Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art — Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night And watching, with eternal lids apart, Like Nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite, The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores, Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask Of snow upon the mountains and the moors — No — yet still stedfast, still unchangeable, Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast, To feel for ever its soft swell and fall, Awake for ever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever — or else swoon to death.
John Keats, whose name was writ in water (1795-1821)
Thomas Chatterton was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. He committed suicide, dying of arsenic poisoning when he was only 17.
The first of his literary mysteries, the dialogue of “Elinoure and Juga,” was written before he was 12, at the boarding school Colston’s Hospital where he was a pupil, pretending it was the work of a 15th-century poet.
His little pocket-money was spent on borrowing books from a circulating library; and he ingratiated himself with book collectors, in order to obtain access to Thomas Speght’s edition of Chaucer, Spenser and other books.
Chatterton soon conceived the romance of Thomas Rowley, an imaginary monk of the 15th century, and adopted for himself the pseudonym Thomas Rowley for poetry and history.
He struggled to find a patron, moved to London… His death was not big news at the time, but later, Keats, Shelly, Rossetti and many others dedicated their works to him.
Read the rest of his interesting life (and death) story here.
image: The Death of Chatterton, 1856, by Henry Wallis, the most famous image of Chatterton in the 19th century