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Poem by Thomas Chatterton

Elegy on the Death of Mr. Phillips

No more I hail the morning's golden gleam,
No more the wonders of the view I sing;
Friendship requires a melancholy theme,
At her command the awful lyre I string!

Now as I wander through this leafless grove,
Where tempests howl, and blasts eternal rise,
How shall I teach the chorded shell to move,
Or stay the gushing torrent from my eyes?

Phillips! great master of the boundless lyre,
The would my soul-rack'd muse attempt to paint;
Give me a double portion of thy fire,
Or all the powers of language are too faint.

Say, soul unsullied by the filth of vice,
Say, meek-eyed spirit, where's thy tuneful shell,
Which when the silver stream was lock'd with ice,
Was wont to cheer the tempest-ravaged dell?

Oft as the filmy veil of evening drew
The thick'ning shade upon the vivid green,
Thou, lost in transport at the dying view,
Bid'st the ascending muse display the scene.

When golden Autumn, wreathed in ripen'd corn,
From purple clusters prest the foamy wine,
Thy genius did his sallow brows adorn,
And made the beauties of the season thine.

With rustling sound the yellow foliage flies,
And wantons with the wind in rapid whirls;
The gurgling riv'let to the valley hies,
Whilst on its bank the spangled serpent curls.

The joyous charms of Spring delighted saw
Their beauties doubly glaring in thy lay;
Nothing was Spring which Phillips did not draw,
And every image of his muse was May.

So rose the regal hyacinthial star,
So shone the verdure of the daisied bed,
So seemed the forest glimmering from afar;
You saw the real prospect as you read.

Majestic Summer's blooming flow'ry pride
Next claim'd the honour of his nervous song;
He taught the stream in hollow trills to glide,
And led the glories of the year along.

Pale rugged Winter bending o'er his tread,
His grizzled hair bedropt with icy dew;
His eyes, a dusky light congealed and dead,
His robe, a tinge of bright ethereal blue.

His train a motley'd, sanguine, sable cloud,
He limps along the russet, dreary moor,
Whilst rising whirlwinds, blasting, keen, and loud,
Roll the white surges to the sounding shore.

Nor were his pleasures unimproved by thee;
Pleasures he has, though horridly deform'd;
The polished lake, the silver'd hill we see,
Is by thy genius fired, preserved, and warm'd.

The rough October has his pleasures too;
But I'm insensible to every joy:
Farewell the laurel! now I grasp the yew,
And all my little powers in grief employ.

Immortal shadow of my much-loved friend!
Clothed in thy native virtue meet my soul,
When on the fatal bed, my passions bend,
And curb my floods of anguish as they roll.

In thee each virtue found a pleasing cell,
Thy mind was honour, thy soul divine;
With thee did every god of genius dwell,
Thou was the Helicon of all the nine.

Fancy, whose various figure-tinctured vest
Was ever changing to a different hue;
Her head, with varied bays and flow'rets drest,
Her eyes, two spangles of the morning dew.

With dancing attitude she swept thy string;
And now she soars, and now again descends;
And now reclining on the zephyr's wing,
Unto the velvet-vested mead she bends.

Peace, deck'd in all the softness of the dove,
Over thy passions spread her silver plume;
The rosy veil of harmony and love
Hung on thy soul in eternal bloom.

Peace, gentlest, softest of the virtues, spread
Her silver pinions, wet with dewy tears,
Upon her best distinguished poet's head,
And taught his lyre the music of the spheres.

Temp'rance, with health and beauty in her train,
And massy-muscled strength in graceful pride,
Pointed at scarlet luxury and pain,
And did at every frugal feast preside.

Black melancholy stealing to the shade
With raging madness, frantic, loud, and dire,
Whose bloody hand displays the reeking blade,
Were strangers to thy heaven-directed lyre.

Content, who smiles in every frown of fate,
Wreath'd thy pacific brow and sooth'd thy ill:
In thy own virtues and thy genius great,
The happy muse laid every trouble still.

But see! the sick'ning lamp of day retires,
And the meek evening shakes the dusky grey;
The west faint glimmers with the saffron fires,
And like thy life, O Phillips! dies away.

Here, stretched upon this heaven-ascending hill,
I'll wait the horrors of the coming night,
I'll imitate the gently-plaintive rill,
And by the glare of lambent vapours write.

Wet with the dew the yellow hawthorns bow;
The rustic whistles through the echoing cave;
Far o'er the lea the breathing cattle low,
And the full Avon lifts the darken'd wave.

Now, as the mantle of the evening swells
Upon my mind, I feel a thick'ning gloom!
Ah! could I charm by necromantic spells
The soul of Phillips from the deathy tomb!

Then would we wander through the darken'd vale,
In converse such as heavenly spirits use,
And, borne upon the pinions of the gale,
Hymn the Creator, and exert the muse.

But, horror to reflection! now no more
Will Phillips sing, the wonder of the plain!
When, doubting whether they might not adore,
Admiring mortals heard his nervous strain.

See! see! the pitchy vapour hides the lawn,
Nought but a doleful bell of death is heard,
Save where into a blasted oak withdrawn
The scream proclaims the curst nocturnal bird.

Now, rest my muse, but only rest to weep
A friend made dear by every sacred tie;
Unknown to me be comfort peace or sleep:
Phillips is dead- 'tis pleasure then to die.

Few are the pleasures Chatterton e'er knew,
Short were the moments of his transient peace;
But melancholy robb'd him of those few,
And this hath bid all future comfort cease.

And can the muse be silent, Phillips gone!
And am I still alive? My soul, arise!
The robe of immortality put on,
And meet thy Phillips in his native skies. 

Thomas Chatterton

Thomas Chatterton's other poems:
  1. Chorus from Goddwyn
  2. Colin Instructed
  3. Epitaph on Robert Canynge
  4. The Churchwarden and The Apparition
  5. Narva and Mored

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