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More we perceive by dint of thought alone;
The rich must labour to possess their own,
To feel their great abundance, and request
Their humble friends to help them to be blest;
To see their treasure, hear their glory told,
And aid the wretched impotence of gold.
But some, great souls! and touched with warmth
Give gold a price, and teach its beams to shine;
All hoarded treasures they repute a load,
Nor think their wealth their own, till well bestowed.
Grand reservoirs of public happiness,
Through secret streams diffusively they bless,
And, while their bounties glide, concealed from view, retired district situated among the lower slopes of
Relieve our wants, and spare our blushes too.
JAMES THOMSON was born at Ednam, near Kelso,
county of Roxburgh, on the 11th of September, 1700.
His father, who was then minister of the parish of
Ednam, removed a few years afterwards to that of
Southdean in the same county, a primitive and
The publication of the Seasons was an important era in the history of English poetry. So true and beautiful are the descriptions in the poem, and so entirely do they harmonise with those fresh feelings and glowing impulses which all would wish to cherish, that a love of nature seems to be synonymous with a love of Thomson. It is difficult to conceive a person of education in this country, imbued
we have a poetical subject poetically treated-filled to overflowing with the richest materials of poetry, and the emanations of benevolence. In the Castle of Indolence we have the concentration or essence of those materials applied to a subject less poetical, but still affording room for luxuriant fancy, the most exquisite art, and still greater melody of numbers.
with an admiration of rural or woodland scenery, not entertaining a strong affection and regard for that delightful poet, who has painted their charms with so much fidelity and enthusiasm. The same features of blandness and benevolence, of simplicity of design and beauty of form and colour, which we recognise as distinguishing traits of the natural landscape, are seen in the pages of Thomson, conveyed by his artless mind as faithfully as the lights and shades on the face of creation. No criticism or change of style has, therefore, affected his popularity. We may smile at sometimes meeting with a heavy monotonous period, a false ornament, or tumid expression, the result of an indolent mind working itself up to a great effort, and we may wish the subjects of his description were sometimes more select and dignified; but this drawback does not affect our permanent regard or general feeling; our first love remains unaltered; and Thomson is still the poet with whom some of our best and purest associations are indissolubly joined. In the Seasons
the Cheviots. Here the young poet spent his boyish years. The gift of poesy came early, and some lines written by him at the age of fourteen, show how soon his manner was formed:
Now I surveyed my native faculties,
And traced my actions to their teeming source:
Now I explored the universal frame,
Gazed nature through, and with interior light
Conversed with angels and unbodied saints
That tread the courts of the Eternal King!
Gladly I would declare in lofty strains
The power of Godhead to the sons of men,
But thought is lost in its immensity:
Imagination wastes its strength in vain,
And fancy tires and turns within itself,
Struck with the amazing depths of Deity!
Ah! my Lord God! in vain a tender youth,
Unskilled in arts of deep philosophy,
Attempts to search the bulky mass of matter,
To trace the rules of motion, and pursue
The phantom Time, too subtle for his grasp:
Yet may I from thy most apparent works
Form some idea of their wondrous Author.1
In his eighteenth year, Thomson was sent to Edinburgh college. His father died, and the poet proceeded to London to push his fortune. His college friend Mallet procured him the situation of tutor to the son of Lord Binning, and being shown some of his descriptions of Winter,' advised him to connect them into one regular poem. This was done, and 'Winter' was published in March 1726, the poet having received only three guineas for the copyright. A second and a third edition appeared the same year. Summer' appeared in 1727. In 1728 he issued proposals for publishing, by subscription, the 'Four Seasons;' the number of subscribers, at a guinea each copy, was 387; but many took more than one, and Pope (to whom Thomson had been introduced by Mallet) took three copies. The tragedy of Sophonisba was next produced; and in 1731 the poet accompanied the son of Sir Charles Talbot, afterwards lord chancellor, in the capacity of tutor or travelling companion, to the continent. They visited France, Switzerland, and Italy, and it is easy to conceive with what pleasure Thomson must have passed or sojourned among scenes which he had often viewed in imagination. In November of the same year the poet was at Rome, and no doubt indulged the wish expressed in one of his letters, to see the fields where Virgil gathered his immortal honey, and tread the same ground where men have thought and acted so greatly. On his return next year he published his poem of Liberty, and obtained the sinecure situation of Secretary of Briefs in the Court of Chancery, which he held till the death of Lord Talbot, the chancellor. The succeed
1 This curious fragment was first published in 1841, in a life of Thomson by Mr Allan Cunningham, prefixed to an illustrated edition of the 'Seasons.'
