Winter, James Thomson's first publication and the first installment of what would become The Seasons, made blank verse acceptible in non-burlesque poem and set new standards for descriptive verse. Thomson's "kindred glooms" may owe something to Spenser's Januarye, though the shape of the poem, like the characterization of the speaker, owes more to Milton's Il Penseroso. The four seasons were a georgic topic which Spenser had introduced into pastoral and treated again in the Mutability Cantos of the Faerie Queene. Thomson follows Spenser in his frequent personifications and in the tone of melancholy appropriate to the season he describes. The Seasons was possibly the most popular poem written in the eighteenth century and was profoundly influential not only on descriptive verse but in odes and a variety of other literary kinds.
Thomson's blank verse was imitated by David Mallet in The Excursion (1728) James Ralph in Night (1728) and Richard Savage in The Wanderer (1729); the group is collectively burlesqued by Samuel Wesley the Younger in "The Descriptive: a Miltonick. After the Manner of the Moderns," in Poems (1736). Thomson introduced some lines on Spenser in the 1744 version of Summer, and in turn was saluted by Moses Mendez in The Seasons, in imitation of Spenser (1751). Much of the Spenserian poetry written in the eighteenth century is concerned in one way or another with the topic of the seasons.
London Journal: "The Subject of the Poem is common; but the Manner in which the Poet has executed it, uncommon, great, and noble. In painting the several Faces of WINTER, (which from the latter End of Autumn he gradually traces, through Glooms, Rain, Wind, Snow, and Frost,) he has joined with great Art the most beautiful Imagination and the finest Reflection together, adorned with a masterly Diction and Versification, suitable to its other Excellencies. And thus has he happily attained the two great Ends of Poetry; of instructing and delighting the Reader. The doing of the former of which in an agreeable manner, was the original Intention of Poetry; tho' now so little minded, as hardly to be thought any Part of a good Poem. But no wonder it is so intirely set aside, since it requires such Perfections as most of our modern Poets think no way necessary to their Character; I mean, a good Heart, as well as a Strength of Genius, to give a true Sublimity of Reflection" (4 June 1726).
Jonathan Swift to Charles Wogan: "As to your blank verse, it has too often fallen into vile hands of late. One Thomson, a Scotchman, has succeeded the best in that way, in four poems he has writ on the four seasons: yet I am not over fond of them, because they are all description, and nothing is doing; whereas Milton engages me in actions of the highest importance: 'Modo me Romae, modo ponit Athenis'" 1731; Works of Swift, ed. Nichols (1801) 12:441.
Robert Shiels: "Mr. Thomson, being the best descriptive Poet in our Age, has frequently own'd, that in this Respect he form'd his Taste upon Spencer" Musidorus: A Poem sacred to the Memory of James Thomson (1748) 14n.
Joseph Warton: "My friend Mr. William Collins, author of the Persian Eclogues and Odes, assured me that Thomson informed him, that he took the first hint and idea of writing his Seasons, from the titles of Pope's four Pastorals. So that these Pastorals had not only the merit of setting a pattern for correct and musical Versification, but gave rise to some of the truest poetry in our language" Works of Pope (1797) 1:61n.
Thomas Park to Anna Seward: "I very lately met with the early copies of the Seasons, as they were separately published; and from them I learn, that Thomson improved and polished his poetry with the skill and indefatigable diligence of Pope. These copies differ as much from the collected edition in 1730, as that does from its expanded successor in 1746. Dr. Johnson hesitates to pronounce whether, in these subsequent editions, the poems did not lose their race in flavour. This appears equally strange with many other of the learned critic's critical enigmas. It is hardly possible that he could speak from actual comparison, since Summer and Winter appear mere school-boy efforts, after perusing the modern copies. But it is always an interesting exercise to compare the first sketches of a great master with his finished productions. Winter, instead of being disregarded, as tradition reports, passed through four editions soon after publication; a success that, with all its excellence, I do not think it would have obtained in the present day. Pope subscribed for three sets of the former edition, in the year 1730" 1797; in Seward, Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 5:29n.
