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FABLES FOR THE COURT.*

Addressed to Mr. Michael Clayfield, of Bristol.

THE SHEPHERDS.

MORALS, as critics must allow,
Are almost out of fashion now;
And if we credit Dodsley's word,
All applications are absurd.
What has the author to be vain in
Who knows his fable wants explaining,

• Transcribed by Mr. Catcott, Oct. 19, 1796, from Chatterton's MS.

It has been urged, and for an obvious reason, that the poems acknowledged by Chatterton to be of his own composition, are of a cast much inferior to those which he produced as written by Rowley. If this be true, we should remember that Chatterton lavished all his powers on the counterfeit Rowley, with whom he intended to astonish or to deceive the world, and that his miscellanies were the temporary progeny of indigence, inconvenience, and distraction : that the former pieces were composed, with one uniform object in view, in a state of leisure and repose, through the course of nearly one year and a half; and the latter, amidst the want of common necessaries, in disquietude and in dissipation, at the call of booksellers, and often on occasional topics, within four months. But I do not grant this boasted inequality. If there is any, at least the same hand appears in both. The miscellanies contain many strokes of uncommon spirit and imagination, and such as would mark any boy of seventeen for a genius. Let me add, that both collections contain an imagery of the same sort. Mr. Walpole observes, very truly, that Chatterton and the supposed Rowley “ were animated by so congenial a spirit, that the compositions of the one can hardly be discriminated from the other. The same soul animates all, and the limbs that would remain to Rowley would indeed be disjecti membra poete. Rowley would not only have written with a spirit by many centuries posterior to that of his age, but his mantle escaping the hands of all his contemporaries and successors, must have been preserved nothing the worse for time, and reserved to invest Chatterton from head to foot."-WARTON.

1 And substitutes a second scene To publish what the first should mean? Besides, it saucily reflects Upon the reader's intellects. When arm'd in metaphors and dashes, The bard some noble villain lashes, 'Tis a direct affront, no doubt, To think he cannot find it out. The sing-song trifles of the stage, The happy fav’rites of the age, Without a meaning crawl along, And, for a moral, gives a song. The tragic muse, once pure and chaste, Is turn'd a whore, debauch'd by taste : Poor Juliet never claims the tear 'Till borne triumphant on the bier; And Ammon's son is never great 'Till seated in his chair of state. And yet the harlot scarce goes down, She's been so long upon the town, Her morals never can be seen. Not rigid Johnson seems to mean, A tittering epilogue contains The cobweb of a poet's brains. If what the muse prepares to write To entertain the public sight, Should in its characters be known, The knowledge is the reader's own.

When villainy and vices shine,
You wo'nt find Sandwich in the line ;
When little rascals rise to fame,
Sir Fletcher cannot read his name;
Nor will the muse digressive run,
To call the king his mother's son,
But plodding on the beaten way,
With honest North prepares the lay:
And should the meaning figures please
The dull reviews of laughing ease,
No politician can dispute
My knowledge of the Earl of Bute.

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A flock of sheep, no matter where,
Was all an aged shepherd's care ;
His dogs were watchful, and he took
Upon himself the ruling crook :
His boys who wattled in the fold
Were never bought and never sold.
'Tis true, by strange affection led,
He visited a turnip bed;
And, fearful of a winter storm,
Employ'd his wool to keep it warm;
But that comparatively set
Against the present heavy debt,
Was but a trifling piece of state,
And hardly make a villain great.
The shepherd died- -the dreadful toll
Entreated masses for his soul.

The pious bosom and the back
Shone in the farce of courtly black.
The weeping Laureate's ready pen
Lamented o'er the best of men;
And Oxford sent her load of rhyme
In all varieties of chime,
Administering due consolation,
Well season'd with congratulation.
Cambridge her ancient lumber wrote,
And what could Cambridge do but quote?
All sung, tho' very few could read,
And none but mercers mourn'd indeed.
The younger shepherd caught the crook,
And was a monarch in his look.
The flock rejoic'd, and could no less
Than pay their duty and address ;
And Edinburgh was heard to sing
Now heaven be prais'd for such a king.
All join'd in joy and expectation,
And union echoed thro' the nation.
A council call'd.

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FRAGMENT.

INT'REST, thou universal God of men,
Wait on the couplet and reprove the pen ;
If aught unwelcome to thy ears shall rise,
Hold jails and famine to the poet's eyes,
Bid satire sheath her sharp avenging steel,
And lose a number rather than a meal.
Nay, prithee, honor, do not make us mad,
When I am hungry something must be had ;
Can honest consciousness of doing right
Provide a dinner or a bed at night?
What though Astrea decks my soul in gold,
My mortal lumber trembles with the cold,
Then, curst tormentor of my peace, begone!
Flattery's a cloak, and I will put it on.

In a low cottage shaking with the wind,
A door in front, a span of light behind,
Tervono's lungs their mystic play began,
And nature in the infant mark'd the man.
Six times the youth of morn, the golden sun,
Through the twelve stages of his course had run,
Tervono rose, the merchant of the plain,
His soul was traffic, his elysium gain ;
The ragged chapman found his word a law,
And lost in barter every fav’rite Taw.

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