1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Contemplative Verses on the Tombs in Drumcondra Church-Yard.

Poems, by Thomas Dermody.

Thomas Dermody


Twenty-five elegiac quatrains "In the Manner of Gray" by the juvenile bard Thomas Dermody. The thirteen-year-old poet sets the gloomy scene then presents verse characters of the departed, a young woman, a village patriot, a humorist, the village preacher (modeled on Goldsmith's The Deserted Village) and a village poet. Following Gray's Elegy, Dermody proceeds to imagine his own career and obscure death. His distaste for patronage is already notable in this early poem: "Oh! may I thus, his calm enjoyments share, | Nor vainly mix amongst the giddy crowd! | Despising flatt'ry's guile, and folly's snare, | And if possess'd of riches, yet not proud." The elegy concludes with the imagined death of a friend.

Advertisement: "It has been thought proper not to offer this specimen to the Public at large, but to print a few copies to be circulated among those only, who, it is hoped, will take an interest in the protection of our young Poet, and whose protection it is of most consequence he should obtain. — Should the judicious Reader discover in the following Poems any imitations, he will be inclined rather to approve of them, as they shew a just attention to the best models. — Should many of the original passages or thoughts appear above the years of the Author, the Reader may be assured they are entirely his own" iv.



Now sober Ev'ning, clad in mantlet grey,
In solemn pomp steals on to shadowy Night,
The twinkling Stars begin their lucid way,
And bashful Cynthia shews her silver light.

No noise is heard, save yonder hooting Owl,
That shrieks his mournful dirge in scream of woe—
This is the time to cultivate the soul,
And bid it spurn at vain terrestrial shew!

Here oft with me, my pensive Muse, retire,
And o'er each hillock heave a sigh sincere;
Here let me softly string th' elegiac lyre,
And pay the humble dead a tear.—

Yon ghastly scull, at which my step recoils,
Perhaps was once some lovely Sylvan maid;
Was once the seat of all the dimpled smiles,
But ah! those winning charms are now decay'd.

Where is the front where bashful meekness beam'd,
Where is each charm that won th' enraptur'd swain,
Where now the eyes where heav'nly brightness flam'd,
Oh! where is she, the Venus of the plain?—

Perhaps yon verdant turf, tho' humbly low,
Contains the village Patriot's noisy head;
Who guess'd of tott'ring states the future woe,
And mourn'd bright freedom from his country fled.

The rustic Punster here perhaps may rest,
Possess'd of many a quibble, many a joke;
Each word he utter'd was esteem'd a jest,
And Bumpkins gap'd, and titter'd as he spoke.

The Preacher's lowly stone deserves my tear,
Who by example shew'd the good he taught,
His life was blameless, and his heart sincere,
And if he gave not much, 'twas not his fault.

When at his door he saw the child of woe,
The bursting tear stood trembling in his eye,
To give his little alms he ne'er was slow,
And oft he wish'd for riches with a sigh.—

And tho' he long is dead, the silent clown
Passes his humble tomb in rev'rend awe;
He thinks he sees the goodman's chiding frown,
Desire him follow Virtue's lovely law;

And as he reads the moral lesson rang'd
In antique order, on the sculptur'd stone,
All in a trice, his vicious thoughts are chang'd,
And sad, in honest grief, he heaves a groan.

Blest be thy name! and may thy peaceful shade
For ever taste the bliss of heav'nly love!
And tho' beneath this earthly hillock laid,
Yet soar triumphant to the plains above!—

Perchance, the Poet here reclines his head,
No stone or slate to tell that once he sung;
His varying dreams, and self-made pomp are fled,
And mute, alas! too mute, his tuneful tongue!

The wonder of the village once was he,
His witty song could jocund mirth diffuse,
He'd deify the Rustics for a fee,
And all would ask, "What fairy was his Muse?"

How bless'd was he, his life in pleasure spent!
He had no Patron, each one was his Friend,
He aim'd no high'r, with frugal praise content,
And what he wrote, was but by Nature penn'd.

Oh! may I thus, his calm enjoyments share,
Nor vainly mix amongst the giddy crowd!
Despising flatt'ry's guile, and folly's snare,
And if possess'd of riches, yet not proud.

And, when I die, beneath yon weeping yew,
Oh! may I lie, by cypress hem'd around;
And with no epitaph, but what is true,
Which only serves to shew the burial ground.

While oft the swain quick trudging o'er the tomb,
Of worldly cares, and village business full,
Shall pass neglectful of his certain doom,
And careless, kick the hallow'd Poet's scull.—

But hark — methinks I hear the pealing knell,—
The sound encreas'd comes swelling on the gale,
Kind Sexton, turn a while, and gently tell,
Altho' I dread to hear the horrid tale.

'Tis he — my panting heart did sure forebode,
The trickling tear did now unbidden flow,
Some friend I guess'd was near his last abode,
My heart confess'd anticipated woe!

And lo! the herse in solemn grandeur comes,
The torches flashing thro' the dusk of night,
Each chequer'd gleam reflects the murky tombs,
And horror is encreas'd by glimm'ring light.

Those yonder weeping ministers of woe,
Now near approach, in sable robes array'd,
Like messengers of fate, now moving slow,
Solemn they walk, and pray o'er all the dead.

And now — but first oh! let me fondly weep,
And clasp thy coffin to my panting breast;
Snatch one farewel — then lay Philander deep,
And sing his requiem to eternal rest.

Now the cold clay, thrice on his coffin cast,
The greedy earth for ever hides my friend—
Alas! thy transitory life is past,
And all thy earthly honors at an end.

But tho' thy body I shall view no more,
Thou e'er shalt gain a tablet of my heart;
Thy loss, my faithful friend, I'll e'er deplore,
And never shall thy memory depart.

[pp. 13-18]