A prose allegory in which Envy and Superstition are overcome by Truth. This piece of juvenilia was likely written while Thomas Dermody was studying with the Spenserian poet Henry Boyd; it is reprinted with other schoolboy essays in James Grant Raymond's Life of Thomas Dermody (1806).
"Serenus" would appear to be Dermody himself; might "Perfection" be his patroness, the countess of Moira? Elizabeth, countess of Moira (1732-1808), along with her friend Bishop Percy, was a significant patron of Irish literature. The Countess placed Dermody under the tutelage of the Spenserian poet Henry Boyd.
James Grant Raymond: "Dermody wrote this in ridicule of the common fairy tales, and in order to shew how easy it was to combine allegory with the ordinary insipid style of those narratives" 1:185n.
Edinburgh Review: "There are quantities of poetry as good as most of Dermody's, which pass quietly to oblivion every six months, without ever being missed by the world; and when his name ceases to be heard of, which will happen, we doubt not, in four or five years, in spite of the stir occasioned by his eccentricities, we rather think that the state of our poetical readers will be more gracious than that of the present generation. In short, we cannot help suspecting that it is more to our national vanity, and our taste for monsters of all descriptions, than to any tender sympathies for the sufferings of genius that we should ascribe the profuse and unmerited bounty which was poured into the purse of this prodigy of verse and debauchery. For our own parts, we think it would have been quite as well for the world, and much better for himself, if he had been allowed to follow out his natural progress, from the house of correction to the gallows; or, at any rate, if he had been left under the wholesome discipline of the sergeants and drummers in the ranks of Lord Granard's regiment of foot" Review of Raymond, Life of Dermody; 8 (April 1806) 167.
In days of yore, when innocence and simplicity were sure to find a guardian in some beneficial fairy; when every cottage was attended by a supernatural being, either good or evil according to the merits of the inhabitants; lived the shepherd Serenus, a youth of humble fortunes but of elegant manners. Though his occupation was mean, his sentiments were noble. It was his custom to go out every morning after a frugal meal, and remain till the gloom of night, busied in feeding his flocks and rearing his young lambs.
Once in the dusk of evening, as he was playing on his artless pipe, a cloud of the most orient brightness opened to his eyes; and an emerald chariot drawn by four cameleons, their harness all studded with pearls, burst forth, and descended lightly on the green bank where he lay. Two ladies of the most incomparable beauty stepped out. The elder of them had a venerable decency, attempered with the most beneficial softness in her looks: but the beauty of the younger was astonishing; her cheeks shone with the rose's own lustre, and her eye was expressive of modest diffidence.
Serenus was amazed at the sight. He attempted to kneel; but the benevolent Sceraba (for that was the name of the former lady) prevented him, and cried: "Injured youth; I perceive in thy features the ingenuous bashfulness of worth, through the dim vapours of rusticity. I am thy friend: follow me." She then ordered her chariot away, and led our young adventurer by her side.
They walked along for a good while, till at last they met an old hag of the most hideous visage: her eye-balls were sunk in her head; her nose was flat, like an ape's; her mouth a den of loathsomeness; her chin picked; her hair snaky; in short, she was every thing disgustful and horrible. She passed by with a side-glance; and in a moment vanished in a flame of sulphur, that left a dreadful stench behind.
"This beldame," said the fairy, "is the fiend Suspicion; the messenger of Envy, who is an implacable foe to us all. To beguile the tediousness of the way, I will tell you the short but eventful history of my dear Dulassa, the young lady whom you see. She is the daughter of a king: and at her birth her father gave a sumptuous entertainment to all the aerial beings, Envy alone excepted; who, in revenge for this neglect, followed his darling child with the most assiduous hatred, and embittered her life. Still Dulassa grew more and more accomplished, and was celebrated as the paragon of beauty. A young prince named Duranius paid his addresses to her, but on the nuptial day he was not to be found. I suspect that he was removed by the malignant designs of Envy; and, in compassion to the fate of Dulassa, will exert my utmost powers to defeat the evil machinations which that mischievous fiend has planned. I myself am a fairy: my name is Perfection."
They now approached a castle of tremendous aspect. Its turrets were black and damaged, and its loop-holes presented to the sight myriads of monstrous faces which were continually on the watch. The gate was closed with bars of adament, and no possible entrance could be found. They were thus at a total stand, when the figure of an archer drest in green appeared and came forward to them. His quiver was scooped from a hollow touchstone; his shafts were tipt with diamonds; and each of them had a label affixed to it, on which its name was written. On one shaft was inscribed "confidence," on a second "fortitude," on a third "philosophy," on a forth "penetration," &c. This last he now employed; and taking a steady aim at the bar, transfixed it. It fell, the gates flew open, and they all three entered without any obstacle. Envy started aghast; but at the appearance of Perfection, fainted. Glad of the opportunity, the archer shot an arrow with the title "conviction" to her heart, and she expired.
On a sudden the gloomy mansion appeared a magnificent palace; and Serenus, now Duranius, embraced his beloved Durania, so long disguised under the appellation of Dulassa. The king, her father, consented to their immediate marriage; and the solemnization of this illustrious alliance was not deferred an instant. Perfection bestowed every blessing in her power on them and their future offspring; and the unknown archer stood before them in all his native radiance, and was known to be the mighty spirit of Truth. "Learn," said he, as he unfurled his wings for heaven, "that merit, however opposed by Envy, will ever retain its intrinsic value; and be at last brought to light by some auspicious power."