About Arthur O'shaughnessy

Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy was a British poet, born in London to Irish parents.

At the age of seventeen, in June 1861, he received the post of transcriber in the library of the British Museum, reportedly through the influence of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. Two years later, at the age of nineteen, he became an assistant in the natural history department, where he specialized in Ichthyology. However, his true passion was for literature. He published his first collection, Epic of Women, in 1870, and published two more collections of poetry in 1872 and 1874. When he was thirty he married and did not produce any more volumes of poetry for the last seven years of his life. His last volume, Songs of a Worker, was published posthumously in 1881.

By far the most noted of any his works are the initial lines of the Ode from his book Music and Moonlight (1874.) The first two lines of his poem have even been used in the screenplay, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

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,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world for ever, it seems.

The ode was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar in 1912.

The artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown were among O'Shaughnessy's circle of friends, and in 1873 he married Eleanor Marston, the daughter of author John Westland Marston and sister of the poet Philip Bourke Marston. Together, he and his wife wrote a book of children's stories titled Toy-land (1875). They had two children together, both of whom died in infancy. Eleanor died in 1879, and O'Shaughnessy himself died in London two years later from the effects of a "chill".

The anthologist Francis Turner Palgrave in his work The Golden Treasury declared that of the modern poets, despite his limited output, O'Shaughnessy had a gift in some ways second only to Tennyson, and "a haunting music all his own". He was also alluded to by Neil Gaiman in his extremely popular series The Sandman in the guise of the envoy of the The Endless(comics), Eblis O'Shaughnessy.