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Hard exercise and harder fare
Such is the poet fresh in pay
The steed, oppress’d, would break his girth,
But view him in another scene,
JAMES THOmson, a distinguished British poet, stage of Drury-lane, his tragedy of “Sophonisba." born at Ednam, near Kelso, in Scotland, in 1700, It was succeeded by “Agamemnon;" “ Edward was one of the nine children of the Rev. Mr. and Eleonora ;” and “Tancred and Sigismunda :" Thomson, minister of that place. James was sent but although these pieces were not without their to the school of Jedburgh, where he attracted the merits, the moral strain was too prevalent for the notice of a neighboring minister by his propensity public taste, and they have long ceased to occupy to poetry, who encouraged his early attempts, and the theatre. Through the recommendation of Dr. corrected his performances. On his removal from Rundle, he was, about 1729, selected as the travschool, he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, elling associate of the Hon. Mr. Talbot, eldest con where he chiefly attended to the cultivation of of the Chancellor, with whom he visited most of his poetical faculty; but the death of his father, the courts of the European continent. During this during his second session, having brought his mother tour, the idea of a poem on “Liberty” suggested to Edinburgh for the purpose of educating her itself, and after his return, he employed two years children, James complied with the advice of his in its completion. The place of secretary of the friends, and entered upon a course of divinity. briefs, which was nearly a sinecure, repaid him for Here, we are told, that the explanation of a psalm his attendance on Mr. Talbot. “Liberty" at length having been required from him as a probationary appeared, and was dedicated to Frederic, Prince of exercise, he performed it in language so splendid, Wales, who, in opposition to the court, affected the that he was reproved by his professor for employing patronage of letters, as well as of liberal sentiments a diction which it was not likely that any one of his in politics. He granted Thomson a pension, to future audience could comprehend. This admo- remunerate him for the loss of his place by the nition completed the disgust which he felt for the death of Lord-Chancellor Talbot. In 1746, approfession chosen for him; and having connected peared his poem, called “ The Castle of Indolence,” himself with some young men in the university who which had been several years under his polishing were aspirants after literary eminence, he readily hand, and by many is considered as his principal listened to the advice of a lady, the friend of his performance. He was now in tolerably affluent mother, and determined to try his fortune in the circumstances, a place of Surveyor-general of the great metropolis, London.
Leeward Islands, given him by Mr. Lyttleton, In 1725 Thomson came by sea to the capital, bringing him in, after paying a deputy, about 3002. where he soon found out his college acquaintance, a year. He did not, however, long enjoy this state Mallet, to whom he showed his poem of “ Winter," of comfort; for returning one evening from London then composed in detached passages of the descripto Kew-lane, he was attacked by a fever, which tive kind. Mallet advised him to form them into a proved fatal in August 1748, the 48th year of his connected piece, and immediately to print it. It age. He was interred without any memorial in was purchased for a small sum, and appeared in Richmond church; but a monument was erected to 1726, dedicated to Sir Spencer Compton. Its his memory, in Westminster Abbey, in 1762, with merits, however, were little understood by the pub- the profits arising from an edition of his works public; till Mr. Whateley, a person of acknowledged lished by Mr. Millar. taste, happening to cast an eye upon it, was struck Thomson in person was large and ungainly, with with its beauties, and gave it vogue. His dedicatee, a heavy, unanimated countenance, and having who had hitherto neglected him, made him a present nothing in his appearance in mixed society indiof twenty guineas, and he was introduced to Pope, cating the man of genius or refinement. He was, Bishop Rundle, and Lord-Chancellor Talbot. In however, easy and cheerful with select friends, by 1727, he published another of his seasons, “ Sum- whom he was singularly beloved for the kindness mer,” dedicated to Mr. Doddington, for it was still of his heart, and his freedom from all the malignant the custom for poets to pay this tribute to men in passions which too often debase the literary charpower. In the same year he gave to the public his acter. His temper was much inclined to indolence, « Poem, sacred to the memory of Sir Isaac Newton," and he was fond of indulgence of every kind ; in and his “ Britannia." His “Spring," was published particular he was more attached to the pleasures of in 1728, addressed to the Countess of Hertford ; sense, than the sentimental delicacy of his writings and the Seasons were completed by the addition of would induce a reader to suppose. For the moral “ Autumn,” dedicated to Mr. Onslow, in 1730, tendency of his works, no author has deserved more when they were published collectively.
