1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

John Scott of Amwell, "Ode. Written after a Journey to Bristol" Poetical Works (1782) 223-28.



Thee, Bristol, oft my thoughts recal,
Thy Kingsdown brow, and Brandon hill;
The space, once circl'd by thy wall,
Which tow'rs and spires of churches fill,
And masts and sails of vessels tall,
With trees and houses intermingled still!

From Clifton's rocks how grand the sights
When Avon's dark tide rush'd between,
How grand from Henbury's woody height,
The Severn's wide-spread watry scene,
Her waves with trembling sunshine bright,
And Cambrian hills beyond them rising green!

To Mendip's ridge how stretch'd away
My view, while Fancy sought the plain
Where Blagdon's groves secluded lay,
And heard my much-lov'd poet's strain!
Ah! why so near, nor thither stray
To meet the friend I ne'er shall meet again?

Occasion's call averse to prize,
Irresolute we oft remain—
She soon irrevocably flies,
And then we mourn her flown in vain!
When Pleasure's imag'd forms arise,
Whose fancied loss Regret beholds with pain.

And Bristol! why thy scenes explore,
And why those scenes so soon resign,
And fail to seek the spot that bore
That wonderous tuneful Youth of thine,
The Bard, whose boasted ancient store
Rose recent from his own exhaustless mine!

Though Fortune all her gifts denied,
Though Learning made him not her choice,
The Muse still placed him at her side,
And bade him in her smile rejoice—
Description still his pen supplied,
Pathos his thought, and Melody his voice!

Conscious and proud of merit high,
Fame's wreath he boldly claim'd to wear;
But Fame, regardless, pass'd him by,
Unknown, or deem'd unworth her care:
The Sun of Hope forsook his sky;
And all his land look'd dreary, bleak, and bare!

Then Poverty, grim spectre, rose,
And horror o'er the prospect threw—
His deep distress too nice to expose;
Too nice for common aid to sue,
A dire alternative he chose,
And rashly from the painful scene withdrew.

Ah! why for Genius' headstrong rage
Did Virtue's hand no curb prepare?
What boots, poor youth! that now thy page
Can boast the publick praise to share,
The learn'd in deep research engage,
And lightly entertain the gentle fair?

Ye, who superfluous wealth command,
O why your kind relief delay'd?
O why not snatch'd his desperate hand?
His foot on Fate's dread brink not stay'd?
What thanks had you your native land
For a new Shakespeare or new Milton paid?

For me — Imagination's power
Leads oft insensibly my way,
To where, at midnight's silent hour,
The crescent moon's slow-westering ray
Pours full on Redcliff's lofty tower,
And gilds with yellow light its walls of grey.

'Midst Toil and Commerce slumbering round,
Lull'd by the rising tide's hoarse roar,
There Frome and Avon willow-crown'd,
I view sad-wandering by the shore,
With streaming tears, and notes of mournful sound,
Too late their hapless Bard, untimely lost, deplore.