Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(1772-1834 / Devon / England)

Monody On The Death Of Chatterton


When faint and sad o'er sorrow's desert wild
Slow journeys onward poor misfortune's child;
When fades each lovely form by fancy drest,
And inly pines the self-consuming breast;
(No scourge of scorpions in thy right arm dread.
No helmed terrors nodding o'er thy head);
Assume, O death! the cherub wings of peace,
And bid the heart-sick wanderer's anguish cease!

Thee, Chatterton! yon unblest stones protect
From want, and the bleak freezings of neglect!
Escaped the sore wounds of affliction's rod,
Meek at the throne of mercy, and of God,
Perchance, thou raisest high th' enraptured hymn
Amid the blaze of seraphin!

Yet oft ('tis nature's call)
I weep, that heaven-born genius so should fall;
And oft, in fancy's saddest hour, my soul
Averted shudders at the poisoned bowl.
Now groans my sickening heart, as still I view
Thy corse of livid hue;
And now a flash of indignation high
Darts thro' the tear, that glistens in mine eye!

Is this the land of song-ennobled line?
Is this the land, where genius ne'er in vain
Pour'd forth his lofty strain?
Ah me! yet Spenser, gentlest bard divine,
Beneath chill disappointment's shade,
His weary limbs in lonely anguish laid,
And o'er her darling dead
Pity hopeless hung her head,
While 'mid the pelting of that merciless storm,
Sunk to the cold earth Otway's famished form?

Sublime of thought, and confident of fame
From vales where Avon winds the minstrel came
Lighted-hearted youth! he hastes along
And meditates the future song.
How dauntless AElla fray'd the Dacian foes:
See, as floating high in air
Glitter teh sunny visions fair,
His eyes dance rapture, and his bosom glows?

Ah! where are fled the charms of vernal grace,
And joy's wild gleams, light-flashing o'er thy face?
Youth of tumultuous soul, and haggard eye!
Thy wasted form, thy hurried steps I view,
On thy cold forehead starts the anguished dew:
And dreadful was that bosom-rending sigh!

Such were the struggles of that gloomy hour,
When care, of withered brow,
Prepared the poison's power:
Already to thy lips was raised the bowl.
When near thee stood affection meek
(Her bosom bare, and wildly pale her cheek)
Thy sullen gaze she bade thee roll
On scenes that well might melt thy soul;
Thy native cot she flashed upon thy view,
Thy native cot, where still, at close of day,
Peace smiling sate, and listened to thy lay;
Thy sister's shrieks she bade thee hear,
And mark thy mother's tear;
See, see her breast's convulsive throe,
Her silent agony of woe!
Ah! dash the poisoned chalice from thy hand!

And thou hadst dashed 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 ev'ry pang, with which thy soul must smart,
Neglect, and grinning scorn, and want combined!
Recoiling quick, thou bad'st the friend of pain
Roll the black tide of death thro' every freezing vein!

Ye woods! that wave o'er Avon's rocky steep,
To fancy's ear sweet is your murm'ring deep!
For here she loves the cypress wreath to weave;
Watching, with wistful eye, the sadd'ning tints of eve.
Here, far from men, amid this pathless grove,
In solemn thought the minstrel wont to rove,
Like star-beam on the slow sequestered tide
Lone-glittering, thro' the high tree branching wide.
And here, in inspiration's eager hour,
When most the big soul feels the madd'ning power,
These wilds, these caverns roaming o'er,
Round which the screaming sea-gulls soar,
With wild unequal steps he passed along,
Oft pouring on the winds a broken song:
Anon, upon some rough rock's fearful brow
Would pause abrupt -- and gaze upon the waves below.

Poor Chatterton! he sorrows for thy fate
Who would have praised and loved thee, ere too late.
Poor Chatterton! farewell! of darkest hues
This chaplet cast I on thy shapeless tomb;
But dare no longer on the sad theme muse,
Lest kindred woes persuade a kindred doom!
Hence, gloomy thoughts! no more my soul shall dwell
On joys that were! No more endure to weigh
The shame and anguish of the evil day,
Wisely forgetful! O'er the ocean swell
Sublime of hope I seek the cottaged dell
Where virtue calm with careless step may stray;
And, dancing to the moonlight roundelay,
The wizard passions weave an holy spell!

O Chatterton! that thou wert yet alive!
Sure thou would'st spread the canvas to the gale,
And love, with us, the tinkling team to drive
O'er peaceful freedom's undivided dale;
And we, at sober eve, would round thee throng,
Hanging, enraptured, on thy stately song!
And greet with smiles the young-eyed poesy
All deftly mask'd, as hoar antiquity.

Alas, vain phantasies! the fleeting brood
Of woe self-solaced in her dreamy mood!
Yet will I love to follow the sweet dream,
Where Susquehannah pours his untamed stream;
And on some hill, whose forest-frowning side
Waves o'er the murmurs of his calmer tide,
Will raise a solemn cenotaph to thee,
Sweet harper of time-shrouded minstrelsy!
And there, soothed sadly by the dirgeful wind,
Muse on the sore ills I had left behind.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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