginning?"".

Audio clips


  Works related to The Last Rose of Summer at Wikisource