"Monody to the Memory of Chatterton. " by Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)
Chill penury repress'd his noble rage,
And froze the genial current of his soul.
IF GRIEF can deprecate the wrath of Heaven,
Or human frailty hope to be forgiven !
Ere now thy sainted spirit bends its way
To the bland regions of celestial day;
Ere now, thy soul, immers'd in purest air
Smiles at the triumphs of supreme Despair;
Or bath'd in seas of endless bliss, disdains
The vengeful memory of mortal pains;
Yet shall the MUSE a fond memorial give
To shield thy name, and bid thy GENIUS live.
Too proud for pity, and too poor for praise,
No voice to cherish, and no hand to raise;
Torn, stung, and sated, with this "mortal coil,"
This weary, anxious scene of fruitless toil;
Not all the graces that to youth belong,
Nor all the energies of sacred song;
Nor all that FANCY, all that GENIUS gave,
Could snatch thy wounded spirit from the grave.
Hard was thy lot, from every comfort torn;
In POVERTY'S cold arms condemn'd to mourn;
To live by mental toil, e'en when the brain
Could scarce its trembling faculties sustain;
To mark the dreary minutes slowly creep:
Each day to labour, and each night to weep;
'Till the last murmur of thy frantic soul,
In proud concealment from its mansion stole,
While ENVY springing from her lurid cave,
Snatch'd the young LAURELS from thy rugged grave.
So the pale primrose, sweetest bud of May,
Scarce wakes to beauty, ere it feels decay;
While baleful weeds their hidden n poisons pour,
Choke the green sod, and wither every flow'r.
Immur'd in shades, from busy scenes remov'd;
No sound to solace,–but the verse he lov'd:
No soothing numbers harmoniz'd his ear;
No feeling bosom gave his griefs a tear;
Obscurely born–no gen'rous friend he found
To lead his trembling steps o'er classic ground.
No patron fill'd his heart with flatt'ring hope,
No tutor'd lesson gave his genius scope;
Yet, while poetic ardour nerv'd each thought,
And REASON sanction'd what AMBITION taught;
He soar'd beyond the narrow spells that bind
The slow perceptions of the vulgar mind;
The fire once kindled by the breath of FAME,
Her restless pinions fann'd the glitt'ring flame;
Warm'd by its rays, he thought each vision just;
For conscious VIRTUE seldom feels DISTRUST.
Frail are the charms delusive FANCY shows,
And short the bliss her fickle smile bestows;
Yet the bright prospect pleas'd his dazzled view,
Each HOPE seem'd ripened, and each PHANTOM true;
Fill'd with delight, his unsuspecting mind
Weigh'd not the grov'ling treach'ries of mankind;
For while a niggard boon his Savants supply'd,
And NATURE'S claims subdued the voice of PRIDE:
His timid talents own'd a borrow'd name,
And gain'd by FICTION what was due to FAME.
With secret labour, and with taste refin'd,
This son of mis'ry form'd his infant mind !
When op'ning Reason's earliest scenes began,
The dawn of childhood mark'd the future man !
He scorn'd the puerile sports of vulgar boys,
His little heart aspir'd to nobler joys;
Creative Fancy wing'd his few short hours,
While soothing Hope adorn'd his path with flow'rs,
Yet FAME'S recording hand no trophy gave,
Save the sad TEAR–to decorate his grave.
Yet in this dark, mysterious scene of woe,
Conviction's flame shall shed a radiant glow;
His infant MUSE shall bind with nerves of fire
The sacrilegious hand that stabs its sire.
Methinks, I hear his wand'ring shade complain,
While mournful ECHO lingers on the strain;
Thro' the lone aisle his restless spirit calls,
His phantom glides along the minster's § walls;
Where many an hour his devious footsteps trod,
Ere Fate resign'd him TO HIS PITYING GOD.
Yet, shall the MUSE to gentlest sorrow prone
Adopt his cause, and make his griefs her own;
Ne'er shall her CHATTERTON's neglected name,
Fade in inglorious dreams of doubtful fame;
Shall he, whose pen immortal GENIUS gave,
Sleep unlamented in an unknown grave ?
No,–the fond MUSE shall spurn the base neglect,
The verse she cherish'd she shall still protect.
And if unpitied pangs the mind can move,
Or graceful numbers warm the heart to love;
If the fine raptures of poetic fire
Delight to vibrate on the trembling lyre;
If sorrow claims the kind embalming tear,
Or worth oppress'd, excites a pang sincere ?
Some kindred soul shall pour the song divine,
And with the cypress bough the laurel twine,
Whose weeping leaves the wint'ry blast shall wave
In mournful murmurs o'er thy unbless'd grave.
And tho' no lofty VASE or sculptur'd BUST
Bends o'er the sod that hides thy sacred dust;
Tho' no long line of ancestry betrays
The PRIDE of RELATIVES, or POMP of PRAISE.
Tho' o'er thy name a blushing nation rears
OBLIVION'S wing–to hide REFLECTION'S tears !
Still shall thy verse in dazzling lustre live,
And claim a brighter wreath THAN WEALTH CAN GIVE.
§ Bristol Cathedral
[Notes were included in the original text by Mrs. Robinson, at the bottom of each individual page. They are given here at the end of each poem. ]