An Unacknowledged Genius

Onne Ruddeborne bank twa pynynge Maydens fate,
Theire teares faste dryppeynge to the waterre cleere;
Echone bementynge for her absente mate,
Who atte Seyncte Albonns shouke the morthynge speare.
The nottebrowne Elinoure to Juga fayre
Dydde speke acroole, wythe languishment of eyne,
Lyche droppes of pearlie dew, lemed the quyvryng brine.

That’s from “Elenoure and Juga,” a pastoral poem by Thomas Rowley, a 15th-century monk.

Actually, no, it’s not. Its real author was Thomas Chatterton, a 17-year-old boy who faked medieval manuscripts and “aged” them by holding them over candles or smearing them with glue or varnish.

He fooled everyone — this poem was published in Town and Country Magazine in May 1769, and Chatterton published several others in the following months. Starving and unable to reveal his secret, he was driven to suicide shortly afterward, but his work was discovered and praised posthumously by Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats.