This remarkably fine imitation of Milton's Lycidas, published in 1806 in James Grant Raymond's Life of Thomas Dermody, indicates why Coleridge and Southey were so fond of Dermody's early productions. "In this Monody the author, a youth of ten years of age, bewails the death of his brother; who died of the small-pox, anno 1785, aetatis 7" 1:6.
James Grant Raymond: "He delighted to wander through the romantic pages of antiquity: and had the happy talent of imitating the natural dignity and manly style of his poetical ancestors, with an effect which always gave to his productions the air and grace of originality: though his period, his stanza, and his thoughts, were modelled on the poet whose path he intended to follow. But in the height both of his imitation and of his fancy, the wildest excursions of his muse, he never forgets to make Nature his guide; and it may with confidence be said that no poet at such an early (if at any) period of life, ever copied her with more truth, or more keenly touched the hearts of his readers when his subject required the slumbering passions to be brought into action" Life of Dermody (1806) 2:340-41.
Robert Southey: "This is certainly a wonderful production for a boy of ten years old; it shows also the character as well as the prematurity of his talents. He was a young mocking bird" Robert Southey, "Raymond's Dermody" Annual Review 5 (1806) 382.
Samuel Austin Allibone: "Thomas Dermody, 1775-1802, a native of Ennis, in Ireland, displayed poetical powers at a very early age. In 1792 he published a volume of poems in his thirteenth year. In 1793 appeared The Rights of Justice, a political pamphlet. Poems, 1801, 2 vols. Peace, a Poem, 1801, 4to. Poems, 1802, 8vo. The Battle of the Bards: a Poem. He became a soldier, but disgraced himself by intemperance and died in poverty at Sydenham. In 1806 Mr. James G. Raymond published his Life &c., in 2 vols, cr. 8vo., and his poetical works, under the title of The Harp of Erin, in 1807, 2 vols, 8vo." Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:495.
Thomas Dermody may well have known a very similar and much-admired poem by Michael Bruce: "Daphnis, a Monody" (1765).
"What dire misfortune hovers o'er my head?
Why hangs the salt dew on my aching eye?
Why doth my bosom pant, so sad, so sore,
That was full blithe before?—
Bitter occasion prompts th' untimely sigh;
Why am I punish'd thus, ye angels! why?
A shepherd swain like me, of harmless guise,
Whose sole amusement was to feed his kine,
And tune his oaten pipe the livelong day,—
Could he in aught offend th' avenging skies,
Or wake the red-wing'd thunderbolt divine?
Ah! no: of simple structure was his lay;
Yet unprofan'd with trick of city art,
Pure from the head, and glowing from the heart.—
Thou dear memorial of a brother's love,
Sweet flute, once warbled to the list'ning grove,
And master'd by his skilful hand,
How shall I now command
The hidden charms that lurk within thy frame,
Or tell his gentle fame?
Yet will I hail, unmeet, his star-crown'd shade;
And beck his rural friends, a tuneful throng,
To mend the uncouth lay, and join the rising song.
Ah! I remember well yon oaken arbour gay,
Where frequent at the purple dawn of morn,
Or 'neath the beetling brow of twilight grey,
We sate, like roses twain upon one thorn,
Telling romantic tales, of descant quaint,
Tinted in various hues with fancy's paint:
And I would hearken, greedy of his sound,
Lapt in the bosom of soft ecstacy,
Till, lifting mildly high
Her modest frontlet from the clouds around,
Silence beheld us bruise the closing flow'rs,
Meanwhile she shed her pure ambrosial show'rs.
"O Shannon! thy embroider'd banks can tell
How oft we stray'd beside thy amber wave,
With osier rods arching thy wizard stream,
Or weaving garlands for thy liquid brow.
Ah me! my dearest partner seeks the grave;
The ruthless grave, extinguisher of joy.
Fond Corydon, scarce ripen'd into boy,
Where shall I ever find thy pleasing peer?
My task is now (ungrateful task, I ween!)
To cull the choicest offspring of the year,
With myrtles mix'd, and laurels varnish'd bright;
And, scatt'ring o'er thy hillock green
The poor meed, greet the gloom of night.
"Ye healing Pow'rs, that range the velvet mead,
Exhaling the fresh breeze from Zephyr's bow'r,
Oh! where, in that unhappy hour,
Where did you fly from his neglected head?
Health, thou mountain maid of sprightliest cheek,
Ah! why not cool his forehead meek?
Why not in his blest cause thy pow'r display,
And chase the fell disorder far away?
For he erewhile, most lovely of thy train,
Wont the entangled wood to trace,
Would hear the jocund horn, and join the chase:
Till thou relinquish'd him to grief and pain,
E'en in the bloom of flourishing age;
And Death, grim tyrant, from his plague-drawn car
Espied the horrid Fury's ruthless rage,
Then wing'd his ebon shaft, and stopp'd the ling'ring war.
"Yet cease to weep, ye swains; for if no cloud
Of thwarting influence mar my keener sight,
I mark'd a stranger-star, serenely bright,
Burst from the dim inclosure of a shrowd.
'Twas Corydon! a radiant circlet bound
His brow of meekness; and the silver sound,
Shook from his lyre, of gratulations loud,
Smooth'd the unruffled raven-plume of Night."—
Thus chanted the rude youth his past'ral strain,
While the cold earth his playmate's bosom press'd.
And now the sun, slow westing to the main,
Panted to give his wearied coursers rest;
The azure curtains took a crimson stain,
And Thetis shone, in golden garments drest.
The shepherd-minstrel bent his homeward way,
And brush'd the dew-drops from the glitt'ring spray.