1770 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

W. B., "Verses occasion'd by hearing of the intended Festival in Honour of Thomson" Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement 10 (6 December 1770) 305-06.



Though Science long in southern climes has shin'd,
Yet in no spot is Science fair confin'd:
Though Grecian annals boast great Homer's name,
And ancient Rome immortal Maro claim;
Her "matchless Will," though Warwick likewise boast,
And every Briton strive to praise him most;
With mirth and music, hail the happy morn
In which "wild Shakespeare," king of bards, was born:
Yet Nature's Bard is Caledonia's son,
Whom warmer climates would be proud to own.

In him each lovely Muse, and native grace,
And every manly virtue, holds a place;
No mean invectives, nor hot party rage,
No smart conceits debase his classic page.
With thoughts exalted, and expressions strong,
Sweet-flowing numbers, though a rhymeless song;
Behold how Nature's secrets he explores,
And Nature's parent for his gifts adores!

When from the clouds descends the genial shower,
And pregnant Nature teems with every flower;
When rain and sun divide the various day,
And breezes gently on the waters play;
When, wildly warbled thro' the listening grove,
Each voice is melody, and tun'd to love,
His page presents the calm enlivening scene;
His words like Nature, joyous, yet serene.

When smiling Summer comes to rule the year,
Beneath her touch the sultry scenes appear;
See parch'd with heat, all Nature panting lies
Beneath the flaming furnace of the skies!
There noisy insects humming wheel their way,
And bask and sport in Sol's meridian ray;
There sun-burnt rustics tread the scorched plain,
Whose blood fermented boils thro' every vein.

Now languishing, and overpower'd with heat,
He seeks some shady covert's cool retreat,
Where far retir'd from every human eye,
From heaven to earth his raptur'd glances fly;
Ideal regions open to his view,
Where Fancy's wings their daring flights pursue.

When full matur'd by heaven's indulgent smiles,
And the joint aid of hardy plowman's toils,
The loaded fields the reaper's art demand,
And plenty flows profusely o'er the land;
The toilsome, jovial tasks before our eyes,
In all the forms of nature drest, arise.

With artless beauties see him now relate
The wondrous windings in Lavinia's fate!
Though warmest wishes breathe through ev'ry line,
Yet purest thoughts through each expression shine.

Naked and leafless now the forests stand,
And tell the world that Winter is at hand.
—A solemn, dreadful landscape now behold,
His nature-painting, mournful Muse unfold!
All nature lowrs, portentous of the storm,
And aether's tenants shun th' impending harm.
Then rain and wind in dread assemblage blow,
And shake the woods, "that grumbling wave below:"
Cover'd with snow, all dazzling to the sight,
See Nature wears a robe of purest white.
The power of frost now fainting nature feels,
Thro' ev'ry nerve the cramping nitre steals:
Ev'n while we gaze on his storm-painting page,
We freeze with horror at the tempest's rage.

When thus the seasons of the changeful year,
In all their forms successively appear,
Gay looking Spring with childhood he compares;
With Summer, youth, with Autumn, ripen'd years;
With heavy Winter, age and all its cares:
Shows Nature's God upright in all his ways,
Then shuts the scene with rapt'rous, silent praise.

He too possess'd th' inchanting, tragic art,
Which warms th' affections, and which melts the heart;
Which pours instruction o'er the attentive mind,
And breathes benevolence to human kind;
While holds up human mis'ry to our eyes,
And opes our ears in pity to his cries;
Makes us to feel the woes another bears,
And shed a shower of sympathetic tears;
Which bids the virtuous man be ever bold,
Nor yield his honour to the charms of gold.

Such is the pow'r of THOMSON'S tragic page;
And such the subjects for the British stage.

But not in public only was he lov'd,
Ev'n his most secret conduct was approv'd.
A foe to vice in ev'ry station he;
A friend to virtue in whate'er degree.
His words flow'd simple from his friendly heart,
Guiltless, sincere, and undisguis'd by art.
To cringe for int'rest, or for favour bow,
For gain to praise, his honest heart ne'er knew:
All venal views his godlike soul disdain'd:
Fame was his aim, and he the prize obtain'd.
But where the words that point his heavenly mind?
The friend to liberty and human kind!

Freedom, to idol of all ages past,
That charms the present, and will cheer the last,
To thee he bow'd, and own'd thou held'st the sway
In sea-girt Britain, which the seas obey.
Freedom! 'twas thou, that Greece and Rome enjoy'd,
'Ere wanton luxury their peace destroy'd;
From thee alone our choicest blessings flow;
Britons to thee their envied comforts owe.
In this blest land, may'st thou for ever deign
To fix thy seat, and unmolested reign!

Hail to the bard, with gen'rous ardour fir'd,
Whom genius warm'd and gratitude inspir'd
With festal rites who hail the hallow'd morn,
When THOMSON, Nature's fav'rite child! was born.

But chief to thee, O T—! the grateful song,
And gen'ral thanks of Scotia's sons belong:
Even in the op'nings of thy youthful mind,
By thee the gen'rous plan was first design'd.
In joys unmingled may the day abound,
And with success the glorious task be crown'd.