Thomas Chatterton Poems

Poems » thomas chatterton

Thomas Chatterton
Thomas Chatterton (November 20, 1752 August 24, 1770) was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. Committing suicide by arsenic rather than die of starvation at the young age of 17, he served as an icon of unacknowledged genius for the Romantics. Chatterton was born at Bristol where the office of sexton of St. Mary Redcliffe, a parish church in England, had been held for nearly two centuries by the Chatterton family; throughout the brief life of the poet it was held by his uncle, Richard Phillips. The poet's father, Thomas Chatterton, was a musical genius, a poet, a numismatist, and a dabbler in the occult. He had been a sub-chanter at Bristol Cathedral and master of the Pyle Street free school, near Redcliffe church. The house in Bristol where Chatterton was born and first schooled.The boy's education, however, was arranged by his mother, who was widowed four months before his birth. She established a girls' school, took in sewing and ornamental needlework, and so brought up her two children, a girl and a boy, until Thomas attained his eighth year, when he was admitted to Colston's Charity. The Bristol blue-coat school, in which the curriculum was limited to reading, writing, arithmetic and the catechism, contributed little. The hereditary race of sextons had come to regard the church of St Mary Redcliffe as their own peculiar domain; and, under the guidance of his uncle, it was the child's favourite haunt. The knights, ecclesiastics and civic dignitaries on its altar tombs, became familiar to him; and he learned to spell his way through the inscriptions graven on their monuments. Then he found a fresh interest in quaint oaken chests in the muniment room over the porch on the north side of the nave, where parchment deeds, old as the Wars of the Roses, lay forgotten. Thomas learned his first letters from the illuminated capitals of an old musical folio, and learned to read out of a black-letter Bible. He did not like, his sister said, reading out of small books. Wayward from his earliest years, and uninterested in the games of other children, he was thought to be educationally backward. His sister relates that on being asked what device he would like painted on a bowl that was to be his, he replied, "Paint me an angel, with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world." From his earliest years he was liable to fits of abstraction, sitting for hours in what seemed like a trance, or crying for no reason. His lonely circumstances helped foster his natural reserve, and to create the love of mystery which exercised such an influence on the development of his genius. When the strange child was six, his mother began to recognize his capacity; at eight he was so eager for books that he would read and write all day long if undisturbed; by the age of eleven, he had become a contributor to Felix Farley's Bristol Journal. His confirmation inspired him to write some religious poems published in this paper. In 1763 a beautiful cross of curious workmanship, which had adorned the churchyard of St Mary Redcliffe for upwards of three centuries, was destroyed by a churchwarden. The spirit of veneration was strong in Chatterton, and he sent to the local journal on January 7, 1764 a clever satire on the parish Vandal. He also liked to lock himself in a little attic which he had appropriated as his study; and there, with books, cherished parchments, saved from the loot of the muniment room of St Mary Redcliffe, and drawing materials, the child lived in thought with his 15th century heroes and heroines.

ælla, a tragical interlude


The boddynge flourettes bloshes atte the ... [read poem]

Page 1 of 1