9 March 2014

'On Poetry': A childhood poem by William & Harriot Pitt

The children of the 1st Lord Chatham - William Pitt the Elder - were all remarkably well-educated. He made sure that his two daughters were privately schooled at home alongside their three brothers, and they all received a classical education under the tuition of the Reverend Edward Wilson. Fortunately, there are surviving specimens of the children's poetry. This is probably due to the fact that their mother Lady Chatham was so proud of her children, and she preserved many of their efforts. Below is one such example of a poem written by William Pitt and his sister Lady Harriot Pitt dated April 24, 1771. Astonishing as it may seem from the quality of the poem, Harriot had only just turned 13, and William was not yet 12 years of age at the time:

“Ye Sacred Imps of thund'ring Jove descend,
Immortal Nine; to me propitious bend,
Inclining downward from Parnassus’ brow;
To me, young bard, some Hea’vnly fire allow.
From Aganippe’s murmurs strait repair;
Assit my labours, and reward my pray’r.
Inspire my verse. Of Poetry it sings.
Thro’ Her the deeds of Heroes, and of Kings
Renown’d in arms, with fame immortal stand.
By Her no less are spread thro’ ev’ry land
Those Patriot names, who in their country’s cause
Triumphant fall, for Liberty and Laws.
Exalted high the Spartan Hero stands
Encircled with his far renowned bands.
Whoe’er devoted, for their Country die,
Thro’ Her their fame ascends the starry sky.
She too perpetuates each horrid deed;
When Laws are trampled, When their Guardians bleed.
That shall the Muse to infamy prolong.
Example dread and theme of tragick song!
Nor less immortal than the Chiefs, resound
The Poets’ names, who spread their deeds around.
Homer shall flourish in the rolls of fame
And still shall live the Roman Virgils name.
With living bays is lofty Pindar crown’d,
In distant ages Horace stands renown’s.
These Bards, and more, fair Greece and Rome may boast;
And some shall flourish on this British Coast.
Witness the man, on whom the Muse did smile,
Who sung our Parents’ fall, and Satan’s guile,
A second Homer, favour’d by the Nine.
Sweet Spencer, Johnson, Shakspear the divine.
And He, fair Virtue’s Bard, who rapt doth sing,
The praise of Freedom, and Laconia’s King.
But high, midst Chiefs and Bards,
supremely great,
Shall Publius shine, the Guardian of our state.
Him shall the immortal Nine Themsleves record:
With deathless fame his gen’rous toil reward;
Shall tune the harp with loftier sounding lays,
And thro’ the world, shall spread his ceaseless praise.
Their hands alone can match the Heav’nly string,
and with due fire his wond’rous glories sing.

Harriot Pitt [in their mother Lady Chatham’s handwriting it is inscribed] April 24th, 1771 was Thirteen, on the 18th
William Pitt, April 24th 1771 will be Twelve, May 28th"


PRO 30/70/7 f. 464

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