1802
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Enthusiast.

Poems on Various Subjects, by Thomas Dermody.

Thomas Dermody


Sixteen Spenserians: a phantasmagorical journey to the Court of Faerie, where the Enthusiast is warned to mend his flighty ways: "To bend submissive to the servile yoke, | A temporary bondage must be borne." Looking at the rhyme pattern in the first stanza one recalls the admonition to Edwin, in the second canto of Beattie's The Minstrel, that he should correct his verses. In 1808 "The Enthusiast" was reprinted anonymously in a periodical with "to be continued" appended to the end; no more was appeared; see The Cabinet 3 (April 1808) 256-58.

Monthly Mirror: "The Pleasures of Poetry and The Enthusiast, are in the true spirit, as well as in the stanza of SPENSER.... These are the effusions of no vulgar fancy, and from them the reader will form a favourable opinion of the whole. The first stanza ["High o'er headlong torrent's foamy fall. . .], however, reminds us too forcibly of Collins's description of 'Danger'" 13 (May 1802) 335-36.

Robert Southey to Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "At Falmouth I bought Thomas Dermody's Poems, for old acquaintance sake; alas! the boy wrote better than the man!" 25 July 1801; in Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 2:153.

James Grant Raymond: "The poem of the Enthusiast is such as only an enthusiast in the art could produce, when the unbridled fancy is set at liberty, and roams through boundless tracts of visionary delight" Life of Dermody (1806) 2:318.

The Cabinet: "As a poet he is above Savage and below Chatterton, both of whom he so much resembled in his life and manners. He had no great portion of that true creative genius which marks the real poet, but he had a wonderful memory which never lost what it had once stored up; and he had the talent, with a remarkable facility of versification, of pouring out these acquired treasures at will, and of so skillfully combining them as to give them the appearance of originality. His choice of words was ample, and felicitous in the highest degree, and though sometimes wild and extravagant in his sentiments, he never sunk into flatness and insipidity. The Enthusiast is one of his happiest productions. The 'thoughts that breathe and words that burn' of the poet, are here to be found in abundance. The third stanza is borrowed too closely from Collins; but the whole is entitled to our admiration" Review of Dermody's Harp of Erin, 3 (April 1808) 255.

Richard Frushell: "This series of 'delightful dreams' and 'faery scenes' has been read as a satire on liberalism" Edmund Spenser in the Early Eighteenth Century (1999) 223.



With hurrying finger smite the fervid wire!
Th' intolerable rapture tears my soul,
I burn with Inspiration's fiercest fire,
In lawless liberty my senses roll
Beyond demurer Reason's coy control,
Beyond the sapient bounds, by Prudence laid,
And while unwonted fantasies inspire,
Amid th' interminable waste of shade,
In mad delirium lost, my daring tour is made!

Car'd in a cloud, of hyacinthine hue,
Pluck'd from the Lunar Shrine, aloft I rise;
And wond'rous sights, unutterable view,
Ting'd with a thousand strange, eye-shifting dyes,
Such as astound the weak, and daunt the wise,
But, often, by th' ecstatic gaze are seen,
When Fancy animates th' enamel'd skies
With radiant hosts minute, of wayward mien,
And dusky Moonlight cloathes the fay-encircled green.

High o'er headlong torrent's foamy fall,
Whose waters howl along the rugged steep,
On the loose-jutting rock, or mould'ring wall,
See! where gaunt DANGER lays him down to sleep!
The piping winds his mournful vigil keep;
The light'nings blue his stony pillow warm;
Anon, incumbent o'er the dreary deep,
The fiend enormous strides the lab'ring storm,
And mid the thund'rous strife expands his giant-form.

The vital stream, propel'd from every part,
Tumultuous, leaves each veiny channel dry;
The purple flood flows heavy on my heart,
As startled MADNESS meets my blasted eye;
How lamentable, now, his loaded sigh,
Of horrible intent, and fix'd despair!
And, now again, with agonizing cry,
He beats his boxen cheek, he rends his hair,
'Till in hot tears is quench'd his eyeball's fiery glare!

The sudden light that flash'd athwart his brain,
Dread interval! but more augments his woe;
Oft, has that bare head brav'd the dashing rain;
Its brown locks, oft been silver'd o'er with snow;
Ye savage tempests! cease awhile to blow;
Ye angry heav'ns! upfurl your sheeted flame;
From Love's deluding cup the poison's flow,
That drench in anguish his distracted frame,
That leave him man's fair form, without the boasted name.