David Irving: "The publication of Thomson's Seasons forms a new era in the history of Scottish literature. Our countrymen had now ceased to cultivate Latin poetry with their former assiduity and success; and Drummond had hitherto found no worthy successor: but the appearance of this admired writer served to rescue the nation form that discredit into which it was apparently sinking" Lives of the Scottish Poets (1804) 1:162.
Percival Stockdale: "Though we must be convinced, that Thomson was a great poet, by whatever he has written, his master-pieces are unquestionably his Seasons. The happy choice of a subject is as much a proof of the poet's judgement, and taste, as it is propitious to his poetical success. The different seasons present objects which are most interesting to our feelings; to our discursive faculties; to the best powers of the mind; objects, whose return always affords a rational, and a new pleasure; a delightful veneration of their first' cause; if, fortunately for the true, and full enjoyment of our existence, we are under the salutary dominion of virtue; or if we are yet sensible, and alive to her impressions. These objects were never painted so justly; so completely; with such striking forms, and in such glowing colours, as they are by Thomson; and they are likewise adorned, and dignified with the humane, the moral, the religious sentiments, which they naturally excite: with a copious, and splendid eloquence; with peculiar force, and beauty. We need not therefore, be surprized, that the Seasons are as much read, and remembered, as any poems in the English, or in any other language" Lectures on the truly eminent English Poets (1807) 2:103-04.
William Henry Ireland: "It has been asserted, that during the progress of the major part of Thomson's divine poem on the Seasons, which is so replete with the most fascinating descriptions of nature in her varied changes, that the bard was actually the resident of a small chamber in a narrow alley of the metropolis, having no object to invigorate his fancy but the brick walls of the opposite houses. After the publication of Winter, which appeared alone, and prior to the execution of the other Seasons, it remained for a considerable period totally unnoticed; but its extraordinary merits at length brought it into celebrity, which prompted the author to subjoin the three other Seasons" "James Thomson" Neglected Genius (1812) 139n.
Lord Byron: "The Seasons of Thomson would have been better in rhyme, although still inferior to his Castle of Indolence" in Reply to Blackwood's Magazine (1819); Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 4:491.
William Goodhugh: "A poem composed by him, on the storm gathering round Rubber's Law, a hill in the neighbourhood [of Jedburgh], is said to have given him the first idea of the Seasons. Of this poem several copies were printed, but have now for a long time been lost. It is most likely, however, to be found in some old Magazine previous to 1727.... Thomson sold his Winter to Millar the bookseller, for three guineas. He gained but little more for his Summer. When he rose in reputation, Andrew Millar gave him fifty guineas for his Spring. The Winter lay like waste paper at the publisher's, until a gentleman of taste, Mr. Mitchell, promulgated its merits in the best circles. Andrew Millar gave him £137 10s. for his Sophonisba, a tragedy" in The English Gentleman's Library Manual (1827) 257-58, 294.
John Wilson: "In his plan of Pastoral, Spenser has had many imitators. But it was reserved for Thomson to change months into Seasons. And then we saw complete in Poetry the varied year" Blackwood's Magazine 34 (1833) 810.
William Cullen Bryant: "Certain faculties of the poetic mind seem to have slumbered from the time of Milton to that of Thomson, who showed the literary world of Great Britain, to its astonishment, what a profusion of materials for poetry Nature offers to him who directly consults her instead of taking his images at second-hand. Thomson's blank verse, however, is often swollen and bladdery to a painful degree. He seems to have imagined, like many other writers of his time, that blank verse could not support itself without the aid of a stilted phraseology; for that fine poem of his in the Spenserian stanza, the Castle of Indolence, shows that when he wrote in rhyme he did not think it necessary to depart from a natural style" "Poets and Poetry of the English Language" (1876) 154 in Prose Works (1884) 1:154.
Edmund Gosse: "There was hardly one verse-writer of any eminence, from 1725 to 1750, who was not in some measure guided or biassed by Thomson, whose genius is to this day fertile in English literature. If his influence had been as broad as it was potent, and his originality as versatile as it was genuine, Thomson might have been one of the six or seven greatest English poets. As it is, within his restricted limits he is as exquisite, as sincerely inspired, as any poet needs be, and his function in recalling English men of letters to an imaginative study of external nature is of the highest historical performance" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 221.
