1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Seasons. In imitation of Spenser.

The Seasons. In imitation of Spenser.

Moses Mendez


35 Spenserians, prefaced with a salute to that "sweet poet" James Thomson, bard of The Seasons. Moses Mendez's Seasons is, however, very different from Thomson's, looking backwards not only to Spenser but to the whole tradition of epigram and descriptive verse. His descriptions are delightful and his tone is worldly-wise without his usual cynicism. Perhaps the gentle melancholy, like the subject, owes something to the Shepheardes Calender. Lacking the usual political program, The Seasons (published anonymously) is one of the most enjoyable and carefully crafted of all the mid-century Spenser imitations.

"Bateman" refers to Lord Beichan, the subject of an old ballad; "Thenot" would be John Philips, author of Cyder (1708). "Spring" had been published a few weeks earlier in the London Advertiser; "Winter" was later anonymously printed as "Ode to Winter" in Walker's Hibernian Magazine 3 (March 1773) 153-54.

Monthly Review: "It is with pleasure we observe that the author of this very ingenious performance has really imitated the great original he professes to follow in more respects than the servile and absurdly copying his obsolete words; which is all the excellence that most of our imitations of Spencer, Shakespear, and Milton have arrived at. We are indeed sorry to find writers of such distinguish'd merit as this anonymous author and Mr. West, falling in with a practice in defence of which we have never met with one solid argument. If the exploded words which render the English of queen Elizabeth's day almost unintelligible to the present age, are justly exploded, and totally disused in every other branch of literature, why, in the name of common sense, are they every now and then raised from the dead by our poets?" 4 (May 1751) 519-20.

London Advertiser: "It consists of four Parts, under the Denomination of the four Seasons, and three introductory Stanzas addressed to the modern Critics. There is an Uniformity of Stile, Sentiment, and Manner, through the whole, that will not fail to recommend it to those who judge of Things by their Whole, not by their Parts.... The Diction is every where remarkable for an elegant Familiarity; a Simplicity that makes it perfectly become the Subject, while it conveys the Images it is intended to express the only proper Form they could appear in. It is to the Author's Honour, that these, as well as the Sentiments, are all rural, and such as wild Nature alone might be supposed to inspire: The Subject is a very proper one for Pastoral; and there is not a Character introduced, that does not become it, or belong to it; and yet the Author has found the Way, in many Places, to arrive at something more than the descriptive Part of this Poetry, which he is very well qualified for excelling in, and in which most of the Pastoral Writers make it their side Aim to succeed" (29 April 1751).

European Magazine: "By some letters which have appeared in print, we find the amiable Thomson lived in terms of the most unreserved intimacy with Mr. Mendez's family, on one of whom [Mrs. Mendez] he wrote some complimentary verses" 22 (October 1792) 251.

E. P. Morton suggests that this poem called forth Johnson's strictures on Spenserian imitation in Rambler No. 121, which appeared a few days later; "The Spenserian Stanza in the Eighteenth Century" (1913).

William Lyon Phelps: "Mendez was a Jew, who dabbled in literature. He was famous chiefly for his great wealth, and forms in this respect a curious contrast to the literary beggars of the day. He was the richest poet of his time, leaving a fortune of 100,000 at his death. Mendez was an enthusiastic admirer of Thomson's poetry, and the Season's he imitated him doubly, be writing on Nature and by adopting the Spenserian stanza.... Mendez's Season's contains the usual amount of obsolete words, but has in its swing and melody something of the real manner of the master" Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement (1893) 77-78.

Myra Reynolds: "Moses Mendes published in 1751 four poems named in imitation of Thomson, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. There is some first-hand observation in such lines as, 'The pool-sprung gnat on sounding wings doth pass | And on the ramping steed doth suck his fill' ... but more often the observations are of the conventional imitative sort, as in this couplet: 'On every hill the purple-blushing vine | Beneath her leaves her racy fruit doth hide,' which is hardly true of an English scene. On the whole the passages in which Mendes treats of Nature, while rather fanciful and decorative, are not indicative of any real knowledge of Nature" The Treatment of Nature in English Poetry (1909) 130-31.

