1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Terror.

Poems, by Thomas Dermody.

Thomas Dermody


An allegorical ode, after Collins's Ode to Fear. When the poet appeals to the "threat'ning Queen" to display her magic glass, she directs his attention to a shaggy mountain: "View there the wretch that clings so fast, | To one small branch, with looks of woe, | He starts, he trembles at the furious blast, | And now he falls into th' abyss below" p. 27. This is followed by a pageant of various kinds of murder, mayhem, and madness. The precocious Thomas Dermody was only thirteen years old when this first volume of poems was published, at a younger age than even than Abraham Cowley, who published his Poetical Blossoms at fifteen. Unlike that of Cowley, it cannot be said that Dermody's muse developed much over time. His first volume, privately published in Dublin, appears to be scarce.

Rowland E. Prothero: "Thomas Dermody (1775-1802), a precocious Irish lad, whose dissipated habits weakened his mind and body, published poems in 1792, 1800, and 1802. His collected verses appeared in 1807 under the title of The Harp of Erin, edited by J. G. Raymond, who had published the previous year (1806) The Life of Thomas Dermody in two volumes" Byron, Letters and Journals (1898-1901) 120.



Hark! how the troubled air,
Resounds the scream of wan Despair,—
While Terror, ghastly spirit, huge and tall,
Array'd in sable robe, and mourning pall,
Attended by her haggard train
Of murd'rous sprites, and goblins drear,
In sullen grandeur stalks along the plain,
While Nature starts, and Pity pleads in vain.—

Oh! Goddess of th' affrighted mien!
The aweful pause! the swift recoiling start,
Of ev'ry glaring horror, threat'ning Queen!
To me thy magic-glass awhile impart.

"I grant — and now prepare thy sight,
For objects pregnant with affright,—
And lo! in yonder shady wood,
Survey that shaggy mountain, drear and high,
That frowns, impending on the gulphy flood,
And casts a brownish horror on the eye!
View there the wretch that clings so fast,
To one small branch, with looks of woe,
He starts, he trembles at the furious blast,
And now he falls into th' abyss below.

"Now turn thy glancing eye and view,
The sword that gleams thro' yonder shade,
The murd'rer see, his hand embrue,
In infant blood, and draw the reeking blade;
Ev'n while the smiling babe in wanton play,
Kisses his hands, or views the dagger's gleam,—
By frantic rage impress'd, it drinks his vital stream,
While the calm infant laughs his life away!

"In yon deserted wild the trav'ler see!
With look aghast, expressive of his fear,
He thinks a spirit howls in ev'ry blast,
And fancy'd goblins ev'ry step pursue;
And oft he looks behind,
At ev'ry breath of wind,
And stops and shudders in his eager haste.

"Now turn thee to the iron bed,
Where, raving wild, unconquer'd Madness lies,
His face by turns is pale — now crimson red,
And livid light'ning sparkles from his eyes;
Now laughing in a crazy mood,
Now borne on Anger's sweepy flood,
By various turns, contending passions rise!

"Now view another horrid scene,
Surpassing ev'ry sight before,—
A burning vessel on the tortur'd main,
Hark the affrighted sailors frantic roar,
While sea and sky like blazing worlds are seen,
And wat'ry Aetnas on the fluid green;
Horror, delighted with the dismal joy,
Gorgonian Terror heaps around,
And Fury, eager to destroy,
And Desolation catch the dying sound!
While some a wat'ry tomb pursue,
Or some expire in sulphur flaming blue:
Or the fond husband, careless of his doom,
Clasps his lov'd part'ner to his breast,
United, seeks and undivided tomb,
And in the billowy wave obtains eternal rest."

[pp. 26-28]