1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

John Blair Linn, "Elegy, supposed to have been delivered by Chatterton, just before his death, after he had taken a Ootion of Arsenic" New York Magazine and Literary Repository 6 (September 1795) 571-73.



Ah! fond deceiver Hope, thy reign is o'er,
No more shall CHATTERTON be sooth'd by thee;
Soon will Death waft him from his hated shore,
And launch a wretch in dread eternity.

Eternity! thou awful, startling name!
I tremble and shrink back at inward thought!
How can I now a God's protection claim?
O hapless youth! what is thy destin'd lot?

But what is there on earth that bids me live?
Fortune on me has always look'd with guile;
To CHATTERTON her gifts she scorns to give;
No friend but Pity ever lent a smile.

On others she has pour'd her plenteous store,
More than is needful for frail life's support;
While I for food in silence must deplore,
Or the compassion of the haughty court.

Shall CHATTERTON, e'er thus himself demean?
One who has claim'd Britannia's sons applause:
Hath he not feelings both acute and keen,
Which rise repugnant to th' Almighty's laws?

Nature hath call'd, I quickly have obey'd;
Unable to support Affliction's load,
Life's glim'ring taper now begins to fade,
Soon will I reach the awful grave's abode.

The soft poetic note will cease to flow
From CHATTERTON'S, or ROWLEY'S pen;
No more he'll tune the youthful lyre to woe,
No more he'll seek a charitable friend:

No more he'll mourn on earth his hapless fate,
No more he'll claim the poet's scant reward,
No more he'll be dependent on the great,
Or bow submissive to a haughty Lord.

To those who've hurt the feelings of his mind,
Poor CHATTERTON doth now forgiveness lend;
All that he asks, and all he would remind,
Let those who've injur'd, now lament his end.

An author's lot is poverty and pain,
The son of disappointment, anguish, grief—
Hope, still retaining its deceitful reign,
Soothes his sad soul with prospects of relief.

But ah! those prospects only but appear,
And vanish from the anxious, eager eye—
In vain Affliction drops the briny tear,
In vain the bosom heaves the pensive sigh.

O my fond mother! how thy tender breast
Will shrink with anguish at the deed I've done!
Oft have you lull'd me when by woe oppress'd,
Oft have you pray'd for blessing on your son.

How will you cast to Heaven your streaming eyes,
And tear your tresses and your flowing hair!
Your bursting bosom scarce will hold your sighs,
And human reason scarce support despair.

And thou, my sister, whose soft feeling glows
For CHATTERTON with tenderness and love,
Whose sorrow beats congenial with my woes,
How will the news thy gentle passions move!

But O the horrid crimson deed is done!
In vain your throbbing sighs and starting tears—
Soon will the thread of human life be spun—
Now to my view eternity appears!

Your son, your brother, at his latest breath,
With pensive gratitude remembers you;
Fond thought retains you, as he sinks in death,
And bids you both eternally adieu.

The ev'ning comes to close the solemn scene,
The sun now sets in awfulness and gloom;
Slow glides the deep, in blue expanse serene,
The weeping willow slumbers o'er my tomb:

The dusky raven sends its mournful cry,
The distant thunder repercussive roars,
The fading light faint glimmers on my eye,
Now sable night his frightful curtain low'rs.

Silence now holds all nature calm and still;
Ah! there the death-bell sends its hollow toll;
Here death now stalks, to obey the sov'reign will—
To him I now resign my fleeting soul.