1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

Anonymous, "Ode to Chatterton" Poems by Camisis (1789) 38-41.



With trembling Hand I strike the Lyre
That sounds, sweet Youth! thy earliest Praise;
Deign, Martyr'd Genius! to inspire
The generous Verse, which burns to raise
From faint Applause thy injur'd Fame,
And vindicate thy rashly-censur'd Name.

Ah! may Imagination's glowing Fire,
Cease to pervade and warm my ardent Soul;
My "Visions prompted by intense Desire"
To me, their thousand Beauties ne'er unrol;
If — disregardful of thy mighty Song
Which, like the full Tide, bursts impetuous forth—
I do not every grateful Note prolong
That sounds, poor Boy! thy erst despised Worth.

Oh! ye are Men of Stone! — do ye not grieve?
Have ye a Heart? — can ye not spare one Sigh?
Say — was it just that He in Want should live!
Say — was it kind that Friendless he should die!
In Him — immortal SHAKESPEAR rose again!
And, had not curst Neglect subdued his Mind,
(Neglect, which steels the Bosom ev'n most kind,
And saps with slow Depravity the Brain)
Immortal SHAKESPEAR yet had been our Boast!
Nor had, as now, his Muse of Fire been lost.

OH CHATTERTON! accept the silent Tear,
Thy many Claims demand — and ah! receive
This Tribute of Regard I gladly give;
Most small indeed, but trust me, most sincere;
Ye Men of Science! whose unhallow'd Hands
Have long with-held the Wreath to Genius due!
Vast is the Recompence the MUSE demands
For Truth, and her own Heav'n-born Babe, of You!
Full on his Tomb the Sun of Glory darts
(Hear it, ye unbelieving! and look down!)
The radiant Stream which every Hope imparts:
Whilst Fame prepares her never-fading Crown.

Ah! how in such a wayward, waning Age,
How could the fine Perceptions of thy Soul
All Noble though they were — and giv'n t' engage
Each several Class — ah! how could they unrol
Their dazzling Lustre to the Eye
Of slow Susceptibility!
Or how thy bold Thoughts fire the Mind
To all the Powers of Fancy blind!
Which — not the sweetly-warbled Lays
Of PETRARCH'S Lyre, when to the Praise
Of LAURA and of LOVE he Sings,
"And into Music works the Strings,"
Nor even MILTON'S still sublimer Scene,
Could, potent tho' their Influence be,
Rouse from its Calm Stupidity.

No — thou were born for other Times than These,
For Times, when Parts superior please,
When the Lip touch'd by hallow'd Fire,
Mankind less Envy than Admire.
Yet ah! poor luckless Youth! to me
Most sacred shall thy Memory be!
And oft, amid the Evening Gloom,
My fondest Thoughts shall pensive rove;
And sadly linger by thy Tomb,
As loath to leave the Spot they love.
Yes, CHATTERTON — my Heart which feels
Ev'n now, the Cares that canker'd thine,
This melancholy Truth reveals—
Tho' not in Gifts — in Griefs we join.