Specimens with Memoirs of the Less-known British Poets, Complete
George Gilfillan

Part 17 out of 20


Merrick was a clergyman, as well as a writer of verse. He was born in
1720, and became a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, where Lord North
was one of his pupils. He took orders, but owing to incessant pains in
the head, could not perform duty. He died in 1769. His works are a
translation of Tryphiodorus, done at twenty, a version of the Psalms, a
collection of Hymns, and a few miscellaneous pieces, one good specimen
of which we subjoin.


Oft has it been my lot to mark
A proud, conceited, talking spark,
With eyes that hardly served at most
To guard their master 'gainst a post;
Yet round the world the blade has been,
To see whatever could be seen.
Returning from his finished tour,
Grown ten times perter than before;
Whatever word you chance to drop,
The travelled fool your mouth will stop:
'Sir, if my judgment you'll allow--
I've seen--and sure I ought to know.'--
So begs you'd pay a due submission,
And acquiesce in his decision.

Two travellers of such a cast,
As o'er Arabia's wilds they passed,
And on their way, in friendly chat,
Now talked of this, and then of that;
Discoursed a while, 'mongst other matter,
Of the chameleon's form and nature.
'A stranger animal,' cries one,
'Sure never lived beneath the sun:
A lizard's body lean and long,
A fish's head, a serpent's tongue,
Its foot with triple claw disjoined;
And what a length of tail behind!
How slow its pace! and then its hue--
Who ever saw so fine a blue?'

'Hold there,' the other quick replies,
''Tis green, I saw it with these eyes,
As late with open mouth it lay,
And warmed it in the sunny ray;
Stretched at its ease the beast I viewed,
And saw it eat the air for food.'

'I've seen it, sir, as well as you,
And must again affirm it blue;
At leisure I the beast surveyed
Extended in the cooling shade.'

''Tis green, 'tis green, sir, I assure ye.'
'Green!' cries the other in a fury:
'Why, sir, d' ye think I've lost my eyes?'
''Twere no great loss,' the friend replies;
'For if they always serve you thus,
You'll find them but of little use.'

So high at last the contest rose,
From words they almost came to blows:
When luckily came by a third;
To him the question they referred:
And begged he'd tell them, if he knew,
Whether the thing was green or blue.

'Sirs,' cries the umpire, 'cease your pother;
The creature's neither one nor t' other.
I caught the animal last night,
And viewed it o'er by candle-light:
I marked it well, 'twas black as jet--
You stare--but sirs, I've got it yet,
And can produce it.'--'Pray, sir, do;
I'll lay my life the thing is blue.'
'And I'll be sworn, that when you've seen
The reptile, you'll pronounce him green.'

'Well, then, at once to ease the doubt,'
Replies the man, 'I'll turn him out:
And when before your eyes I've set him,
If you don't find him black, I'll eat him.'

He said; and full before their sight
Produced the beast, and lo!--'twas white.
Both stared, the man looked wondrous wise--
'My children,' the chameleon cries,
(Then first the creature found a tongue,)
'You all are right, and all are wrong:
When next you talk of what you view,
Think others see as well as you:
Nor wonder if you find that none
Prefers your eyesight to his own.'


This writer possessed some true imagination, although his claim to
immortality lies in the narrow compass of one poem--his 'Ode to
Solitude.' Little is known of his personal history. He was born in 1721
--belonging to a gentleman's family in Cumberland. He studied medicine,
and was for some time a surgeon connected with the army. When the peace
came, he established himself in London as a medical practitioner. In
1755, he published his 'Solitude,' which found many admirers, including
Dr Johnson, who pronounced its opening lines 'very noble.' He afterwards
indited several other pieces, wrote a translation of Tibullus, and
became one of the critical staff of the _Monthly Review_. He was unable,
however, through all these labours to secure a competence, and, in 1759,
he sought the West Indies. In St Christopher's he commenced practising
as a physician, and married the Governor's daughter, who brought him a
fortune. He wrote a poem entitled 'The Sugar-cane.' This was sent over
to London in MS., and was read at Sir Joshua Reynold's table to a
literary coterie, who, according to Boswell, all burst out into a laugh
when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus--

'Now, Muse, let's sing of _rats_!

And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, slily
overlooking the reader, found that the word had been originally 'mice,'
but had been changed to rats as more dignified.

Boswell goes on to record Johnson's opinion of Grainger. He said, 'He
was an agreeable man, a man that would do any good that was in his
power.' His translation of Tibullus was very well done, but 'The Sugar-
cane, a Poem,' did not please him. 'What could he make of a Sugar-cane?
one might as well write "The Parsley-bed, a Poem," or "The Cabbage
Garden, a Poem."' Boswell--'You must then _pickle_ your cabbage with the
_sal Atticum_.' Johnson--'One could say a great deal about cabbage. The
poem might begin with the advantages of civilised society over a rude
state, exemplified by the Scotch, who had no cabbages till Oliver
Cromwell's soldiers introduced them, and one might thus shew how arts
are propagated by conquest, as they were by the Roman arms.' Cabbage, by
the way, in a metaphorical sense, might furnish a very good subject for
a literary _satire_.

Grainger died of the fever of the country in 1767. Bishop Percy
corroborates Johnson's character of him as a man. He says, 'He was not
only a man of genius and learning, but had many excellent virtues, being
one of the most generous, friendly, benevolent men I ever knew.'

Grainger in some points reminds us of Dyer. Dyer staked his reputation
on 'The Fleece;' but it is his lesser poem, 'Grongar Hill,' which
preserves his name; that fine effusion has survived the laboured work.
And so Grainger's 'Solitude' has supplanted the stately 'Sugar-cane.'
The scenery of the West Indies had to wait till its real poet appeared
in the author of 'Paul and Virginia.' Grainger was hardly able to cope
with the strange and gorgeous contrasts it presents of cliffs and crags,
like those of Iceland, with vegetation rich as that of the fairest parts
of India, and of splendid sunshine, with tempests of such tremendous
fury that, but for their brief continuance, no property could be secure,
and no life could be safe.

The commencement of the 'Ode to Solitude' is fine, but the closing part
becomes tedious. In the middle of the poem there is a tumult of
personifications, some of them felicitous and others forced.

'Sage Reflection, bent with years,'
may pass, but
'Conscious Virtue, void of fears,'
is poor.
'Halcyon Peace on moss reclined,'
is a picture;
'Retrospect that scans the mind,'
is nothing;
'Health that snuffs the morning air,'
is a living image; but what sense is there in
'Full-eyed Truth, with bosom bare?'
and how poor his
'Laughter in loud peals that breaks,'
to Milton's
'Laughter, holding both his sides!'
The paragraph, however, commencing
'With you roses brighter bloom,'
and closing with
'The bournless macrocosm's thine,'
is very spirited, and, along with the opening lines, proves
Grainger a poet.


O solitude, romantic maid!
Whether by nodding towers you tread,
Or haunt the desert's trackless gloom,
Or hover o'er the yawning tomb,
Or climb the Andes' clifted side,
Or by the Nile's coy source abide,
Or starting from your half-year's sleep
From Hecla view the thawing deep,
Or, at the purple dawn of day,
Tadmor's marble wastes survey,
You, recluse, again I woo,
And again your steps pursue.

Plumed Conceit himself surveying,
Folly with her shadow playing,
Purse-proud, elbowing Insolence,
Bloated empiric, puffed Pretence,
Noise that through a trumpet speaks,
Laughter in loud peals that breaks,
Intrusion with a fopling's face,
Ignorant of time and place,
Sparks of fire Dissension blowing,
Ductile, court-bred Flattery, bowing,
Restraint's stiff neck, Grimace's leer,
Squint-eyed Censure's artful sneer,
Ambition's buskins, steeped in blood,
Fly thy presence, Solitude.

