1790 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Autumn.

Poetical Selections, consisting of the most approved Pieces of our best British Poets, excellent Specimens of Fugitive Poetry, and some original Pieces, by Cowper, Darwin, and others that have never before been published.

Thomas Dermody


Sixteen blank-verse quatrains, after Collins's Ode to Evening. This is one of a number of imitations of Collins where the annual is substituted for the diurnal cycle. Thomas Dermody takes some imagery from Milton's Il Penseroso, while the diction and obtrusive alliteration is characteristic Spenserian generally, carried, as often with Dermody, to extremes: "Well, loveliest Autumn, mayst thou mock the rage | Of Winter, surly dastard, following fierce, | With frozen breath malign, | To blight thy later blooms" p. 83.

This fugitive poem was most likely composed in the early 1790s during the era of Della Cruscan poetry; Dermody died in 1802. Poetical Selections is a Birmingham anthology published in 1811. It groups its contents by theme: Martial, Rural and Descriptive, Legendary, Elegiac, Humorous, and Sentimental and Pathetic. Because the anonymous editor was willing to run roughshod over copyright restrictions, its contents give a better idea of the state of the canon of contemporary poetry than most anthologies.



Now when the sun with less enamour'd beam,
Lights the faint blushes of the fading year,
Oh teach me, matron staid,
To woo thy tender calm!

For much I love the languish of thine eye,
Luxurious stream'd o'er each congenial scene,
That lends to all around
A delicate repose;

Whether thy evening clouds their skirts unfold
Of paler purple, through the forest-gloom
Effusing partial streaks
From their etherial glow;

Or the blue bosom of the tranquil lake,
Where silence sits amid the dusky stream,
Scarce undulating, heaves,
Thy chasten'd smile beneath:

Thy auburn locks with dewy woodbine drest,
Ere yet the sere wreath withers on thy brow,
Or brumal blasts deform
Thy stole of sober green.

Oft, mid the leafy wilderness of shade,
Through its obscure recesses moaning deep,
But yet without a wind,
Conduct my devious step.

Nor seldom let me catch the softer dash
Of distant water, from some willowy sluice,
Prone to its pebbled bed,
Bounding in faery fall;

Or curfew's slumb'rous swing from village spire;
Or hollow hum of whisp'ring voices near,
Homeward returning late;
Or watch-dog's sullen bay.

Meanwhile the mellow swell of past'ral flute,
May from her thicket lure the Attic bird,
With one sad-closing strain
To harmonize the whole.

Then will the muse, (the muse, thy handmaid fair,)
When all the hamlet's hush'd in silence sweet,
Resume her solemn song,
Her song of grateful praise:

For, ever in thy rear is Genius seen,
Inly conversing with himself; and then
Contrasting with each sigh,
The creatures of the mind.

Thine wisdom too; and rapt devotion thine,
List'ning the sphery chime with pauseful ear;
Sage meditation still,
And eagle-pinion'd thought.

While those too, brighter yet, that troop behind,—
Content, blythe child of labour well repaid,
(Who laughing leads along
Brown harvest's buxom form,

The poppy nodding mid her sheafy crest,)
And vintage flush'd with his own ruddy grape,—
Complete thy festal train,
Superior to assault;

Well, loveliest Autumn, mayst thou mock the rage
Of Winter, surly dastard, following fierce,
With frozen breath malign,
To blight thy later blooms:

Nor need'st thou yet the full voluptuous glare
Of summer envy, more divinely drest
By nature's lib'ral hand
In plenitude and peace.

[pp. 82-83]