Myra Reynolds: "James Thomson (1700-1748) is confessedly the most important figure in the early history of Romanticism. He foreshadowed the new spirit in various ways, as in his strong love of liberty, his constant plea for blank verse, his imitation of older models, especially Spenser, and in his tendency toward comprehensive schemes; but his chief importance is in his attitude towards external Nature" The Treatment of Nature in English Poetry (1909) 83.
See WINTER comes, to rule the varied Year,
Sullen, and sad; with all his rising Train,
Vapours, and Clouds, and Storms: Be these my Theme,
These, that exalt the Soul to solemn Thought,
And heavenly Musing. Welcome kindred Glooms!
Wish'd, wintry, Horrors, hail! — With frequent Foot,
Pleas'd, have I, in my cheerful Morn of Life,
When, nurs'd by careless Solitude, I liv'd,
And sung of Nature with unceasing joy,
Pleas'd, have I wander'd thro' your rough Domains;
Trod the pure, virgin, Snows, my self as pure:
Heard the Winds roar, and the big Torrent burst:
Or seen the deep, fermenting, Tempest brew'd,
In the red, evening, Sky. — Thus pass'd the Time,
Till, thro' the opening Chambers of the South,
Look'd out the joyous Spring, look'd out, and smil'd.
Thee too, Inspirer of the toiling Swain!
Fair AUTUMN, yellow rob'd! I'll sing of thee,
Of thy last, temper'd, Days, and sunny Calms;
When all the golden Hours are on the Wing,
Attending thy Retreat, and round thy Wain,
Slow-rolling, onward to the Southern Sky.
Behold! the well-pois'd Hornet, hovering, hangs,
With quivering Pinions, in the genial Blaze;
Flys off, in airy Circles: then returns,
And hums, and dances to the beating Ray:
Nor shall the Man, that, musing, walks alone,
And, heedless, strays within his radiant Lists,
Go unchastis'd away. — Sometimes, a Fleece
Of Clouds, wide-scattering, with a lucid Veil,
Soft, shadow o'er th' unruffled Face of Heaven;
And, thro' their dewy Sluices, shed the Sun,
With temper'd Influence down. Then is the Time,
For those, whom Wisdom, and whom Nature charm,
To steal themselves from the degenerate Croud,
And soar above this little Scene of Things:
To tread low-thoughted Vice beneath their Feet:
To lay their Passions in a gentle Calm.
And woo lone Quiet,in her silent Walks.
Now, solitary, and in pensive Guise,
Oft, let me wander o'er the russet Mead,
Or thro' the pining Grove; where scarce is heard
One dying Strain, to chear the Woodman's Toil:
Sad Philomel, perchance, pours forth her Plaint,
Far, thro' the withering Copse. Mean while, the Leaves,
That, late, the Forest clad with lively Green,
Nipt by the drizzly Night, and Sallow-hu'd,
Fall, wavering, thro' the Air; or shower amain,
Urg'd by the Breeze, that sobs amid the Boughs.
Then list'ning Hares forsake the rusling Woods,
And, starting at the frequent Noise, escape
To the rough Stubble, and the rushy Fen.
Then Woodcocks, o'er the fluctuating Main,
That glimmers to the Glimpses of the Moon,
Stretch their long Voyage to the woodland Glade:
Where, wheeling with uncertain Flight, they mock
The nimble Fowler's Aim. — Now Nature droops;
Languish the living Herbs, with pale Decay:
And all the various Family of Flowers
Their sunny Robes resign. The falling Fruits,
Thro' the still Night, forsake the Parent-Bough,
That, in the first, grey, Glances of the Dawn,
Looks wild, and wonders at the wintry Waste.
The Year, yet pleasing, but declining fast,
Soft, o'er the secret Soul, in gentle Gales,
A Philosophic Melancholly breathes,
And bears the swelling Thought aloft to Heaven.
Then forming Fancy rouses to conceive,
What never mingled with the Vulgar's Dream:
Then wake the tender Pang, the pitying Tear,
The Sigh for suffering Worth, the Wish prefer'd
For Humankind, the Joy to see them bless'd,
And all the Social Off-spring of the Heart!