Sage Reflection, bent with years,
Conscious Virtue, void of fears,
Muffled Silence, wood-nymph shy,
Meditation's piercing eye,
Halcyon Peace on moss reclined,
Retrospect that scans the mind,
Rapt, earth-gazing Reverie,
Blushing, artless Modesty,
Health that snuffs the morning air,
Full-eyed Truth, with bosom bare,
Inspiration, Nature's child,
Seek the solitary wild.

You, with the tragic muse retired,
The wise Euripides inspired,
You taught the sadly-pleasing air
That Athens saved from ruins bare.
You gave the Cean's tears to flow,
And unlocked the springs of woe;
You penned what exiled Naso thought,
And poured the melancholy note.
With Petrarch o'er Vaucluse you strayed,
When death snatched his long-loved maid;
You taught the rocks her loss to mourn,
Ye strewed with flowers her virgin urn.
And late in Hagley you were seen,
With bloodshot eyes, and sombre mien,
Hymen his yellow vestment tore,
And Dirge a wreath of cypress wore.
But chief your own the solemn lay
That wept Narcissa young and gay,
Darkness clapped her sable wing,
While you touched the mournful string,
Anguish left the pathless wild,
Grim-faced Melancholy smiled,
Drowsy Midnight ceased to yawn,
The starry host put back the dawn,
Aside their harps even seraphs flung
To hear thy sweet Complaint, O Young!
When all nature's hushed asleep,
Nor Love nor Guilt their vigils keep,
Soft you leave your caverned den,
And wander o'er the works of men;
But when Phosphor brings the dawn
By her dappled coursers drawn,
Again you to the wild retreat
And the early huntsman meet,
Where as you pensive pace along,
You catch the distant shepherd's song,
Or brush from herbs the pearly dew,
Or the rising primrose view.
Devotion lends her heaven-plumed wings,
You mount, and nature with you sings.
But when mid-day fervours glow,
To upland airy shades you go,
Where never sunburnt woodman came,
Nor sportsman chased the timid game;
And there beneath an oak reclined,
With drowsy waterfalls behind,
You sink to rest.
Till the tuneful bird of night
From the neighbouring poplar's height
Wake you with her solemn strain,
And teach pleased Echo to complain.

With you roses brighter bloom,
Sweeter every sweet perfume,
Purer every fountain flows,
Stronger every wilding grows.
Let those toil for gold who please,
Or for fame renounce their ease.
What is fame? an empty bubble.
Gold? a transient shining trouble.
Let them for their country bleed,
What was Sidney's, Raleigh's meed?
Man's not worth a moment's pain,
Base, ungrateful, fickle, vain.
Then let me, sequestered fair,
To your sibyl grot repair;
On yon hanging cliff it stands,
Scooped by nature's salvage hands,
Bosomed in the gloomy shade
Of cypress not with age decayed.
Where the owl still-hooting sits,
Where the bat incessant flits,
There in loftier strains I'll sing
Whence the changing seasons spring,
Tell how storms deform the skies,
Whence the waves subside and rise,
Trace the comet's blazing tail,
Weigh the planets in a scale;
Bend, great God, before thy shrine,
The bournless macrocosm's thine.
* * * * *


We refer our readers to Dr Mackelvie's well-known and very able Life of
poor Bruce, for his full story, and for the evidence on which his claim
to the 'Cuckoo' is rested. Apart from external evidence, we think that
poem more characteristic of Bruce's genius than of Logan's, and have
therefore ranked it under Bruce's name.

Bruce was born on the 27th of March 1746, at Kinnesswood, parish of
Portmoak, county of Kinross. His father was a weaver, and Michael was
the fifth of a family of eight children.

Poor as his parents were, they were intelligent, religious, and most
conscientious in the discharge of their duties to their children. In the
summer months Michael was sent out to herd cattle; and one loves to
imagine the young poet wrapt in his plaid, under a whin-bush, while the
storm was blowing,--or gazing at the rainbow from the summit of a
fence,--or admiring at Lochleven and its old ruined castle,--or weaving
around the form of some little maiden, herding in a neighbouring field
--some 'Jeanie Morrison'--one of those webs of romantic early love which
are beautiful and evanescent as the gossamer, but how exquisitely
relished while they last! Say not, with one of his biographers, that his
'education was retarded by this employment;' he was receiving in these
solitary fields a kind of education which no school and no college could
furnish; nay, who knows but, as he saw the cuckoo winging her way from
one deep woodland recess to another, or heard her dull, divine monotone
coming from the heart of the forest, the germ of that exquisite strain,
'least in the kingdom' of the heaven of poetry in size, but immortal in
its smallness, was sown in his mind? In winter he went to school, and
profited there so much, that at fifteen (not a very early period, after
all, for a Scotch student beginning his curriculum--in our day twelve
was not an uncommon age) he was judged fit for going to college. And
just in time a windfall came across the path of our poet, the mention of
which may make many of our readers smile. This was a legacy which was
left his father by a relative, amounting to 200 merks, or £11, 2s.6d.
With this munificent sum in his pocket, Bruce was sent to study at
Edinburgh College. Here he became distinguished by his attainments, and
particularly his taste and poetic powers; and here, too, he became
acquainted with John Logan, afterwards his biographer. After spending
three sessions at college, supported by his parents and other friends,
he returned to the country, and taught a school at Gairney Bridge (a
place famous for the first meeting of the first presbytery of the
Seceders) for £11 of salary. Thence he removed to Foresthill, near
Alloa, where a damp school-room, poverty, and hard labour in teaching,
united to injure his health and depress his spirits. At Foresthill he
wrote his poem 'Lochleven,' which discovers no small descriptive power.
Consumption began now to make its appearance, and he returned to the
cottage of his parents, where he wrote his 'Elegy on Spring,' in which
he refers with dignified pathos to his approaching dissolution. On the
5th of July 1767, this remarkable youth died, aged twenty-one years and
three months. His Bible was found on his pillow, marked at the words,
Jer. xxii. 10, 'Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep
sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his
native country.'

Lord Craig wrote some time afterwards an affecting paper in the _Mirror_,
recording the fate, and commending the genius of Bruce. John Logan, in
1770, published his poems. In the year 1807, the kind-hearted Principal
Baird published an edition of the poems for the behoof of Bruce's mother,
then an aged widow. And in 1837, Dr William Mackelvie, Balgedie, Kinross-
shire, published what may be considered the standard Life of this poet,
along with a complete edition of his Works.

It is impossible from so small a segment of a circle as Bruce's life
describes, to infer with any certainty the whole. So far as we can judge
from the fragments left, his power was rather in the beautiful, than in
the sublime or in the strong. The lines on Spring, from the words 'Now
spring returns' to the close, form a continuous stream of pensive
loveliness. How sweetly he sings in the shadow of death! Nor let us too
severely blame his allusion to the old Pagan mythology, in the words--

'I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of woe,
I see the muddy wave, the dreary shore;'

remembering that he was still a mere student, and not recovered from
that fine intoxication in which classical literature drenches a young
imaginative soul, and that at last we find him 'resting in the hopes of
an eternal day.' 'Lochleven' is the spent echo of the 'Seasons,' although,
as we said before, its descriptions possess considerable merit. His 'Last
Day' is more ambitious than successful. If we grant the 'Cuckoo' to be
his, as we are inclined decidedly to do, it is a sure title to fame,
being one of the sweetest little poems in any language. Shakspeare would
have been proud of the verse--

'Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year.'

Bruce has not, however, it has always appeared to us, caught so well as
Wordsworth the differentia of the cuckoo,--its invisible, shadowy,
shifting, supernatural character--heard, but seldom seen--its note so
limited and almost unearthly:--

'O Cuckoo, shall I call thee bird,
Or but a _wandering voice_?'

