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The lively and vigorous imagination of Chatterton contributed, doubtless, to animate him with that spirit of enterprise, which led him to form so many impracticable and visionary schemes for the acquisition of fame and fortune. His ambition was evident from his earliest youth; and perhaps the inequality of his spirits might, in a great measure, depend upon the fairness of his views, or the dissipation of his projects. His melancholy was extreme on some occasions, and at those times he constantly argued in favour of suicide. Mr. Catcott left him one evening totally depressed; but he returned the next morning with unusual spirits. He said, "he had sprung a mine," and produced a parchment, containing the Parliament of Sprytes, a poem.* His natural melancholy was not corrected by the irreligious principles, which he had so unfortunately imbibed. To these we are certainly to attribute his premature death; and, if he can be proved guilty of the licentiousness which is by some laid to his charge, it is reasonable to believe that a system, which exonerates the mind from the apprehension of future punishment, would not contribute much to restrain the criminal excesses of the passions. Had Chatterton lived, and been fortunate enough to fall into settled and sober habits of life, his excellent understanding would, in all probability, have led him to see the fallacy of those principles which he had hastily embraced; as it was, the only preservatives of which he was possessed against the contagion of vice, were the enthusiasm of literature, and that delicacy of sentiment which taste and reading inspire. But though these auxiliaries are not wholly to be despised, we have too many instances of their inefficacy in supporting the cause of virtue, to place any confident reliance on them.-DR. GREGORY.
Chatterton's answer to the strong objection arising from the smoothness of Rowley's poetry, when stated to him by Horace Walpole, is very remarkable-The harmony is not so extraordinary, as Joseph Iscam is altogether as harmonious.' Now, as Joseph Iscam is equally a person of dubious existence, this is a curious instance of placing the elephant upon the tortoise. His ruling passion was not the vanity of a poet, who depends upon the opinion of others for its gratification, but the stoical pride of talent, which felt nourishment in the solitary contemplation of superiority over the dupes who fell into his toils.-SIR WALTER SCOTT.
Now preserved in the British Museum. It was first printed in Barrett's History of Bristol.
A MOST MERRIE ENTYRLUDE,
Plaied bie the Carmelyte Freeres at Mastre Canynges hys greete howse, before Mastre Canynges and Byshoppe Carpenterre,* on dedicatynge the chyrche of Oure Ladie of Redclefte, hight
THE PARLIAMENTE OF SPRYTES.
WROTEN BIE T. ROWLEIE AND J. ISCAMME.+
Entroductyon bie Queene Mabbe.
WHAN from the erthe the sonnes hulstred,'
* John Carpenter, bishop of Worcester, who, in conjunction with Mr. Canynge, founded the Abbey at Westbury.
+ John Iscam, according to Rowley, was a canon of the monastery of Saint Augustine in Bristol. He wrote a dramatic piece called "The Pleasaunt Dyscorses of Lamyngeton:" also, at the desire of Mr. Canynge (Rowley being then collecting of Drawings for Mr. Canynge) he translated a Latin piece called "Miles Brystolli," into English metre. The place of his birth is not known.-CHATTERTON.
2 Stretched. I think this line is borrowed from a much better one of Rowley's, viz. "Like kynge cuppes brasteynge wyth the mornynge dew." The reason why I think Iscam guilty of the plagiary is, that the 'Songe to Ella', from whence the above line is taken, was wrote when Rowley was in London collecting of drawings for Mr. Canynge to build the church, and Iscam wrote the above little before the finishing of the church.-CHATTERTON.
Mie leege menne makes yee awhaped,'
As ys goode Canynge hys chyrche of stone,
To Johannes Carpenterre Byshoppe of Worcesterre. (Bie Rowleie.)
To you goode Byshoppe, I address mie saie,
5 This is a word peculiar to the West, and signifies a 'churchyard.'
6 Hung with banners or trophies.
7 Mouldering. 8 Turn.
11 Declared or made known.
* Other than you,' &c. Carpenter dedicated the church, as appears by a poem written by Rowley.-CHATTERTON.
The sainctes ynne stones so netelie carvelled,'
Bie fervente praier of yours myghte rear theyre heade And chaunte owte masses to oure Vyrgyne.
Was everie prelate lyke a Carpenterre,
The chyrche would ne blushe at a Wynchesterre.
Learned as Beauclerke, as the confessour
Holie ynne lyfe, lyke Canynge charitable,
Busie in holie chyrche as Vavašour,
Slacke yn thynges evylle, yn alle goode thynges stable, Honest as Saxonnes was, from whence thou'rt sprunge, Tho' boddie weak thie soule for ever younge.
Thou knowest welle thie conscience free from steyne,
Here then to thee let me for one and alle
Is mie poore skylle to shewe you hys juste blatyon,"
And alle hys pryvate goode to Godde and hym ys knowne.
Spryte of Nymrodde speaketh.
Soon as the morne but newlie wake,
On herre corse dyd dew droppes shake,
The rampynge lyon, felle tygere,
The bocke that skyppes from place to place,
The olyphaunte1 and rhynocere,*
Before mee throughe the greene wood I dyd chace.
Nymrodde as scryptures hyght mie name,
Baalle as jetted' stories saie;
For rearynge Babelle of greete fame,
Mie name and renome1 shalle lyven for aie:
Genst whych the clowdes dothe not fyghte,
Onne whych the starres doe sytte to appearynge:
Weeke menne thynke ytte reache the kyngdom of lyghte.
O where ys the manne that buylded the same,
Dyspendynge worldlie store so welle;
Fayn woulde I chaunge wyth hym mie name,
And stande ynne hys chaunce ne to goe to helle.
1 Elephant. So an ancient anonymous author:
"The olyphaunt of beastes is
The wisest I wis,
For hee alwaie dothe eat
Lyttle store of meat."-Note by CHATTERTON.
3 Devised or faigned.