In late 1809, Beethoven began composing folk song arrangements for the Scottish publisher George Thomson, located in Edinburgh. (Six years earlier Thomson had asked Beethoven to compose six sonatas on Scottish themes, none of which materialized.) Thomson first sent Beethoven a group of forty-three melodies, without texts, which the composer began to set in November. By July, 1810, Beethoven was able to send these settings, plus ten more, to Thomson. Nine further songs, including "Morning a Cruel Turmoiler Is," followed in 1812. From this point on it seems that Beethoven asked Thomson to send the texts along with the melodies, a request that was not always fulfilled. Their professional relationship continued through 1820. Although Beethoven composed nearly 180 folk song settings for Thomson, the Scottish publisher printed only 125; the rest were published after Beethoven's death, some not seeing the light of day until the twentieth century.
Thomson originally published the twenty-five Irish folk songs of WoO 152 in 1814 together with the first four songs of WoO 153 and a setting by Haydn, making a total of thirty songs. (Thomson's publication was duplicated in London by Preston.) Since that time, however, the first four settings of WoO 153, as well as the song by Haydn, have become separated from the twenty-five songs of WoO 152. Beethoven's Irish Songs are numbered today according to the first German edition, by Schlesinger in Berlin in 1822 and maintained in the Complete Edition of Beethoven's Works. All of the settings have optional violin and cello parts.
"Morning a Cruel Turmoiler Is," No. 21 in the Irish Folksongs, WoO 152, dates from February 1812 and is for soprano or tenor voice. Alan Boswell's text opens with a verse on the cruelty of morning. Noontime is hot, making us pant, evening is for lovers and night is the time for pleasures. Morning, unfortunately, "banish[es] ease and repose." The second and third verses are about drinking, while the refrain sings the praises of the rogue Pat O'Flannaghan and calls for yet another drink.
Beethoven's imagination is apparent from the beginning of the instrumental introduction. In a lilting 9/8 meter, the piano opens with the melody of the first two measures of the verse, imitated, a measure behind, by the violin. After the voice enters, the piano continues with chords on each beat as the violin traces the melody an octave above. Beethoven makes the most of the unusually diatonic melody's suggestion of the dominant in the middle of the verse by emphasizing E major, even in the tiny four-note tag at the end of each line. This tag and the tune from the third measure of the refrain make up the material of the clever instrumental close.