Monody on the Death of Chatterton (1790)
Cold penury repress'd his noble rage,
And froze the genial current of his soul.
Now prompts the Muse poetic lays,
And high my bosom beats with love of Praise!
But, Chatterton! methinks I hear thy name,
For cold my Fancy grows, and dead each Hope of Fame.
When Want and cold Neglect had chill'd thy soul,
Athirst for Death I see thee drench the bowl!
Thy corpse of many a livid hue
On the bare ground I view,
Whilst various passions all my mind engage;
Now is my breast distended with a sigh,
And now a flash of Rage
Darts through the tear, that glistens in my eye.
Is this the land of liberal Hearts!
Is this the land, where Genius ne'er in vain
Pour'd forth her soul-enchanting strain?
Ah me! yet Butler 'gainst the bigot foe
Well-skill'd to aim keen Humour's dart,
Yet Butler felt Want's poignant sting;
And Otway, Master of the Tragic art,
Whom Pity's self had taught to sing,
Sank beneath a load of Woe;
This ever can the generous Briton hear,
And starts not in his eye th' indignant Tear?
Elate of Heart and confident of Fame,
From vales where Avon sports, the Minstrel came,
Gay as the Poet hastes along
He meditates the future song,
How Ælla battled with his country's foes,
And whilst Fancy in the air
Paints him many a vision fair
His eyes dance rapture and his bosom glows.
With generous joy he views th' ideal gold:
He listens to many a Widow's prayers,
And many an Orphan's thanks he hears;
He soothes to peace the care-worn breast,
He bids the Debtor's eyes know rest,
And Liberty and Bliss behold:
And now he punishes the heart of steel,
And her own iron rod he makes Oppression feel.
Fated to heave sad Disappointment's sigh,
To feel the Hope now rais'd, and now deprest,
To feel the burnings of an injur'd breast,
From all thy Fate's deep sorrow keen
In vain, O Youth, I turn th' affrighted eye;
For powerful Fancy evernigh
The hateful picture forces on my sight.
There, Death of every dear delight,
Frowns Poverty of Giant mien!
In vain I seek the charms of youthful grace,
Thy sunken eye, thy haggard cheeks it shews,
The quick emotions struggling in the Face
Faint index of thy mental Throes,
When each strong Passion spurn'd controll,
And not a Friend was nigh to calm thy stormy soul.
Such was the sad and gloomy hour
When anguish'd Care of sullen brow
Prepared the Poison's death-cold power.
Already to thy lips was rais'd the bowl,
When filial Pity stood thee by,
Thy fixéd eyes she bade thee roll
On scenes that well might melt thy soul—
Thy native cot she held to view,
Thy native cot, where Peace ere long
Had listen'd to thy evening song;
Thy sister's shrieks she bade thee hear,
And mark thy mother's thrilling tear,
She made thee feel her deep-drawn sigh,
And all her silent agony of Woe.
And from thy Fate shall such distress ensue?
Ah! dash the poison'd chalice from thy hand!
And thou had'st dash'd it at her soft command;
But that Despair and Indignation rose,
And told again the story of thy Woes,
Told the keen insult of th' unfeeling Heart,
The dread dependence on the low-born mind,
Told every Woe, for which thy breast might smart,
Neglect and grinning scorn and Want combin'd—
Recoiling back, thou sent'st the friend of Pain
To roll a tide of Death thro' every freezing vein.
O Spirit blest!
Whether th' eternal Throne around,
Amidst the blaze of Cherubim,
Thou pourest forth the grateful hymn,
Or, soaring through the blest Domain,
Enraptur'st Angels with thy strain,—
Grant me, like thee, the lyre to sound,
Like thee, with fire divine to glow—
But ah! when rage the Waves of Woe,
Grant me with firmer breast t'oppose their hate,
And soar beyond the storms with upright eye elate!