1800 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Vanity of Hope.

The Harp of Erin, containing the Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Dermody. In Two Volumes. [James G. Raymond, ed.]

Thomas Dermody


A Horatian ode in four "Rowley" Spenserians (ababbcdcdD): "O mortal wight! what is thy life but toil; | A pilgrimage of woes, a false embrace."

Samuel Egerton Brydges also responded to the high expectations placed on youthful poets: "Let him, who has set himself to these aspiring, but fearful labours; if yet in the first bloom of youth, he has only shown a partial splendour; if yet the pure radiance emerging from the clouds, which always surround the first rise even of the brightest sun, has only partially filled the horizon; neither despair, nor abate the energy of his toils, or his hopes! The voice of Nature will be heard, while the language lasts; and thousands will thrill and tremble over his strains, ages after the hand that wrote them shall have mouldered in the dust" Restituta or ... English Literature Revived 4 (1816) 341.



Forlorn is he who trusts to-morrow's fate:
The genial sun will rise, but not for him.
The fool who revels high in gorgeous state
Ne'er sees the frightful face of Mis'ry grim,
Or views of bitter woe before him swim.
The poet's cottage is her surest seat;
O'er his meek head she flaps her raven wing;
Poisons the pittance poor that he must eat;
With deadly juice taints the Pierian spring,
And bids her spirits lurk beneath each warbling string.

Fair promise oft may come with smiling face;
But trust not, trust not her deceiving wile!
Envy perhaps may mar each well-masqued grace,
And foul Disdain usurp the pitying smile.
O mortal wight! what is thy life but toil;
A pilgrimage of woes, a false embrace;
A lasting pain where Disappointment rears
Her scorpion whip to sting thy gentlest peace;
To Innocence shuts close her iron ears,
And from the aching heart each beauteous phantom tears?

Alert we climb the mountain's rugged brow;
And toil to gain the summit, idly vain:
At last we find that bliss was left below,
And proud Ambition is the sire of Pain.
Bright-tressed Transport, and her jocund train,
In the deep valley bid their blossom blow:
Struggling Desire the lofty cliff would climb,
But foul Derision stands his grinning foe:
Awhile he stands; but, lo! in flow'ry prime
Mischance will hurl him swift from potency sublime.

Forlorn is he who trusts to-morrow's dawn.
Then let no glitt'ring gauds delude thine eye;
Let Hope's fond rainbow scenery be withdrawn,
And brighter aims recal thy glance on high.
Fulfilment is the daughter of the sky,
Who bids frail doubts and subtleties be gone;
With Destiny she shares her radiant seat,
Placed to the right of the eternal throne:
She can alone make saddest sorrows sweet,
Erase thy sable stains, and make thee all-complete.

[1:158-59]