1753
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on the Approach of Summer.

The Union: or select Scots and English Poems. [Thomas Warton, ed.]

Rev. Thomas Warton


A deft imitation of Milton's L'Allegro. Thomas Warton deceitfully presents himself as "a Gentleman formerly of the University of Aberdeen," and the The Union as a volume printed at Edinburgh. The conclusion hints at heroic ambitions Warton would later achieve in his more mature odes: "Nor let me fail, meantime, to raise | The sacred song to Britain's praise: | To spurn the shepherd's simple reeds | And paint heroic ancient deeds, | Record old ARTHUR'S magic tale, | And EDWARD, fierce in sable mail" pp. 91-92. In later editions the poem was considerably revised, removing the mention of James Thomson and introducing references to Shakespeare and to Spenser: "Yet still the sultry noon t' appease, | Some more romantic scene might please; | Or fairy bank, or magic lawn, | By Spenser's lavish pencil drawn" Poetical Works, ed. Mant (1802) 2:26.

Robert Anderson: "The Pastoral in the Manner of Spenser, is an ingenious imitation, and the Ode on the Approach of Summer is replete with true poetry; but the imagery is Miltonic, and perpetually reminds us of the source whence it was drawn. The use of old words in a poem not called an imitation of some old bard, seems a studied imperfection; such are the words 'aye,' 'eld,' 'murky,' 'watchet.' The frequent mixture of regular trochaics of seven syllables, and iambics of eight, seems a defect. If authority will justify this metrical irregularity, he has Milton in his 'Allegro' and 'Penseroso' on his side, and Gray in his 'Descent of Odin,' 'Triumphs of Owen,' and 'Death of Hoel;' but convenience or inadvertence seem to have occasioned these deviations from regularity, rather than choice or system" British Poets (1795) 11:1060.

Richard Mant: "In 1753 appeared at Edinburgh The Union, or select Scots and English Poems. The pieces in this little publication were selected by Mr. Warton: and he contributed to it several pieces of his own, as The Triumph of Isis, the Ode on the Approach of Summer, the Pastoral in the manner of Spenser, and the Inscription on a beautiful Grotto near the Water. The Ode and the Pastoral are said to be written by a Gentleman formerly of the University of Aberdeen, for what reason it does not appear, as the poems are undoubtedly Warton's, and he was never out of England: the preface adds of the same person, 'that his modesty would not permit his name to be printed'; and that, 'from these ingenious essays, the public would be enabled to form some judgment beforehand of a poem, of a nobler and more important nature, which he was then preparing.' A profession, of which, if it meant any thing, I cannot explain the meaning. In the third edition of The Union there are several other of Mr. Warton's poems, and the Summer Ode is printed with many improvements. In this publication, as well as in The Student, his contributions appeared under several signatures. The Triumph of Isis was the only one with his name. An innocent species of delusion; of which it may be neither easy nor useful to discover the cause" Memoir of Thomas Warton in Poetical Works (1802) 1:xxiv-v.

Lady's Monthly Museum: "He begins with a few irregular lines, in compliance with the example of Milton.... Every thing is characteristical; it is bleak, solitary, tempestuous. The 'cataract of ice' is a sublime object, and we shall not find it too hyperbolical, when we recollect, that the sea is frozen, notwithstanding its violent agitation. The personification of Eurus is grand and appropriate. But Frost is clothed in fur certainly without any regard to propriety; for the coat is only a defence against its own weapons, and, of course, a needless incumbrance. Auster might as well have been represented with an umbrella. The invocation to Summer, and the description of her attendants, are closely imitated from L'Allegro and Il Penseroso" NS 14 (May 1813) 277-78.

The Port Folio [Philadelphia]: "The descriptive poetry of Warton is of the very first order, and so far original, as it presents us with new pictures, and new combinations of ideas. The language, it is true, is modelled upon that of Milton, but the imagery is his own, and frequently of a kind very distinct from that which characterizes the minor poetry of the great Epic Bard. Neither Gray nor Collins can vie with him in this respect; and neither Claude nor Ruysdale ever painted a more glowing or a more distinct picture, than are many of the descriptions of Warton. The Ode on the approach of summer is interspersed with an occasional vein of the most pleasing pathos and morality" S4 7 (February 1819) 142.

