1802
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode XV. The Victim of Despair.

Le Forester: a Novel. 3 vols.

Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges


An allegorical ode in six irregular Spenserians (ababccdD). Samuel Egerton Brydges's treatment of the Despair motif from the Faerie Queene reads like a pastiche of earlier poems. The stanza is taken from Gray's Hymn to Adversity, the imagery from Collins's Ode to Fear, and sentiments variously from Thomas Warton's Suicide, Thomas Penrose's Madness, and Charlotte Smith's Ode to Despair. The number of romantic poems treating this theme begins to seem truly frightful.

W. Davenport Adams: "Samuel Egerton Brydges, literary critic, novelist, and poet (b. 1762, d. 1737), published, among other works, Sonnets and Poems (1785-95); Mary de Clifford, a novel (1792); Arthur Fitz-Albini, a novel (1798); Le Forester, a novel (1802); Censura Literaria (1805); The British Bibliographer (1810); Restituta (1814); Res Literariae (1820); Letters on Lord Byron (1824); and Desultoria (1842); besides the numerous editions of old and standard authors refered to throughout this Dictionary. His Autobiography appeared in 1834" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 103.



Wan moon, behind that cloud
Why dost thou hide thy silvery rays?
O do not thus thy beams enshroud
From the lorn wretch, who for thy guidance prays!
While thus I tread the precipice,
And hear the roar of torrents rise,
Break forth, and lead my steps, my spirits calm,
And on my bursting heart shed e'en a transient balm!

To thee the maniac bends;
To thee he pours the mournful sigh!
But not the moody light attends
One 'mid the frantic tribe so sad as I.
O save me from the fiend, Despair,
Who in this darkness seems to wear
A giant shape of more terrific mien,
While by the mists of night his form is dimly seen!

Perch'd on some giddy height
Behind me oft the demon sets;
The elements combine their spite;
Bellows the wave, and howls the blast by fits.
Urg'd by the fiend's revengeful hand
Upon the trembling edge I stand;
But sav'd by Heaven, recall my erring feet,
And from the yawning gulph with shuddering awe retreat.

And oft in dreary dells,
With midnight sable mantle clad,
He fills the air with piercing yells;
And brings to Fancy's view the wretch with tortures mad!
Then, when the sufferer, wild with woe,
Would arm against himself the blow,
Strives to strike home the instrument of death,
And from the gasping wound let out the vital breath.

Fair Orb, send forth thy ray;
Banish the phrenzied phantom crew,
Which round about the demon play,
And give the fiend a more distracting hue!
Thou hast, soft Beam, no fairy spell
The withering power himself to quell;
But gloom less terrible thou can'st bestow;
And on his woe-struck rage a calmer influence throw!

Wild Fancy's headlong starts;
The laugh convuls'd, the frantic stare;
The scream that thro' the welkin darts;
And threats of withering sound, that shake th' affrighted air,
From me, O Heaven, in mercy chase!
Mine be Despair's more sullen face;
And let no transient shapes of Hope appear,
To make the hues of Woe by contrast more severe!

[Poems (1807) 99-101]