1794 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Monody on the Death of Chatterton" Chatterton, Poems (1794) xxv-xxviii.



When faint and sad o'er Sorrow's desart wild,
Slow journeys onward, poor Misfortune's child,
When fades each lovely form by Fancy drest,
And inly pines the self-consuming breast;
No scourge of Scorpions in thy right arm dread,
No helmed Terrors nodding o'er thy head,
Assume, O DEATH! the Cherub Wings of PEACE,
And bid the heart-sick Wanderer's Anguish cease!

Thee, CHATTERTON! yon unblest Stones protect
From Want, and bleak freezings of Neglect!
Escap'd the sore wounds of Affliction's rod,
Meek at the Throne of Mercy, and of God,
Perchance thou raisest high th' enraptured hymn
Amid the blaze of Seraphim!

Yet oft ('tis Nature's bosom-starting call)
I weep, the heaven-born Genius so should fall,
And oft in Fancy's saddest hour my soul
Averted shudders at the poison'd Bowl.
Now groans my sickening Heart, as still I view
The Corse of livid hue;
And now a Flash of Indignation high
Darts thro' the Tear, that glistens in mine Eye!
Is this the Land of song-enobled Line?
Is this the Land, where Genius ne'er in vain
Pour'd forth her lofty strain?
Ah me! yet Spenser, gentlest Bard divine,
Beneath chill Disappointment's deadly shade
His weary Limbs in lonely Anguish lay'd!
And o'er her Darling dead
Pity hopeless hung her head,
While "mid the pelting of that pitiless storm,"
Sunk to the cold Earth Otway's famish'd form!

Sublime of Thought and confident of Fame,
From Vales, where Avon winds, the Minstrel came,
Light-hearted Youth! aye, as he hastes along,
He meditates the future Song,
How dauntless Aella fray'd the Danish foes;
And as floating high in air,
Glitter the sunny Visions fair,
His eyes dance rapture, and his bosom glows!
Friend to the friendless, to the sick man Health;
With generous Joy he views th' ideal Wealth;
He hears the Widow's heaven-breath'd prayer of Praise;
He marks the shelter'd Orphan's tearful gaze;
Or, where the sorrow-shrivell'd Captive lay,
Pours the bright Blaze of Freedom's noon-tide Ray;
And now indignant grasps the patriot steel,
And her own iron rod he makes Oppression feel.

Clad in Nature's rich array,
And bright in all her tender hues,
Sweet Tree of Hope! thou loveliest Child of Spring!
How fair didst thou disclose thine early bloom,
Loading the west-winds with its soft perfume!
And Fancy hovering round on shadowy wing,
On every blossom hung her fostering dews,
That changeful wanton'd to the orient Day!
Ah! soon upon the poor unshelter'd Head
Did Penury her sickly mildew shed:
And soon the scathing Lightning bade thee stand,
In frowning Horror o'er the blighted Land!

Wither are fled the charms of vernal Grace,
And Joy's wild gleams, that lighten'd o'er thy face!
Youth of tumultuous Soul, and haggard Eye!
Thy wasted form, thy hurried steps I view:
On thy cold forehead starts the anguish'd Dew:
And dreadful was that bosom-rending Sigh!

Such were the struggles of the gloomy Hour,
When Care of wither'd brow
Prepar'd the Poison's death-cold power:
Already to thy Lips was rais'd the Bowl,
When near thee stood Affection meek,
(Her Bosom bare, and wildly pale her Cheek)
Thy sullen gaze she bade thee roll
On Scenes that well might melt thy Soul;
Thy native Cot she flash'd upon thy view,
Thy native Cot, where still at close of Day
Peace smiling sate, and listen'd to the Lay;
Thy Sister's shrieks she bade thee hear,
And mark thy Mother's thrilling tear;
See, see her Breast's convulsive throe,
Her silent Agony of Woe!
Ah! dash the poison'd Chalice from thy Hand!
And thou had'st dash'd it at her soft command,
But that Despair and Indignation rose,
And told again the Story of thy Woes;
Told the keen Insult of th' unfeeling Heart,
The dread Dependence on the low-bread mind,
Told every pang, at which thy Soul might smart,
Neglect, and grinning Scorn, and Want combin'd!
Recoiling quick thou bad'st the Friend of Pain,
Roll the dark tide of Death thro' every freezing Vein!

Ye Woods! that wave o'er Avon's rocky steep,
To Fancy's ear sweet is your murm'ring deep!
For here she loves the Cypress Wreath to weave,
Watching with wistful eye the sad'ning tints of Eve.
Here far from men amid this pathless grove,
In solemn thought the Minstrel wont to rove,
Like Star-beam on the rude sequester'd Tide,
Lone-glittering, thro' the Forest's murksome pride.

And here Inspiration's eager Hour
When most the big soul feels the mad'ning Power,
These wilds, these caverns roaming o'er,
Round which the screaming Sea-gulls soar
With wild unequal steps he pass'd along,
Oft pouring on the winds a broken song:
Anon upon some rough Rock's fearful Brow,
Would pause abrupt — and gaze upon the waves below.