1776
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Snowy Day. A Pastoral.

Sentimental Magazine 4 (May 1776) 228-30.

Dr. William Perfect


Twenty-five, later twenty-nine double-quatrain stanzas, signed "Mallingiensis." The Snowy Day opens with a salute to James Thomson, author of The Seasons, and procedes to imitate his mixture of description and sentiment in the pastoral ballad measure: "The Genius of snow from the North, | In mantle of brilliancy drest, | I tremble to see him come forth, | And lord o'er the country distress'd." The second half of the poem begins with a "subnivial journey" in which Fancy constructs a kind of descriptive poem out of the landscape transformed by snow: "There figures half-buried appear, | Hieroglyphical monsters arise; | A lion, or crocodile, here, | A camel there prostrated lies." This fanciful passages is succeeded by an address to Charity, and the poem concludes with some Christian sentiments appropriate to the season.

William Perfect gave the poem a thorough revision when it was republished with his signature in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1794. While his revisions sometimes contribute clarity or correctness, for the most part he seems simply to have enjoyed introducing variety for its own sake.



Thou fancy's legitimate son,
Description's most favourite child,
Immortal's the wreath thou hast won
From subjects terrific and mild;
When spring with her rose-sprinkl'd crown,
Or summer with chaplets of green,
Brown autumn pour'd plenty around,
Or winter invested the scene.

O Thomson, like thee could she soar,
The muse to depaint might aspire,
Melodious, the seasons deplore,
Or wake to her sorrows the lyre.
Denied thy progression to fame,
Be venial her flight as resign'd,
Unhallow'd, if rises the flame,
Uncherish'd by bards more refin'd.

Does Janus erect the young year,
What terror await on its birth!
In varied solemnity rear
Aquarius, to govern the earth,
In cincture of sable the storm
The breast with opacity shrouds,
Its quietude can it deform,
When virtue resisteth it clouds?

The mind self-collected shall stand,
Unshaken by tempest or gloom,
Integrity stretches her hand,
Secures to contentment her bloom;
Lysander then droop not my friend,
Nor sigh o'er the waste of the day,
Let winter her tyrannies send,
Thy heart shall still mantle with May.

The snow than thy morals less white,
A landscape unusual affords,
Involves the high mountains in night,
Insensibly scatters its hoards;
Indulg'd for a moment I pass,
Comparison humble to make,
What wealth the pale misers amass
Augments like the snow on the brake.

Or as thro' the crevice its fleece
Grows silently up to a heap;
The wretch eyes his splendid increase,
Which robs his sad vigils of sleep;
The simile farther extends,
His glass of mortality run,
His piles some young prodigal sends,
Which sink as the snow in the sun.

While sighs the sharp wind in the rock,
What sound do I hear from the fane?
Methinks 'tis the frozen-tongu'd clock,
Slow mutters the time to the plain.
Ah! no to my terror-struck ear,
Thy knell 'tis Amanda that peals,
What cheek is exempt from a tear,
What heart not of marble but feels.

As beauteous as spring, when she rear'd
Her locks vi'let-woven with bloom,
Amanda to Friendship appear'd,
As beauteous sunk down to the tomb;
Her hand was necessity's guard,
Supported the children of woe,
Could wishes her sentence retard,
The eyes of the muse would not flow.

But hark! 'tis the eddies that roar,
Thro' Medway as circling they fly,
Snow-fed from the pondering shore,
Ah no, 'tis the villages sigh,
O death! not a current more pure,
Didst thou ever impede in its course,
Cou'd woman thy terrors allure,
Thy dart must have lost all its force.

The genius of snow from the north,
In mantle of brilliancy dress'd,
I shudder to see him come forth,
And lord o'er the country distress'd;
The nymphs of the vallies and groves,
Affrighted abscond from his pow'r,
O! name not the graces and loves,
They hide from the envious show'r.