That the genius of Thomson was purifying and working off its alloys up to the termination of his existence, may be seen from the superiority in style and diction of the 'Castle of Indolence.' Between the period of his composing the Seasons and the Castle of Indolence,' says Mr Campbell, he wrote several works which seem hardly to accord with the improvement and maturity of his taste exhibited in the latter production. To the Castle of Indolence he brought not only the full nature, but the perfect art of a poet. The materials of that exquisite poem are derived originally from Tasso; but he was more immediately indebted for them to the Faery Queen: and in meeting with the paternal spirit of Spenser, he seems as if he were admitted more intimately to the home of inspiration.' If the critic had gone
*The interleaved copy with Pope's and Thomson's altera. tions is in the possession of the Rev. J. Mitford. See that gentleman's edition of Gray's works, vol. ii. p. 8, where other instances are given. All Pope's corrections were adopted by Thomson.
over the alterations in the 'Seasons,' which Thomson had been more or less engaged upon for about sixteen years, he would have seen the gradual improve ment of his taste, as well as imagination. So far as the art of the poet is concerned, the last corrected edition is a new work. The power of Thomson, however, lay not in his art, but in the exuberance of his genius, which sometimes required to be disciplined and controlled. The poetic glow is spread over all. He never slackens in his enthusiasm, nor tires of pointing out the phenomena of nature which, indolent as he was, he had surveyed under every aspect, till he had become familiar with all. Among the mountains, vales, and forests, he seems to realise his own words
Man superior walks
Amid the glad creation, musing praise,
And looking lively gratitude.
But he looks also, as Johnson has finely observed,
'with the eye which nature bestows only on a poet
-the eye that distinguishes, in everything presented
to its view, whatever there is on which imagination
can delight to be detained, and with a mind that at
once comprehends the vast, and attends to the
minute.' He looks also with a heart that feels for
all mankind. His sympathies are universal. His
touching allusions to the condition of the poor and
suffering, to the hapless state of bird and beast in
winter; the description of the peasant perishing in
the snow, the Siberian exile, or the Arab pilgrims,
all are marked with that humanity and true feeling
which shows that the poet's virtues formed the
magic of his song.' The genuine impulses under
which he wrote he has expressed in one noble stanza
of the Castle of Indolence:'-
only strikes us by its unwieldy difference from the common costume of expression.' Cowper avoided this want of keeping between his style and his. subjects, adapting one to the other with inimitable ease, grace, and variety; yet only rising in one or two instances to the higher flights of Thomson.
In 1843, a Poem to the Memory of Mr Congreve, Inscribed to her Grace Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough, was reprinted for the Percy Society (under the care of Mr Peter Cunningham) as a genuine though unacknowledged production of Thomson, first published in 1729. We have no doubt of the genuineness of this poem as the work of Thomson. It possesses all the characteristics of his style-its exaggeration, enthusiasm, and the peculiar rhythm of his blank verse. The poet's praise of Congreve is excessive, and must have been designed rather to gratify the Duchess of Marlborough than to record Jeremy Thomson's own deliberate convictions. Collier would have started with amazement from such a tribute as the following:
What art thou, Death! by mankind poorly feared,
Yet period of their ills. On thy near shore
Trembling they stand, and see through dreaded mists
The eternal port, irresolute to leave
This various misery, these air-fed dreams
which men call life and fame. Mistaken minds!
"Tis reason's prime aspiring, greatly just;
"Tis happiness supreme, to venture forth
In quest of nobler worlds; to try the deeps
Of dark futurity, with heaven our guide,
The unerring Hand that led us safe through time.
That planted in the soul this powerful hope,
This infinite ambition of new life,
And endless joys, still rising, ever new.
These Congreve tastes, safe on the ethereal coast,
Joined to the numberless immortal quire
Of spirits blest. High-seated among these,
He sees the public fathers of mankind,
The greatly good, those universal minds,
Who drew the sword or planned the holy scheme,
For liberty and right; to check the rage
Of blood-stained tyranny, and save a world.
Such, high-born Marlbro', be thy sire divine
With wonder named; fair freedom's champion he,
By heaven approved, a conqueror without guilt;
And such on earth his friend, and joined on high
By deathless love, Godolphin's patriot worth,
Just to his country's fame, yet of her wealth
With honour frugal; above interest great.
Hail men immortal! social virtues hail!
First heirs of praise! But I, with weak essay,
Wrong the superior theme; while heavenly choirs,
In strains high warbled to celestial harps,
Resound your names; and Congreve's added voice
In heaven exalts what he admired below.