Oh! bear me then to high, embowering, Shades;
To twilight Groves, and visionary Vales;
To weeping Grottos, and to hoary Caves;
Where Angel-Forms are seen, and Voices heard,
Sigh'd in low Whispers, that abstract the Soul,
From outward Sense, far into Worlds remote.
Now, when the Western Sun withdraws the Day,
And humid Evening, gliding o'er the Sky,
In her chill Progress, checks the straggling Beams,
And robs them of their gather'd, vapoury, Prey,
Where Marshes stagnate, and where Rivers wind,
Cluster the rolling Fogs, and swim along
The dusky-mantled Lawn: then slow descend,
Once more to mingle with their Watry Friends.
The vivid Stars shine out, in radiant Files;
And boundless Ether glows; till the fair Moon
Shows her broad Visage, in the crimson'd East;
Now, stooping, seems to kiss the passing Cloud:
Now, o'er the pure Cerulean, rides sublime.
Wide the pale Deluge floats, with silver Waves,
O'er the sky'd Mountain, to the low-laid Vale;
From the white Rocks, with dim Reflexion, gleams,
And faintly glitters thro' the waving Shades.
All Night, abundant Dews, unnoted, fall,
And, at Return of Morning, silver o'er
The Face of Mother-Earth; from every Branch
Depending, tremble the translucent Gems,
And, quivering, seem to fall away, yet cling,
And sparkle in the Sun, whose rising Eye,
With Fogs bedim'd, portends a beauteous Day.
Now, giddy Youth, whom headlong Passions fire,
Rouse the wild Game, and stain the guiltless Grove,
With Violence, and Death; yet call it Sport,
To scatter Ruin thro' the Realms of Love,
And Peace, that thinks no Ill: But These, the Muse,
Whose Charity, unlimited, extends
As wide as Nature works, disdains to sing,
Returning to her nobler Theme in view—
For, see! where Winter comes, himself, confest,
Striding the gloomy Blast. First Rains obscure
Drive thro' the mingling Skies, with Tempest foul;
Beat on the Mountain's Brow, and shake the Woods,
That, sounding, wave below. The dreary Plain
Lies overwhelm'd, and lost. The bellying Clouds
Combine, and deepening into Night, shut up
The Day's fair Face. The Wanderers of Heaven,
Each to his Home, retire; save those that love
To take their Pastime in the troubled Air,
And, skimming, flutter round the dimply Flood.
The Cattle, from th' untasted Fields, return,
And ask, with meaning Low, their wonted Stalls;
Or ruminate in the contiguous Shade:
Thither, the houshold, feathery, People croud,
The crested Cock, with all his female Train,
Pensive, and wet. Mean while, the Cottage-Swain
Hangs o'er th' enlivening Blaze, and, taleful, there,
Recounts his simple Frolic: Much he talks,
And much he laughs, nor recks the Storm that blows
Without, and rattles on his humble Roof.
At last, the muddy Deluge pours along,
Resistless, roaring; dreadful down it comes
From the chapt Mountain, and the mossy Wild,
Tumbling thro' Rocks abrupt, and sounding far:
Then o'er the sanded Valley, floating, spreads,
Calm, sluggish, silent; till again constrain'd,
Betwixt two meeting Hills, it bursts a Way,
Where Rocks, and Woods o'erhang the turbid Stream.
There gathering triple Force, rapid, and deep,
It boils, and wheels, and foams, and thunders thro'.
Nature! great Parent! whose directing Hand
Rolls round the Seasons of the changeful Year,
How mighty! how majestick are thy Works!
With what a pleasing Dread they swell the Soul,
That sees, astonish'd! and, astonish'd sings!
You too, ye Winds! that now begin to blow,
With boisterous Sweep, I raise my Voice to you.
Where are your Stores, ye viewless Beings! say?
Where your aerial Magazines reserv'd,
Against the Day of Tempest perilous?
In what untravel'd Country of the Air,
Hush'd in still Silence, sleep you, when 'tis calm?
Late, in the louring Sky, red, fiery, Streaks
Begin to flush about; the reeling Clouds
Stagger with dizzy Aim, as doubting yet
Which Master to obey: while rising, slow,
Sad, in the Leaden-colour'd East, the Moon
Wears a bleak Circle round her sully'd Orb.
