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of Canynge, and priest of St. John in Bristol; and truly, if the poems which he put forth in Rowley's name had been Rowley's, Rowley would have been a famous poet indeed-to say nothing of his sermons, histories, and other writings.
Spite of the wretchedness of his domestic position in Lambert's house, this must have been the happiest portion of Chatterton's life. His bringing out these treasures to the day had given him great consideration, amongst not only some of the most leading men, but amongst the youth of Bristol. With his excitable temperament his spirits rose occasionally into great gaiety and confidence. He began to entertain dreams of a lofty ambition. He had created a new world for himself, in which he lived. He had made Rowley its great heroic bard. He had raised Maister Canynge again from his marble rest in the south transept of St. Mary's, and placed him in his ancient glory in Bristol. Beneath his hands St. Mary's rose like a fairy fabric out of the earth, and was consecrated amid the most glorious hymns, and with the most gorgeous processions of priests and minstrels. Great and magnificent was Canynge in his wealth and his goodness once more in his native city; and in the brave lays of Rowley the valiant Ella fought, and the fierce Harold and William the Norman made the hill of Battell the eternal monument of the loss and gain of England.
"He was always," says Mr. Smyth, one of his intimate companions, "extremely fond of walking in the fields, particularly in Redcliffe meadows, and of talking about these manuscripts, and sometimes reading them there. Come,' he would say, 'you and I will take a walk in the meadow. I have got the cleverest thing for you imaginable;-it is worth half-a-crown merely to have a sight of it, and to hear me read it to you.' When we arrived at the place proposed he would produce his parchment, show it me, and read it to me. There was one spot in particular, full in view of the church, in which he would take a particular delight. He would frequently lay himself down, fix his eyes upon the church, and seem as if he were in a kind of trance. Then, on a sudden, abruptly he would tell me, 'That steeple was burnt down by lightning; that was the place where they formerly acted plays.'
"His Sundays were commonly spent in walking alone into the country about Bristol, as far as the duration of daylight would allow; and from those excursions he never failed to bring home with him drawings of churches, or some other objects which had impressed his romantic imagination.
This was one of those brief seasons in the poet's life when the heaven of his spirit has cast its glory on the nether world; when the light and splendour of his own beautiful creations invest the common earth, and he walks in the summer of his heart's joy. Every imagination seems to have become a reality; every hope to expand before him into fame and felicity; and the flowers beneath his tread, the sky above him, the air that breathes upon his cheek,—all Nature, in short, is full of the intoxication of poetic triumph. Bristol was become quite too narrow for him and Rowley; he shifted the field of
his ambition to London, and the whole enchanted realm of his anticipations passed like a Fata Morgana, and was gone! There came instead, cruel contempt, soul-withering neglect, hunger, despair, and suicide!
Such was the history of the life of one of England's greatest poets, who perished by his own hand, stung to the soul by the utter neglect of his country, and too proud to receive that bread from compassion which the reading public of Great Britain refused to his poetic labours. Of this, of Walpole, and Gray, and Johnson, and the like, we will speak more anon. Here let us pause, and select a few speci mens of that poetry which the people of England, at the latter end of the eighteenth century, would fain have suffered to perish with its author. That they may be better understood, we will modernise them.
The chief of his Rowley Poems are,-Ella, a Tragical Interlude, or Discoursing Tragedy; Godwin, the fragment of another Tragedy; the Battle of Hastings, the fragment of an Epic; and the Parliament of Sprytes, a most merry Interlude; with smaller ones.
ROUNDELAY, SUNG BY THE MINSTRELS IN ELLA.
"O! sing unto my roundelay,
Like a running river be.
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
"Black his hair as the winter night,
My love is dead, etc.
"Sweet his tongue as the throstle's note,
"Hark! the raven flaps his wing
Hark! the death-owl loud doth sing
"See! the white moon shines on high-
"Here, upon my true love's grave,
My love is dead, etc.
