[Page 76]

[ed.] Originally published in London in 1770 (28 stanzas), shortly after Beckford's death on 21 June, attributed to Chatterton. 1778 reprints the extract (stanzas 1-12), which appeared in London Magazine xxxix (July 1770), 379. (AH)

1 WEEP on, ye Britons give your gen'ral tear;
2 But hence, ye venal hence, each titled slave;
3 An honest pang should wait on Beckford's bier,
4 And patriot anguish mark the patriot's grave.
5 When like the Roman to his field retir'd,
6 'Twas you, (surrounded by unnumber'd foes)
7 Who call'd him forth, his services requir'd,
8 And took from age the blessing of repose.
9 With soul impell'd by virtue's sacred flame,
10 To stem the torrent of corruption's tide,
11 He came, heav'n fraught with liberty! He came
12 And nobly in his coutry's service died.
13 In the last awful, the departing hour,
14 When life's poor lamp more faint, and fainter grew;
15 As mem'ry feebly exercis'd her power,
16 He only felt for liberty and you.
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17 He view'd death's arrow with a christian eye,
18 With firmness only to a christian known;
19 And nobly gave your miseries that sigh
20 With which he never gratified his own.
21 Thou, breathing sculpture, celebrate his fame,
22 And give his laurel everlasting bloom;
23 Receiv'd his worth while gratitude has name,
24 And teach succeeding ages from his tomb.
25 The sword of justice cautiously he sway'd,
26 His hand for ever held the balance right;
27 Each venial fault with pity he survey'd,
28 But murder found no mercy in his sight.
29 He knew when flatterers besiege a throne,
30 Truth seldom reaches to a monarch's ear;
31 Knew, if oppress'd a loyal people groan,
32 'Tis not the courtier's interest he should hear,
33 Hence, honest to his prince, his manly tongue,
34 The public wrong and loyalty convey'd,
35 While titled tremblers, ev'ry nerve unstrung,
36 Look'd all around, confounded and dismay'd.
37 Look'd all around, astonish'd to behold,
38 (Train'd up to flatt'ry from their early youth)
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39 An artless, fearless citizen, unfold
40 To royal ears, a mortifying truth.
41 Titles to him no pleasure could impart,
42 No bribes his rigid virtue could controul;
43 The star could never gain upon his heart,
44 Nor turn the tide of honour in his soul.
45 For this his name our hist'ry shall adorn,
46 Shall soar on Fame's wide pinions all sublime;
47 'Till heaven's own bright, and never dying morn
48 Absorbs our little particle of time.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): ELEGY, ON W. BECKFORD ESQ.
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. 76-78. 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