Myra Reynolds: "Warton's work is of interest because of the many attractive details scattered through his poems, but there is little unity of effect. The general impression is that he saw Nature first through Milton's eyes, and that when he afterward made many charming discoveries for himself he tried to express them in the Il Penseroso manner" The Treatment of Nature in English Poetry (1909) 145.

Richard Frushell: "Ten of the 38 poems in The Union are by or about Spenserians, and one is a Spenser imitation. Such prominence would have been unlikely earlier in the century" Edmund Spenser in the Early Eighteenth Century (1999) 132.



Hence iron-scepter'd WINTER, haste
To des'late Russian waste!
Where far remote from man's resort
Thou hold'st thy joyless court;
Where ever beat by storms and show'rs
Thy gloomy Gothic castle tow'rs;
Amid whose howling isles and halls,
Where no gay sun-beam paints the walls,
On ebon throne, thou lov'st to shroud
Thy hoary head in sable cloud.

E'en now, before sun's soft heat,
Sullen I see thy train retreat:
EURUS, with lightning in his hands,
That on a tiger mounted stands;
High-figur'd on whose robe are shewn
Shipwrecks, and villages o'erthrown:
Grim AUSTER, dropping all with dew,
And clad in vest of watchet hue:
Next COLD, like Zemblan savage drest,
Who boldly bears his hardy breast:
With him his brother, fur-clad FROST,
His robe with icicles embost.

WINTER farewell! thy forests hoar,
Thy frozen floods delight no more;
Farewell the fields, so bare and wild!
But come thou rose-cheek'd cherub mild,
Sweetest SUMMER! haste thee here,
Once more to crown the gladden'd year.
Thee APRIL blythe, as long of yore,
Bermudas' vales he frolick'd o'er,
(Such is his wont, at early prime,
When the soft boughts begin to climb)
To gather balm of choicest dews,
And patterns fair of various hues,
With which to paint in changeful dye,
The vernal year's embroidery;
To cull the essence of rich smells
In which to dip his new-born bells;
Thee, as he rov'd with genial feet,
He found an infant, smiling sweet;
Where a tall citron's boughs imbrown'd
The green lap of the grassy ground.
There long upon a roseate bed,
Thee with rare nectarine fruits he fed;
Till from beneath his fost'ring care,
You bloom'd a goddess debonair;
And last he gave the blessed isle
Aye to be sway'd beneath thy smile.

Haste thee nymph! and hand in hand,
With thee bring a buxom band;
Bring fantastic-footed Joy,
With Sport that yellow-tressed boy,
Lead Health that loves, in early dawn
To meet the milk-maid in the lawn:
Lead Pleasure, rural nymph, and Peace.
Meek cottage loving shepherdess!
Bring the dear Muse, that loves to lean
On river-margins, mossy green.
But who is she, that bears thy train,
Pacing light the velvet plain?
The pale pink crowns her auburn hair,
Her tresses slow with past'ral air;
'Tis May the Grace — confest she stands
By branch of hawthorn in her hands:
Lo! near her trip the light-foot Dews
Their wings all dipt in iris-hues;
With whom lascivious Zephyrs play,
And paint with pansies all the way.