Then issues forth the Storm, with loud Control,
And the thin Fabrick of the pillar'd Air
O'erturns, at once. Prone, on th' uncertain Main,
Descends th' Etherial Force, and plows its Waves,
With dreadful Rift: from the mid-Deep, appears,
Surge after Surge, the rising, wat'ry, War.
Whitening, the angry Billows rowl immense,
And roar their Terrors, thro' the shuddering Soul
Of feeble Man, amidst their Fury caught,
And, dash'd upon his Fate: Then, o'er the Cliff,
Where dwells the Sea-Mew, unconfin'd, they fly,
And, hurrying, swallow up the steril Shore.
The Mountain growls; and all its sturdy Sons
Stoop to the Bottom of the Rocks they shade:
Lone, on its Midnight-Side, and all aghast,
The dark, way-faring, Stranger, breathless, toils,
And climbs against the Blast—
Low, waves the rooted Forest, vex'd, and sheds
What of its leafy Honours yet remains.
Thus, struggling thro' the dissipated Grove,
The whirling Tempest raves along the Plain;
And, on the Cottage thacht, or lordly Dome,
Keen-fastening, shakes 'em to the solid Base.
Sleep, frighted, flies; the hollow Chimney howls,
The Windows rattle, and the Hinges creak.
Then, too, they say, thro' all the burthen'd Air,
Long Groans are heard, shrill Sounds, and distant Sighs,
That, murmur'd by the Demon of the Night,
Warn the devoted Wretch of Woe, and Death!
Wild Uproar lords it wide: the Clouds commixt,
With Stars, swift-gliding, sweep along the Sky.
All Nature reels. — But hark! the Almighty speaks:
Instant, the chidden Storm begins to pant,
And dies, at once, into a noiseless Calm.
As yet, 'tis Midnight's Reign; the weary Clouds,
Slow-meeting, mingle into solid Gloom:
Now, while the drousy World lies lost in Sleep,
Let me associate with the low-brow'd Night,
And Contemplation, her sedate Compeer;
Let me shake off th' intrusive Cares of Day,
And lay the medling Senses all aside.
And now, ye lying Vanities of Life!
You ever-tempting, ever-cheating Train!
Where are you now? and what is your Amount?
Vexation, Disappointment, and Remorse.
Sad, sickening, Thought! and yet, deluded Man
A Scene of wild, disjointed, Visions past,
And broken Slumbers, rises, still resolv'd,
With new-flush'd Hopes, to run your giddy Round.
Father of Light, and Life! Thou Good Supreme!
O! teach me what is Good! teach me thy self!
Save me from Folly, Vanity and Vice,
From every low Pursuit! and feed my Soul,
With Knowledge, conscious Peace, and Vertue pure,
Sacred, substantial, never-fading Bliss!
Lo! from the livid East, or piercing North,
Thick Clouds ascend, in whose capacious Womb,
A vapoury Deluge lies, to Snow congeal'd:
Heavy, they roll their fleecy World along;
And the Sky saddens with th' impending Storm.
Thro' the hush'd Air, the whitening Shower descends,
At first, thin-wavering; till, at last, the Flakes
Fall broad, and wide, and fast, dimming the Day,
With a continual Flow. See! sudden, hoar'd,
The Woods beneath the stainless Burden bow,
Blackning, along the mazy Stream it melts;
Earth's universal Face, deep-hid, and chill,
Is all one, dazzling, Waste. The Labourer-Ox
Stands cover'd o'er with Snow, and then demands
The Fruit of all his Toil. The Fowls of Heaven,
Tam'd by the cruel Season, croud around
The winnowing Store, and claim the little Boon,
That Providence allows. The foodless Wilds
Pour forth their brown Inhabitants; the Hare,
Tho' timorous of Heart, and hard beset
By Death, in various Forms, dark Snares, and Dogs,
And more unpitying Men, the Garden seeks,
Urg'd on by fearless Want. The bleating Kind
Eye the bleak Heavens, and next, the glistening Earth,
With Looks of dumb Despair; then sad, dispers'd,
Dig, for the wither'd Herb, thro' Heaps of Snow.
