The title is intentionally ironic: the “gallants”, Corley and his sidekick Lenehan, are unprepossessing and exploitative characters roaming the city of Dublin. Corley is to meet a servant girl later. On the way they pass a harper playing “Silent O Moyle”. Its mournful strains follow them down the street, almost appearing to berate them for their crass behaviour; the song later comes back to haunt Lenehan when he is alone and more introspective.
In Silent O Moyle, the story of Fionnuala, one of the Children of Lir, is a symbol of Ireland betrayed and degraded. Perhaps for Joyce it also suggested the cultural despondency and paralysis of the Dublin of his time.