1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

L. L. L., "Written on receiving the Portrait of Chatterton, as engraved in the Westminster Magazine for July last" Westminster Magazine 10 (Supplement, 1782) 710.



Ah! what a contrast in that face pourtray'd,
Where care and study cast alternate shade;
But view it well, and ask thy heart the cause,
Then chide, with honest warmth, that cold applause,
Which counteracts the fost'ring breath of praise,
And shades with cypress the young Poet's bays:
Pale and dejected, mark, how genius strives
With poverty, and mark, how well it thrives;
The shabby cov'ring of the gentle bard,
Regard it well, 'tis worthy thy regard;
The friendly cobweb, serving for a screen;
The chair, a part of what it once had been;
The bed, whereon th' unhappy victim slept,
And oft unseen, in silent anguish, wept,
Or spent, in dear delusive dreams, the night,
To wake, next morning, but to curse the light:
Too deep distress the artist's hand reveals,
But like a friend's, the black'ning deed conceals;
Thus justice, to mild complacency, bends,
And candour, all harsh inference, suspends,
Enthron'd, supreme in judgment, mercy sits,
And, in one breath, condemns, applauds, acquits.

Whoe'er thou art, that shalt this face survey,
And turn, with cold disgust, thy eyes away,
Then bless thyself, that sloth and ign'rance bred
Thee up in safety, and with plenty fed;
Peace to thy mem'ry! may the sable plume
Of dulness, round thy forehead ever bloom!
Mayst thou, nor can I wish a greater curse,
Live still despis'd, and die without a nurse;
Or, if some wither'd hag, for sake of hire,
Should wash thy sheets, and cleanse thee from the mire,
Let her, when hunger peevishly demands
The dainty morsel from her barb'rous hands,
Insult, with hellish mirth, thy craving maw,
And snatch it to herself, and call it law,
'Till pinching famine waste thee to the bone,
And break, at last, that solid heart of stone.
Penketh.