1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

Chatterton, Jun., "The Poet in Character" New London Magazine 4 (August 1788) 437-38.



Say who can make a sound collation,
By feasting in imagination;
Or fill the void in craving venter,
By aught that through the eye can enter.
In vain the high stupendous walls,
The spires and turrets of St. Paul's,
Divert awhile the roving glance,
Which turns to gingerbread askance;
Or fixes on a tempting roll,
With ardor of the longing soul—
O force of custom thought the first,
To reconcile us to the worst,
By oft our miseries repeating,
How much you fail in point of eating!
Taught by the present and the past,
I ought to know what 'tis to fast,
And find in spite of each endeavour,
The pair is still as great as ever;
How justly then is my complaint hence,
That hunger mends not an acquaintance—
There's wond'rous sympathy they tell you
Betwixt the genius and the belly;
For when the state of one is low,
You'll find the other always so;
Oft have I tried when hunger press'd,
To write a ballad or a jest,
Or, following the bent of nature,
To vent my woes in poignant satire;
But all in vain — a goading pang,
Fast grip'd my bowels while I sang;
And for my muse, the deuce was in her,
Or she perhaps was at her dinner,
While her attention I in vain,
Would draw from dainties to my brain;
'Till frequent gnawings bid me cease,
And leave her to her meals in peace.