praise ; and no one can rise from the perusal of his As nothing was more tempting to the cupidity of pages, without being sensible of a melioration of his an author than dramatic composition, Thomson principles or feelings. resolved to become a competitor for that laurel also, The poetical merits of Thomson, undoubtedly and in 1728, he had the influence to bring upon the stand most conspicuous in his Seasons, the first long
composition, perhaps, of which natural description tion to his fame has principally arisen from his was made the staple, and certainly the most fertile “Castle of Indolence," an allegorical composition of grand and beautiful delineations, in great mea- in the manner and stanza of Spenser; and among the sure deduced from the author's own observation. imitators of this poet, Thomson may deserve the Its diction is somewhat cumbrous and labored, but preference, on account of the application of his fable, energetic and expressive. Its versification does not and the moral and descriptive beauties by which it denote a practised ear, but is seldom unpleasantly is filled up. This piece is entirely free from the harsh. Upon the whole, no poem has been more, stiffness of language perceptible in the author's and more deservedly, popular; and it has exerted blank verse, which is also the case with many of a powerful influence upon public taste, not only in his songs, and other rhymed poems. this country, but throughout Europe. Any addi
Th'expansive atmosphere is cramp'd with cold; But, full of life and vivifying soul,
Lifts the light clouds sublime, and spreads them THE SEASONS.
Fleecy and white, o'er all-surrounding heaven. SPRING, 1728.
Forth fly the tepid airs; and unconfin'd,
Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays. Et nunc omnis ager, nunc omnis parturit arbos,
Joyous, ib' impatient husbandman perceives
Relenting Nature, and his lusty steers
Drives from their stalls, to where the well-us'd
Lies in the furrow, loosen'd from the frost.
There, unrefusing, to the harness'd yoke The subject proposed. Inscribed to the Countess They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil,
of Hertford. The season is described as it Cheer'd by the simple song and soaring lark. affects the various parts of Nature, ascending Meanwhile incumbent o'er the shining share from the lower to the higher; with digressions The master leans, removes th' obstructing clay, arising from the subject. Its influence on in- Winds the whole work, and sidelog lays the glebe. animate matter, on vegetables, on brute animals, White through the neighboring field the sower and, last, on man; concluding with a dissuasive
stalks, from the wild and irregular passion of love, With measur'd step; and liberal throws the grain opposed to that of a pure and happy kind. Into the faithful bosom of the ground :
The harrow follows harsh, and shuts the scene. COME, gentle Spring, ethercal Mildness, come, Be gracious, Heaven! for now laborious man And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud, Has done his part. Ye fostering breezes, blow! While music wakes around, veil'd in a shower Ye softening dews, ye tender showers, descend! Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend. And temper all, thou world-reviving Sun, O Hertford, fitted or to shine in courts
Into the perfect year! Nor ye who live With unaffected grace, or walk the plain In luxury and ease, in pomp and pride, With innocence and meditation join'd
Think these lost themes unworthy of your ear: In soft assemblage, listen to my song,
Such themes as these the rural Maro sung Which thy own Season paints; when Nature all To wide-imperial Rome, in the full height Is blooming and benevolent, like thee.
