Writings and Witterings



The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis

The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This prologue is the first stanza in a sequence of ten poems about Thomas Chatterton. The other nine stanzas are from the viewpoints of individuals, e.g. his mother, a girlfriend, his doctor, who are imagined standing at the foot of his deathbed remembering him. He influenced many lives.


He learned to read from a black-letter Bible,
was thought a backward boy, no scholar.
Lonely, close and comely,
poor boy was deemed a dullard.

He forged his first letters from
illuminated capitals;
cutting consonants, reviewing verbs,
giving names to nouns.

Memory on memory makes his story,
they talk of it still sighing their sorrows.
Merciless London, no crumb offered,
the baker rebuffed him for begging a loaf.

Polly Stretton © 2013


19 thoughts on “Chatterton—Prologue

  1. Look forward to the rest.>KB


    • I’m thinking of producing it as either a pamphlet or as individual sheets in a ‘box’ so that readers can decide the order in which they want to read each stanza … maybe even a loose leaf booklet … thanks for your comment, KB 🙂


  2. A great start! It will be interesting to read it all.


  3. Thinking of publishing it, so approaching publishers just now – lots of different ideas re format – thanks for the encouragement 🙂


  4. Lovely stanza, great alliteration. Go for it


  5. Excellent. Sorry for the long absence, pal. no internet for a month! I always love to hear and read your poetry and this is of your usual high standard, congratulations on another super piece 🙂


  6. Polly, I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing of Chatterton, so I Wikied him and found so much drama. Sounds like he had some sort of mental disorder – what a shame to lose a promising poet at the age of 17. I learned something new today, and that’s a very good thing. Thanks, Amy


  7. Look forward to reading this, it sounds like a very interesting premise.
    You won’t be surprised to discover that I had my Chatterton moment in secondary school (didn’t we all?), when I thought all of my family and friends would be standing at the foot of my deathbed, regretting that they did not recognise the budding genius at the right time… Ah well, I’ve learnt since to live with middle-aged bulge and mediocrity.


    • Ha! Marina! Like thousands of others, I dare say! Love that you envisaged F&F at the foot of your deathbed 😀 Reality hits us hard. Just think, poor Chatterton, the original poet in the garret, had no idea how his work would be viewed in the future. Shame that so many poets have to die before achieving fame (!)


  8. I’m already looking forward to the rest. I quite liked the rhythmical pattern you established so early in the poem. Different perspectives call for different voices. I can’t wait.

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.


    • heh-heh … you’re so right … each stanza has very much it’s own voice. I loved creating them. So pleased you like the rhythmical pattern. Will let you know when publishing has been dealt with 🙂


  9. a tough time for a boy like him…and who knew that he would become a poet back then… i always find it fascinating to read biographies backwards…


  10. Brilliant – I love this taster – and I love the idea of a loose leaf portfolio style – will there be illuminated capitals ? 😀


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