"With my hands I'll bend the briars
"Come with acorn-cup and thorn,
Gone to his death-bed,
"Water-witches, crowned with reytes,t
I die! I come! my true love waits ;-
This roundelay has always, and most justly, been greatly admired for its true pathos, and that fine harmony which charms us so much in the fragments of similar songs preserved by Shakspeare. Not less beautiful is the Chorus in Godwin. There is something singularly great and majestic in its imagery.
CHORUS IN GODWIN.
"When Freedom, dressed in blood-stained vest,
She danced upon the heath;
She heard the voice of death;
Pale-eyed Affright, his heart of silver hue,
She heard unmoved the shrieking voice of woe,
On high she reared her shield;
And fly along the field.
Power, with his head aloft unto the skies,
His spear a sunbeam, and his shield a star,
Like two fierce flaming meteors rolled his eyes,
She bends before his spear,
Hard as the thunder doth she drive it on;
Wit, closely mantled, guides it to his crown,
His long sharp spear, his spreading shield is gone;
War, gore-faced War, by Envy armed, arist,t
Ten bloody arrows in his straining fist."
Next let us take a poem whose truest criticism is contained in its own title:
AN EXCELLENT BALLAD OF CHARITY.
"From Virgo did the sun diffuse his sheen,
And eke the ground was dight in its most deft aumere.
"The sun was gleaming in the midst of day,
A heap of clouds of sable sullen hue;
The which full fast unto the woodlands drew,
And the black tempest swelled and gathered up apace.
Which did unto St. Godwin's convent lead,
Where from the hailstone could the almer§ fly?
He had no house at hand, nor any convent nigh.
Now knights and barons live for pleasure and themselves.
"The gathered storm is rife; the big drops fall;
"List! now the thunder's rattling, dinning sound
The winds are up; the lofty elm-tree swings!
And the full clouds at once are burst in stony showers.
"Spurring his palfrey o'er the watery plain,
The Abbot of St. Godwin's convent came;
"His cloak was all of Lincoln cloth so fine,
"An alms, sir priest !'-the dropping pilgrim said;
No house, nor friend, nor money in my pouch;
"Varlet!' replied the Abbot, 'cease your din;
None touch my ring who not in honour live.'
The Abbot spurred his steed, and eftsoons rode away.
"Again the sky was black, the thunder rolled;
And from the pathway side then turnéd he,
An alms, sir priest,' the dropping pilgrim said,
The wretched pilgrim did for gladness shake.
We are God's stewards all; nought of our own we bear.
A small round hat, not unlike the chapournette of heraldry, formerly worn by eccle. siastics and lawyers.-CHATTERTON,
The sign of a horse-milliner was till lately, if not still to be seen, in Bristol.
"But oh! unhappy pilgrim, learn of me,
Virgin and Holy Saints who sit in gloure, t
Or give the mighty will, or give the good man power!"
The following presents a very living picture of the ceremony of church consecration formerly:
ON THE DEDICATION OF OUR LADY'S CHURCH.
"Soon as bright sun along the skies had sent his ruddy light,
And after that another one ypreached was by me.
Then all did go to Canynge's house an interlude to play,
And drink his wines and ale so good, and pray for him for aye."
We will select just one short lyric more, because its stanza and rhythm seem to me to have communicated their peculiar music to one of the sweetest of our living poets:
SONG OF SAINT WARBURGH.
"When king Kynghill in his hand
"Then the folks a bridge did make
Which in time did fall away.
But war and time will all decay.
This good staff great wonders wrought, More than guessed by mortal thought, Or than mortal tongue can tell. Now, would it ever have been believed, had not the thing really taken place in its unmitigated strangeness, that such poetry as this -poetry, indeed, of which these are but mere fragments, which, while they display the power, poetic freedom, and intellectual riches of the writer, do not show the breadth and grandeur of his plans, to be seen only in the works themselves,-that they could have been
* Short under-cloak.