Now, Shepherds, to your helpless Charge be kind;
Baffle the raging Year, and fill their Penns
With Food, at will: lodge them below the Blast,
And watch them strict; for from the bellowing East,
In this dire Season, oft the Whirlwind's Wing
Sweeps up the Burthen of whole wintry Plains,
In one fierce Blast, and o'er th' unhappy Flocks,
Lodg'd in the Hollow of two neighbouring Hills,
The billowy Tempest whelms; till, upwards urg'd,
The Valley to a shining Mountain swells,
That curls its Wreaths amid the freezing Sky.
Now, all amid the Rigours of the Year,
In the wild Depth of Winter, while without
The ceaseless Winds blow keen, be my Retreat
A rural, shelter'd, solitary, Scene;
Where ruddy Fire, and beaming Tapers join
To chase the chearless Gloom: there let me sit,
And hold high Converse with the mighty Dead,
Sages of ancient Time, as Gods rever'd,
As Gods beneficent, who blest Mankind,
With Arts, and Arms, and humaniz'd a World.
Rous'd at th' inspiring Thought — I throw aside
The long-liv'd Volume, and, deep-musing, hail
The sacred Shades, that, slowly-rising, pass
Before my wondering Eyes — First, Socrates,
Truth's early Champion, Martyr for his God:
Solon,the next, who built his Commonweal,
On Equity's firm Base: Lycurgus, then,
Severely good: and him of rugged Rome,
Numa, who soften'd her rapacious Sons.
Cimon sweet-soul'd, and Aristides just.
Unconquer'd Cato, virtuous in Extreme;
With that attemper'd Heroe, mild, and firm,
Who wept the Brother, while the Tyrant bled.
Scipio,the humane Warriour, gently brave,
Fair Learning's Friend, who early sought the Shade,
To dwell, with Innocence, and Truth, retir'd.
And, equal to the best, the Theban, He
Who, single, rais'd his Country into Fame.
Thousands behind, the Boast of Greece and Rome,
Whom Vertue owns, the Tribute of a Verse
Demand, but who can count the Stars of Heaven?
Who sing their Influence on this lower World?
But see who yonder comes! nor comes alone,
With sober State, and of majestic Mien,
The Sister-Muses in his Train — 'Tis He!
Maro! the best of Poets, and of Men!
Great Homer too appears, of daring Wing!
Parent of Song! and, equal, by this Side,
The British Muse, join'd Hand in Hand, they walk,
Darkling, nor miss their Way to Fame's Ascent.
Society divine! Immortal Minds!
Still visit thus my Nights, for you reserv'd,
And mount my soaring Soul to Deeds like yours.
Silence! thou lonely Power! the Door be thine:
See, on the hallow'd Hour, that none intrude,
Save Lycidas, the Friend, with Sense refin'd,
Learning digested well, exalted Faith,
Unstudy'd Wit, and Humour ever gay.
Clear Frost succeeds, and thro' the blew Serene,
For Sight too fine, th' Aetherial Nitre flies,
To bake the Glebe, and bind the slip'ry Flood.
This of the wintry Season is the Prime;
Pure are the Days, and lustrous are the Nights,
Brighten'd with starry Worlds, till then unseen.
Mean while, the Orient, darkly red, breathes forth
An Icy Gale, that, in its mid Career,
Arrests the bickering Stream. The nightly Sky,
And all her glowing Constellations pour
Their rigid Influence down: It freezes on
Till Morn, late-rising, o'er the drooping World,
Lifts her pale Eye, unjoyous: then appears
The various Labour of the silent Night,
The pendant Isicle, the Frost-Work fair,
Where thousand Figures rise, the crusted Snow,
Tho' white, made whiter, by the fining North.
On blithsome Frolics bent, the youthful Swains,
While every Work of Man is laid at Rest,
Rush o'er the watry Plains, and, shuddering, view
The fearful Deeps below: or with the Gun,
And faithful Spaniel, range the ravag'd Fields,
And, adding to the Ruins of the Year,
Distress the Feathery, or the Footed Game.
