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FABLES FOR THE COURT.*
Addressed to Mr. Michael Clayfield, of Bristol.
MORALS, as critics must allow,
• 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,
A flock of sheep, no matter where,
The pious bosom and the back
INT'REST, thou universal God of men,
In a low cottage shaking with the wind,