1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

Anonymous, "On the Poems imputed to Rowley" Gentleman's Magazine 52 (December 1782) 590.



Accept, O CHATTERTON, too late, the wreath
Which will not flourish upon Rowley's tomb;
Born ere our rugged language glow'd beneath
The mellowing touch of Time, and caught the bloom
Of polish'd Diction; born ere Numbers sweet
Measur'd the varied round, in Harmony complete:

And ere to philosophic rule allied,
Our poesy the vague ideas taught
To know their rank: ere yet inventive pride
Burst the dark prison of the fetter'd thought.
Accept, ill-fated youth, to grace thy name,
The just, the dear-bought guerdon of disastrous fame!

Rich, flowery, nervous, plaintive, gay, sublime;
In sentiment and manners deeply skill'd!—
Had but our earlier ages learn'd to climb
Those heights, and that wide maze of knowledge fill'd,
Which to thy infant genius Fate display'd,
Thy artful mimic theft had not itself betray'd!

But now, though antique gloom incrust the pile
Wrought by thy hands, still beams through the disguise
Th' internal symmetry, and mocks the toil
Which offer'd motley ruins to our eyes.
Thy genius, form'd to polish and create,
Soar'd far beyond the times it strove to imitate.

Take then, O CHATTERTON, the bootless praise,
Which cannot vibrate on thy death-struck ear!
And O! if ever in remotest days
A youth like thee shall taste the vital air,
O may he learn, from thy misfortunes known,
In conscious merit proud, the work he forms to own!