Ah! who is SHE, of dark unsettled brow,
That, bleeding, drags an angel-shape behind,
And quaffs the living gore? — I know her now!
'Tis JEALOUSY, that monster of the mind,
In whom are thousand contraries combin'd,
Now moping, melancholy, o'er the wild;
Now, fretful, rash, unreas'ning, unconfin'd;
In Constancy's best blood her hands defil'd;
And strangling in its birth her own devoted child.

From thee, severe, insinuative Pest!
Such crimes terrific, tragically, spring,
As in some tale, by Fear's pale lip exprest,
Bids the babe closer to the bosom cling,
And breathes amazement o'er the shudd'ring ring;
Ne'er may the stealing serpents, that devour
The roses wove in Love's purpureal wing,
With cureless venom taint Affection's flow'r,
Or coil your latent death's in my ANTHEMOE's bow'r!

Where is thy magic wand, to pourtray
This scene so fraught with shadows of surprize,
Oh! Thou! who, fir'd by one eccentric ray
Of SHAKESPEARE, bad'st thy wild creation rise,
Revealing mystic rites to mortal eyes?
For lo, from Darkness' unexhausted womb,
Spectres, of horrid feature, hideous size,
Or unimagin'd pow'r, inform the gloom
With motion, and effect, and cheat the hungry tomb.

Here, bat-like portents cleave the murky air,
And flap, with strident scream, the leathern wing;
Some, like the tyger rushing from his lair,
Start from the dense profound, with furious spring;
Some, in shrill tone, their doleful dirges sing;
Some, with their iron fangs, prepare for prey;
Hiss the fell snakes; the rusty fetters ring;
Groans the rack'd wretch his stubborn soul away;
Or mid th' insatiate blaze half-figur'd goblins play.

Oh! for one sprig of sacred mistletoe,
Spell-breaking vervain, or as potent rue,
To scare those imps malign who work me woe;
Oh! for nine drops of cold nocturnal dew,
O'er my pale front with mutter'd sleight to strew!
Aloof, in sullen apathy repos'd,
Yon daemon huge I dread, of deadliest hue;
He rises, ghastly to my path oppos'd!—
Ah, close the fearful scene! — the fearful scene is clos'd.

Now, down the smooth declivity, I float
Of neither aether, to a shelter'd vale;
Where, in its balmy bosom lodg'd remote,
A bevy of bright beings I may hail;
Hark! what sweet murmurs swell the musky gale,
Whose honied whispers joy and gladness give;
What tides of lusty health my lungs inhale;
What florid flushed my blank cheeks receive;
Here, in this happy dell, for ever would I live!

Minions of Moonlight! let my slow step steal
Unblam'd, and guiltless, on your secret sport;
Removing soft the visionary veil,
That wraps from vulgar ken the Elfin-Court,
Where no unhallow'd visitants resort!
Lo! where the Lords of Faery-land appear!
Chieftains, and frowning Peers of princely port;
Sage Councellors, with piercing eye severe,
And less distinguish'd knights fast trooping in the rear.

The Monarch's self majestic terrors grace,
Tip'd with a horse-fly's tongue, a rush his spear!
A gnat's slight pinion shades his martial face;
A fish's scale his armed shoulders wear,
Lin'd with a scarf of shining gossamer;
Unknown in listed fray the prize to yield,
His rapier is a hornet's sting severe;
Superior to the rest, his shelly shield
Undauntedly he shakes, and overlooks the field.

But, moving slow upon my dazzled sight,
What miracle is this of loveliest charm?
Luxuriate in unspeakable delight,
I feel, I feel my shiv'ring senses warm,
All my best feelings own the fond alarm;
The courteous semblance becks me to her side,
That beamy smile secures me from all harm,
Her mandate I obey with pleasing pride:
'Tis She! — the SYLPHID SHE! — my late aerial bride!

"Full ill, (she cries) my pupil, has thine ear
Receiv'd the moral lore, I, whilom, taught;
Tho' prodigal of fancy, who will hear
Thy numbers vague, with no instruction fraught,
And destitute of heav'n-descended thought;
Tho' slighting the severer rules of art,
With choicest cunning is the descant wrought,
If thou to lull the sense, neglect the heart,
Trust me, advent'rous youth! we suddenly must part."

She spoke! — conviction follow'd as she spoke:
And tho' uncurb'd Imagination scorn,
To bend submissive to the servile yoke,
A temporary bondage must be borne;
The flaunting wild-rose decks the crabbed thorn;
From surly rules sublimest labours grew;
No more my stricter song must you adorn,
Ye Phantoms, ever fair, and ever new!—
Adieu, delightful dreams, ye faery scenes adieu!

[pp. 59-67]