1750
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Summer's Evening.

Juvenilia: Poems on Various Subjects of Devotion and Virtue. By Thomas Gibbons.

Rev. Thomas Gibbons


Twelve couplet quatrains that treat the Il Penseroso motif with unusual lyricism. Were these lines written before the publication of William Collins's Odes in 1746, which is quite possible, they would be the more remarkable. Thomas Gibbons's volume attracted ridicule in the poetry columns of the Gentleman's Magazine, and was defended by the pious Moses Browne, who would eventually succeed Gibbons's father as vicar of Olney.

Preface: "Poetry, I acknowledge, has been my favourite Amusement. Poetry struck me with irresistible Charms in the early Days of my Youth; and to Poetry I am obliged for many Hours of rich Entertainment in the following Years of Ministerial Duty. It is no Wonder, therefore, that, possessed of a strong Passion for the Muse, and a Passion that has existed, and has been in some Degree encouraged, from sixteen to thirty Years of Age, I should now have a Number of Poetical Pieces sufficient to make up such a Volume as I am offering to the Publick."

Samuel Badcock: "His list of subscribers is a numerous one; very probably much more so than would have been that of his purchasers, had the book been published at the common hazard. His pieces are most of them very short, few of them on interesting or important subjects; but, for such topics as he has chosen, the author seems to have some genius. He is very fond of making verses on particular occasions, divine, moral or mournful. Several of the pieces in this volume, have been already published either in the magazine or as detach'd pamphlets. As the author began to exert his poetical talents when very young, 'tis no wonder, as himself observes, that in the interval betwixt 16 and 30 years of age, he should produce pieces enough to make up the volume he now offers to the public, and which, with great propriety, he calls Juvenilia" Monthly Review 3 (1750) 334.

J. W. Croker: "Thomas Gibbons, 'A Calvinist' (says the Biog. Dict.) 'of the old stamp, and a man of great piety and primitive manners.' He wrote a life of Dr. Watts, and assisted Dr. Johnson with some materials for the Life of Watts in the English Poets. He died in 1785, aetat. sixty-five" Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 4:501n.

Raymond Dexter Havens, The Influence of Milton (1922) lists several references for Gibbons as an imitator of Paradise Lost. The volume is dedicated to the Countess of Huntingdon, who also patronized John Wesley. It contains poems addressed to such religious luminaries as Gilbert West, Isaac Watts, Philip Doddridge, and James Hervey.



See how the sable-vested Night,
That holds divided Reign with Light,
Warn'd by the Moon's reviving Ray,
Comes from her gloomy Bow'rs away.

Flagrant upon her Raven-Brows
The Sleep-procuring Poppy glows;
And from her copious Horn are shed
The Dews soft-gliding o'er the Mead.

The Flow'rs their silken Leaves unfold,
Leaves ting'd with Azure, Green, and Gold,
And wait till Morn her Sway resumes,
To scent the Gale with fresh Perfumes.

ZEPHYR, his wanton Wings repress'd,
On Earth's soft Bosom sinks to Rest;
Ev'n quiv'ring Aspins cease to blow,
Nor can the Stream a Dimple show.

Slow-moving down the ecchoing Hill,
Self-pleas'd to chant his Wood-notes shrill,
The Shepherd drives his bleating Train,
To fold them on the furrow'd Plain.

Hark! from yon Bush-entangled Vale
The loud-complaining Nightingale
Trills her thick-warbled Ditty o'er,
But never ends her tuneful Store.

Daughter of HARMONY and NIGHT,
Thy Strains afford such rich Delight,
As NATURE Thee her Minstrel chose
To charm her Labours to Respose.

Stay, sweetest PHILOMEL, and chear
The solitary Pilgrim's Ear,
Till Morn, in orient Gold array'd,
Awakes the Tenants of the Shade.

The Sun has now forsook the Sky,
But still with many a beauteous Dye
Inflames the West; and, edg'd with Light,
Comes shad'wing on the Veil of Night.

Such may my Eve of Life appear!
Such Smiles may Death's kind Visage wear!
While I serene, secure from Harms,
In Transports sink into his Arms.

Now from the op'ning Gates of Heav'n
HESPER the flaming Sign has giv'n
For all his num'rous Host to trim
Their golden Fires, and ride with him.

Fast-trickling Mists my Limbs invade,
And the Night forms a duskier Shade:
Come, finish with the setting Sun,
And with him rise, and with him run.

[pp. 273-75]