With these he mixes, now no more to swerve
From reason's purest law; no more to please,
Borne by the torrent down a sensual age.
Pardon, loved shade, that I with friendly blame,
Slight note thy error; not to wrong thy worth,
Or shade thy memory (far from my soul
Be that base aim), but haply to deter,
From flattering the gross vulgar, future pens
Powerful like thine in every grace, and skilled
To win the listening soul with virtuous charms.
I care not, Fortune, what you me deny;
You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace,
You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
Through which Aurora shows her brightening face;
You cannot bar my constant feet to trace
The woods and lawns, by living stream, at eve:
Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,
And I their toys to the great children leave;
Of fancy, reason, virtue, nought can me bercave.
"The love of nature,' says Coleridge, seems to have led Thomson to a cheerful religion; and a gloomy religion to have led Cowper to a love of nature. The one would carry his fellow-men along with him into nature; the other flies to nature from his fellowmen. In chastity of diction, however, and the harmony of blank verse, Cowper leaves Thomson immeasurably below him; yet, I still feel the latter to have been the born poet.' The ardour and fulness of Thomson's descriptions distinguish them from those of Cowper, who was naturally less enthusiastic, and who was restricted by his religious tenets, and by his critical and classically formed taste. The diction of the Seasons is at times pure and musical; it is too elevated and ambitious, however, for ordinary themes, and where the poet descends to minute description, or to humorous or satirical scenes (as in the account of the chase and foxhunters' dinner in Autumn), the effect is grotesque and absurd. Mr Campbell has happily said, that as long as Thomson dwells in the pure contemplation of nature, and appeals to the universal poetry of the human breast, his redundant style comes to us as something venial and adventitious-it is the flowing vesture of the Druid; and perhaps to the general experience, is rather imposing; but when he returns to the familiar narrations or courtesies of life, the same diction ceases to seem the mantle of inspiration, and
The gentle and benevolent nature of Thomson is seen in this slight shade of censure. He, too, flattered the 'gross vulgar,' but it was with adulation, not licentiousness.
We subjoin a few of the detached pictures and descriptions in the 'Seasons,' and part of the Castle of Indolence.'
[Showers in Spring.]
The north-east spends his rage; he now, shut up
Within his iron cave, the effusive south
Warms the wide air, and o'er the void of heaven
Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent.
At first, a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
Scarce staining either, but by swift degrees,
In heaps on heaps the doubled vapour sails
Along the loaded sky, and, mingling deep,
Sits on the horizon round, a settled gloom;
Not such as wintry storms on mortals shed,
Oppressing life; but lovely, gentle, kind,
And full of every hope, of every joy,
The wish of nature. Gradual sinks the breeze
Into a perfect calm, that not a breath
Is heard to quiver through the closing woods,
Or rustling turn the many-twinkling leaves
Of aspen tall. The uncurling floods, diffused
In glassy breadth, seem, through delusive lapse,
Forgetful of their course. 'Tis silence all,
And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks
Drop the dry sprig, and, mute-imploring, eye
The falling verdure. Hushed in short suspense,
The plumy people streak their wings with oil,
To throw the lucid moisture trickling off,
And wait the approaching sign, to strike at once
Into the general choir. Even mountains, vales,
And forests, seem impatient to demand
The promised sweetness. Man superior walks
Amid the glad creation, musing praise,
And looking lively gratitude. At last,
The clouds consign their treasures to the fields,
And, softly shaking on the dimpled pool
Prelusive drops, let all their moisture flow
In large effusion o'er the freshened world.
The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard
By such as wander through the forest-walks,
Beneath the umbrageous multitude of leaves.
[Birds Pairing in Spring.]
To the deep woods They haste away, all as their fancy leads, Pleasure, or food, or secret safety, prompts; That nature's great command may be obeyed: Nor all the sweet sensations they perceive Indulged in vain. Some to the holly hedge Nestling repair, and to the thicket some; Some to the rude protection of the thorn Commit their feeble offspring; the cleft tree Offers its kind concealment to a few, Their food its insects, and its moss their nests: Others apart, far in the grassy dale Or roughening waste their humble texture weave: But most in woodland solitudes delight, In unfrequented glooms or shaggy banks, Steep, and divided by a babbling brook, Whose murmurs soothe them all the live-long day,
When by kind duty fixed. Among the roots
Of hazel pendent o'er the plaintive stream,
They frame the first foundation of their domes,
Dry sprigs of trees, in artful fabric laid,
And bound with clay together. Now 'tis nought
But restless hurry through the busy air,
Beat by unnumbered wings. The swallow sweeps
The slimy pool, to build his hanging house
Intent and often from the careless back
Of herds and flocks a thousand tugging bills
Steal hair and wool; and oft, when unobserved,
Pluck from the barn a straw; till soft and warm,
Clean and complete, their habitation grows.
