1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

Anonymous, "Epitaph to the Memory of Chatterton" Port Folio [Philadelphia] 1 (11 April 1801) 119.



Here rests, who living never tasted rest,
And died unpitied as he lived unblest,
From life's plain path by genius led astray,
He wander'd pensive till he lost his way;
But early found the gay delusion cease,
Sunk weary to the grave, and slept in peace.
If some soft eye should shed a generous tear,
Or some kind hand strew flow'rs upon his bier,
Oh! choose those flow'rs that best his fate display,
That early bloom, and unobserv'd decay—
Blossoms that fade before their fruit is born,
The rose that withers on its parent thorn.
Narcissus pale, that peering from its bed,
Beholds the low'ring skies, and droops its head,
The snowdrop rash, that sudden frosts invade,
The slighted vi'let, breathing in the shade;
Each plant to mourning sacred, solemn yew,
And sorrow's chosen emblem, bitter rue,
Strew these around, and mindful of his lays,
Grant him — 'tis much his due, one sprig of bays,
But fly ye sons of wealth, whose sordid souls,
No faith, no patience, no remorse controuls;
Who, deaf to justice, deaf to honour's voice,
Accept a service, but refuse the price;
False friends, false patrons, all the lazy train,
For whom unhappy genius blooms in vain.
Dull critics must with learned dust be spread,
Irreverend spoilers of the sacred dead—
Priests scant of goodness, but replete with grace
That in implicit faith all virtue place:
Fly, fly, no more his hollow'd rest invade,
Or dread the presence of his injur'd shade.