1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 79-80.



From an original Picture in the lid of the Poet's Snuff-Box, in the possession of Mrs. Hamilton.

This full face in a medallion represents the poet THOMSON. It is a personification of the Castle of Indolence, without its romance. It is the face of the lazy eater of peaches, who ate that blushing fruit with his hands in his pockets: it may even pass for the writer of Tancred and Sigismunda; but not for the author of "The Seasons." This last, which is the most celebrated work of Thomson, contains, perhaps, finer passages than any other; but we look oftener, we confess, upon the Castle of Indolence, and, as an entire poem, give it the preference to the more famous "Seasons." Thomson assuredly was a benefactor to poetry. His blank verse (though often swollen and heavy) has frequently fine passages, and good modulation; and his fresh natural images must have been a great relief to the thirsty imaginations of the readers who lived amongst so much of the dust and rubbish of poetry fifty years ago. His "Castle of Indolence," which begins in the manner of Spenser, and proceeds in his own scarcely inferior style, is a rich piece of poetry. There is a fine indolent air about it, which tempts a sluggard into the midst of its bewildering stanzas, till he is lost amongst silken couches and stately hangings, statues and pictures of all subjects and colours,—

Whate'er Lorraine light touch'd with softening hue,
Or savage Rosa dash'd, or learned Poussin drew—

pillars of porphyry, and magnificent saloons, quiet lawns whereon the murmuring winds lay sleeping, placid lakes and dreaming woods, the glittering glancing river which ran away in music, till the eye and ear were soothed to slumber; and, in short, amongst all the wonders of enchantment which that fine magician, the poet, can conjure up at will from the inexhaustible caverns of his brain.