As thus the patient dam assiduous sits,
Not to be tempted from her tender task
Or by sharp hunger or by smooth delight,
Though the whole loosened spring around her blows,
Her sympathising lover takes his stand
High on the opponent bank, and ceaseless sings
The tedious time away; or else supplies
Her place a moment, while she sudden flits
To pick the scanty meal. The appointed time
With pious toil fulfilled, the callow young,
Warmed and expanded into perfect life,
Their brittle bondage break, and come to light;
A helpless family! demanding food
With constant clamour: O what passions then,
What melting sentiments of kindly care,
On the new parent seize! away they fly
Affectionate, and, undesiring, bear
The most delicious morsel to their young,
Which, equally distributed, again
The search begins. Even so a gentle pair,
By fortune sunk, but formed of generous mould,
And charmed with cares beyond the vulgar breast,
In some lone cot amid the distant woods,
Sustained alone by providential heaven,
Oft as they, weeping, eye their infant train,
Check their own appetites, and give them all.
Nor toil alone they scorn; exalting love,
By the great Father of the spring inspired,
Gives instant courage to the fearful race,
And to the simple art. With stealthy wing,
Should some rude foot their woody haunts molest,
Amid the neighbouring bush they silent drop,
And whirring thence, as if alarmed, deceive
The unfeeling schoolboy. Hence around the head
Of wandering swain the white-winged plover wheels
Her sounding flight, and then directly on,
In long excursion, skims the level lawn
To tempt him from her nest. The wild-duck hence
O'er the rough moss, and o'er the trackless waste The heath-hen flutters: pious fraud! to lead The hot-pursuing spaniel far astray.
[A Summer Morning.]
With quickened step
Brown night retires: young day pours in apace,
And opens all the lawny prospect wide.
The dripping rock, the mountain's misty top
Swell on the sight, and brighten with the dawn.
Blue, through the dusk, the smoking currents shine;
And from the bladed field the fearful hare
Limps awkward; while along the forest glade
The wild-deer trip, and often turning gaze
At early passenger. Music awakes
The native voice of undissembled joy;
And thick around the woodland hymns arise.
Roused by the cock, the soon-clad shepherd leaves
His mossy cottage, where with peace he dwells;
And from the crowded fold, in order, drives
His flock, to taste the verdure of the morn.
Low walks the sun, and broadens by degrees,
Just o'er the verge of day. The shifting clouds
Assembled gay, a richly gorgeous train,
In all their pomp attend his setting throne.
Air, earth, and ocean smile immense. And now,
As if his weary chariot sought the bowers
Of Amphitrite, and her tending nymphs,
(So Grecian fable sung) he dips his orb;
Now half immersed; and now a golden curve
Gives one bright glance, then total disappears.
Confessed from yonder slow-extinguished clouds,
All ether softening, sober evening takes
Her wonted station in the middle air;
A thousand shadows at her beck.
She sends on earth; then that of deeper dye
Steals soft behind; and then a deeper still,
In circle following circle, gathers round,
To close the face of things. A fresher gale
Begins to wave the wood, and stir the stream,
Sweeping with shadowy gust the fields of corn:
While the quail clamours for his running mate.
Wide o'er the thistly lawn, as swells the breeze,
A whitening shower of vegetable down
Amusive floats. The kind impartial care
Of nature nought disdains: thoughtful to feed
Her lowest sons, and clothe the coming year,
From field to field the feathered seeds she wings.
His folded flock secure, the shepherd home
Hies merry-hearted; and by turns relieves
The ruddy milkmaid of her brimming pail ;
The beauty whom perhaps his witless heart-
Unknowing what the joy-mixed anguish means—
Sincerely loves, by that best language shown
Of cordial glances, and obliging deeds.
Onward they pass o'er many a panting height,
And valley sunk, and unfrequented; where
At fall of eve the fairy people throng,
In various game and revelry, to pass
The summer night, as village stories tell.
But far about they wander from the grave
Of him whom his ungentle fortune urged
Against his own sad breast to lift the hand
Of impious violence. The lonely tower
Is also shunned; whose mournful chambers hold-
So night-struck fancy dreams-the yelling ghost.