How fine this conception of a separated voice--'The viewless spirit of a
_lonely_ sound,' plaining in the woods as if seeking for some incarnation
it cannot find, and saddening the spring groves by a note so contradictory
to the genius of the season. In reference to the note of the cuckoo we
find the following remarks among the fragments from the commonplace-book
of Dr Thomas Brown, printed by Dr Welsh:--'The name of the cuckoo has
generally been considered as a very pure instance of imitative harmony.
But in giving that name, we have most unjustly defrauded the poor bird of
a portion of its very small variety of sound. The second syllable is not
a mere echo of the first; it is the sound reversed, like the reading of
a sotadic line; and to preserve the strictness of the imitation we should
give it the name of Ook-koo.' _This_ is the prose of the cuckoo after its


1 Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove!
The messenger of spring!
Now Heaven repairs thy rural seat,
And woods thy welcome sing.

2 Soon as the daisy decks the green,
Thy certain voice we hear;
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,
Or mark the rolling year?

3 Delightful visitant! with thee
I hail the time of flowers,
And hear the sound of music sweet,
From birds among the bowers.

4 The school-boy, wandering through the wood
To pull the primrose gay,
Starts thy curious voice to hear,
And imitates the lay.

5 What time the pea puts on the bloom,
Thou fli'st thy vocal vale,
An annual guest in other lands,
Another spring to hail.

6 Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year.

7 Oh, could I fly, I'd fly with thee!
We'd make with joyful wing
Our annual visit o'er the globe,
Attendants on the spring.


1 'Tis past: the North has spent his rage;
Stern Winter now resigns the lengthening day;
The stormy howlings of the winds assuage,
And warm o'er ether western breezes play.

2 Of genial heat and cheerful light the source,
From southern climes, beneath another sky,
The sun, returning, wheels his golden course:
Before his beams all noxious vapours fly.

3 Far to the North grim Winter draws his train,
To his own clime, to Zembla's frozen shore;
Where, throned on ice, he holds eternal reign,
Where whirlwinds madden, and where tempests roar.

4 Loosed from the bonds of frost, the verdant ground
Again puts on her robe of cheerful green,
Again puts forth her flowers, and all around,
Smiling, the cheerful face of Spring is seen.

5 Behold! the trees new-deck their withered boughs;
Their ample leaves, the hospitable plane,
The taper elm, and lofty ash disclose;
The blooming hawthorn variegates the scene.

6 The lily of the vale, of flowers the queen,
Puts on the robe she neither sewed nor spun:
The birds on ground, or on the branches green,
Hop to and fro, and glitter in the sun.

7 Soon as o'er eastern hills the morning peers,
From her low nest the tufted lark upsprings;
And cheerful singing, up the air she steers;
Still high she mounts, still loud and sweet she sings.

8 On the green furze, clothed o'er with golden blooms
That fill the air with fragrance all around,
The linnet sits, and tricks his glossy plumes,
While o'er the wild his broken notes resound.

9 While the sun journeys down the western sky,
Along the green sward, marked with Roman mound,
Beneath the blithesome shepherd's watchful eye,
The cheerful lambkins dance and frisk around.

10 Now is the time for those who wisdom love,
Who love to walk in Virtue's flowery road,
Along the lovely paths of Spring to rove,
And follow Nature up to Nature's God.

11 Thus Zoroaster studied Nature's laws;
Thus Socrates, the wisest of mankind;
Thus heaven-taught Plato traced the Almighty cause,
And left the wondering multitude behind.

12 Thus Ashley gathered academic bays;
Thus gentle Thomson, as the seasons roll,
Taught them to sing the great Creator's praise,
And bear their poet's name from pole to pole.

13 Thus have I walked along the dewy lawn;
My frequent foot the blooming wild hath worn:
Before the lark I've sung the beauteous dawn,
And gathered health from all the gales of morn.

14 And even when Winter chilled the aged year,
I wandered lonely o'er the hoary plain:
Though frosty Boreas warned me to forbear,
Boreas, with all his tempests, warned in vain.

15 Then sleep my nights, and quiet blessed my days;
I feared no loss, my mind was all my store;
No anxious wishes e'er disturbed my ease;
Heaven gave content and health--I asked no more.

16 Now Spring returns: but not to me returns
The vernal joy my better years have known;
Dim in my breast life's dying taper burns,
And all the joys of life with health are flown.

17 Starting and shivering in the inconstant wind,
Meagre and pale, the ghost of what I was,
Beneath some blasted tree I lie reclined,
And count the silent moments as they pass:

18 The winged moments, whose unstaying speed
No art can stop, or in their course arrest;
Whose flight shall shortly count me with the dead,
And lay me down at peace with them at rest.

19 Oft morning-dreams presage approaching fate;
And morning-dreams, as poets tell, are true.
Led by pale ghosts, I enter Death's dark gate,
And bid the realms of light and life adieu.

20 I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of woe;
I see the muddy wave, the dreary shore,
The sluggish streams that slowly creep below,
Which mortals visit, and return no more.

21 Farewell, ye blooming fields! ye cheerful plains!
Enough for me the churchyard's lonely mound,
Where Melancholy with still Silence reigns,
And the rank grass waves o'er the cheerless ground.

22 There let me wander at the shut of eve,
When sleep sits dewy on the labourer's eyes:
The world and all its busy follies leave,
And talk of wisdom where my Daphnis lies.

23 There let me sleep forgotten in the clay,
When death shall shut these weary, aching eyes;
Rest in the hopes of an eternal day,
Till the long night is gone, and the last morn arise.


We hear of 'Single-speech Hamilton.' We have now to say something of
'Single-poem Smart,' the author of one of the grandest bursts of
devotional and poetical feeling in the English language--the 'Song to
David.' This poor unfortunate was born at Shipbourne, Kent, in 1722.
His father was steward to Lord Barnard, who, after his death, continued
his patronage to the son, who was then eleven years of age. The Duchess
of Cleveland, through Lord Barnard's influence, bestowed on Christopher
an allowance of £40 a-year. With this he went to Pembroke Hall, Cam-
bridge, in 1739; was in 1745 elected a Fellow of Pembroke, and in 1747
took his degree of M.A. At college, Smart began to display that reckless
dissipation which led afterwards to such melancholy consequences. He
studied hard, however, at intervals; wrote poetry both in Latin and
English; produced a comedy called a 'Trip to Cambridge; or, The Grateful
Fair,' which was acted in the hall of Pembroke College; and, in spite of
his vices and follies, was popular on account of his agreeable manners
and amiable dispositions. Having become acquainted with Newberry,
the benevolent, red-nosed bookseller commemorated in 'The Vicar of
Wakefield,'--for whom he wrote some trifles,--he married his step-
daughter, Miss Carnan, in the year 1753. He now removed to London, and
became an author to trade. He wrote a clever satire, entitled 'The
Hilliad,' against Sir John Hill, who had attacked him in an underhand
manner. He translated the fables of Phaedrus into verse,--Horace into
prose ('Smart's Horace' used to be a great favourite, under the rose,
with schoolboys); made an indifferent version of the Psalms and
Paraphrases, and a good one, at a former period, of Pope's 'Ode on St
Cecilia's Day,' with which that poet professed himself highly pleased.
He was employed on a monthly publication called _The Universal Visitor_.
We find Johnson giving the following account of this matter in Boswell's
Life:--'Old Gardner, the bookseller, employed Rolt and Smart to write a
monthly miscellany called _The Universal Visitor_.' There was a formal
written contract. They were bound to write nothing else,--they were to
have, I think, a third of the profits of the sixpenny pamphlet, and the
contract was for ninety-nine years. I wrote for some months in _The
Universal Visitor_ for poor Smart, while he was mad, not then knowing
the terms on which he was engaged to write, and thinking I was doing him
good. I hoped his wits would soon return to him. Mine returned to me, and
I wrote in _The Universal Visitor_ no longer.'

Smart at last was called to pay the penalty of his blended labour and
dissipation. In 1763 he was shut up in a madhouse. His derangement had
exhibited itself in a religious way: he insisted upon people kneeling
down along with him in the street and praying. During his confinement,
writing materials were denied him, and he used to write his poetical
pieces with a key on the wainscot. Thus, 'scrabbling,' like his own hero,
on the wall, he produced his immortal 'Song to David.' He became by and
by sane; but, returning to his old habits, got into debt, and died in the
King's Bench prison, after a short illness, in 1770.

