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1 BEGIN, my muse, the imitative lay,
2 Aonian doxies sound the thrumming string;
3 Attempt no number of the plaintive Gay,
4 Let me like midnight cats, or Collins sing.
5 If in the trammels of the doleful line,
6 The bounding hail, or drilling rain descend;
7 Come, brooding Melancholy, pow'r divine,
8 And ev'ry unform'd mass of words amend.
9 Now the rough goat withdraws his curling horns,
10 And the cold wat'rer twirls his circling mop:
11 Swift sudden anguish darts thro' alt'ring corns,
12 And the spruce mercer trembles in his shop.
13 Now infant authors, madd'ning for renown,
14 Extend the plume, and hum about the stage,
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15 Procure a benefit, amuse the town,
16 And proudly glitter in a title page.
17 Now, wrapt in ninefold fur, his squeamish grace
18 Defies the fury of the howling storm;
19 And whilst the tempest whistles round his face,
20 Exults to find his mantled carcase warm.
21 Now rumbling coaches furious drive along,
22 Full of the majesty of city dames,
23 Whose jewels sparkling in the gaudy throng,
24 Raise strange emotions and invidious flames.
25 Now Merit, happy in the calm of place,
26 To mortals as a Highlander appears,
27 And conscious of the excellence of lace,
28 With spreading frogs and gleaming spangles glares:
29 Whilst Envy, on a tripod seated nigh,
30 In form a shoe-boy, daubs the valu'd fruit,
31 And darting lightnings from his vengeful eye,
32 Raves about Wilkes, and politics, and Bute,
33 Now Barry, taller than a grenadier,
34 Dwindles into a strippling of eighteen;
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35 Or sabled in Othello breaks the ear,
36 Exerts his voice, and totters to the scene.
37 Now Foote, a looking-glass for all mankind,
38 Applies his wax to personal defects;
39 But leaves untouch'd the image of the mind,
40 His art no mental quality reflects.
41 Now Drury's potent king extorts applause,
42 And pit, box, gallery, echo, "How divine!"
43 Whilst vers'd in all the drama's mystic laws,
44 His graceful action saves the wooden line.
45 Now But what further can the muses sing?
46 Now dropping particles of water fall;
47 Now vapours riding on the north wind's wing,
48 With transitory darkness shadow all.
49 Alas! How joyless the descriptive theme,
50 When sorrow on the writer's quiet preys;
51 And like a mouse in Cheshire cheese supreme,
52 Devours the substance of the less'ning bayes.
53 Come, February, lend thy darkest sky.
54 There teach the winter'd muse with clouds to soar:
55 Come, February, lift the number high;
56 Let the sharp strain like wind thro' alleys roar.
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57 Ye channels, wand'ring thro' the spacious street,
58 In hollow murmurs roll the dirt along,
59 With inundations wet the sabled feet,
60 Whilst gouts responsive, join th'elegiac song.
61 Ye damsels fair, whose silver voices shrill
62 Sound thro' meand'ring folds of Echo's horn;
63 Let the sweet cry of liberty be still,
64 No more let smoking cakes awake the morn.
65 O, Winter! Put away thy snowy pride;
66 O, Spring! Neglect the cowslip and the bell;
67 O, Summer! Throw thy pears and plums aside;
68 O, Autumn! Bid the grape with poison swell.
69 The pension'd muse of Johnson is no more!
70 Drown'd in a butt of wine his genius lies:
71 Earth! Ocean! Heav'n! The wond'rous loss deplore,
72 The dregs of Nature with her glory dies.
73 What iron Stoic can suppress the tear;
74 What sour reviewer read with vacant eye!
75 What bard but decks his literary bier!
76 Alas! I cannot sing I howl I cry
D. B.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): FEBRUARY, AN ELEGY.
Genres: heroic quatrain; elegy

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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. 72-75. xxxii,245,[3]p.,plates; 8⁰. (ESTC T39457; OTA K039720.000)

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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