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Sometimes a few surface leaves were borne through the air, and, as they hung fluttering about, were any thing but the bright, golden, feather-like objects which on fine September days make glad the heart of the beholder. It was, in sooth, a fitting day for our pilgrimage; and long before reaching the end of our journey we had ceased to look out on the desolation, and were busily employed in recalling all that we had read of the Bristol charity-school lad, and found that
“The storm without might roar and rustle," but that the hours passed joyfully and profitably in thinking of his extraordinary powers, of his wonderfully interesting history, and of his mournful and tragical end.
When we reached Bristol, the rain had ceased, but the air was thick and gloomy, and gave that never over-clean or bright-looking city a most deplorable look. The streets were muddy and greasy; the buildings, black with age and dirt, and streaked by the recent rains, looked like mutes, grievous, without having grief; the vessels in the “dark-flowing" river were darker than its waters; and the heavy, flabby sails of a few clung to the masts and rigging, like the clothes to a drowning man. It was marketday, and the clatter of women's tongues haggling over their purchases ; the shouts of men driving through the streets; the invitations to buy from the keepers of stalls; the rush of life up and down the dirty, narrow, and over-crowded thoroughfares; the stir and bustle everywhere manifest, was in sad con
trast with the purpose of our visit, and grated somewhat on our feelings. But life has always a charm for active minds; there is a joy in the very noise which it makes in its progress. The various cries soon lose their discordancy, and become sounds full of a human harmony which we hear not without delight. And so we mingle with the crowd, and watch the eager, anxious faces, and think of the palefaced youth who, some eighty years ago, walked the same streets, watched similar crowds, as eager and necessitous in their pursuit of life, and gathered thus the materials of his future labours.
At the inn we got into talk with the host, and asked him a few questions about Chatterton. We were met by a question which put us fairly aback. “ Chatterton! Chatterton!” said he; was he a Bristol man?” We let Boniface retire, and asked him nothing more about the boy-poet, whose monument was then standing within a few hundred yards of his house!
And now for Redcliff Hill! Here, close to the church with which his name was to be so imperishably associated, was Chatterton born. From his earliest years, and with his earliest remembrances, is that grand structure most intimately blended. Nay, he has a sort of hereditary connexion with it. His father had been sub-chanter there; for a hundred and fifty years his ancestors had been sextons there; and there the boy was born who was destined to celebrate it and its founder's glory to all lands and for all times. There, under the shade of that noble
and venerable building, was born one whose name was to be placed in the bead-roll of England's poets, and for whose dear sake thousands of admirers and lovers would make pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Mary Redcliff.
From Redcliff Hill to St. Augustine's Place is not a long walk; and often during his seventh year must Chatterton have strolled up and down the intervening streets; for at that age his mother had procured his admission into Colston's School; and so, whenever opportunity occurred, we can fancy the lad, in his quaint dress, visiting his mother ; wandering about the old church, getting familiar with every part of it, letting the glory of its architecture overpower bim with feelings which he cannot comprehend, but can yield with rapture to their intense delight; gazing for hours on the exquisite beauty of its lancet arch and its general architectural wealth; and, as the years pass on, drinking more and more deeply of that spirit which enabled him, a mere boy, to write the Rowley Poems; and in fancy we see him passing from school, and at the age of fourteen apprenticed to an attorney, Mr. Lambert, but caring very little for law.
His apprenticeship was neither profitable nor pleasant to master or clerk. Chatterton was a strange, weird kind of boy. He lived in the past.
He wandered about the old church, and read about it, until he knew every tittle connected with its history. Every leisure hour of the day was spent in its precincts, and at night he haunted it like a ghost. In that now famous muniment room he had sat and
drawn from its old chest records that set his very soul a-flame. There that ancient glory of Bristol was
revealed to him; and Canynge was once more raised from the dust; and he and Bristol owe to a mere lad not a little of the fame which is theirs. Not yet fifteen years old, that strange boy is filled with the genius of the past; and we can picture him walking, as was his wont, before his favourite building, and speaking aloud his adjuration :“What wondrous monument ! what pile is this !
That bines in wonder's chain entendement !
And seemeth mountains joined by cement
Full well mine eyene aredoit can ne be,
A church so bansin festive as we see ;
a The pride of Bristowe and the western land. In his “ Storie of William Canynge," he thus introduces the object of his love :
“Next Redcliff Church, (oh work of hand of heaven,
Where Canynge sheweth as an instrument,)
'T is part to blazon it to good intent.
Repair to Redcliff, and contented be.” In which advice we cordially concur.
The bridge was also a favourite resort of Chatterton. To hang over its parapet, and watch the waters flow, must have been to him a frequent source of inspiration and pleasure. With the bridge is associated his first published specimen of the antique. The present erection was, in the September of 1768, opened with much pomp and ceremony. On the 1st of October Chatterton furnished the readers of Farley's Bristol Journal with an account “ of the Fryars first passing over the old bridge, taken from an old manuscript. Here the astonished Bristolians read, “On Fridai was the time fixed for passing the new-brydge. Aboute the time of tollynge the tenth clocke, Master Greggoire Dalbenye mounted on a fergreyne horse, informed Master Moner all thynges were prepared, when two beadils wont fyrst streying stre. Next came a manne dressed up as follows: hode of goatskyne innepart outwards, doublette and waistcott, also over which a white robe without sleeves, inuch like an albe, but not so long, reachinge but to his hands. A girdle of azure over his left shoulder, rechede also to his hands on the right, and doubled back to his left; bucklynge with a goulden buckle dangled to his knee, thereby representinge a Saxon earlderman.
“In his hands he bare a shield, the maistre of Gille a Brogton, who painted the same, representinge Sainte Warburgh crossinge the foord; then a mickle strong man in armour, carried a huge anlace, after whom came six claryons and six minstrels, who song the song of Sainte Warburgh. Then came Master Maier mounted on a white horse dight with