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

The Cave of Patronage.

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

Thomas Dermody


Seven "Rowley" Spenserians (ababbcdcdD). Edmund Spenser and Thomas Chatterton appear among the victims of false patrons: "Here Mulla's minstrel, sweetest Spencer, roves, | And warbles heav'nly his dejected lay."

James Grant Raymond: "Here, Dermody has, in a pathetic and masterly style, described the distresses of those elder and illustrious sons of poesy whose writings have thrown so glorious a lustre over the annals of English literature, and whose undeserved penury has equally cast a foul disgrace on the frivolous and unfeeling age in which they flourished. With Chatterton he begins his complaint; who, next to Spenser, was his idol" Life of Dermody (1806) 2:142-43.

"The Cave of Patronage" may have been written when Thomas Dermody "lost the countenance of his noble patroness, the countess of Moira ... after committing many irregularities" Walker's Hibernian Magazine (1802) 514. But the same memoir makes it clear that Dermody received considerable patronage, from Thomas Park and Henry John Todd, as well as from the Literary Fund, whose members included several Spenserian poets.

Thomas Dermody wrote the countess of Moira: "You are so good as to lay down your ladyship's favourite poet [Thomas Chatterton] as the most conspicuously formed to deter from literary pursuits by his ill-fated end and matchless genius. He was one of those unfortunate sons of poesy who, when neglected by the great, and spurned from their train as ingrate and abandoned, flew from this world to the protecting bosom of an Almighty and indulgent patron, and by that means gained themselves that fame which they never could attain while living. I am not displeased with all the world. I can struggle through the crowd of life, and lie down at my journey's end calm and forgotten. No thoughts of death in defiance and rebellion to my omnipotent Creator, shall ever enter my head. I look with a philosophic, not a jaundiced eye, on the world: I see it a small machine crowded with mortals 'fretting their hours upon the stage' of life, regardless of their approaching moment of leaving it. Though I despise it, yet I cannot say I dislike it. Can I ever forget your ladyship's kindness? O my God! vindicate the sincerity, the gratitude of my heart; my heart, that shall for ever retain the impression made by such goodness: and though I am not eloquent in sounding the praise of my patroness, surely I may nevertheless be highly sensible of my obligation" 1791; in James Grant Raymond, Life of Dermody (1806) 1:238-39.



Partitions twain this motley cave divide,
Form'd like the ivory doors of fabled fame;
Chimaera's beauteous crowd the left — hand side,
And angel promises of loveliest frame;
There every wight ideal sees his aim,
With flying coyness his rash heart deride:
Yet hopes he (fool!) to catch the glitt'ring toy,
And gain it with a fresh recruit of pride.
In vain, the fairy meteors soon destroy
His bosom-rest serene, and mar each lively joy.

So through the horrid length of bog and mire,
Doth Ignis Fatuus lead the weary hind,
Catching his simple eye with fatal fire,
And lulling with deceit his honest mind:
But soon doth he the hard-earn'd diff'rence find;
Meand'ring labyrinths his footstep tire,
Unholy figures gambol 'fore his sight,
Sprinkling fell mildew, while the tempest's sire
Pipes horrible the gloomy dirge of night,
And shakes the turrets round, with fierce and wild affright.

Thus bard, who trusts the former cave will thrive,
For soon a trap-door swallows him below,
There the poor credulous wretch must ever live,
And bear the stings of penury and woe:
Like image, playful children mould in snow,
Fade his bright hopes and can no more survive;
Despair stands ever near; ah! ruthless fiend,
With iron fang the harrow'd breast to rive;
And still the demon prompts a sudden end,
And smiles with sallow cheek, and arrogates the friend.

Here dol'rous shadows stalk across the gloom,
And sweep their moody harps with frantic hand;
Hoar-headed minstrels burst the mould'ring tomb,
And roam sad-hearted here! a hapless band!
Still rancour with severest reprimand,
Doth vex them sore, and justifies their doom;
The canker care their bloomy garland taints,
And breathes pollution o'er the sweet perfume;
Lo! while young Poesy, soft virgin, faints,
The wolf-eyed spirits yell, and goad the suffering saints.

Here Mulla's minstrel, sweetest Spencer, roves,
And warbles heav'nly his dejected lay;
Too tender Otway seeks the baleful groves;
And laureat Dryden shuns Detraction's day.
But lo! yon infant soul that fades away!
Erst once so sprightly with the laughing loves;
Why does he walk with melancholy pace,
And sullen eye, that mocks the gay alcoves?
Why does he turn aside his angry face,
And shun of fellow-guests, unkind, the pathway trace?

No more, my Muse, lest Patronage should hear,
And hurl thee headlong to her darksome den;
Phoebus, just now, check'd harsh my wrathful ear,
And bade, beware the varying hearts of men;
Should all desert my humble head, what then?
Illustrious fame my volumed praise will rear;
Illustrious fame will spread her thousand wings,
And shed rich glories on my passing bier;
Illustrious fame will tune her silver strings,
And place my honour'd bust 'bove Caesars, chiefs, and kings.

Though haughty Burleigh crush'd blithe fancy's son,
Say, whose more godlike name shall longer last?
O! far more glorious than the monarch-crown,
That precious wreath which minstrelsy has placed
On poet's awful brow, sublimely graced.
The diadem with lustrous jewels sown,
Is poorly pilfer'd from the earthy mine;
But Fancy's fair judicious hand alone,
Hath gem'd the tuneful braid with buds divine,
Which shall for ever more with hue ambrosial shine.

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