But hark! the nightly Winds, with hollow Voice,
Blow, blustering, from the South — the Frost subdu'd,
Gradual, resolves into a weeping Thaw.
Spotted, the Mountains shine: loose Sleet descends,
And floods the Country round: the Rivers swell,
Impatient for the Day. — Those sullen Seas,
That wash th' ungenial Pole, will rest no more,
Beneath the Shackles of the mighty North;
But, rousing all their Waves, resistless heave,—
And hark! — the length'ning Roar, continuous, runs
Athwart the rifted Main; at once, it bursts,
And piles a thousand Mountains to the Clouds!
Ill fares the Bark, the Wretches' last Resort,
That, lost amid the floating Fragments, moors
Beneath the Shelter of an Icy Isle;
While Night o'erwhelms the Sea, and Horror looks
More horrible. Can human Hearts endure
Th' assembled Mischiefs, that besiege them round:
Unlist'ning Hunger, fainting Weariness,
The Roar of Winds, and Waves, the Crush of Ice,
Now, ceasing, now, renew'd, with louder Rage,
And bellowing round the Main: Nations remote,
Shook from their Midnight-Slumbers, deem they hear
Portentous Thunder, in the troubled Sky.
More to embroil the Deep, Leviathan,
And his unweildy Train, in horrid Sport,
Tempest the loosen'd Brine; while, thro' the Gloom,
Far, from the dire, unhospitable Shore,
The Lyon's Rage, the Wolf's sad Howl is heard,
And all the fell Society of Night.
Yet, Providence, that ever-waking Eye
Looks down, with Pity, on the fruitless Toil
Of Mortals, lost to Hope, and lights them safe,
Thro' all this dreary Labyrinth of Fate.
'Tis done! Dread WINTER has subdu'd the Year,
And reigns, tremenduous, o'er the desart Plains!
How dead the Vegetable Kingdom lies!
How dumb the Tuneful! Horror wide extends
His solitary Empire. — Now, fond Man!
Behold thy pictur'd Life: pass some few Years,
Thy flow'ring SPRING, thy short-liv'd SUMMER'S Strength,
Thy sober AUTUMN, fading into Age,
And pale, concluding, WINTER shuts thy Scene,
And shrouds Thee in the Grave — Where now, are fled
Those Dreams of Greatness? those unsolid Hopes
Of Happiness? those Longings after Fame?
Those restless Cares? those busy, bustling Days?
Those Nights of secret Guilt? those veering Thoughts,
Flutt'ring 'twixt Good, and Ill, that shar'd thy Life?
All, now, are vanish'd! Vertue, sole, survives,
Immortal, Mankind's never-failing Friend,
His Guide to Happiness on high — and see!
'Tis come, the Glorious Morn! the second Birth
Of Heaven, and Earth! — awakening Nature hears
Th' Almighty Trumpet's Voice, and starts to Life,
Renew'd, unfading. Now, th' Eternal Scheme,
That Dark Perplexity, that Mystic Maze,
Which Sight cou'd never trace, nor Heart conceive,
To Reason's Eye, refin'd, clears up apace.
Angels, and Men, astonish'd, pause — and dread
To travel thro' the Depths of Providence,
Untry'd, unbounded. Ye vain Learned! see,
And, prostrate in the Dust, adore that Power,
And Goodness, oft arraign'd. See now the Cause,
Why conscious Worth, oppress'd, in secret long
Mourn'd, unregarded: Why the Good Man's Share
In Life, was Gall, and Bitterness of Soul:
Why the lone Widow, and her Orphans, pin'd,
In starving Solitude; while Luxury,
In Palaces, lay prompting her low Thought,
To form unreal Wants: why Heaven-born Faith,
And Charity, prime Grace! wore the red Marks
Of Persecution's Scourge: why licens'd Pain,
That cruel Spoiler, that embosom'd Foe,
Imbitter'd all our Bliss. Ye Good Distrest!
Ye Noble Few! that, here, unbending, stand
Beneath Life's Pressures — yet a little while,
And all your Woes are past. Time swiftly fleets,
And wish'd Eternity, approaching, brings
Life undecaying, Love without Allay,
Pure flowing Joy, and Happiness sincere.