Lo mountains on mountains arise,
A splendid tho' terrible weight;
Sure Zembla has shifted her skies,
Or Rhodope sent us her freight.
From Zembla's unciviliz'd coast,
Admit, that the genius of woe,
Forth issues a numberless host,
An army mail-coated with snow.

Shall winter on whose icy car
Congenial rigours await,
The morning and evening star
Illumine to beam on her state?
Shall frost forge his strong silver chains,
In bandage wild nature to hold,
A tyrant rule over the plains,
Exclude from their pasture the fold.

Then come my Lysander if rhime,
Uncouth and grotesque as the day
Can furnish amusement to time,
Let fancy replenish the lay.
To her soft seduction we yield,
And blame not the innocent cheat,
Be all her wild portraits reveal'd,
With novelties ever replete.

O'er all the white waves let her rove,
Creations illusive to view,
Descend full of sport from her grove,
Enchantments around us to strew;
Permit us gay pow'r to attend,
Inspecting each whimsical scene,
Which thou fond magician shalt lend,
Romantic, antique, or serene.

The shallow of yonder vast drift,
Lysander, come let us explore,
Her tube fancy grants that we lift,
Extend all thy critical lore;
But here see the chissel of art,
A passage has cleft in the snow,
Whilst gems their bright sparkles impart,
A journey subnivial we go.

See high on yon shed, passing strange,
There perches, or seems perch'd, a fowl
The poet might call it thy change,
Nyctymene turn'd to an owl;
Here Pillars, pilasters are seen,
An edifice lofty and grand,
Columns shatter'd, with portals between,
In ruins fall over the land.

There figures half-buried appear,
Hieroglyphical monsters arise;
A lion or crocodile there,
A camel here prostrated lies.
Still wave plastic fancy thy wand,
Of tombs, and of rocks, let me sing,
Of Jupiter turn'd to a swan,
For fiction's creative of wing.

Enough of similitude's scenes,
To frolicsome fancy adieu!
For pity her senate convenes,
The anguish of nature to view;
She points to the snow-buried cot,
Humanity catches her flame:
Enlivens the comfortless spot,
And calls up to charity fame.

In mantle as white as the snow,
Religion is seen in her train,
In search of contemporal woe,
Christianity measures the plain;
Hail first-born of heaven, whose charm
Despondency causes to smile,
Where blessings the season can warm,
And cherish the offspring of toil.

O charity! born of the skies,
The hymn of contentment receive,
From gratitude hear it arise,
To thee ever prone to relieve,
Affliction who late in the vale
The fears of anxiety shed,
Whose infants thro' hunger were pale,
Acknowledges whence they were fed.

Blest isle whose rich bounty appears,
To yield the unhappy their part,
To wipe sorrow's cheeks, stain'd with tears,
When poverty harrows the heart,
Enlarged the sensations of those,
Like cherubs of heavenly light,
Who shorten the season of woes
Epitomize poverty's night.

Benevolence, blessing divine,
Fair native, down-wing'd from above,
The task of sweet sympathy's thine,
The task of affection and love,
To lift up the sad pensive eye,
To pour the soft balm upon woe,
Bid indigence banish her sigh,
And kind hospitality flow.

Ye herds who frequent the rude stall,
Ye folds that in flocks croud the pen,
O start not at nature's white pall,
Nor shudder ye fowls of the fen,
The sun from the south shall unbind,
The menacing fetters of frost,
The snow shall dissolve in the wind,
Her empire be conquer'd and lost.

New beauties shall open the year,
These terrible scenes supercede,
Young spring in gay mantle appear,
Soft pleasure determine the lead;
The mazes which curl from the glade,
Where now desolations renew,
Delightful shall lengthen a shade,
And add to each beautiful view.

In mantle of velvet the grove,
Soft zephyrs shall murmuring fan
The choristers warble of love,
Pure bliss the perfection of man!
The God of each season to praise,
Let numbers incessantly flow,
'Tis his winter's triumphs to raise,
Whose goodness emaciates the snow.

[pp. 228-30]