Dwight Durling: "His Seasons is a contracted descriptive poem in the Spenserian stanza, of which he was fond. Like other 'Spenserians,' he as a good deal of archaic affectation. Beginning with praises of Thomson, Spring pictures the effects of that season on the birds and barnyard fowl, the coming of the flowers, the play of the doves, the effects of Spring on mankind. Summer shows the languishing of fields, flowers, animals, and men under the ardent sun, the 'noontide retreat,' the labors of the hayfield, a summer night, and peasants dancing. Autumn sketches the harvest, 'harvest-home' festival, the ripened fruits, the chase and fowling, and rural content in retirement. Winter brings the freezing of the streams, the changed states of animals and men, the peasant's labors mending hedge and draining — and his winter evening pleasure in merry companies. There is little in Mendez for which he could not have found at least the suggestion in Thomson. But a genuine taste for nature and pleasure in observing the life of the country are present" Georgic Tradition in English Poetry (1935) 135-36.

Julius Nicholas Hook, "Eighteenth-Century Imitations of Spenser" (1941) and Spenser Encyclopedia (1990), following Todd, following Fawkes and Woty, list the reprint of the first stanza as though it were a separate poem by Mendez.



SPRING. AN IMITATION OF SPENSER.
Ere yet I sing the round-revolving Year,
And show the Toils and Pastime of the Swain,
At Alcon's Grave I drop a pious Tear;
Right well he knew to raise his learned Strain,
And, like his Milton, scorn'd the rhiming Chain.
Ah! cruel Fate, to tear him from our Eyes;
Receive this Wreath, albe the Tribute's vain,
From the green Sod may Flow'rs immortal rise,
To mark the sacred Spot where the sweet Poet lies.

It is the Cuckoo that announceth SPRING,
And with his wreakful Tale the Spouse doth fray;
Mean while the Finches harmless Ditties sing,
And hop, in buxom Youth, from Spray to Spray,
Proud as Sir Paridel, of rich Array.
The little Wantons that draw Venus' Team
Chirp amorous thro' the Grove, in beavies gay;
And he, who erst gain'd Leda's fond Esteem,
Now sails on Thamis Tide, the Glory of the Stream!

Proud as the Tulkish Soldan, Chaunticleer
Sees, with Delight, his num'rous Race around;
He grants fresh Favours to each Female near;
For Love as well as Cherisaunce renown'd.
The waddling Dame that did the Gauls confound,
Her tawny Sons doth lead to Rivers cold;
While Juno's Dearling, with majestic Bound,
To charm his Leman doth his Train unfold,
That glows with vivid Green, that flames with burning Gold.

The balmy Cowslip gilds the smiling Plain,
The virgin Snow-drop boasts her Silver Hue,
An hundred Tints the gaudy Daisy stain,
And the meek Violet, in amis Blue,
Creeps low to Earth, and hides from public View:
But the rank Nettle rears her Crest on high;
So Ribaulds loose their Fronts unblushing shew,
While modest Merit doth neglected lie,
And pines in lonely Shade, unseen of vulgar Eye.

See! all around the gall-less Culver's bill,
Mean while the Nightingale's becalming Lays
Mix with the plaintive Music of the Rill
The which in various Gyres the Meadow bays.
Behold! the Welkin bursts into a Blaze!
Fast by the Car of Light the nimble Hours,
In Songs of Triumph, hail his genial Rays,
And, as they wend to Thetis cooling Bowers,
They bound along the Sky, and strew the Heav'ns with Flow'rs.

And now the human Bosom melts to Love;
The raptur'd Bard awakes his skilful Lyre,
By running Streams, or in the Laurel Grove,
He tunes to am'rous Notes his sounding Wire,
All, all is Harmony, and all Desire.
The happy Numbers charm the blooming Maid,
Her blushing Cheeks pronounce her Heart on Fire,
She now consents, then shuns th' embowering Shade,
With faint Reluctance yields; desirous, yet afraid.