The 'Song to David' has been well called one of the greatest curiosities
of literature. It ranks in this point with the tragedies written by Lee,
and the sermons and prayers uttered by Hall in a similar melancholy state
of mind. In these cases, as well as in Smart's, the thin partition
between genius and madness was broken down in thunder,--the thunder of a
higher poetry than perhaps they were capable of even conceiving in their
saner moments. Lee produced in that state--which was, indeed, nearly his
normal one--some glorious extravagancies. Hall's sermons, monologised
and overheard in the madhouse, are said to have transcended all that he
preached in his healthier moods. And, assuredly, the other poems by Smart
scarcely furnish a point of comparison with the towering and sustained
loftiness of some parts of the 'Song to David.' Nor is it loftiness
alone,--although the last three stanzas are absolute inspiration, and
you see the waters of Castalia tossed by a heavenly wind to the very
summit of Parnassus,--but there are innumerable exquisite beauties and
subtleties, dropt as if by the hand of rich haste, in every corner of
the poem. Witness his description of David's muse, as a

'Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,
The more _than Michal of his bloom_,
The _Abishag of his age_!

The account of David's object--

'To further knowledge, silence vice,
And plant perpetual paradise,
When _God had calmed the world_.'

Of David's Sabbath--

''Twas then his thoughts self-conquest pruned,
And heavenly melancholy tuned,
To bless and bear the rest.'

One of David's themes--

'The multitudinous abyss,
Where secrecy remains in bliss,
And wisdom hides her skill.'

And, not to multiply instances to repletion, this stanza about gems--

'Of gems--their virtue and their price,
Which, hid in earth from man's device,
Their _darts of lustre sheath_;
The jasper of the master's stamp,
The topaz blazing like a lamp,
Among the mines beneath.'

Incoherence and extravagance we find here and there; but it is not the
flutter of weakness, it is the fury of power: from the very stumble of
the rushing steed, sparks are kindled. And, even as Baretti, when he
read the _Rambler_, in Italy, thought within himself, If such are the
lighter productions of the English mind, what must be the grander and
sterner efforts of its genius? and formed, consequently, a strong desire
to visit that country; so might he have reasoned, If such poems as
'David' issue from England's very madhouses, what must be the writings
of its saner and nobler poetic souls? and thus might he, from the
parallax of a Smart, have been able to rise toward the ideal altitudes
of a Shakspeare or a Milton. Indeed, there are portions of the 'Song to
David,' which a Milton or a Shakspeare has never surpassed. The blaze of
the meteor often eclipses the light of

'The loftiest star of unascended heaven,
Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.'


1 O thou, that sitt'st upon a throne,
With harp of high, majestic tone,
To praise the King of kings:
And voice of heaven, ascending, swell,
Which, while its deeper notes excel,
Clear as a clarion rings:

2 To bless each valley, grove, and coast,
And charm the cherubs to the post
Of gratitude in throngs;
To keep the days on Zion's Mount,
And send the year to his account,
With dances and with songs:

3 O servant of God's holiest charge,
The minister of praise at large,
Which thou mayst now receive;
From thy blest mansion hail and hear,
From topmost eminence appear
To this the wreath I weave.

4 Great, valiant, pious, good, and clean,
Sublime, contemplative, serene,
Strong, constant, pleasant, wise!
Bright effluence of exceeding grace;
Best man! the swiftness and the race,
The peril and the prize!

5 Great--from the lustre of his crown,
From Samuel's horn, and God's renown,
Which is the people's voice;
For all the host, from rear to van,
Applauded and embraced the man--
The man of God's own choice.

6 Valiant--the word, and up he rose;
The fight--he triumphed o'er the foes
Whom God's just laws abhor;
And, armed in gallant faith, he took
Against the boaster, from the brook,
The weapons of the war.

7 Pious--magnificent and grand,
'Twas he the famous temple planned,
(The seraph in his soul:)
Foremost to give the Lord his dues,
Foremost to bless the welcome news,
And foremost to condole.

8 Good--from Jehudah's genuine vein,
From God's best nature, good in grain,
His aspect and his heart:
To pity, to forgive, to save,
Witness En-gedi's conscious cave,
And Shimei's blunted dart.

9 Clean--if perpetual prayer be pure,
And love, which could itself inure
To fasting and to fear--
Clean in his gestures, hands, and feet,
To smite the lyre, the dance complete,
To play the sword and spear.

10 Sublime--invention ever young,
Of vast conception, towering tongue,
To God the eternal theme;
Notes from yon exaltations caught,
Unrivalled royalty of thought,
O'er meaner strains supreme.

11 Contemplative--on God to fix
His musings, and above the six
The Sabbath-day he blessed;
'Twas then his thoughts self-conquest pruned,
And heavenly melancholy tuned,
To bless and bear the rest.

12 Serene--to sow the seeds of peace,
Remembering when he watched the fleece,
How sweetly Kidron purled--
To further knowledge, silence vice,
And plant perpetual paradise,
When God had calmed the world.

13 Strong--in the Lord, who could defy
Satan, and all his powers that lie
In sempiternal night;
And hell, and horror, and despair
Were as the lion and the bear
To his undaunted might.

14 Constant--in love to God, the Truth,
Age, manhood, infancy, and youth;
To Jonathan his friend
Constant, beyond the verge of death;
And Ziba, and Mephibosheth,
His endless fame attend.

15 Pleasant--and various as the year;
Man, soul, and angel without peer,
Priest, champion, sage, and boy;
In armour or in ephod clad,
His pomp, his piety was glad;
Majestic was his joy.

16 Wise--in recovery from his fall,
Whence rose his eminence o'er all,
Of all the most reviled;
The light of Israel in his ways,
Wise are his precepts, prayer, and praise,
And counsel to his child.

17 His muse, bright angel of his verse,
Gives balm for all the thorns that pierce,
For all the pangs that rage;
Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,
The more than Michal of his bloom,
The Abishag of his age.

18 He sang of God--the mighty source
Of all things--the stupendous force
On which all strength depends;
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
All period, power, and enterprise
Commences, reigns, and ends.

19 Angels--their ministry and meed,
Which to and fro with blessings speed,
Or with their citterns wait;
Where Michael, with his millions, bows,
Where dwells the seraph and his spouse,
The cherub and her mate.

20 Of man--the semblance and effect
Of God and love--the saint elect
For infinite applause--
To rule the land, and briny broad,
To be laborious in his laud,
And heroes in his cause.

21 The world--the clustering spheres he made,
The glorious light, the soothing shade,
Dale, champaign, grove, and hill;
The multitudinous abyss,
Where secrecy remains in bliss,
And wisdom hides her skill.

22 Trees, plants, and flowers--of virtuous root;
Gem yielding blossom, yielding fruit,
Choice gums and precious balm;
Bless ye the nosegay in the vale,
And with the sweetness of the gale
Enrich the thankful psalm.

23 Of fowl--even every beak and wing
Which cheer the winter, hail the spring,
That live in peace, or prey;
They that make music, or that mock,
The quail, the brave domestic cock,
The raven, swan, and jay.

24 Of fishes--every size and shape,
Which nature frames of light escape,
Devouring man to shun:
The shells are in the wealthy deep,
The shoals upon the surface leap,
And love the glancing sun.

25 Of beasts--the beaver plods his task;
While the sleek tigers roll and bask,
Nor yet the shades arouse;
Her cave the mining coney scoops;
Where o'er the mead the mountain stoops,
The kids exult and browse.

26 Of gems--their virtue and their price,
Which, hid in earth from man's device,
Their darts of lustre sheath;
The jasper of the master's stamp,
The topaz blazing like a lamp,
Among the mines beneath.

27 Blest was the tenderness he felt,
When to his graceful harp he knelt,
And did for audience call;
When Satan with his hand he quelled,
And in serene suspense he held
The frantic throes of Saul.

