The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
X. The Literary Influence of the Middle Ages
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 16. Chatterton and his indebtedness to Spenser
The real master of Chatterton is Spenser. Chatterton had a perfect command of the heroic line as it was then commonly used in couplets; he preferred the stanza, however, and almost always a stanza with an alexandrine at the end. He had learned much from The Castle of Indolence, but he does not remain content with the eighteenth century Spenserians; he goes back to the original. A technical variation of Chatterton’s is proof of this: whereas the eighteenth century imitators of The Faerie Queene cut their alexandrines at the sixth syllable regularly, Chatterton is not afraid to turn over:Tell him I scorne to kenne hem from afar.Botte leave the vyrgyn brydall bedde for bedde of warre.(Ælla, l. 347.)And cries a guerre and slughornes shake the vaulted heaven.(Hastings 2, l. 190.)And like to them æternal alwaie stryve to be.(Ibid. l. 380.)
In following Spenser, he sometimes agrees with Milton: thus, Elinoure and Juga and the Excelente Balade of Charitie are in Milton’s seven line stanza (rime royal, with the seventh line an alexandrine), thus:Juga: Systers in sorrowe, on thys daise-ey’d banke,Where melancholych broods, we wyll lamente;Be wette wythe mornynge dewe and evene darke;Lyche levynde okes in eche the odher bente,Or lyche forlettenn halles of merriementeWhose gastlie mitches holde the traine of fryghteWhere lethale ravens bark, and owlets wake the nyghte.Elinoure: No moe the miskynette shall wake the morneThe minstrelle daunce, good cheere, and morryce plaie;No moe the amblynge palfrie and the horneShall from the lessel rouze the foxe awaie;I’ll seke the foreste all the lyve-longe daie;All nete amonge the gravde chyrche glebe wyll goe,And to the passante Spryghtes lecture mie tale of woe.In the Songe to Ælla, again there are measures from Milton’s Ode:Orr whare thou kennst fromm farreThe dysmall crye of warre,Orr seest some mountayne made of corse of sleyne.