Now rustic Cuddy, with untutor'd Throat,
(Tho' much admir'd, I ween, of Nymph and Swain)
By various Songs would various Ends promote.
Seeks he to prove that Woman's Vows are vain?
He Bateman's Fortune tells, a baleful Strain!
And if, to honor Britain he be led,
He sings a 'Prentice bold, in Londs profane,
Who, all unarm'd, did strike two Lyons dead,
Tore forth their savage Hearts, and did a Princess wed.

But hark! the Bag-pipe summons to the Green,
The jocund Bag-pipe, that awaketh Sport;
The blithesome Lasses, as the Morning sheen,
Around the flow'r-crown'd May-pole quick resort;
The Gods of Pleasure here have fix'd their Court.
Quick on the Wing the flying Moment seize,
Nor build up ample Schemes, for Life is short,
Short as the Whisper of the passing Breeze.
Yet, ah! in vain I preach — mine Heart is ill at Ease.

SUMMER. AN IMITATION OF SPENSER.
Beneath yon snubby Oak's extended Shade
Safe let me hide me from the Eye of Day;
Nor shall the Dog-star this Retreat invade,
As thro' the Heav'ns he speeds his burning Way:
The sultry Lyon rages for his Prey.
Ah Phoebus, quench thy wild destroying Fire,
Each Flow'r, each Shrub doth sink beneath thy Ray,
Save the fresh Laurel, that shall ne'er expire.
The leaves that crown a Bard, may brave celestial Ire.

Or shall I hie to mine own Hermitage,
Round which the wanton Vine her Arms doth wind,
There may I lonely turn the sacred Page,
Improve my Reason, and amend my Mind;
Here 'gainst Life's ills a Remedy I find.
An hundred Flow'rs emboss the verdant Ground;
A little Brook doth my sweet Cottage bind,
Its Waters yield a melancholy Sound,
And sooth to Study deep, or lull to Sleep profound.

The playful Insect hopping in the Grass
Doth tire the Hearer with his Sonnet shrill;
The pool-sprung Gnat on sounding Wing doth pass,
And on the ramping Steed doth suck his Fill;
Ah me, can little Creatures work such Ill!
The patient Cow doth, to eschew the Heat,
Her Body steep within the neighb'ring Rill;
And while the Lambs in fainter Voices bleat,
Their Mothers hang the Head, in doleful Plight I weet.

Rechless of Seasons, see the lusty Swains
Along the Meadow spread the tawny Hay;
The Maidens too undaunted seek the Plains,
Ne fear to show their Faces to the Ray;
But all, the honest Badge of Toil display.
See how they mould the Hay-cock's rising Head;
While wanton Colin, full of amorous Play,
Down throweth Susan, who doth shriek for Dread.
Fear not. — Thou canst be hurt upon so soft a Bed.

At length the Sun doth hasten to repose,
And all the Vault of Heav'n is streak'd with Light;
In flamy Gold the ruddy Welkin glows,
And, for the Noon-day Heat, our Pains doth quite,
For all is calm, serene, and passing bright.
Favonius gentle skims along the Grove,
And sheds sweet Odors from his Pennons light.
The little Bat in giddy Orbs doth rove,
And loud the Screech-owl shrieks, to rouse her blue-ey'd Love.

Menalcas came to taste the Ev'ning Gale,
His Cheeks impurpl'd with the Rose of Youth;
He won each Damsel with his piteous Tale,
They thought they listen'd to the words of Truth,
Yet their Belief did work them muchel Ruth.
His Oaths were light as Gossimer, or Air,
His Tongue was pois'nous as an Sspic's Tooth.
Ah! cease to promise Joy, and give Despair.
'Tis brave to smite the Foe; 'tis base to wrong the Fair.

