James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 25

On the Death of Chatterton

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)

  • From “Monody on Chatterton”
  • Thomas Chatterton, an English poet of extraordinary precocity, committed suicide in London at the early age of seventeen, August 25, 1770.

  • WHAT a wonder seems the fear of death,

    Seeing how gladly we all sink to sleep,

    Babes, Children, Youths, and Men,

    Night following night for threescore years and ten!

    But doubly strange, when life is but a breath

    To sigh and pant with, up Want’s rugged steep.

    Away, Grim Phantom! Scorpion King, away!

    Reserve thy terrors and thy stings display

    For coward Wealth and Guilt in robes of State!

    Lo! by the grave I stand of one, for whom

    A prodigal Nature and a niggard Doom

    (That all bestowing, this withholding all,)

    Made each chance knell from distant spire or dome

    Sound like a seeking Mother’s anxious call,

    Return, poor Child! Home, weary Truant, home!

    Thee Chatterton! these unblest stones protect

    From want, and the bleak freezings of neglect.

    Too long before the vexing Storm-blast driven

    Here hast thou found repose! beneath this sod!

    Thou! O vain word! thou dwell’st not with the clod!

    Amid the shining host of the Forgiven

    Thou at the throne of Mercy and thy God

    The triumph of redeeming Love dost hymn

    (Believe it, O my soul!) to harps of Seraphim.