1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

R. F., "Elegy on T. Chatterton, or, The Boy of Bristol" Gentleman's Magazine 58 (December 1788) 1106-07.



O Chatterton, fond Nature's child,
The lay is vain! in vain I try,
Thee, and thy fancy, strong and wild,
To paint in Elegy.

How oft, while others sought repose,
And cares reclin'd to sleep,
Thy loss forbad my eyes to close,
Or clos'd them, but to weep.

With frequent raptures of delight
I gaz'd upon thy page,
Rang'd o'er and o'er the bloody fight,
And heard the troops engage.

O then arose what pity, pain!
I feel th' emotions still.
Thy book I dropt, then seiz'd again,
And wonder'd at thy skill.

'Twas thou could'st lift the soul on high,
Bid swelling passions fall;
And amorous flames, and ecstasy,
Were ready at thy call.

Then, hard to think! that, ere began
Thy beard its shade to show;
That ere thou yet had'st reach'd to man,
Thy tongue was mute below!

'Twas thine to breathe poetic fire,
The thundering verse to roll,
The glowing image to inspire,
And animate the whole.

'Twas thine the deep-mouth'd song to pour,
'Twas thine the Epic strain;
Thine, above British Bards to soar,
And bolder flights sustain.

'Twas thine, to plan the soft complaint,
And Bawdin's fate severe;
'Twas thine, in numbers sweet to paint,
And charm the passions there.

In the Bard's numbers loud and strong,
A God the Chief appears;
And Birtha, and the Minstrel's song,
Move sympathy and tears.

For Chatterton with verse can move
Soft feelings mix'd with pain;
Kindle the warmer passion, Love,
And bid it fly again.

Nor did these various themes alone
Engross his magic pen;
The path to Virtue he has shown,
And taught Content to men.

Now, chill'd with want, and sapp'd with care,
He taught us, lovely Boy!
To smooth the wrinkles of despair,
And fill the poor with joy.

Nor could these labours (shame, too true!)
Enlarge the child from woe;
Lords selfish views alone pursue,—
He thought, and felt it so.

Stretch'd on the floor, aghast, he lies!
Now rises, sinks again!
Then tears his last remains, and cries,
These labours are in vain!

Those eyes, that once like meteors roll'd,
Now droop, to flash no more!
Touch his cold limbs, his bosom cold,
That Genius warm'd before!

THE EPITAPH.
Here Chatterton has found a grave,
And Pride must find the same;
What tho' the great and vaunting have
On monuments — a name.

Can marble render clay divine?
Green turf best fits the dead.—
He only lives to after-time,
Whose writings shall be read.