28 His furious foes no more maligned
As he such melody divined,
And sense and soul detained;
Now striking strong, now soothing soft,
He sent the godly sounds aloft,
Or in delight refrained.

29 When up to heaven his thoughts he piled,
From fervent lips fair Michal smiled,
As blush to blush she stood;
And chose herself the queen, and gave
Her utmost from her heart--'so brave,
And plays his hymns so good.'

30 The pillars of the Lord are seven,
Which stand from earth to topmost heaven;
His wisdom drew the plan;
His Word accomplished the design,
From brightest gem to deepest mine,
From Christ enthroned to man.

31 Alpha, the cause of causes, first
In station, fountain, whence the burst
Of light and blaze of day;
Whence bold attempt, and brave advance,
Have motion, life, and ordinance,
And heaven itself its stay.

32 Gamma supports the glorious arch
On which angelic legions march,
And is with sapphires paved;
Thence the fleet clouds are sent adrift,
And thence the painted folds that lift
The crimson veil, are waved.

33 Eta with living sculpture breathes,
With verdant carvings, flowery wreathes
Of never-wasting bloom;
In strong relief his goodly base
All instruments of labour grace,
The trowel, spade, and loom.

34 Next Theta stands to the supreme--
Who formed in number, sign, and scheme,
The illustrious lights that are;
And one addressed his saffron robe,
And one, clad in a silver globe,
Held rule with every star.

35 Iota's tuned to choral hymns
Of those that fly, while he that swims
In thankful safety lurks;
And foot, and chapiter, and niche,
The various histories enrich
Of God's recorded works.

36 Sigma presents the social droves
With him that solitary roves,
And man of all the chief;
Fair on whose face, and stately frame,
Did God impress his hallowed name,
For ocular belief.

37 Omega! greatest and the best,
Stands sacred to the day of rest,
For gratitude and thought;
Which blessed the world upon his pole,
And gave the universe his goal,
And closed the infernal draught.

38 O David, scholar of the Lord!
Such is thy science, whence reward,
And infinite degree;
O strength, O sweetness, lasting ripe!
God's harp thy symbol, and thy type
The lion and the bee!

39 There is but One who ne'er rebelled,
But One by passion unimpelled,
By pleasures unenticed;
He from himself his semblance sent,
Grand object of his own content,
And saw the God in Christ.

40 Tell them, I Am, Jehovah said
To Moses; while earth heard in dread,
And, smitten to the heart,
At once above, beneath, around,
All nature, without voice or sound,
Replied, O Lord, Thou Art.

41 Thou art--to give and to confirm,
For each his talent and his term;
All flesh thy bounties share:
Thou shalt not call thy brother fool;
The porches of the Christian school
Are meekness, peace, and prayer.

42 Open and naked of offence,
Man's made of mercy, soul, and sense:
God armed the snail and wilk;
Be good to him that pulls thy plough;
Due food and care, due rest allow
For her that yields thee milk.

43 Rise up before the hoary head,
And God's benign commandment dread,
Which says thou shalt not die:
'Not as I will, but as thou wilt,'
Prayed He, whose conscience knew no guilt;
With whose blessed pattern vie.

44 Use all thy passions!--love is thine,
And joy and jealousy divine;
Thine hope's eternal fort,
And care thy leisure to disturb,
With fear concupiscence to curb,
And rapture to transport.

45 Act simply, as occasion asks;
Put mellow wine in seasoned casks;
Till not with ass and bull:
Remember thy baptismal bond;
Keep from commixtures foul and fond,
Nor work thy flax with wool.

46 Distribute; pay the Lord his tithe,
And make the widow's heart-strings blithe;
Resort with those that weep:
As you from all and each expect,
For all and each thy love direct,
And render as you reap.

47 The slander and its bearer spurn,
And propagating praise sojourn
To make thy welcome last;
Turn from old Adam to the New:
By hope futurity pursue:
Look upwards to the past.

48 Control thine eye, salute success,
Honour the wiser, happier bless,
And for thy neighbour feel;
Grutch not of mammon and his leaven,
Work emulation up to heaven
By knowledge and by zeal.

49 O David, highest in the list
Of worthies, on God's ways insist,
The genuine word repeat!
Vain are the documents of men,
And vain the flourish of the pen
That keeps the fool's conceit.

50 Praise above all--for praise prevails;
Heap up the measure, load the scales,
And good to goodness add:
The generous soul her Saviour aids,
But peevish obloquy degrades;
The Lord is great and glad.

51 For Adoration all the ranks
Of angels yield eternal thanks,
And David in the midst;
With God's good poor, which, last and least
In man's esteem, thou to thy feast,
O blessed bridegroom, bidst.

52 For Adoration seasons change,
And order, truth, and beauty range,
Adjust, attract, and fill:
The grass the polyanthus checks;
And polished porphyry reflects,
By the descending rill.

53 Rich almonds colour to the prime
For Adoration; tendrils climb,
And fruit-trees pledge their gems;
And Ivis, with her gorgeous vest,
Builds for her eggs her cunning nest,
And bell-flowers bow their stems.

54 With vinous syrup cedars spout;
From rocks pure honey gushing out,
For Adoration springs:
All scenes of painting crowd the map
Of nature; to the mermaid's pap
The scaled infant clings.

55 The spotted ounce and playsome cubs
Run rustling 'mongst the flowering shrubs,
And lizards feed the moss;
For Adoration beasts embark,
While waves upholding halcyon's ark
No longer roar and toss.

56 While Israel sits beneath his fig,
With coral root and amber sprig
The weaned adventurer sports;
Where to the palm the jasmine cleaves,
For Adoration 'mong the leaves
The gale his peace reports.

57 Increasing days their reign exalt,
Nor in the pink and mottled vault
The opposing spirits tilt;
And by the coasting reader spied,
The silverlings and crusions glide
For Adoration gilt.

58 For Adoration ripening canes,
And cocoa's purest milk detains
The western pilgrim's staff;
Where rain in clasping boughs enclosed,
And vines with oranges disposed,
Embower the social laugh.

59 Now labour his reward receives,
For Adoration counts his sheaves
To peace, her bounteous prince;
The nect'rine his strong tint imbibes,
And apples of ten thousand tribes,
And quick peculiar quince.

60 The wealthy crops of whitening rice
'Mongst thyine woods and groves of spice,
For Adoration grow;
And, marshalled in the fenced land,
The peaches and pomegranates stand,
Where wild carnations blow.

61 The laurels with the winter strive;
The crocus burnishes alive
Upon the snow-clad earth:
For Adoration myrtles stay
To keep the garden from dismay,
And bless the sight from dearth.

62 The pheasant shows his pompous neck;
And ermine, jealous of a speck,
With fear eludes offence:
The sable, with his glossy pride,
For Adoration is descried,
Where frosts the waves condense.

63 The cheerful holly, pensive yew,
And holy thorn, their trim renew;
The squirrel hoards his nuts:
All creatures batten o'er their stores,
And careful nature all her doors
For Adoration shuts.

64 For Adoration, David's Psalms
Lift up the heart to deeds of alms;
And he, who kneels and chants,
Prevails his passions to control,
Finds meat and medicine to the soul,
Which for translation pants.

65 For Adoration, beyond match,
The scholar bullfinch aims to catch
The soft flute's ivory touch;
And, careless, on the hazel spray
The daring redbreast keeps at bay
The damsel's greedy clutch.

66 For Adoration, in the skies,
The Lord's philosopher espies
The dog, the ram, and rose;
The planets' ring, Orion's sword;
Nor is his greatness less adored
In the vile worm that glows.

67 For Adoration, on the strings
The western breezes work their wings,
The captive ear to soothe--
Hark! 'tis a voice--how still, and small--
That makes the cataracts to fall,
Or bids the sea be smooth!

68 For Adoration, incense comes
From bezoar, and Arabian gums,
And from the civet's fur:
But as for prayer, or e'er it faints,
Far better is the breath of saints
Than galbanum or myrrh.

