The Rowley Poems by Thomas Chatterton

“Most people know the legend of Thomas Chatterton -- brilliant poet who failed to make a living, starved himself to send expensive presents to his family, and died by his own hand at seventeen -- much better than his poems. Like all legends, it is partial and exaggerated, but was a powerful influence on the Romantic movement and long after. The painting "The Death of Chatterton" by Henry Wallis epitomises this reputation. His fame rests, apart from this almost unbearably romantic life story, on his "Rowley Poems". These he wrote in a sham Middle English dialect, and passed off as the work of Thomas Rowley, a priest of Bristol in the fifteenth century, and some of his friends. The imposture was quickly detected (though some continued to believe in him for many years), but they were published in a collected edition after his death and were popular and much admired by the Romantic poets, especially Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, who dedicated "Endymion" to the memory of Thomas Chatterton.”

Pseudodoxia Epidemica:
Into very many Received
And commonly presumed

By Thomas Brown Knight, M. D.
Based on The Sixth and Last Edition of 1672

Thomas Brown’s Vulgar Errors treats the opposite of orthodoxy, pseudodoxy. An intelligent and readable presentation of an amusing classic.

Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791)

“Throughout his political career Hopkinson wrote poetry and satire on the politically derisive issues of the day. He penned a popular and humorous work on the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He was also an accomplished harpsichordist and composer. His work "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free," set to the words of Thomas Parnell's "Love and Innocence," is the first extant secular song by a native American composer.”

“Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes”

’Twas on a lofty vase’s side,     
Where China’s gayest art had dyed     
    The azure flowers, that blow;     
Demurest of the tabby kind,     
The pensive Selima reclined,     
    Gazed on the lake below.     

Her conscious tail her joy declared;     
The fair round face, the snowy beard,     
    The velvet of her paws,     
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,     
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,     
    She saw; and purred applause.     

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide     
Two angel forms were seen to glide,     
    The genii of the stream:     
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue     
Through richest purple to the view     
    Betrayed a golden gleam.     

The hapless nymph with wonder saw:     
A whisker first and then a claw,     
    With many an ardent wish,     
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.     
What female heart can gold despise?     
    What cat’s averse to fish?     

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent     
Again she stretched, again she bent,     
    Nor knew the gulf between.     
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)     
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,     
    She tumbled headlong in.     

Eight times emerging from the flood     
She mewed to every watery god,     
    Some speedy aid to send.     
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;     
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.     
    A favourite has no friend!     

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,     
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,     
    And be with caution bold.     
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes     
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;     
    Nor all that glisters gold.
Thomas Gray [1716–1771]