Among the crooked lanes, on every hedge,
The glowworm lights his gem; and through the dark
A moving radiance twinkles. Evening yields
The world to night; not in her winter robe
Of massy Stygian woof, but loose arrayed
In mantle dun. A faint erroneous ray,
Glanced from the imperfect surfaces of things,
Flings half an image on the straining eye;
While wavering woods, and villages, and streams,
And rocks, and mountain-tops, that long retained
The ascending gleam, are all one swimming scene,
Uncertain if beheld. Sudden to heaven
Thence weary vision turns; where, leading soft
The silent hours of love, with purest ray
Sweet Venus shines; and from her genial rise,
When daylight sickens till it springs afresh,
Unrivalled reigns, the fairest lamp of night.
[Autumn Evening Scene.]
But see the fading many-coloured woods,
Shade deepening over shade, the country round
Imbrown; a crowded umbrage dusk and dun,
Of every hue, from wan declining green
To sooty dark. These now the lonesome muse,
Low whispering, lead into their leaf-strown walks,
And give the season in its latest view.
Meantime, light shadowing all, a sober calm
Fleeces unbounded ether: whose least wave
Stands tremulous, uncertain where to turn
The gentle current: while illumined wide,
The dewy-skirted clouds imbibe the sun,
And through their lucid veil his softened force
Shed o'er the peaceful world. Then is the time,
For those whom virtue and whom nature charm,
To steal themselves from the degenerate crowd,
And soar above this little scene of things:
To tread low-thoughted vice beneath their feet;
To soothe the throbbing passions into peace;
And woo lone Quiet in her silent walks.
Thus solitary, and in pensive guise, Oft let me wander o'er the russet mead, And through the saddened grove, where scarce is heard
One dying strain, to cheer the woodman's toil.
Haply some widowed songster pours his plaint,
Far, in faint warblings, through the tawny copse;
While congregated thrushes, linnets, larks,
And each wild throat, whose artless strains so late
Swelled all the music of the swarming shades,
Robbed of their tuneful souls, now shivering sit
On the dead tree, a dull despondent flock:
With not a brightness waving o'er their plumes,
And nought save chattering discord in their note.
O let not, aimed from some inhuman eye,
The gun the music of the coming year
Destroy; and harmless, unsuspecting harm,
Lay the weak tribes a miserable prey
In mingled murder, fluttering on the ground!
The pale descending year, yet pleasing still,
A gentler mood inspires; for now the leaf
Incessant rustles from the mournful grove;
Oft startling such as studious walk below,
And slowly circles through the waving air.
But should a quicker breeze amid the boughs
Sob, o'er the sky the leafy deluge streams;
Till choked, and matted with the dreary shower,
The forest walks, at every rising gale,
Roll wide the withered waste, and whistle bleak.
Fled is the blasted verdure of the fields;
And, shrunk into their beds, the flowery race
Their sunny robes resign. E'en what remained
Of stronger fruits falls from the naked tree;
And woods, fields, gardens, orchards all around,
The desolated prospect thrills the soul.
The western sun withdraws the shortened day, And humid evening, gliding o'er the sky, In her chill progress, to the ground condensed The vapour throws. Where creeping waters ooze, Where marshes stagnate, and where rivers wind, Cluster the rolling fogs, and swim along
The dusky-mantled lawn. Meanwhile the moon, Full-orbed, and breaking through the scattered clouds,
Shows her broad visage in the crimsoned east.
Turned to the sun direct her spotted disk,
Where mountains rise, umbrageous dales descend,
And caverns deep as optic tube descries,
A smaller earth, gives us his blaze again,
Void of its flame, and sheds a softer day.
Now through the passing clouds she seems to
stoop, Now up the pure cerulean rides sublime. Wide the pale deluge floats, and streaming mild O'er the skied mountain to the shadowy vale, While rocks and floods reflect the quivering gleam; The whole air whitens with a boundless tide Of silver radiance trembling round the world.
The lengthened night elapsed, the morning shines Serene, in all her dewy beauty bright, Unfolding fair the last autumnal day. And now the mounting sun dispels the fog; The rigid hoar-frost melts before his beam; And hung on every spray, on every blade Of grass, the myriad dew-drops twinkle round.
[Episode of Lavinia.]
The lovely young Lavinia once had friends; And Fortune smiled, deceitful, on her birth; For, in her helpless years deprived of all, Of every stay, save innocence and heaven, She, with her widowed mother, feeble, old, And poor, lived in a cottage, far retired Among the windings of a woody vale; By solitude and deep surrounding shades, But more by bashful modesty, concealed. Together thus they shunned the cruel scorn Which virtue, sunk to poverty, would meet From giddy passion and low-minded pride: Almost on Nature's common bounty fed;