Of elegance and taste, by Greece refin'd. And see where surly Winter passes off, In ancient times, the sacred plow employ'd Far to the north, and calls his ruffian blasts : The kings, and awful fathers of mankind : His blasts obey, and quit the howling hill,
and some, with whom compar'd your insect-tribes The shatter'd forest, and the ravag'd vale; Are but the beings of a summer's day, While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch, Have held the scale of empire, rul'd the storm Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,
Of mighty war; then, with unwearied hand, The mountains lift their green heads to the sky. Disdaining little delicacies, seiz'd
As yet the trembling year is unconfirm’d, The plow, and greatly independent liv'd. And Winter oft at eve resumes the breeze,
Ye generous Britons, venerate the plow; Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets And o'er your hills, and long withdrawing vales, Deform the day delightless : so that scarce Let Autumn spread his treasures to the Sun, The bittern knows his time, with bill ingulrd Luxuriant and unbounded : as the Sea, To shake the sounding marsh ; or from the shore Far through his azure turbulent domain, The plovers when to scatter o'er the heath, Your empire owns, and from a thousand shores And sing their wild notes to the listening waste. Wafts all the pomp of life into your ports,
At last from Aries rolls the bounteous Sun, So with superior boon may your rich soil, And the bright Bull receives him. Then no more Exuberant Nature's better blessings pour
O'er every land, the naked nations clothe,
Within his iron cave, th' effusive south And be th' exhaustless granary of a world! Warms the wide air, and o'er the void of heaven
Nor only through the lenient air this change, Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent Delicious, breathes; the penetrative Sun,
At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise, His force deep-darting to the dark retreat Scarce staining ether; but by swift degrees, of vegetation, sets the steaming power
In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapor sails
Not such as wintery-storms on mortals shed,
From the moist meadow to the wither'd hill, The wish of Nature. Gradual sinks the breeze Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs, Into a perfect calm; that not a breath And swells, and deepens, to the cherish'd eye. Is heard to quiver through the closing woods, The hawthorn whitens: and the juicy groves Or rustling turn the many twinkling leaves Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees, Of aspin tall. Th’uncurling floods, diffus'd Till the whole leafy forest stands display'd, In glassy breadth, seem through delusive lapse In full luxuriance, to the sighing gales;
Forgetful of their course. 'Tis silence all, Where the deer rustle through the twining brake, And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks And the birds sing conceal'd. At once array'd Drop the dry sprig, and, mute-imploring, eye In all the colors of the flushing year,
The falling verdure. Hush'd in short suspense By Nature's swift and secret-working hand, The plumy people streak their wings with oil, The garden glows, and fills the liberal air
To throw the lucid moisture trickling off; With lavish fragrance; while the promis'd fruit And wait th' approaching sign to strike, at once Lies yet a little embryo, un perceiv'd
Into the general choir. Ev'n mountains, vales, Within its crimson folds. Now from the town And forests, seem, impatient, to demand Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisome damps, The promis'd sweetness. Man superior walks Oft let me wander o'er the dewy fields, [drops Amid the glad creation, musing praise, Where freshness breathes, and dash the trembling And looking lively gratitude. At last, From the bent bush, as through the verdant maze The clouds consign their treasures to the fields ; Of sweet-brier hedges I pursue my walk ; And, softly shaking on the dimpled pool Or taste the smell of dairy; or ascend
Prelusive drops, let all their moisture flow, Some eminence, Augusta, in thy plains,
In large effusion, o'er the freshen'd world. And see the country, far diffus'd around,
The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard, One boundless blush, one white-empurpled shower By such as wander through the forest walks, Of mingled blossoms; where the raptur'd eye Beneath th' umbrageous multitude of leaves. Hurries from joy to joy, and, hid beneath
But who can hold the shade, while Heaven descends The fair profusion, yellow Autumn spies.
In universal bounty, shedding herbs, If, brush'd from Russian wilds, a cutting gale And fruits, and flowers, on Nature's ample lap? Rise not, and scatter from his humid wings Swift fancy fir'd anticipates their growth; The clammy mildew; or, dry-blowing, breathe And, while the milky nutriment distils, Untimely frost; before whose baleful blast Beholds the kindling country color round. The full-blown Spring through all her foliage Thus all day long the full-distended clouds shrinks,
Indulge their genial stores, and well-shower'd earth Joyless and dead, a wide-dejected waste.
Is deep-enrich'd with vegetable life; For oft, engender'd by the hazy north,
Till in the western sky, the downward Sun Myriads on myriads, insect armies waft
Looks out, effulgent, from amid the flush Keen in the poison'd breeze; and wasteful eat Of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam. Through buds and bark, into the blacken'd core, The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes Their eager way.
A feeble race! yet oft Th'illumin’d mountain, through the forest streams, The sacred sons of vengeance! on whose course Shakes on the floods, and in a yellow mist, Corrosive famine waits, and kills the year. Far smoking o'er th' interminable plain, To check this plague, the skilful farmer chaff, In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems. And blazing straw, before his orchard burns ; Moist, bright, and green, the landscape laughs Till, all involv'd in smoke, the latent foe
o round. From every cranny suffocated falls :
Full swell the woods; their very music wakes, Or scatters o'er the blooms the pungent dust Mix'd in wild concert with the warbling brooks of pepper, fatal to the frosty tribe :
Increas'd, the distant bleatings of the hills,
Bestriding Earth, the grand ethereal bow
Here, awful Newton, the dissolving clouds
Form, fronting on the Sun, thy showery prism, In endless train, would quench the summer-blaze, And to the sage-instructed eye unfold And, cheerless, drown the crude unripen'd year. The various twine of light, by thee disclos'd
The north-east spends his rage ; he now shut up From the white mingling maze. Not so the boy,
He wondering views the bright enchantment bend, The foul disorder. Senseless, and deformid,
And silent, seltles into fell revenge.
