1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Dermody

John Howard Payne, "Epitaph on Dermody" Port Folio [Philadelphia] NS 3 (23 May 1807) 336.



Mr. OLDSCHOOL,
The following lines are from the pen of Master J. H. Payne whom probably you have heard of, and of whose poetical promise the stanzas enclosed are no unfavourable specimen. Considered as the production of a lad of fourteen years, they certainly exhibit a glow of fiction, and a view of enthusiasm truly wonderful, and which in their maturity may do honour to the poetical character of his country. I am sure you will be of that opinion on glancing at the 2d and 3d stanzas in which the tenderness of elegy is peculiarly exhibited. The whole is in my opinion far beyond the common flight of the versifier; addressing itself to the heart in the simple vein of unaffected sorrow.
New-York, May 10, 1807.

Oh stranger, if thou hast a sigh,
A pitying sigh for others' woes,
Then linger yet a moment nigh—
For sacred ashes here repose!

Oh! dist thou know what relicks sleep
In this dark, cold, sepulchral bed,
Mayhap, thou'dst sit, like me, and weep,
The wild ey'd Bard of Erin dead.

And thou would'st bathe the flowers that wave,
Till ev'ry flow'r that bloom'd before,
Should, bending, kiss the sacred grave,
Should bow, and weep, and bloom no more!

Ah! could he touch his harp of song,
His sweet ton'd, warbling, much lov'd lyre,
Whose strains as he would oft prolong,
Would kindle all his soul to fire!

Ah, could he touch — perchance the strain
Would wake a kindred glow in thee,
And even thou a sigh might'st deign,
To frenzied, luckless Dermody!

But now, all hush'd his tuneful lay,
And dimm'd the lightning of his eyes,
And wrapt his pallid form in clay,
In this cold grave the poet lies!

Here, oft at ev'ning's hallow'd tide,
The sire shall lead his infant boy;
Who loves to listen by his side,
And hears his tale all mute with joy.

And often shall the village youth
From childish pastime's steal, alone,
To deck with flow'rs this grass green turf,
To twine with wreaths this mossy stone.

And the lone traveller, wand'ring near,
Of many an hour, by wo beguil'd,
Shall mourn, with many a silent tear,
The poet, "wonderful and wild."