1778
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On the Approach of Winter.

Poems, Lyric and Pastoral. In Two Volumes. By Edward Williams

Edward Williams


Eleven Spenserians (ababcc) "Written in 1778. From the Welsh." The ode opens with a series of descriptive stanzas in Spenserian-Miltonic diction; it then looks inward to find an echo in the passions of the poet: "So droops forlorn the melancholy mind, | Seems like December, clad in woful plight; | With sighs congenial meets the plaintive wind, | The mental Suns withhold their cheering light: | Life's aggregating glooms o'erwhelm the soul, | And o'er the wounded thought the waves of anguish roll." Edward Williams is said to have written his earliest verse in the Welsh language, and it may be that this descriptive ode, very much of the period, is adapted from one of his own compositions.

Note to stanza 6: "About the year 1768, the Author, with two or three more, found a great number of swallows, in a torpid state, clinging in clusters to each other by their bills, in a cave of the sea cliffs, near Dunraven Castle, in the county of Glamorgan. They revived after they had been some hours in a warm room, but died a day or two after, though all possible care had been taken of them" 1:203n.



In woful guise the rifled groves appear,
What dusky fogs invade the chilly dale!
Stern Winter comes in hoary mantle drear,
With fell destruction wings the rapid gale;
A despot fierce, his joyless reign assumes,
And throngs the warring skies with far-surrounding glooms.

Sad Nature droops along the mournful scene,
Joy's glowing smiles the sullen morn forsake;
The hollow blast flies ireful o'er the green,
With furious whirl unrobes the rustling brake;
The plumy tenants of the murm'ring wood
Hide from the scowling winds, in melancholy mood.

See how the leaves are scatter'd o'er the ground,
In hues of death bestrew the wither'd grass!
The sea-gulls flit with doleful note around,
As vagrant o'er the ruin'd fields they pass:
Dark skies withhold the Sun's enfeebled ray,
And veil with shades of Night the sable face of day.

Here triumph'd once the blissful season gay,
When peace, when love, wak'd up the rosy dawn;
Whilst pipe and tabor hail'd the floral May,
Where sportive Beauty mantled o'er the lawn;
With warblers wild the vernal copse along,
That join'd the rural Bard in soul-rejoicing song.

Now comes, from polar skies, the gelid gale,
Or, in Atlantic storms, the pelting rain;
Now rolls the torrent rude along the vale,
It's doleful murmur saddens all the plain:
Old Ocean's thronging waves indignant roar,
And burst in curling foam terrific on the shore.

Whilst mingling rigours fill the troubled air,
On snowy lawns recline the fodder'd flocks;
To shelt'ring dells the shiv'ring doves repair,
And sleep the swallows in their cavern'd rocks;
The pallid morn that hears no cheerful sound,
Wrapp'd in deep gloom appears, and Sadness reigns around.

Yet loves the Muse to note the dreary scene,
Far on the waste, or near the sounding flood;
Sighs with sad echoes o'er the cheerless green,
Or pensive wanders in the darkling wood;
Eyes Nature's grief with ruminating thought,
And drops the briny tear with silent anguish fraught.

So droops forlorn the melancholy mind,
Seems like December, clad in woful plight;
With sighs congenial meets the plaintive wind,
The mental Suns withhold their cheering light:
Life's aggregating glooms o'erwhelm the soul,
And o'er the wounded thought the waves of anguish roll.

Whilst, rudely torn from calm felicity,
My days I waste in unavailing grief;
No fortune smiles, no pity mourns for me,
Struck by the storm, I vainly seek relief;
The song might soothe, or Fancy's lively strains,
But these forsake the breast where Grief tyrannic reigns.

What, though the gentle Muse on me bestows
Her genial favours with parental hand;
Can verse dispel Misfortune's bitter woes?
Th' unweary'd spite of adverse Fate withstand?
Oft as the charmer bids her song resound,
Black Envy clips her wings, and chains her to the ground.

Thou, sweet Content, in robe angelic dress'd,
Thy lenient balm can heal my wounded heart;
Come, and dispel the glooms that fill my breast,
Thy genial sun-shine to my soul impart;
Still the rough tempest of my wintry day,
And bid my calmer eve unruffled pass away.

[1:201-05]