Oft when thy season, sweetest Queen,
Has drest the groves in livery green;
When in each fair and fertile field
Beauty begins her bow'r to build;
While Evening, veil'd in shadows brown,
Puts her matron-mantle on,
And mists in spreading streams convey
More fresh the fumes of new-shorn hay;
Then, Goddess, guide my gladsome feet
Contemplation hoar to meet,
As slow he winds his museful way,
O'er the soft marge of silver Tay:
Or near thy brook, O sylvan Jed!
Where first, by meek-ey'd Nature led,
Thomson the rural Muses woo'd
In numbers wild, of Dorian mood.
While thro' the dusk but dimly seen,
Sweet evening objects intervene:
His wattled cotes the shepherd plants,
Beneath her elm the milk-maid chants.
And now the labourer I meet
The low mist gathering at his feet:
Nor wants there fragrance all the while,
My soothed senses to beguile:
Nor tangled wood-bines balmy bloom,
Nor dewy grass, to breathe perfume:
Nor lowly wild-thyme's spicy sweet
To bathe in dew my roving feet:
Now wants there note of Philomel,
Nor sound of distant-tinkling bell:
Nor lowings faint of herds remote;
Nor mastiff's bark from lowly cott:
Rustle the breezes lightly born
Or deep-embattell'd ears of corn:
Round ancient elm, with humming noise,
Beetles in thickening swarms rejoice.
Meantime, what mingling dies invest
The golden chambers of the West!
That all aslant the village tow'r
A mild reflected radiance pour,
While, with th' obliquely-streaming rays
Far seen it's arched windows blaze:
While the tall grove's green top is dight
In russet hues, and gleams of light:
So that the soft scene by degrees
Bathes my blythe heart in extasies;
And Fancy to my ravish'd sight
Frames ever-varying visions bright;
Like those her MILTON wont to dream,
As by the pale moon's cloudless gleam,
He rov'd to hear the bird of woe,
Or sound of Curfeu swinging slow.
Till from the path I fondly stray
In musings lapt, and lose my way;
Wand'ring o'er the landscape still,
Till pensive Fancy has her fill;
Till o'er the sapphire-paven plain
Hesper leads her silver train.

But when the Sun, at noon-tide hour,
Sits throned in his highest tow'r;
When sportive flow'rs to weave a crown,
All on a deep dale's sunny side
With yellow crocus gaily dy'd;
Me heart-rejoicing Goddess lead
To the tann'd hay-cock in the mead:
To walk in rural mood among,
Of nymphs and swains, the toiling throng;
Or, as the tepid odours breath,
The russet piles to lean beneath:
There while at ease my limbs are thrown
On couch more soft than palace down;
To listen to the busy sound
Of mirth and toil that hums around;
To see the team shrill-tinkling pass,
Alternate o'er the furrow'd grass.
Meantime, retir'd from toil and heat,
A swain and blushing maid are met,
In tender talk to plight their vows,
Beneath an hawthorn's hoary boughs.

But ever, after summer-show'r,
When the glad sun's returning pow'r,
With laughing beam has chac'd the storm,
And chear'd reviving nature's form;
Thro' sweet-bri'r hedges, bath'd in dew,
Let me my whilom path pursue;
While as I walk, from pearled bush,
The sunny-sparkling drop I brush;
And all the landscape fair I view
Clad in a robe of fresher hue:
And so loud the black-bird sings
That far around the valley rings.
From shelter deep of arched rock
The shepherd drives his joyful flock;
From bow'ring beech the mower blythe
With new-born vigour grasps the scythe;
While o'er the level glistering mead
A purer azure vault is spread.

But ever against restless heat,
Lead me to the rock-arch'd seat,
O'er whose dim mouth an ivyed oak
Hangs nodding from the low brow'd rock;
Frequented by the nymph alone,
Whose clear waves cleave the smoothed stone;
Which, as they gush upon the ground,
Still scatter misty dews around:
A rustic wild, grotesque alcove,
In sides with mantling wood-bine wove;
Cool as the cave where Clio dwells,
Whence Helicon's fresh fountain wells;
Or noontide grott where Sylvan sleeps
In hoar Lycaeum's shaggy steeps.

Me, Goddess, in such cavern lay,
While all without is scorch'd in day;
Sore sighs the weary swain, beneath
His leafless hawthorn on the heath;
The drooping mower wishes eve,
In vain, of labour short reprieve!
Meantime, on Afric's glowing sands
Smote with keen heat the trav'ler stands:
Low sinks his heart, while round his eye
Measures the boundless scenes that lie,
Ne'er yet by foot of mortal worn,
Where Thirst, wan pilgrim, walks forlorn.
How does he wish some cooling wave
To slake his thirst, or limbs to lave!
And thinks, in every whisper low.
He hears a gushing fountain flow.

