"Did not thy iron conscience blush to write / This Tophet of the gentle arts polite?"

— Chatterton, Thomas (1752-1770)

Place of Publication
Hamilton, Adams & Co.
w. prior to April 1770; 1785, 1837, 1875
"Did not thy iron conscience blush to write / This Tophet of the gentle arts polite?"
Metaphor in Context
To leave alone the notions which disgrace
This hawking, peddling, catamitish place,
Did not thy iron conscience blush to write
This Tophet of the gentle arts polite?

Lost to all learning, elegance, and sense,
Long had the famous city told her pence;
Avarice sat brooding in her white-washed cell,
And pleasure had a hut at Jacob's Well.
Poor Hickey, ruined by his fine survey,
Perpetuates Elton in the saving lay.
A mean assembly-room, absurdly built,
Boasted one gorgeous lamp of copper gilt;
With farthing candles, chandeliers of tin,
And services of water, rum, and gin.
There, in the dull solemnity of wigs,
The dancing bears of commerce murder jigs;
Here dance the dowdy belles of crooked trunk,
And often, very often, reel home drunk;
Here dance the bucks with infinite delight,
And club to pay the fiddlers for the night,
While Broderip's hum-drum symphonies of flats
Rival the harmony of midnight cats.
What charms has music, when great Broderip sweats
To torture sound to what his brother sets!
With scraps of ballad tunes, and gude Scotch sangs ,
Which god-like Ramsay to his bagpipe twangs,
With tattered fragments of forgotten plays,
With Playford's melody to Sternhold's lays,
This pipe of science, mighty Broderip, comes,
And a strange, unconnected jumble thrums.
Roused to devotion in a sprightly air,
Danced into piety, and jigged to prayer;
A modern hornpipe's murder greets our ears,
The heavenly music of domestic spheres;
The flying band in swift transition hops
Through all the tortured, vile burlesque of stops.
Sacred to sleep, in superstitious key
Dull, doleful diapasons die away;
Sleep spreads his silken wings, and lulled by sound,
The vicar slumbers, and the snore goes round;
Whilst Broderip at his passive organ groans
Through all his slow variety of tones.
How unlike Allen! Allen is divine!
His touch is sentimental, tender, fine;
No little affectations e'er disgraced
His more refined, his sentimental taste:
He keeps the passions with the sound in play,
And the soul trembles with the trembling key.
(pp. 141-2, ll. 127-174)
Searching in LION
2 entries in ESTC (1785, 1789).

First 376 lines published as Supplement to Chatterton’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).
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.