Thomas Chatterton

(1752 - 1770 / Bristol / England)

Apostate Will - Poem by Thomas Chatterton

In days of old, when Wesley's power
Gathered new strength by every hour;
Apostate Will, just sunk in trade,
Resolved his bargain should be made;
Then strait to Wesley he repairs,
And puts on grave and solemn airs;
Then thus the pious man addressed.
Good sir, I think your doctrine best;
Your servant will a Wesley be,
Therefore the principles teach me.
The preacher then instructions gave.
How he in this world should behave;
He hears, assents, and gives a nod,
Says every word's the word of God,
Then lifting his dissembling eyes,
How blessed is the sect! he cries;
Nor Bingham, Young, nor Stillingfleet,
Shall make me from this sect retreat.
He then his circumstances declared,
How hardly with him matters fared,
Begg'd him next morning for to make
A small collection for his sake.
The preacher said, Do not repine,
The whole collection shall be thine.
With looks demure and cringing bows,
About his business strait he goes.
His outward acts were grave and prim,
The methodist appear'd in him.
But, be his outward what it will,
His heart was an apostate's still.
He'd oft profess an hallow'd flame,
And every where preach'd Wesley's name;
He was a preacher, and what not,
As long as money could be got;
He'd oft profess, with holy fire.
The labourer's worthy of his hire.
It happen'd once upon a time,
When all his works were in their prime,
A noble place appear'd in view;
Then ______ to the methodists, adieu.
A methodist no more he'll be,
The protestants serve best for he.
Then to the curate strait he ran,
And thus address'd the rev'rend man:
I was a methodist, tis true;
With penitence I turn to you.
O that it were your bounteous will
That I the vacant place might fill!
With justice I'd myself acquit,
Do every thing that's right and fit.
The curate straitway gave consent--
To take the place he quickly went.
Accordingly he took the place,
And keeps it with dissembled grace.

Comments about Apostate Will by Thomas Chatterton

  • (1/13/2005 5:04:00 PM)

    Georgi Chernev- Plovdiv University, Plovdiv Bulgaria Europe

    Jordan Kosturkov

    Denunciation of the Christian Priest’s Way of Life in “Apostate Will”
    by Thomas Chatterton

    The Age of Enlightenment was intellectual movement in 18th-century Europe. The goal was to establish an authoritative ethics, aesthetics, and knowledge based on an “enlightened” rationality. With supreme faith in rationality, the movement’s leaders sought to discover and to act upon universally valid principles governing humanity, nature, and society. They variously attacked spiritual and scientific authority, dogmatism, intolerance, censorship, and economic and social restraints started during the Dark Ages. In England the coffeehouses stimulated the social and political criticism in the face of Joseph Addison. The neoclassicist Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift were influential Tory satirists.
    Born in 1752 Thomas Chatterton was son of a poor Bristol schoolmaster. He was already composing the “Rowley Poems” at the age of twelve, claiming they were copies of 15th century church manuscripts, which he gave to Horace Walpole, who was enthusiastic about them. In 1770 he went to London and unsuccessfully tried to sell his poems to various magazines. He lived in misery and took poison refusing to live miserably.

    He went to the church school of St Mary Redcliffe and that inspired him to write about the filthy side of the church life. In 1764 he wrote the poem “Apostate Will” directed towards the priests who just use the Christianity of greed. He damasks the face of a man who is willing to be a priest just because he wants to have money and to live lazy like.
    Chatterton talks about John Wesley who by that time was the head of the Methodist Church in England an America. About what bargain he makes with God- to be his servant, which resembles Christopher Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus” although there is no data for Chatterton’s acquaintance with that author.
    God gave certain advices to John Wesley of how he should behave, only to “hears, assents, and gives a nod, says every word’s the word of God”, and this is the only clause that he should be attached to. Here Chatterton points the “hard” duty of a priest. The vary appeal of Wesley is in a sarcastic way “And puts on grave and solemn airs; Then thus the pious man addressed”. The author is scornful about the false monks pray to God, and the God’s approval of his sect, “Then lifting his dissembling eyes, how blessed is the sect! He cries; ” which approval of course is self-extracted by Wesley.
    Afterwards, the next day, appears the true color of greed “Begg’d him next morning for to make a small collection for his sake”. I think here Chatterton shows that the human eager for gain don’t appeals to any delay. Even more shocking is the answer “The preacher said, Do not repine, the whole collection shall be thine.” Are everybody corrupted? This is no question for him.
    The following is a pure accusation to Methodists “…The Methodist appear’d in him. But, be his outward what it will, his heart was an apostate’s will… He was a preacher, and what not, As long as money could be got; ” in being selfish and greedy servants to the Satan claiming they follow God in their sect.
    By Chatterton those God creatures are snake like and if the things are not so well one’ll turn into protestant immediately; to the curate “I was a methodist, tis true; with patience I turn to you. O that it were your bounteous will that I the vacant place might fill! ” He again describes the corrupted profile of the priest “With justice I'd myself acquit, Do every thing that's right and fit. The curate straitway gave consent— to take the place he quickly went.” his soul devoted to the acquainted life of moneymaking through God’s name.
    The last few lines describe the impudence that people like Wesley had, staying sturdy and pretty stabile on their God-given places, “ Accordingly he took the place,
    And keeps it with dissembled grace.” It’s the contemporary moral of Chatterton’s character that is valid for every period of time and every kind of culture.

    The young genius quite well describes the mealy-mouthed face of the unscrupulous Wesley. Although he is not hunting in bloody way his post, the preacher has his own ways, he lies other people as well as God, he snakelike approves himself like he is more than human in order to live the life he want to live. It is in Chatterton’s unnatural talent, considering his age, to show in this particular way the apostate life of a greedy priest, thus willing to appeal to our consciousness.

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Read poems about / on: justice, money, strength, power, fire, work, running

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

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