"The Last Rose of Summer" is a fairly old tune; it dates from around 1818, when it was called "'Tis the Last Rose of Summer." Irish poet Thomas Moore, who used to pal around with Shelley and Lord Byron, wrote the words, and John Stevenson, a British lord, wrote the melody. Since this is an instrumental version I present to you, here is a taste of the lyrical mood:
'Tis the last rose of summer, left blooming alone;All her lovely companions are faded and gone;No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh,To reflect back her blushes, to 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,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?
In typical 19th Century fashion the poem equates the end of summer with death; we've lightened up a bit since then and just think about empty beaches and deserted boardwalks. But "The Last Rose of Summer" was such a popular pop tune of the day that highbrows like Beethoven and Mendelssohn referenced it in their piano works (of course, Beethoven was pretty deef by that time, so maybe he didn't know what he was up to), and a fellow named von Flotow used it in his 1847 opera Martha. Somehow it hung around, so even audiences in the early 20th Century still wanted to hear it.
-Joe McGasko via a blog post that you can read in full HERE