Two Poems by Thomas Chatterton


Henry Wallis, Chatterton, 1856

Elegy (Joyless I seek…)

Joyless I seek the solitary shade,
Where dusky Contemplation veils the scene,
The dark retreat, of leafless branches made,
Where sickening sorrow wets the yellowed green.

The darksome ruins of some sacred cell,
Where erst the sons of Superstition trod,
Tottering upon the mossy meadow, tell
We better know, but less adore, our God.

Now, as I mournful tread the gloomy nave,
Through the wide window, once with mysteries dight,
The distant forest, and the darkened wave
Of the swoln Avon ravishes my sight.

But see the thickening veil of evening’s drawn,
The azure changes to a sabled blue;
The rapturing prospects fly the lessening lawn,
And Nature seems to mourn the dying view.

Self-frighted Fear creeps silent through the gloom,
Starts at the rustling leaf, and rolls his eyes;
Aghast with horror, when he views the tomb,
With every torment of a hell, he flies.

The bubbling brooks in plaintive murmurs roll,
The bird of omen, with incessant scream,
To melancholy thoughts awakes the soul,
And lulls the mind to contemplation’s dream.

A dreary stillness broods o’er all the vale,
The clouded moon emits a feeble glare;
Joyless I seek the darkling hill and dale,
Where’er I wander, sorrow still is there.


Elegy (Haste, haste…)

Haste, haste, ye solemn messengers of night,
Spread the black mantle on the shrinking plain;
But, ah! my torments still survive the light,
The changing seasons alter not my pain.
Ye variegated children of the spring;
Ye blossoms blushing with the pearly dew;
Ye birds that sweetly in the hawthorn sing;
Ye flow’ry meadows, lawns of verdant hue,
Faint are your colours; harsh your love-notes thrill,
To me no pleasure Nature now can yield:
Alike the barren rock and woody hill,
The dark-brown blasted heath, and fruitful field.
Ye spouting cataracts, ye silver streams;
Ye spacious rivers, whom the willow shrowds;
Ascend the bright-crown’d sun’s far-shining beams,
To aid the mournful tear-distilling clouds.
Ye noxious vapours, fall upon my head;
Ye writhing adders, round my feet entwine;
Ye toads, your venom in my foot-path spread;
Ye blasting meteors, upon me shine.
Ye circling seasons, intercept the year;
Forbid the beauties of the spring to rise;
Let not the life-preserving grain appear;
Let howling tempests harrow up the skies.
Ye cloud-girt, moss-grown turrets, look no more
Into the palace of the god of day:
Ye loud tempestuous billows, cease to roar,
In plaintive numbers, thro’ the valleys stray.
Ye verdant-vested trees, forget to grow,
Cast off the yellow foliage of your pride:
Ye softly tinkling riv’lets, cease to flow,
Or swell’d with certain death and poison, glide.
Ye solemn warblers of the gloomy night,
That rest in lightning-blasted oaks the day,
Thro’ the black mantles take your slow-pac’d flight,
Rending the silent wood with shrieking lay.
Ye snow-crown’d mountains, lost to mortal eyes,
Down to the valleys bend your hoary head,
Ye livid comets, fire the peopled skies —
For — lady Betty’s tabby cat is dead.


About the Author

Thomas Chatterton was an English poet.


“Elegy (Joyless I seek…)” was written after Thomas Gray.

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