1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

Bryan Waller Procter, in "English Poetry" Edinburgh Review 42 (April 1825) 62.



His "Seasons," contain finer or at least more popular things than any of his other poems, (although he but too frequently amplifies a simple fact, till you scarcely know what he is about,) but there is a much more equal power, and far more pure poetry in his delightful "Castle of Indolence." — It was here that he built up those shadowy battlements, and planted those "sleep-soothing" groves, under which lay

Idlesse, in her dreaming mood.

It was here that he wove in his poetic loom those pictures of pastoral quiet — of flowery lawns and glittering streams-of flocks and tranquil skies, and verdant plains,

And vacant shepherds piping in the dale—

the stock-dove, and the nightingale, and the rest of that tuneful quire which lull our minds into forgetfulness, and sing to us on summer mornings and winter nights, in town and in country equally well, until we forget the prose of human life in its romance, and bathe our fevered senses in the fresh flowers of poetry which the bounty of Thomson has bequeathed to us! There is nothing in the history of verse, from the restoration of Charles the Second to the present time, (not even in Collins, we think, and certainly not in Gray,) which can compete with the first part of the "Castle of Indolence." His account of the land of "Drowsy head," and "Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye," of the disappearance of the sons of Indolence, with the exquisite simile with which it closes — the huge covered tables, all odorous with spice and wine — the tapestried halls and their Italian pictures — the melancholy music — and, altogether, the golden magnificence and oriental luxuries of the place, and the ministering of the spirits who

Poured all the Arabian heaven upon our nights,

(an exquisite line) — may stand in comparison with almost any thing in the circle of poetry.