69 For Adoration, from the down
Of damsons to the anana's crown,
God sends to tempt the taste;
And while the luscious zest invites
The sense, that in the scene delights,
Commands desire be chaste.

70 For Adoration, all the paths
Of grace are open, all the baths
Of purity refresh;
And all the rays of glory beam
To deck the man of God's esteem,
Who triumphs o'er the flesh.

71 For Adoration, in the dome
Of Christ, the sparrows find a home;
And on his olives perch:
The swallow also dwells with thee,
O man of God's humility,
Within his Saviour's church.

72 Sweet is the dew that falls betimes,
And drops upon the leafy limes;
Sweet Hermon's fragrant air:
Sweet is the lily's silver bell,
And sweet the wakeful tapers' smell
That watch for early prayer.

73 Sweet the young nurse, with love intense,
Which smiles o'er sleeping innocence;
Sweet when the lost arrive:
Sweet the musician's ardour beats,
While his vague mind's in quest of sweets,
The choicest flowers to hive.

74 Sweeter, in all the strains of love,
The language of thy turtle-dove,
Paired to thy swelling chord;
Sweeter, with every grace endued,
The glory of thy gratitude,
Respired unto the Lord.

75 Strong is the horse upon his speed;
Strong in pursuit the rapid glede,
Which makes at once his game:
Strong the tall ostrich on the ground;
Strong through the turbulent profound
Shoots xiphias to his aim.

76 Strong is the lion--like a coal
His eyeball--like a bastion's mole
His chest against the foes:
Strong the gier-eagle on his sail,
Strong against tide the enormous whale
Emerges as he goes.

77 But stronger still in earth and air,
And in the sea the man of prayer,
And far beneath the tide:
And in the seat to faith assigned,
Where ask is have, where seek is find,
Where knock is open wide.

78 Beauteous the fleet before the gale;
Beauteous the multitudes in mail,
Ranked arms, and crested heads;
Beauteous the garden's umbrage mild.
Walk, water, meditated wild,
And all the bloomy beds.

79 Beauteous the moon full on the lawn;
And beauteous when the veil's withdrawn,
The virgin to her spouse:
Beauteous the temple, decked and filled,
When to the heaven of heavens they build
Their heart-directed vows.

80 Beauteous, yea beauteous more than these,
The Shepherd King upon his knees,
For his momentous trust;
With wish of infinite conceit,
For man, beast, mute, the small and great,
And prostrate dust to dust.

81 Precious the bounteous widow's mite;
And precious, for extreme delight,
The largess from the churl:
Precious the ruby's blushing blaze,
And alba's blest imperial rays,
And pure cerulean pearl.

82 Precious the penitential tear;
And precious is the sigh sincere;
Acceptable to God:
And precious are the winning flowers,
In gladsome Israel's feast of bowers,
Bound on the hallowed sod.

83 More precious that diviner part
Of David, even the Lord's own heart,
Great, beautiful, and new:
In all things where it was intent,
In all extremes, in each event,
Proof--answering true to true.

84 Glorious the sun in mid career;
Glorious the assembled fires appear;
Glorious the comet's train:
Glorious the trumpet and alarm;
Glorious the Almighty's stretched-out arm;
Glorious the enraptured main:

85 Glorious the northern lights astream;
Glorious the song, when God's the theme;
Glorious the thunder's roar:
Glorious hosannah from the den;
Glorious the catholic amen;
Glorious the martyr's gore:

86 Glorious--more glorious is the crown
Of Him that brought salvation down,
By meekness called thy Son;
Thou that stupendous truth believed,
And now the matchless deed's achieved,
Determined, Dared, and Done.


The history of this 'marvellous boy' is familiar to all the readers of
English poetry, and requires only a cursory treatment here. Thomas
Chatterton was born in Bristol, November 20, 1752. His father, a teacher
in the free-school there, had died before his birth, and he was sent to
be educated at a charity-school. He first learned to read from a black-
letter Bible. At the age of fourteen, he was put apprentice to an
attorney; a situation which, however uncongenial, left him ample leisure
for pursuing his private studies. In an unlucky hour, some evil genius
seemed to have whispered to this extra-ordinary youth,--'Do not find or
force, but forge thy way to renown; the other paths to the summit of the
hill are worn and common-place; try a new and dangerous course, the
rather as I forewarn thee that thy time is short.' When, accordingly,
the new bridge at Bristol was finished in October 1768, Chatterton sent
to a newspaper a fictitious account of the opening of the old bridge,
alleging in a note that he had found the principal part of the
description in an ancient MS. And having thus fairly begun to work the
mint of forgery, it was amazing what a number of false coins he threw
off, and with what perfect ease and mastery! Ancient poems, pretending
to have been written four hundred and fifty years before; fragments of
sermons on the Holy Spirit, dated from the fifteenth century; accounts
of all the churches of Bristol as they had appeared three hundred years
before; with drawings and descriptions of the castle--most of them
professing to be drawn from the writings of 'ane gode prieste, Thomas
Rowley'--issued in thick succession from this wonderful, and, to use
the Shakspearean word in a twofold sense, 'forgetive' brain. He next
ventured to send to Horace Walpole, who was employed on a History of
British Painters, an account of eminent 'Carvellers and Peyneters,' who,
according to him, once flourished in Bristol. These labours he plied in
secret, and with the utmost enthusiasm. He used to write by the light of
the moon, deeming that there was a special inspiration in the rays of
that planet, and reminding one of poor Nat Lee inditing his insane
tragedies in his asylum under the same weird lustre. On Sabbaths he was
wont to stroll away into the country around Bristol, which is very
beautiful, and to draw sketches of those objects which impressed his
imagination. He often lay down on the meadows near St Mary's Redcliffe
Church, admiring the ancient edifice; and some years ago we saw a
chamber near the summit of that edifice where he used to sit and write,
his 'eye in a fine frenzy rolling,' and where we could imagine him, when
a moonless night fell, composing his wild Runic lays by the light of a
candle burning in a human skull. It was actually in one of the rooms of
this church that some ancient chests had been deposited, including one
called the 'Coffre of Mr Canynge,' an eminent merchant in Bristol, who
had rebuilt the church in the reign of Edward IV. This coffer had been
broken up by public authority in 1727, and some valuable deeds had been
taken out. Besides these, they contained various MSS., some of which
Chatterton's father, whose uncle was sexton of the church, had carried
off and used as covers to the copy-books of his scholars. This furnished
a hint to Chatterton's inventive genius. He gave out that among these
parchments he had found many productions of Mr Canynge's, and of the
aforesaid Thomas Rowley's, a priest of the fifteenth century, and a
friend of Canynge's. Chatterton had become a contributor to a periodical
of the day called _The Town and Country Magazine_, and to it from time
to time he sent these poems. A keen controversy arose as to their
genuineness. Horace Walpole shewed some of them, which Chatterton had
sent him, to Gray and Mason, who were deemed, justly, first-rate
authorities on antiquarian matters, and who at once pronounced them
forgeries. It is deeply to be regretted that these men, perceiving, as
they must have done, the great merit of these productions, had not made
more particular inquiries about them, and tried to help and save the
poet. Walpole, to say the least of it, treated him coldly, telling him,
when he had discovered the forgery, to attend to his own business, and
keeping some of his MSS. in his hands, till an indignant letter from the
author compelled him to restore them.

Chatterton now determined to go to London. His three years' apprenticeship
had expired, and there was in Bristol no further field for his aspiring
genius. He found instant employment among the booksellers, and procured
an introduction to Beckford, the patriot mayor, who tried to get him
engaged upon the Opposition side in politics. Our capricious and
unprincipled poet, however, declared that he was a poor author that could
not write on both sides; and although his leanings were to the popular
party, yet on the death of Beckford he addressed a letter to Lord North
in support of his administration. He had projected some large works, such
as a History of England and a History of London, and wrote flaming
letters to his mother and sisters about his prospects, enclosing them at
the same time small remittances of money. But his bright hopes were soon
overcast. Instead of a prominent political character, he found himself a
mere bookseller's hack. To this his poverty no more than his will would
consent, for though that was great it was equalled by his pride. His life
in the country had been regular, although his religious principles were
loose; but in town, misery drove him to intemperance, and intemperance,
in its reaction, to remorse and a desperate tampering with the thought,

'There is one remedy for all.'

