1779
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Seasons. A Vision.

London Magazine 48 (November 1779) 518-19.

Anonymous


A charming imitation "by a young Lady" of Spenser's Mutability Cantos in octosyllabic couplets (save Bacchus's song, which is given an irregular quatrain): "Too soon these gay scenes will be vanish'd from sight, | Their beauties will wither when winter appears, | But in wine there are charms that will ever delight, | And will keep without fading through the whole year." Each season is allegorically described and accompanied by a train of mythological figures.

Note: "Indulgence from the criticks is requested (in favour of a lady) for some inaccuracies, which were not thought sufficient to occasion the rejection of this essay" p. 519.



Now Phoebus had withdrawn his chearful light,
And Cynthia just began the reign of night,
Her fainter beams has soften'd every scene,
And the tall shadows trembled on the Green:
No sound was heard, save where sad Philomel,
In pensive accents told her mournful tale.
Invited by a laurel's spreading shade,
A fit retreat for contemplation made;
I laid me down, to take a short repose,
When in my mind, these mystick scenes arose.
Methought the softest sounds assail'd my ear,
And more than mortal fragrance fill'd the air.
When, lo! a youth appear'd, divinely fair!
His eyes celestial blue; a silver white his hair;
Green was his robe, with flowers of various hue,
The rose's blushing red, the violet's lively blue;
Where'er he trod a thousand sweets ascend,
Where'er he pass'd the trees their leaves expand:
Each tender bud now opens into bloom,
And from his breath receives divine perfume:
The birds in softest notes assay'd to sing,
And hail a welcome to the lovely SPRING.
Then came the Queen of Love, while hand in hand
The sports and pleasures form'd a jovial band:
The Graces next, and little Loves advance,
And join the pleasures in a sprightly dance;
And as they round the flow'ry meadows rove,
They sing the praises of the god of Love.

"Hail to that god whom gods obey,
Who bear'st o'er earth a sov'reign sway,
To whom all things their order owe
From whom our greatest blessings flow,
Who makes the jarring elements agree,
And keeps the world in perfect harmony,
For know, when love shall cease to reign,
Chaos must soon return again."

SUMMER came next with a majestick pace,
Robust his limbs, a sanguine hue his face:
The silken vest that lightly o'er him spread,
Was partly green but intermix'd with red,
Vesper pursued in golden robes array'd,
With fair Aurora, rosy finger'd maid!
On every flower a sweetness she bestow'd
Touch'd by her hand, their colours livelier glow'd.
A troop of merry reapers led the rear
With each an offering for the goddess Cere'.
When Sol his brightest beams display'd,
And drove them to the streams and cooling shade,
Where Flora lay in calm repose,
On the soft bosom of the rose;
While wanton zephyr round her play'd,
And fann'd, and kiss'd the sleeping maid.

Sober AUTUMN in the rear appears
A venerable form, replete with years,
His aspect open, and his air serene,
At once a serious, and yet chearful mien,
The russet robe which on his shoulders spread,
The colour of the fallen leaves display'd.
Pomona follow'd: in her hand she held
A basket with the choicest fruitage fill'd.
Next in a car appear'd the god of wine,
Around whose temples purple clusters twine;
Within his hand he held a golden vase,
In which the grape's delicious juice was press'd,
While all around his gay attendants throng;
When thus the god began, they join'd the song.

"Too soon these gay scenes will be vanish'd from sight,
Their beauties will wither when winter appears,
But in wine there are charms that will ever delight,
And will keep without fading through the whole year."

Yet, while they sung, unwelcome storms arise,
And threat'ning clouds deform the azure skies,
These well-known signs fill all the troop with fear,
Signs that proclaim decrepit WINTER near.
He came, attended by a hollow blast,
And Desolation follow'd as he pass'd.
The feather'd songsters his dread presence fled,
And every flower droop'd its languid head.
No more the streams in soft meanders stray
But bound in icy fetters now they lay.
The gloomy god advanc'd, with solemn pace,
Red were his eyes, and furrow'd was his face;
Livid his hue; his head was bald save where,
Cold icicles supplied the place of hair:
In warmest furs his shivering limbs were roll'd,
In many a swathe, and yet seem'd numb'd with cold.
All Nature sicken'd at the horrid sight
And every pleasure seem'd prepar'd for flight,
When Comus god of soft delights appears,
Recalls the flying joys and drooping Nature chears.
With him came mirth and laughter free,
And Wit, and pleasing raillery,
And humour full of harmless glee.
Good-nature, ever dress'd in smiles
"And Sport that wrinkled Care beguiles."
While Vesta lights her chearful fires
And all the warmth of Spring inspires,
In merry dance some trip along
While others join with chearful song;
When one amongst the rest began,
But only this I heard of what he sang.

"Tho' tempests roar, or storms arise
And tow'ring clouds obscure the skies,
Tho' nipping frosts, or chilling rains
Or fleeting snow despoil the plains.
Tho' Phoebus' rays no more should warm,
And Nature's self should cease to charm,
Yet let Mirth, Wit, and Love be near,
And Spring will reign throughout the year."

While thus I lay admiring with delight
The various forms that pass'd before my sight,
Sad Philomel began her strains so high,
As rous'd me from the pleasing lethargy.
Sleep left my eyes, when for these fairy scenes
I saw tall elms, clear streams, and turfed greens.

[pp. 518-19]