"When Bute his iron rod of favour shook, / And bore his haughty temper in his look; / Not yet contented with his boundless sway, / Which all perforce must outwardly obey, / He thought to throw his chain upon the mind; / Nor would he leave conjecture unconfined."
— Chatterton, Thomas (1752-1770)
The Scripture tells us peace-makers are such.
Who can dispute his title? Who deny
What taxes and oppressions testify?
Who of the Thane's beatitude can doubt?
Oh! was but North as sure of being out!
And (as I end whatever I begin)
Was Chatham but as sure of being in!
Bute, foster-child of fate, dear to a dame
Whom satire freely would, but dare not, name--
(Ye plodding barristers, who hunt a flaw,
What treason would you from the sentence draw?
Tremble, and stand attentive as a dean,
Know, Royal Favour is the dame I mean.
To sport with royalty my Muse forbears,
And kindly takes compassion on my ears.
When once Shibbeare in glorious triumph stood
Upon a rostrum of distinguished wood,
Who then withheld his guinea or his praise,
Or envied him his crown of English bays?
But now Modestus, truant to the cause,
Assists the pioneers who sap the laws,
Wreaths infamy around a sinking pen,
Who could withhold the pillory again?)--
Bute, lifted into notice by the eyes
Of one whose optics always set to rise--
Forgive a pun, ye rationals, forgive
A flighty youth, as yet unlearnt to live;
When I have conned each sage's musty rule,
I may with greater reason play the fool;
Burgum and I, in ancient lore untaught,
Are always with our natures in a fault;
Though Camplin would instruct us in the part,
Our stubborn morals will not err by art.
Having in various starts from order strayed,
We'll call imagination to our aid--
See Bute astride upon a wrinkled hag,
His hand replenished with an opened bag,
Whence fly the ghosts of taxes and supplies,
The sales of places, and the last excise!
Upon the ground, in seemly order laid,
The Stuarts stretched the majesty of plaid;
Rich with the peer, dependants bowed the head,
And saw their hopes arising from the dead.
His countrymen were mustered into place,
And a Scotch piper rose above his Grace.
But say, astrologers, could this be strange?
The lord of the ascendant ruled the change;
And music, whether bagpipes, fiddles, drums,
All that has sense or meaning overcomes.
See now this universal favourite Scot,
His former native poverty forgot,
The highest member of the car of state,
Where well he plays at blindman's buff with fate;
If fortune condescends to bless his play,
And drop a rich Havannah in his way,
He keeps it, with intention to release
All conquests at the general day of peace:
When first and foremost to divide the spoil,
Some millions down might satisfy his toil;
To guide the car of war he fancied not,
Where honour and no money could be got.
The Scots have tender honours to a man:
Honour's the tie that bundles up the clan:
They want one requisite to be divine,
One requisite in which all others shine;
They're very poor; then who can blame the hand
Which polishes by wealth its native land?
And to complete the worth possessed before,
Gives every Scotchman one perfection more;
Nobly bestows the infamy of place,
And Campbell struts about in doubled lace?
Who says Bute bartered peace, and wisely sold
His king, his unioned countrymen, for gold?
When ministerial hirelings proofs deny,
If Musgrave could not prove it, how can I?
No facts unwarranted shall soil my quill,
Suffice it there's a strong suspicion still.
When Bute his iron rod of favour shook,
And bore his haughty temper in his look;
Not yet contented with his boundless sway,
Which all perforce must outwardly obey,
He thought to throw his chain upon the mind;
Nor would he leave conjecture unconfined.
We saw his measures wrong, and yet, in spite
Of reason, we must think those measures right;
Whilst curbed and checked by his imperious reign,
We must be satisfied, and not complain.
Complaints are libels, as the present age
Are all instructed by a law-wise sage,
Who, happy in his eloquence and fees,
Advances to preferment by degrees:
Trembles to think of such a daring step
As from a tool to Chancellor to leap;
But, lest his prudence should the law disgrace,
He keeps a longing eye upon the mace.
Whilst Bute was suffered to pursue his plan,
And ruin freedom as he raised the clan;
Could not his pride, his universal pride,
With working undisturbed be satisfied?
But when we saw the villany and fraud,
What conscience but a Scotchman's could applaud?
But yet 'twas nothing--cheating in our sight,
We should have hummed ourselves, and thought him right!
This faith, established by the mighty Thane,
Will long outlive the system of the Dane;
This faith--but now the number must be brief,
All human things are centred in belief;
And (or the philosophic sages dream)
All our most true ideas only seem:
Faith is a glass to rectify our sight,
And teach us to distinguish wrong from right.
By this corrected, Bute appears a Pitt,
And candour marks the lines which Murphy writ;
Then let this faith support our ruined cause,
And give us back our liberties and laws:
No more complain of favourites made by lust,
No more think Chatham's patriot reasons just,
But let the Babylonish harlot see
We to her Baal bow the humble knee.
Lost in the praises of that favourite Scot,
My better theme, my Newton, was forgot:
Blessed with a pregnant wit, and never known
To boast of one impertinence his own,
He warped his vanity to serve his God,
And in the paths of pious Fathers trod.
Though genius might have started something new,
He honoured lawn, and proved his scripture true;
No literary worth presumed upon,
He wrote, the understrapper of St. John;
Unravelled every mystic simile,
Rich in the faith, and fanciful as me;
Pulled Revelation's sacred robes aside,
And saw what priestly modesty would hide;
Then seized the pen, and with a good intent
Discovered hidden meanings never meant.
The reader who, in carnal notions bred,
Has Athanasius without reverence read,
Will make a scurvy kind of Lenten feast
Upon the tortured offals of The Beast:
But if, in happy superstition taught,
He never once presumed to doubt in thought;
Like Catcott, lost in prejudice and pride,
He takes the literal meaning for his guide;
Let him read Newton, and his bill of fare:--
What prophecies unprophesied are there!
In explanations he's so justly skilled,
The pseudo-prophet's mysteries are fulfilled;
No superficial reasons have disgraced
The worthy prelate's sacerdotal taste;
No flimsy arguments he holds to view,
Like Camplin, he affirms it, and 'tis true.
Faith, Newton, is the tottering churchman's crutch,
On which our blest religion builds so much;
Thy fame would feel the loss of this support,
As much as Sawney's instruments at court;
For secret services without a name,
And mysteries in religion, are the same.
But to return to state, from whence the Muse
In wild digression smaller themes pursues;
And rambling from his Grace's magic rod,
Descends to lash the ministers of God.
Both are adventures perilous and hard,
And often bring destruction on the bard;
For priests, and hireling ministers of state,
Are priests in love, infernals in their hate:
The church, no theme for satire, scorns the lash,
And will not suffer scandal in a dash:
Not Bute so tender in his spotless fame,
Not Bute so careful of his lady's name.
(ll. 601-770, pp. 157-163)
First 376 lines published as Supplement to Chattertonâ€™s Miscellanies. Kew Gardens. (London, s.n., 1785?). <Link to ESTC>.
See also John Ross Dix and Thomas Chatterton, The Life of Thomas Chatterton (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co, 1837).
Text from The Poetical Works of Thomas Chatterton, (London: George Bell, 1875).