1813 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Chatterton

Anonymous, "Invocation to the Spirit of Chatterton" New-York Weekly Museum NS 1 (20 March 1813) 182.



Spirit of rashness! whose immortal name
Strikes on the ear with charmful force of woe,
Whose Spartan mind disdain'd complaint as shame,
On whom no hope could kindly balm bestow!

Ah! deem me guiltless of the wish to hold,
To rude reflection, and unhallow'd gaze,
The awful memory of the dead, enroll'd
Victims of will, ere Fate's award of days!

If to enquire shall not to thee appear
The officious workings of an unbless'd zeal;
Where'er thou art, my Invocation hear,
And, if permitted, what I ask reveal!

O say — whose genius, like the summer sun,
From which at dawn unheeded blessings flow,
Burst nobly forth, ere manhood's dawn begun,
To shine unnotic'd, and unfelt to glow;

Say, with despair, from night stol'n grave yawn'd up,
What horrid hag, with pestilential breath,
Combin'd to drug thee with a damning cup,
And harrow Nature with thy tale of death!

Was it or squalid Want, who loath'd by all,
Like treason tainted rogue, or plague-struck loon,
Skulks by the lonely tomb, or mould'ring wall,
Mouthing her witcheries to the blinking moon!

Or Calumny, from whose dread, subtle, spell,
Nor moated tower, nor holy shrine defend:
Who blights the prospect where the happy dwell,
Confounds the noble, and the poor man's friend?

Or empty arrogance, from riches sprung,
Who all save that uncleanly Mammon scorns;
Treads down the suppliant, mocks the fault'ring tongue,
And plants the pallet of the wretch with thorns!

Say, did not Love too deeply pierce thine heart?
Haply, Caprice, might barb the shaft he drew;
Didst thou not strive to wrench away the dart;
And, in the struggle, wrench thine heart-strings too!

Was't bold Integrity, untaught to cow'r,
And bow the knee before the lords of pride;
Who urg'd thee on, disdainful of their pow'r,
Beyond their reach to take so large a stride?

Ah, kindly say; for lo! the hasty throng
Have stain'd thy tomb with Pride's ungracious name!
Inform the Muse, and let her happy song
Declare the tidings, and retrieve thy fame.

Once more! nor longer will I mar thy rest;
Once more — I faulter as the words proceed—
Say, may I hail thee parter of the blest,
Or perish all who self-devoted bleed?

A hollow accent smote my wondring ear;
With dread I listen'd, trembling I relate.
"O, thou, permitted from the dead to hear,
Presumptuous, pry not in the will of Fate.

"Why death I sought, for thee no good contains;
Go, thou, and wisely profit by my shame:
Tho' all of obloquy my mem'ry stains,
Beyond the grave none hear the voice of fame.

"Whate'er my meed, Omnipotence is just;
In ev'ry ill be resignation thine;
Great is his mercy; yet, O son of dust!
Tempt not his vengeance, by a deed like mine!"