At last, after a vain attempt to obtain an appointment as a surgeon's
mate to Africa, he made up his mind to suicide. A guinea had been sent
him by a gentleman, which he declined. Mrs Angel, his landlady, knowing
him to be in want, the day before his death offered him his dinner, but
this also he spurned; and, on the 25th of August 1770, having first
destroyed all his papers, he swallowed arsenic, and was found dead in
his bed.

He was buried in a shell in the burial-place of Shoe-Lane Workhouse.
He was aged seventeen years nine months and a few days. Alas for

'The sleepless soul that perished in his pride!'

Chatterton, had he lived, would, perhaps, have become a powerful poet,
or a powerful character of some kind. But we must now view him chiefly
as a prodigy. Some have treated his power as unnatural--resembling a
huge hydrocephalic head, the magnitude of which implies disease,
ultimate weakness, and early death. Others maintain that, apart from the
extraordinary elements that undoubtedly characterised Chatterton, and
constituted him a premature and prodigious birth intellectually, there
was also in parts of his poems evidence of a healthy vigour which only
needed favourable circumstances to develop into transcendent excellence.
Hazlitt, holding with the one of these opinions, cries, 'If Chatterton
had had a great work to do by living, he would have lived!' Others
retort on the critic, 'On the same principle, why did Keats, whom you
rate so high, perish so early?' The question altogether is nugatory,
seeing it can never be settled. Suffice it that these songs and rhymes
of Chatterton have great beauties, apart from the age and position of
their author. There may at times be madness, but there is method in it.
The flight of the rhapsody is ever upheld by the strength of the wing,
and while the reading discovered is enormous for a boy, the depth of
feeling exhibited is equally extraordinary; and the clear, firm judgment
which did not characterise his conduct, forms the root and the trunk of
much of his poetry. It was said of his eyes that it seemed as if fire
rolled under them; and it rolls still, and shall ever roll, below many
of his verses.


1 The feathered songster, chanticleer,
Hath wound his bugle-horn,
And told the early villager
The coming of the morn.

2 King Edward saw the ruddy streaks
Of light eclipse the gray,
And heard the raven's croaking throat
Proclaim the fated day.

3 'Thou'rt right,' quoth he, 'for by the God
That sits enthroned on high!
Charles Bawdin and his fellows twain
To-day shall surely die.'

4 Then with a jug of nappy ale
His knights did on him wait;
'Go tell the traitor that to-day
He leaves this mortal state.'

5 Sir Canterlone then bended low,
With heart brimful of woe;
He journeyed to the castle-gate,
And to Sir Charles did go.

6 But when he came, his children twain,
And eke his loving wife,
With briny tears did wet the floor,
For good Sir Charles' life.

7 'O good Sir Charles!' said Canterlone,
'Bad tidings I do bring.'
'Speak boldly, man,' said brave Sir Charles;
'What says the traitor king?'

8 'I grieve to tell; before that sun
Doth from the heaven fly,
He hath upon his honour sworn,
That thou shalt surely die.'

9 'We all must die,' quoth brave Sir Charles;
'Of that I'm not afeard;
What boots to live a little space?
Thank Jesus, I'm prepared:

10 'But tell thy king, for mine he's not,
I'd sooner die to-day
Than live his slave, as many are,
Though I should live for aye.'

11 Then Canterlone he did go out,
To tell the mayor straight
To get all things in readiness
For good Sir Charles' fate.

12 Then Master Canynge sought the king,
And fell down on his knee;
'I'm come,' quoth he, 'unto your Grace
To move your clemency.'

13 'Then,' quoth the king, 'your tale speak out;
You have been much our friend;
Whatever your request may be,
We will to it attend.'

14 'My noble liege! all my request
Is for a noble knight,
Who, though perhaps he has done wrong,
He thought it still was right:

15 'He has a spouse and children twain--
All ruined are for aye,
If that you are resolved to let
Charles Bawdin die to-day.'

16 'Speak not of such a traitor vile,'
The king in fury said;
'Before the evening star doth shine,
Bawdin shall lose his head:

17 'Justice does loudly for him call,
And he shall have his meed;
Speak, Master Canynge! what thing else
At present do you need?'

18 'My noble liege!' good Canynge said,
'Leave justice to our God,
And lay the iron rule aside;--
Be thine the olive rod.

19 'Was God to search our hearts and reins,
The best were sinners great;
Christ's vicar only knows no sin,
In all this mortal state.

20 'Let mercy rule thine infant reign;
'Twill fix thy crown full sure;
From race to race thy family
All sovereigns shall endure:

21 'But if with blood and slaughter thou
Begin thy infant reign,
Thy crown upon thy children's brow
Will never long remain.'

22 'Canynge, away! this traitor vile
Has scorned my power and me;
How canst thou then for such a man
Entreat my clemency?'

23 'My noble liege! the truly brave
Will valorous actions prize;
Respect a brave and noble mind,
Although in enemies.'

24 'Canynge, away! By God in heaven,
That did me being give,
I will not taste a bit of bread
While this Sir Charles doth live.

25 'By Mary, and all saints in heaven,
This sun shall be his last.'--
Then Canynge dropped a briny tear,
And from the presence passed.

26 With heart brimful of gnawing grief,
He to Sir Charles did go,
And sat him down upon a stool,
And tears began to flow.

27 'We all must die,' quoth brave Sir Charles;
'What boots it how or when?
Death is the sure, the certain fate
Of all us mortal men.

28 'Say why, my friend, thy honest soul
Runs over at thine eye?
Is it for my most welcome doom
That thou dost child-like cry?'

29 Quoth godly Canynge, 'I do weep,
That thou so soon must die,
And leave thy sons and helpless wife;
'Tis this that wets mine eye.'

30 'Then dry the tears that out thine eye
From godly fountains spring;
Death I despise, and all the power
Of Edward, traitor king.

31 'When through the tyrant's welcome means
I shall resign my life,
The God I serve will soon provide
For both my sons and wife.

32 'Before I saw the lightsome sun,
This was appointed me;--
Shall mortal man repine or grudge
What God ordains to be?

33 'How oft in battle have I stood,
When thousands died around;
When smoking streams of crimson blood
Imbrued the fattened ground?

34 'How did I know that every dart,
That cut the airy way,
Might not find passage to my heart,
And close mine eyes for aye?

35 'And shall I now from fear of death
Look wan and be dismayed?
No! from my heart fly childish fear,
Be all the man displayed.

36 'Ah, godlike Henry! God forefend
And guard thee and thy son,
If 'tis his will; but if 'tis not,
Why, then his will be done.

37 'My honest friend, my fault has been
To serve God and my prince;
And that I no timeserver am,
My death will soon convince.

38 'In London city was I born,
Of parents of great note;
My father did a noble arms
Emblazon on his coat:

39 'I make no doubt that he is gone
'Where soon I hope to go;
Where we for ever shall be blest,
From out the reach of woe.

40 'He taught me justice and the laws
With pity to unite;
And likewise taught me how to know
The wrong cause from the right:

41 'He taught me with a prudent hand
To feed the hungry poor;
Nor let my servants drive away
The hungry from my door:

42 'And none can say but all my life
I have his counsel kept,
And summed the actions of each day
Each night before I slept.

43 'I have a spouse; go ask of her
If I denied her bed;
I have a king, and none can lay
Black treason on my head.

44 'In Lent, and on the holy eve,
From flesh I did refrain;
Why should I then appear dismayed
To leave this world of pain?

45 'No, hapless Henry! I rejoice
I shall not see thy death;
Most willingly in thy just cause
Do I resign my breath.