Base envy withers at another's joy,
Desponding fear, of feeble fancies full,
A pensive anguish pining at the heart;
Which, selfish joy disdaining, seeks alone Whether he steals along the lonely dale,
To bless the dearer object of its flame.
The partial thought, a listless unconcern,
Then dark disgust, and hatred, winding wiles,
At last, extinct each social feeling, fell
And petrifies the heart. Nature disturbid
Hence, in old dusky time, a deluge came : The first fresh dawn then wak’d the gladden'd When the deep-cleft disparting orb, that arch'd
The central waters round, impetuous rush'd, Of uncorrupted man, nor blush'd to see
With universal burst, into the gulf, The sluggard sleep beneath its sacred beam : And o'er the high-pil'd hills of fractur'd earth For their light slumbers gently fum'd away ; Wide dash'd the waves, in undulation vast; And up they rose as vigorous as the Sun,
Till, from the centre to the streaming clouds, Or to the culture of the willing globe,
A shoreless ocean tumbled round the globe. Or to the cheerful tendence of the flock.
The Seasons since have, with severer sway, Meanume the song went round; and dance and sport, Oppress'd a broken world: the Winter keen Wisdom and friendly talk, successive, stole Shook forth his waste of snows; and Summer shot Their hours away; while in the rosy vale His pestilential heats. Great Spring, before, Love breath'd his infant sighs, from anguish free, Green'd all the year; and fruits and blossoms And full replete with bliss; save the sweet pain,
blush'u, That, inly thrilling, but exalts it more.
In social sweetness, on the self-same bough. Nor yet injurious act, nor surly deed,
Pure was the temperate air; and even calm Was known among those happy sons of Heaven; Perpetual reign'd, save what the zephyrs bland For reason and benevolence were law.
Breath'd o'er the blue expanse : for then nor storms Harmonious Nature too look'd smiling on. Were taught to blow, nor hurricanes to rage; Clear shone the skies, cool'd with eternal gales, Sound slept the waters; no sulphureous glooms And balmy spirit all. The youthful Sun
Swell'd in the sky, and sent the lightning forth; Shot his best rays, and still the gracious clouds While sickly damps, and cold autumnal fogs, Dropp'd fatness down; as o'er the swelling mead, Hung not, relaxing, cn the springs of life. The herds and flocks, commixing, play'd secure. But now, of turbid elements the sport, This when, emergent from the gloomy wood, From clear to cloudy tost, from hot to cold, The glaring lion saw, his horrid heart
And dry to moist, with inward-eating change, Was meeken’d, and he join'd his sullen joy, Our drooping days are dwindled down to nought, For music held the whole in perfect peace : Their period finish'd ere 'tis well begun. Soft sigh'd the flute; the tender voice was heard, And yet the wholesome herb neglected dies ; Warbling the varied heart; the woodlands round Though with the pure exhilarating soul Applied their quire; and winds and waters flow'd Of nutriment, and health, and vital powers, In consonance. Such were those prime of days. Beyond the search of art, 'tis copious blest. But now those white unblemish'd manners, For, with hot ravine fir’d, ensanguin'd man whence
Is now become the lion of the plain, The fabling poets took their golden age,
And worse. The wolf, who from the nightly fold Are found no more amid these iron times,
Fierce drags the bleating prey, ne'er drunk her milk, These dregs of life! Now the distemper'd mind Nor wore her warming fleece: nor has the steer, Has lost that concord of harmonious powers, At whose strong chest the deadly tiger hangs, Which forms the soul of happiness; and all E’er plow'd for him. They too are temper'd high, Is off the poise within : the passions all
With hunger stung and wild necessity, Have burst their bounds; and reason, half extinci, Nor lodges pity in their shaggy breast. Or impotent, or else approving. sees
But Man, whom Nature formd of milder clay, 54