1785
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Sorrows of Charlotte at the Tomb of Werter.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (15 February 1785).

Anonymous


Three unsigned double-quatrain stanzas, "Sung by Miss Wheeler, at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden." Werter was a popular theme, though one wonders at the absence of any reference to suicide in this pastoral ballad: "Since life is uncertain on earth, | Ah! why should I sorrow in vain? | The same Pow'r who gave us our birth, | Has a right to recall it again."

In the same measure, see "The Sorrows of Werter," which had appeared in the Public Advertiser 31 May 1785, and "Gabriel appearing to Charlotte at the Tomb of Werter," printed in the Public Advertiser and the Morning Chronicle for 25 March 1786. Compare also this Shenstone poem with an imitation of Gray: "Werter, an Elegy," published in the Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser (24 October1785). In the same measure is Anne Francis, "The Ghost of Charlotte at the Tomb of Werter" in Miscellaneous Poems (1790).

This poet attracted the acrimony of a "T. W." writing in the European Magazine: "The Morning Chronicle of the 14th of last February, furnished a striking illustration of the prevailing taste, where one of our sentimental poets or poetesses of 'glorious sensibility and taste' (as your last Number cites a reverend Mr. Whalley calling Miss Seward) thus expresses him or herself.... In the name of common sense, in the name of every thing sacred, what can be more absurd, what more detestable than a 'virtuous' wife thus wailing over the tomb of the villain who shot himself, because he could not possess her? thus ranting and raving about his 'virtues,' 'honour,' and 'goodness,' calling him an 'Angel,' and consoling herself that 'We shall meet again never to part!!!' 7 (April 1785) 261-62.



I sing of the days that are gone,
Of Werter who now is no more;
Unhappy the hour I was born,
His loss I shall ever deplore.
The grass that waves high round his tomb,
Marks how subject man is to decay;
The Monarch must e'en meet his doom:
When death calls, ev'n he must obey.

Since life is uncertain on earth,
Ah! why should I sorrow in vain;
The same Pow'r who gave us our birth,
Has a right to recall it again.
The virtues that dwelt in his breast,
Sweet remembrance will ever hold dear;
The honour my Werter possess'd,
Demands, in soft pity, a tear.

Oh, could it the Angel restore,
Like a fountain it ever should flow;
But my Werter, alas! is no more,
And my heart is o'erwhelmed with woe.
O give me but strength to retain
That goodness that dwelt in his heart;
When life shall no longer remain,
We shall meet again, never to part.

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