1802
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Pleasures of Poetry. In Spenser's Stanza.

Poems on Various Subjects, by Thomas Dermody.

Thomas Dermody


A rhapsody in sixteen Spenserians in which Edmund Spenser appears in a catalogue of poets: "Fell waves! who rudely rob'd my SPENSER's song | Of half its worth, and griev'd the Elfin Queen, | For this so great, irreparable wrong, | Ne'er on your brim be blue-ey'd Sea-nymph seen." The Pleasures of Poetry is part of the pleasures-of sequence that was taking shape at this time under the influence of the much more memorable poems by Samuel Rogers and Thomas Campbell. Thomas Dermody was the most notable Irish poet to make extensive use of the Spenserian stanza.

Thomas Dermody to James Bland Burges: "My splenetic comparison of Walpole and Chatterton was certainly wrong: you have in every part of your conduct displayed a striking dissimilarity to the mean and ungenerous conduct of that scribbling peer; and in point of genius and erudition, in my poor opinion, there is no shadow of resemblance. A letter which I received some years ago, and which shall hereafter appear, would fully justify my abhorrence for the selfish vanity of that titled impostor, who has been nearly deified (if dullness can confer deification) by 'the mob of gentlemen who write with ease.' For his memory my contempt and hatred are immortal" 13 July 1801; in Raymond, Life of Dermody (1806) 1:194.

British Critic: "The Pleasures of Poetry and The Enthusiast are poems of a similar character, and nearly equal with The Extravaganza. In all the three poems the epithets are much too numerous, and, though sometimes original and expressive, often far-fetched and extravagant" 21 (1803) 82.

James Grant Raymond: "the whole is strongly conceived; and the sentiments by which he has delineated the powers of his poetical ancestors are happily combined and fancifully expressed. The moral reflections are likewise calculated to improve the mind, and paint with beauteous imagery the comforts arising from patient resignation under affliction" Life of Dermody (1806) 2:317.

Thomas Dermody's poem makes an interesting comparison with two earlier poems in the same kind, Milton's L'Allegro-Il Penseroso, and Thomas Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy.



Avaunt, ye scowling Cares, of hideous brow!
Whilere that brooded on my joyless breast,
No more beneath your baneful sway I bow,
No more your terrors haunt my tranquil rest,
In blooming bow'rs of fond Idea blest,
White handled Hope, with seraph-smile divine,
And Peace, emerging from her Halcyon-nest,
And all the beauteous race of Mind are mine,
While polish'd MOIRA lends a lustre to my line!

There are, the witching verse who basely slight,
Intent on vulgar arts, I loath to share;
There are, who feel no exquisite delight,
In aught sublimely grand, or sweetly fair;
There are, to whom, yon rich expanse of air,
Teems not with forms, by faery fingers wrought;
Still poring on the earth, with leaden stare,
The tender-featur'd family of Thought,
Madly they mock, dull slaves! by impious mammon caught.

Tho' no vile hoards my iron coffers fill,
Can I not commune with Heirs of Fame?
From the pure current of whose fluent quill,
Unfading praise, and kingly honours came;
Can I not wooe the laughter-loving dame,
With HIM, illustrious LEPANTO's fray;
Illume my lamp at JONSON's learned flame;
Or weave with thee, dear Bard! the wizard lay,
That, whilom, wildly rung by DESMOND's turrets gray.

Fell waves! who rudely rob'd my SPENSER's song
Of half its worth, and griev'd the Elfin Queen,
For this so great, irreparable wrong,
Ne'er on your brim be blue-ey'd Sea-nymph seen,
Sleeking her humid locks of glossy green,
Nor sportive TRITON wind his tortuous shell;
Yet know, remov'd from your obdurate spleen,
His descant charms the Ocean-pow'rs who dwel
In Coral cave profound, or pearly-pillar'd cell.

With HIM, who sung the SEASONS, I may rove,
Romantic RICHMOND! by the wat'ry glade;
Or, hallow'd to the voice of hopeless Love,
Thro' the fair Leasowes' woe-enamour'd shade;
Scenes in eternal bloom by song array'd!
Or, in delightful reveries employ
The hour with HIM, whom each melodious Maid
Mark'd for her own, — ah! dead to every Joy,
Mysterious, but unmatch'd, Invention's wond'rous Boy!

Rail as ye list, ye minions of decay!
And ban the wight for other ages born;
Wav'd the pin'd Minstrel from your gate away,
Nor waste one glance upon his state forlorn;
You cannot close the portals of the Morn,
When the faint Dawn first opes her dewy eye;
Your mandate cannot hush the vocal thorn;
Embitter frolic Zephyr's fragrant sigh;
Or chase gay Ev'ning down the many-colour'd Sky!