Or bear me to yon sable wood,
Temple of sage Solitude!
There within a nook most dark,
Where none my musing mood may mark;
Let me with many a whisper'd rite
The Genius old of Greece invite,
With that fair wreath my brows to bind,
Which for his chosen sons he twin'd,
Well nutur'd in Pierian lore,
On clear Illissus' laureat shore—
Till, high on airy nest reclin'd,
The raven wakes my tranced mind!

Or to the copse, where hazels brown
With beech and tow'ring oak o'ergrown,
Some secret winding path o'ershade
By Fauns, and tripping Dryads made.

Or to yon abbey's mould'ring isles,
Fast by whose elder-crown'd piles,
Many a melancholy yew
High-wreaths an awful avenue.

Or to the forrest-fringed vale
Where widow'd turtles love to wail,
Where cowslips clad in mantle meek,
Nod their tall heads to breezes weak;
While o'er the solitary green,
Nor cott, nor wand'ring swain is seen;
There under shade of aged boughs
To find some hermit's turf-rear'd house;
Fit place that pensive sage might chuse
On virtue's holy lore to muse.

But when mild Morn in saffron stole
First issues from her eastern goal;
Then snatch me, crocus-crowned Queen,
To airy uplands clad in green:
Whence nature's universal face,
Illumin'd smiles with new-born grace;
The misty streams that wind below,
With silver-shining lustre glow;
Tow'rs, groves, and villages appear
Invested all in radiance clear;
Refreshful odors breathe around
From dews that whiten all the ground;
Echoing loud o'er hill and dale,
Glad birds the glistening sunshine hail;
CONTENT, indulging blissful hours,
Whistles o'er the fragrant flow'rs,
And cattle rouz'd to pasture new,
Shake jocund from their sides the dew.

'Tis thou alone, O SUMMER mild,
Canst bid me carol wood-notes wild:
Whene'er I view thy blissful scenes,
Thy waving woods, embroider'd greens;
What fires within my bosom wake,
How glows my mind the reed to take!
What scenes like thine the muse can call,
With whom 'tis youth and laughter all;
With whom each field is paradise,
And all the globe a Bow'r of bliss!
With thee conversing, all day long
I meditate delightful song.
These pedant cloysters let me leave,
To meet the lovely Muse at eve,
(For Eve's the sister of the Muse)
In valleys where mild whispers use:
While wand'ring on the brook's grey verge
I hear the stock-dove's dying dirge.

But when life's busier scene is o'er,
And Age shall give the tresses hoar,
I'd fly soft Luxury's marble dome,
And make an humble thatch my home;
Which sloaping hills around enclose,
Where many a beech and brown oak grows;
Beneath whose dark and branching bow'rs
It's tides a far-fam'd rivers pours:
By nature's beauties taught to please,
Sweet Tusculane of rural ease!
Still grott of Peace! in lowly shed
Who loves to rest her gentle head.
For not the scenes of Attic art
Can comfort care, or sooth the heart:
Nor burning cheek, nor wakeful eye,
For gold, and Tyrian purple fly.

Thither, kind heav'n, in pity lent,
Send me a little, and content;
The faithful friend, and chearful night,
The social scene of dear delight:
The conscience pure, the temper gay,
The musing eve, and idle day.
Give me beneath cool shades to sit,
Rapt with the charms of classic wit:
To catch the bold heroic flame
That built immortal Graecia's fame.
Nor let me fail, meantime, to raise
The sacred song to Britain's praise:
To spurn the shepherd's simple reeds
And paint heroic ancient deeds,
Record old ARTHUR'S magic tale,
And EDWARD, fierce in sable mail.
Sing royal BRUTUS' lawless doom,
And brave BUNDUCA, scourge of Rome;
Great PENDRAGON'S fair-branched line,
Stern ARVIRAGE, and old LOCRINE.

O ever to sweet Poesie,
Let me live true votary!
She shall lead me by the hand,
Queen of soft smiles and solace bland!
She from her sacred stores shall shed
Ambrosial flow'rets o'er my head:
She shall be my blooming bride,
With her as years successive glide,
I'll ever hold sweet dalliance,
Enwrapt as in some magic trance.

[pp. 81-92]