Study Guide

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling Lyrics

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With such power in your smile, sure a stone you'd beguile

Quick Thought

That sure is one powerful smile.

Deep Thought

In this line, the songwriters turn an ancient legend on its head. In Greek mythology, Medusa was a hideous creature. She had once been beautiful, but after insulting Athena, the Greek goddess turned Medusa’s hair into a nest of venomous snakes and made her face so ugly that those gazing upon it were turned into stone.

According to this song, though, an Irish smile has the power to beguile—or charm—even a stone. In other words, while Medusa’s ugliness could turn the living into inanimate objects, an Irish smile can turn even an inanimate object into an adoring fan.

When your sweet lilting laughter's like some fairy song

Quick Thought

Irish mythology is filled with music-loving fairies.

Deep Thought

This reference to “some fairy song” reflects an ancient theme within Irish culture. Although rooted in pagan belief, fairies managed to retain a place in Irish folk culture even after Christianity became the dominant religion on the Emerald Isle. 

Irish fairies take on various forms and possess various personalities and talents, but many are believed to enjoy and perform music. In fact, many Irish and Scottish legends link moments of musical inspiration to fairies—fiddlers acquire their talents and composers stumble upon melodies through the influence of fairies.

You should laugh all the while and all other times smile

Quick Thought

Be careful—people have actually died laughing.

Deep Thought

Have you ever heard someone say that laughter is the best medicine? Well, it’s not always true. 

It’s possible to die from over-laughing, and many people have (and not just that old guy at the end of Mary Poppins, either). Laughter has been known to trigger fainting, seizures, and a fatal depletion of oxygen to vital portions of the brain.

Like the linnet's sweet song crooning all the day long

Quick Thought

Can you identify the linnet’s sweet song?

Deep Thought

A linnet is a bird (hint: it’s a member of the finch family) found throughout Europe and parts of Africa and Asia. Famous for its song, the linnet was at one time a popular cage bird in Britain. 

In recent decades, the number of linnets found in the wild has decreased significantly, most likely as a result of increased herbicide use, so unfortunately you’re not as likely to hear “the linnet’s sweet song crooning all the day long” these days.

For the spring-time of life is the sweetest of all

Quick Thought

Youth may be the “springtime of life,” but what actually defines youth?

Deep Thought

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Gerard d’ Lairesse are just a few of the artists who have given paintings celebrating youth the title “Springtime of Life.” But the definition of youth has changed over time and varies from place to place. 

While loosely defined as that period between childhood and adulthood, the precise ages attached to youth are less fixed. In the United States, various ages have been used to establish access to “adult” activities—16 to drive, 18 to vote, 21 to drink, 25 to rent a car. Yet the United Nations employs a somewhat different criterion in defining youth. 

This international organization defines youth as the period between the ages of 15 and 24. Of course, everyone here at Shmoop is young at heart, which has to count for something, right?

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