46 'O fickle people, ruined land!
Thou wilt know peace no moe;
While Richard's sons exalt themselves,
Thy brooks with blood will flow.

47 'Say, were ye tired of godly peace,
And godly Henry's reign,
That you did change your easy days
For those of blood and pain?

48 'What though I on a sledge be drawn,
And mangled by a hind?
I do defy the traitor's power,--
He cannot harm my mind!

49 'What though uphoisted on a pole,
My limbs shall rot in air,
And no rich monument of brass
Charles Bawdin's name shall bear?

50 'Yet in the holy book above,
Which time can't eat away,
There, with the servants of the Lord,
My name shall live for aye.

51 'Then welcome death! for life eterne
I leave this mortal life:
Farewell, vain world! and all that's dear,
My sons and loving wife!

52 'Now death as welcome to me comes
As e'er the month of May;
Nor would I even wish to live,
With my dear wife to stay.'

53 Quoth Canynge, ''Tis a goodly thing
To be prepared to die;
And from this world of pain and grief
To God in heaven to fly.'

54 And now the bell began to toll,
And clarions to sound;
Sir Charles he heard the horses' feet
A-prancing on the ground:

55 And just before the officers
His loving wife came in,
Weeping unfeigned tears of woe,
With loud and dismal din.

56 'Sweet Florence! now, I pray, forbear;
In quiet let me die;
Pray God that every Christian soul
May look on death as I.

57 'Sweet Florence! why those briny tears?
They wash my soul away,
And almost make me wish for life,
With thee, sweet dame, to stay.

58 ''Tis but a journey I shall go
Unto the land of bliss;
Now, as a proof of husband's love,
Receive this holy kiss.'

59 Then Florence, faltering in her say,
Trembling these words she spoke,--
'Ah, cruel Edward! bloody king!
My heart is well-nigh broke.

60 'Ah, sweet Sir Charles! why wilt thou go
Without thy loving wife?
The cruel axe that cuts thy neck
Shall also end my life.'

61 And now the officers came in
To bring Sir Charles away,
Who turned to his loving wife,
And thus to her did say:

62 'I go to life, and not to death;
Trust thou in God above,
And teach thy sons to fear the Lord,
And in their hearts him love:

63 'Teach them to run the noble race
That I their father run;
Florence! should death thee take--adieu!--
Ye officers, lead on.'

64 Then Florence raved as any mad,
And did her tresses tear;--
'Oh, stay, my husband, lord, and life!'--
Sir Charles then dropped a tear;--

65 Till tired out with raving loud,
She fell upon the floor:
Sir Charles exerted all his might,
And marched from out the door.

66 Upon a sledge he mounted then,
With looks full brave and sweet;
Looks that did show no more concern
Than any in the street.

67 Before him went the council-men,
In scarlet robes and gold,
And tassels spangling in the sun,
Much glorious to behold:

68 The friars of St Augustine next
Appeared to the sight,
All clad in homely russet weeds
Of godly monkish plight:

69 In different parts a godly psalm
Most sweetly they did chaunt;
Behind their backs six minstrels came,
Who tuned the strong bataunt.

70 Then five-and-twenty archers came;
Each one the bow did bend,
From rescue of King Henry's friends
Sir Charles for to defend.

71 Bold as a lion came Sir Charles,
Drawn on a cloth-laid sled
By two black steeds, in trappings white,
With plumes upon their head.

72 Behind him five-and-twenty more
Of archers strong and stout,
With bended bow each one in hand,
Marched in goodly rout:

73 Saint James's friars marched next,
Each one his part did chaunt;
Behind their backs six minstrels came
Who tuned the strong bataunt:

74 Then came the mayor and aldermen,
In cloth of scarlet decked;
And their attending men, each one
Like eastern princes tricked:

75 And after them a multitude
Of citizens did throng;
The windows were all full of heads,
As he did pass along.

76 And when he came to the high cross,
Sir Charles did turn and say,--
'O Thou that savest man from sin,
Wash my soul clean this day!'

77 At the great minster window sat
The king in mickle state,
To see Charles Bawdin go along
To his most welcome fate.

78 Soon as the sledge drew nigh enough
That Edward he might hear,
The brave Sir Charles he did stand up,
And thus his words declare:

79 'Thou seest me, Edward! traitor vile!
Exposed to infamy;
But be assured, disloyal man!
I'm greater now than thee.

80 'By foul proceedings, murder, blood,
Thou wearest now a crown;
And hast appointed me to die,
By power not thine own.

81 'Thou thinkest I shall die to-day;
I have been dead till now,
And soon shall live to wear a crown
For ever on my brow:

82 'Whilst thou, perhaps, for some few years
Shall rule this fickle land,
To let them know how wide the rule
'Twixt king and tyrant hand:

83 'Thy power unjust, thou traitor slave!
Shall fall on thy own head'----
From out of hearing of the king
Departed then the sled.

84 King Edward's soul rushed to his face,
He turned his head away,
And to his brother Gloucester
He thus did speak and say:

85 'To him that so much dreaded death
No ghastly terrors bring,
Behold the man! he spake the truth,
He's greater than a king!'

86 'So let him die!' Duke Richard said;
'And may each of our foes
Bend down their necks to bloody axe,
And feed the carrion crows!'

87 And now the horses gently drew
Sir Charles up the high hill;
The axe did glisten in the sun,
His precious blood to spill.

88 Sir Charles did up the scaffold go,
As up a gilded car
Of victory, by valorous chiefs,
Gained in the bloody war:

89 And to the people he did say,--
'Behold, you see me die,
For serving loyally my king,
My king most rightfully.

90 'As long as Edward rules this land,
No quiet you will know;
Your sons and husbands shall be slain,
And brooks with blood shall flow.

91 'You leave your good and lawful king
When in adversity;
Like me unto the true cause stick,
And for the true cause die.'

92 Then he with priests, upon his knees,
A prayer to God did make,
Beseeching him unto himself
His parting soul to take.

93 Then, kneeling down, he laid his head
Most seemly on the block;
Which from his body fair at once
The able headsman stroke:

94 And out the blood began to flow,
And round the scaffold twine;
And tears, enough to wash't away,
Did flow from each man's eyne.

95 The bloody axe his body fair
Into four quarters cut;
And every part, likewise his head,
Upon a pole was put.

96 One part did rot on Kinwulph-hill,
One on the minster-tower,
And one from off the castle-gate
The crowen did devour:

97 The other on Saint Paul's good gate,
A dreary spectacle;
His head was placed on the high cross,
In high street most nobile.

98 Thus was the end of Bawdin's fate;--
God prosper long our king,
And grant he may, with Bawdin's soul,
In heaven God's mercy sing!


1 O! sing unto my roundelay,
O! drop the briny tear with me;
Dance no more at holy-day,
Like a running river be:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

2 Black his cryne[1] as the winter night,
White his rode[2] as the summer snow,
Red his face as the morning light,
Cold he lies in the grave below:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

3 Sweet his tongue as the throstle's note,
Quick in dance as thought can be,
Deft his tabour, cudgel stout;
O! he lies by the willow-tree:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

4 Hark! the raven flaps his wing,
In the briared dell below;
Hark! the death-owl loud doth sing
To the night-mares as they go:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

5 See! the white moon shines on high;
Whiter is my true love's shroud,
Whiter than the morning sky,
Whiter than the evening cloud:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

6 Here upon my true love's grave,
Shall the barren flowers be laid,
Not one holy saint to save
All the celness of a maid:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

7 With my hands I'll dent[3] the briars
Round his holy corse to gree;[4]
Ouphant[5] fairy, light your fires--
Here my body still shall be:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

8 Come, with acorn-cup and thorn,
Drain my heartė's-blood away;
Life and all its goods I scorn,
Dance by night, or feast by day:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.

9 Water-witches, crowned with reytes,[6]
Bear me to your lethal tide.
'I die! I come! my true love waits!'
Thus the damsel spake, and died.


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