The gentle Thyrsis, mild as op'ning Morn,
Came to the Lawn, and Marian there was found,
Marian whom many Huswife Arts adorn,
Right well she knew the Apple to surround
With dulcet Crust; and Thomalin renown'd
For prow Atchievements in the Wrestling-ring;
He held at nought the Vantage of the Ground,
But prone to Earth the hardiest Wight would fling;
Such was Alcides erst, if Poets sooth do sing.

From tree-crown'd Hill, from flow'r enamel'd Vale,
The mild Inhabitants in Crowds appear
To tread a Measure; while Night's Regent pale
Doth thro' the Sky her Silver Chariot steer,
Whose lucid Wheels were deck'd with Dew-drops clear,
The which, like Pearls, descended on the Plain.
Now every Youth doth clasp his Mistress dear,
And every Nymph rewards her constant Swain.
Thrice happy he who loves, and is belov'd again.

AUTUMN. AN IMITATION OF SPENSER.
See jolly AUTUMN, clad in Hunter's Green,
In wholesome lusty-hed doth mount the Sphere,
A leafy Girlond binds her Temples sheen,
Instudded richly with the spiky Ear.
Her right Hand bears a vine-incircl'd Spear,
Such as the Crew did wield whom Bacchus lad,
When to the Ganges he his Course did steer;
And in her left a Bugle-horn she had,
On which she eft did blow, and made the Heart right glad.

In slow Procession moves the tott'ring Wain,
The sun-burnt Hinds their finish'd Toil ensue;
Now in the Barn they house the glit'ring Grain,
And there the Cries of 'harvest home' renew,
The honest Farmer doth his Friends salew;
And them with Jugs of Ale his Wife doth treat,
Which, for that Purpose, she at Home did brew;
They laugh, they sport, and homely Jests repeat,
Then smack their Lasses lips, their Lips as Honey sweet.

On ev'ry Hill the purple-blushing Vine
Beneath her Leaves her racy Fruit doth hide.
Albe she pour not Floods of foaming Wine,
Yet are we not Potations bland deny'd;
See where the Pear-tree doth in Earth abide,
Bruise her rich Fruitage, and the Grape disdain;
The Apple too will grant a gen'rous Tyde,
To sing whose Honours Thenot rais'd his Strain,
Whose soul-inchanting Lays still charm the list'ning Plain.

Thro' greyish Mists behold Aurora dawns,
And to his Sport the wary Fowler hies;
Crouching to Earth his guileful Pointer fawns,
Now the thick Stubble, now the Clover tries,
To find where, with his Race, the Partridge lies;
Ah! luckless Sire, ah! luckless Race, I ween,
Whom Force compels, or subtle Arts surprize;
More Uncles wait to cause thee dolorous Teen,
Doom'd to escape the Deep, and perish on the Green.

The full-mouth'd Hounds pursue the timorous Hare,
And the Hills eccho to the joyful Cry;
Ah! borrow the light Pennons of the Air,
If you're arraught, you die, poor Wretch, you die.
Nought will avail the pity-pleading Eye,
For our good 'Squire doth much against you rail,
And saith you often magic Arts do try;
At Times you wave Grimalkin's sooty Tail,
Or on a Beesom vild you thro' the Welkin sail.

The Stag is rous'd; he stems the threat'ning Flood
That shall ere long his matchless Swiftness quell;
And, to avoid the Tumult of the Wood,
Amongst his well-known Pheers attempts to mell:
With Horn and Hoof his Purpose they repell.
Thus, should a Maid from Virtue's Lore ystray,
Your sex, my Daphne, show their Vengeance fell;
Your cruel selves with Gall the Shaft embay,
And lash from Pardon's Shrine the Penitent away.

Now silence charms the Sages of the Gown,
To purer Air doth speed each crafty Wight;
The well-squeez'd Client quits the dusty Town,
Grown grey in the asserting of his Right,
With Head yfraught with Law, and Pockets light,
Well pleas'd he wanders o'er the fallow Lea,
And views each rural Object with Delight.
Ne'er be my Lot the brawling Courts to see;
Who trusts to Lawyer's Tongue doth much misween, perdy.