Nor may you of their gorgeous garb deprive
The flowery tribe, that gem the woodland waste;
Nor mar the murmurs of the honied hive;
Nor will, by your vain menace, be effac'd
The various tints, in bright embroidery plac'd
By Fancy's touch, that fringe the purple cloud;
Tho' little by your vaunted presence grac'd,
The thrush will twitter from his leafy shroud,
And tell the babbling brook his amorous pain aloud.

Free o'er the furze-clad heath, of yellow bloom,
My devious step may wander, unconfin'd,
Nor miss the tissued labours of the loom,
Fum'd by the incense of the Western wind;
My nature will no courtly shackles bind;
No servile flatt'ry varnish'd o'er with art;
While, on yon mountain's misty summit shrin'd,
Majestic sitting from the world apart,
I to great NATURE pour the homage of my heart.

Witness, ye hills! with many a vapoury wreath
Entwin'd, whose green brows court the sunny ray;
Witness, ye spicey gales! whose odours breathe
The glowing blush of health where're you stray;
Ye silvery streams! that, warbling, wind away,
Whose tiny Naiads are with amber shod;
Witness what rev'rence I was proud to pay,
When, awefully sequester'd, I have trod
Lone NATURE's paths recluse, to NATURE's bounteous GOD!

To airy regions my spirit roam,
Wafted on wild Imagination's wing,
There can I find, and fix my viewless home,
And reign o'er magic realms creative king;
And while soft breezes sweep th' AEOLIAN string,
Or the loud tempest swell the bolder base,
Bid my slight servants nectar'd banquets bring,
And laughing at the little pomp of Place,
Triumphant, raise my throne o'er Time, and bounded Space.

Hark! mighty MILTON, leaning from his sphere,
Repeats his Paradisal tale again;
Hark! gently steals upon my trembling ear,
Of sainted SHAKESPEARE the consummate strain;
'Tis harmony, 'tis Heav'n itself! — in vain,
Th' ecstatic impulse I essay to hide,
But listed in their everlasting train,
Wheel my swift journey from this globe aside,
Light as the buoyant blast that fans the plume of Pride.

Such raptur'd vision can an empire buy?
Can sceptres purchase one celestial dream?
All that in jewel'd quarries, glist'ring, lye,
The topaz' blaze, the ruby's sanguine gleam,
The chrystal, spotless as the living stream,
The em'rald, glancing fierce its vivid hues,
Or diamond's insufferable beam,
Are infinitely poor: nor would I chuse
Th' exuberance of the Mine before the deathless Muse!

Then wail not, Genius! thy unworthy lot,
Where'er thou sadly shrink'st from sight profane;
Thy patient labours shall not be forgot,
Nor lost the influence of thy lofty strain;
From Glory's nodding crest, of crimson stain,
The laurel shall forsake it's seat sublime;
The prostrate column load the groaning plain;
While rising o'er the wreck, thy sacred rhyme
Shall fire to noble feats the Sons of future time.

Vagrant, and scoff'd, and houseless, as thou art,
The powerful spell of thy exalted theme,
Shall wake to bolder deed the warrior's heart,
Shall breathe o'er sleeping Love a brighter dream;
From every line shall fresh Instruction stream;
The cottage-hearth thy pensive plaint shall hear;
In regal hall thy glittering harp shall gleam;
The dark, cold breast of lonely Sorrow chear;
And start from Phrenzy's lid Conviction's frozen tear.

Heav'ns! can I stoop to aught of mortal mold,
Whom shapes fantastic beck to bliss unknown?
Say, can I glote on rayless heaps of gold,
When yon ethereal landscape is my own?
Where it's pure Sov'reign plants his fiery throne;
Are not his aureate shafts elanced around,
'Till, by her twinkling train distinctly known,
His Sister meek, with paler glories crown'd,
Uprears her maiden front, with argent fillet bound.

Hence! the deep gloom, that wraps in central shade,
The struggling splendours of th' immortal Mind!
Hence! ev'ry black surmise, that would invade
The breast by charming sympathies refin'd!
Ye felon doubts! I give you to the wind:
Fortune benign, now, blows her gentlest airs,
To aid my vent'rous flight, too long confin'd;
And Fancy her undaunted plume prepares,
To sail the highest heav'n; — Avaunt ye scowling Cares!

[pp. 47-55]