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'TIS not for thee, O man! to murmur at the will of the Almighty. When the thunders roar, the lightnings shine on the rising waves, and the black clouds sit on the brow of the lofty hill; who then protects the flying deer, swift as a sable cloud, tost by the whistling winds, leaping over the rolling floods, to gain the hoary wood: whilst the lightnings shine on his chest, and the wind rides over his horns? When the wolf roars; terrible as the voice of the Severn; moving majestic as the nodding forests on the brow of Michel-stow; who then commands the sheep to follow the swain, as the beams of light attend upon the morning? Know, O man! That God suffers not the least member of his work to perish, without answering the purpose of their creation. The evils of life, with some, are blessings: and the plant of death healeth the wound of the sword. Doth the sea of trouble and affliction overwhelm thy soul, look unto the Lord, thou shalt stand[Page 6] firm in the days of temptation, as the lofty hill of Kinwulf; in vain shall the waves beat against thee; thy rock shall stand.

Comely as the white rocks; bright as the star of the evening; tall as the oak upon the brow of the mountain; soft as the showers of dew, that fall upon the flowers of the field, Ethelgar arose, the glory of* Exeter. Exanceastre: noble were his ancestors, as the palace of the great Kenric; his soul, with the lark, every morning ascended the skies; and sported in the clouds: when stealing down the steep mountain, wrapt in a shower of spangling dew, evening came creeping to the plain, closing the flowers of the day, shaking her pearly showers upon the rustling trees; then was his voice heard in the grove, as the voice of the nightingale upon the hawthorn spray; he sung the works of the Lord; the hollow rocks joined in his devotions; the stars danced to his song; the rolling years, in various mantles drest, confest him man. He saw Egwina of the vale; his soul was astonished, as the Britons who fled before the sword of Kenric; she was tall as the towering elm; stately as a black cloud bursting into thunder; fair as the wrought bowels of the earth; gentle and[Page 7] sweet as the morning breeze; beauteous as the sun; blushing like the vines of the west; her soul as fair as the azure curtain of heaven. She saw Ethelgar; her soft soul melted as the flying snow before the sun. The shrine of St. Cuthbert united them. The minutes fled on the golden wings of bliss. Nine horned moons had decked the sky, when Aelgar saw the light; he was like a young plant upon the mountain's side, or the sun hid in a cloud; he felt the strength of his fire; and, swift as the lightnings of Heaven, pursued the wild boar of the wood. The morn awoke the sun; who, stepping from the mountain's brow, shook his ruddy locks upon the shining dew; Aelgar arose from sleep; he seized his sword and spear, and issued to the chace. As waters swiftly falling down a craggy rock, so raged young Aelgar thro' the wood; the wild boar bit his spear, and the fox died at his feet. From the thicket a wolf arose, his eyes flaming like two stars; he roared like the voice of the tempest; hunger made him furious, and and he fled like a falling meteor to the war. Like a thunderbolt tearing the black rock, Aelgar darted his spear through his heart. The wolf raged like the voice of many waters, and seizing Aelgar by by the throat, he sought the regions of the blessed. The wolf died upon his body. Ethelgar and[Page 8] Egwina wept. They wept like the rains of the spring; sorrow sat upon them as the black clouds upon the mountains of death: but the power of God settled their hearts.

The golden sun arose to the highest of his power; the apple perfumed the gale; and the juicy grape delighted the eye. Ethelgar and Egwina bent their way to the mountain's side, like two stars that move through the sky. The flowers grew beneath their feet; the trees spread out their leaves; the sun played upon the rolling brook; the winds gently passed along. Dark, pitchy clouds veiled the face of the sun; the winds roared like the noise of a battle; the swift hail descended to the ground; the lightnings broke from the sable clouds, and gilded the dark brown corners of the sky; the thunder shook the lofty mountains; the tall towers nodded to their foundations; the bending oaks divided the whistling wind; the broken flowers fled in confusion round the mountain's side. Ethelgar and Egwina sought the sacred shade, the bleak winds roared over their heads, and the waters ran over their feet. Swift from the dark cloud the lightning came; the skies blushed at the sight. Egwina stood on the brow of the lofty hill, like an oak in the spring; the lightnings[Page 9] danced about her garments, and the blasting flame blackened her face: the shades of death swam before her eyes; and she fell breathless down the black steep rock: the sea received her body, and she rolled down with the roaring water.

Ethelgar stood terrible as the mountain of Maindip; the waves of despair harrowed up his soul, as the roaring Severn plows the sable sand; wild as the evening wolf, his eyes shone like the red vapors in the valley of the dead: horror sat upon his brow; like a bright star shooting through the sky, he plunged from the lofty brow of the hill, like a tall oak breaking from the roaring wind. Saint Cuthbert appeared in the air; the black clouds fled from the sky; the sun gilded the spangling meadows; the lofty pine stood still; the violets of the vale gently moved to the soft voice of the wind; the sun shone on the bubbling brook. The saint, arrayed in glory, caught the falling mortal; as the soft dew of the morning hangs upon the lofty elm, he bore him to the sandy beech, whilst the sea roared beneath his feet. Ethelgar opened his eyes, like the grey orbs of the morning, folding up the black mantles of the night Know, O man! said the member of the blessed, to submit to the will of[Page 10] God; he is terrible as the face of the earth, when the waters sunk to their habitations; gentle as the sacred covering of the oak; secret as the bottom of the great deep; just as the rays of the morning. Learn that thou art a man, nor repine at the stroke of the Almighty, for God is as just as he is great. The holy vision disappeared as the atoms fly before the sun. Ethelgar arose, and bent his way to the college of Kenewalein; there he flourishes as a hoary oak in the wood of Arden.

D. B.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): ETHELGAR, A SAXON POEM.
Genres: prose poem; imitation; translation; paraphrase

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Source edition

Chatterton, Thomas, 1752-1770. Miscellanies in Prose and Verse; by Thomas Chatterton, the supposed author of the poems published under the names of Rowley, Canning, &c. London: printed for Fielding and Walker, Pater-Noster Row, MDCCLXXVIII., 1778, pp. 5-10. xxxii,245,[3]p.,plates; 8⁰. (ESTC T39457; OTA K039720.000) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [Harding C 696 (1)].)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Thomas Chatterton