Right bless'd the Man who free from bitter Bale,
Doth in the little, peaceful Hamlet dwell,
No loud Contention doth his Ears assail,
Save when the Tempest whistles o'er his Cell;
The Fruitful Down, the flow'r-depainted Dell,
To please his Eyne are variously array'd;
And when in Roundelay his Flame he'd tell,
He gains a Smile from his beloved Maid;
By such a gentle Smile, an Age of Pain's repaid.

WINTER. AN IMITATION OF SPENSER.
The little Brook that erst my Cot did lave,
And o'er its flinty Pavement sweetly sung,
Doth now forget to roll her wanton Wave,
For Winter Hoar her icy Chain has flung
And still'd the babbling Music of her Tongue.
The lonely Woodcock seeks the splashy Glen,
Each Mountain Head with fleecy Snow is hung;
The Snipe and Duck enjoy the moorish Fen,
Like Eremites they live, and shun the Sight of Men.

The wareless Sheep no longer bite the Mead,
No more the Plough-boy turns the stubborn Ground,
At the full Crib the horned Lab'rers feed,
Their Nostrils cast black Clouds of Smoak around;
A squalid Coat doth the lean Steed surround.
The wily Fox doth prowl abroad for Prey,
Rechless of Snares, or of th' avenging Hound;
And trusty Lightfoot, now no longer gay,
Sleeps at the Kitchen Hearth his cheerless Hours away.

Where erst the Boat, and slowly moving Barge,
Did with Delight cut thro' the dimpling Plain,
Now wanton Boys, and Men do roam at large;
The River-Gods quit their usurp'd Domain,
And of the Wrong at Neptune's Court complain.
There mote you see mild Avon crown'd with Flow'rs,
And milky Wey withouten Spot or Stain;
There the fair Stream that washes Hampton's Bow'rs,
And Isis who with Pride beholds her learned Tow'rs.

Intent on Sport, the ever jocund Throng
Quit their warm Cots, and for the Game prepare;
Behold the restless Foot-ball whirls along,
Now near the Earth, now mounted high in Air.
Thus often Men, in Life's wild Lott'ry fare,
Who quit true Bliss to grasp an empty Toy.
Our honest Swains for Wealth nor Titles care,
But lusty Health in Exercise employ.
The distant Village hears the rude tumultuous Joy.

The careful Hedger looks the Fields around
To see what Labour may his Skill demand;
He mends the Fence, repairs the sinking Mound,
Or in long Drains he cuts the lower Land,
That shall henceforth all sudden Floods withstand.
Mean while at Home his Dame, with Silver Hair,
Doth sit incircl'd by a goodly Band
Of lovely Maids, who various Works prepare,
All chaste as Jove's wise Child, as Cupid's Mother fair.

She them discourses not of Fashions nice,
Nor of the trilling Notes which Eunuchs sing,
Allurements vain, that prompt the Soul to Vice!
Ne tells she them of Kesar or of King;
Too great the Subject for so mean a Ring.
Her Lessons teach to swell the Capon's Size;
To make the Hen a num'rous Offspring bring;
Or how the way-ward Mother to chastize
When from her vetchy Nest the weetless Vagrant hies.

When glist'ring Spangles deck the Robe of Night,
And all their Kine in Pens avoid the Cold,
The buxom Troops, still eager of Delight,
Round Damon's Eyne a Drapet white infold,
He darkling gropes 'till he some one can hold,
Next Corin hides his Head, and must impart
What wanton fair One smote his Hand so bold.
He Delia names, nor did from Truth depart;
For well he knew her Touch, who long had fir'd his Heart.

Stay I conjure you by your Hopes of Bliss,
Trust not, my Daphne, the rough-biting Air,
Let not rude Winds those Lips of Softness kiss,
Will Eurus stern, the Charms of Beauty spare?
No, he will hurt my rosy-featur'd Fair,
If aught so bright dares rugged Carl invade,
Too tender thou such rough assaults to bear;
The Mountain ash may stand tho' strip'd of Shade,
But at the slightest Wound the silken Flow'r will fade.

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