The Pleasures of Nature; or the Charms of Rural Life. Part I.

The Pleasures of Nature; or, the Charms of Rural Life; with other Poems. By David Carey.

David Carey

A descriptive rhapsody in 44 + 46 Spenserian stanzas by a young Scottish poet imitating James Beattie's The Minstrel and James Thomson's The Seasons. In the preface to a sequel published the following year, David Carey explained that the present poem was intended as the first installment of a series. By then the poet had altered his plan, and the second part, published as The Reign of Fancy, was composed in couplets. As it stands, however, The Pleasures of Nature is a completed contribution to the series of poems on the pleasures; it is divided into two parts, the first concerned with the lighter pleasures of Spring and Summer, and the second with the more sober affairs of Autumn and Winter.

Carey follows the example of others by writing in the manner of an earlier English classic; Spenser, Milton, Akenside, Warton, and Goldsmith had all been used as models. Carey takes his stanza (and epigraph) from The Minstrel, as well as an engraved frontispiece by Burney depicting a poetical enthusiast in a posture derived from a similar illustration done for Beattie's poem. But the substance of The Pleasures of Nature derives more from Thomson's The Seasons, modified to fit the loosely associative design of the poems on the pleasures series. The general model for this kind of descriptive rhapsody was Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, echoed here in the contrasting textures of the two parts of Carey's poem. There is little evidence that The Pleasures of Nature was imagined as an imitation of Spenser, apart from the very general theme of mutability and the seasons.

British Critic: "Very smooth and flowing verses, conveying pleasing images, rather add this volume to a number which this versifying age has produced, than mark it with a separate and distinguished character. The Pleasures of Nature are such as other bards have felt and celebrated" 23 (February 1804) 197.

Anti-Jacobin Review: "Mr. Carey appears to have a truly poetical mind, stored with good principles, good taste, and with genius corrected by judgment. The Pleasures of Nature, which occupies about a third part of the volume, is a very pleasing poem, in which the charms of rural life, so admirably calculated to make a strong impression on a young and uncontaminated mind, are pourtrayed with feeling and with fire" 17 (April 1804) 437.

Critical Review: "Those poets are always most successful, who attempt to found a school of their own. Those who write from imitation, even when they attain their model, attain but a subordinate praise. This writer is but an imitator — and an imitator of the tedious Beattie. The ninety stanzas on the charms of rural life are mere copies of the Minstrel, and copies of inferior and secondary execution. Descriptive poetry is at best flat: not but that descriptions form, in all poetry, except the dramatic, the principal portion; but unless descriptions be concatenated by the incidents of a tale, and enlivened by the participation of human observers, they speedily tire" S3 2 (May 1804) 108.

Monthly Review: "The wide scenery of nature, so full of charms, and so perpetually varied by change of seasons, furnishes the author with images of the most agreeable kind; and sometimes in gay, at other times in pensive numbers, he presents a very pleasing picture of the impressions made on a susceptible and warm imagination" 44 (August 1804) 425.

Flowers of Literature for 1803: "The name of this author not being familiar to our memory, we conceive the present to be his first legitimate publication; and if this be the case, we cannot but entertain the most favourable opinion of his talents. He possesses all the independence of spirit and manner, which characterized the celebrated Burns, and his poetry is easy, agreeable, and unaffected" (1804) 457-58.

Dwight Durling: "The Pleasures of Nature; or, the Charms of Rural Life (1803) introduces the Spenserian stanza again into the long descriptive poem of the seasons. Cary uses familiar devices — the more general appearances of all the seasons, rural occupations, 'excursions of fancy,' to Lapland and Mount Aetna, pathetic narrative, humanitarian harangues, and celebrations of retirement and of the unique blessings of Britain. He has obviously read the followers of Thomson and Thomson himself" Georgic Tradition in English Poetry (1935) 173.

Carey's opening stanzas recall those in The Minstrel that dismiss the claims of fashion: if there be one who prefers wealth to the pure delights of nature, "Though his be many a title, many a string, | And his the wreath that crowns the warrior's toil; | O never, never, let the Muse defile | Her virgin purity, and bow the knee" p. 5. This is not the case with the poet, who can feel the joys of Spring, though perhaps less intently than the Laplander when the ice begins to thaw. Human life is compared to a butterfly flitting on the lawn. Summer is introduced, leading the poet to seek woodland haunts at noontime: "where careless thrown | On meads of fairest Asphodel, Repose | My head shall pillow with the cygnet's down, | And in forgetfulness my sorrows drown" p. 15. Groves are favorable to contemplation, though it is not in the capacity of man to scan the Creator of the universe. The poet praises the attractions of Yarrow, alluding to the famous ballad by Hamilton of Bangor: "For she hath lost a lover, lover dear, | And he the Yarrow's blooming pride hath slain" p. 20. An inset tale leads to praises of Scottish song. The first part concludes with a description of nightfall and the cares it brings.

Nature, thy charms let other men forego;
Thy paths of peace, enamel'd all with flowers;
Thy greenwoods gay, where sweetest warblings flow,
Thy wild walks, where the misty mountain towers;
And hie to where the cloud of battle lowers,
And Havoc, purple wing'd, o'ershades the path:
In Glory's wild pursuit strain all their powers,
And chace the phantom to the gates of Death;
What time Ambition pours the vial of her wrath:

Or dance attendance at the proud divan,
And, prostrate, at the feet of Fortune fall:
For man will worship thus his fellow man,
And lick the dust, and at his footstool crawl:
Will, when the hopes of gain his soul enthral,
Nor scorn to fawn, to flatter, or betray;
But stifle in his breast the tender call
Of Conscience, and with flowers bestrew the way
That leads to endless woe, and darkness and dismay.

O! is there, Nature, in thy widest range,
That boasts the breath of life from gracious Heav'n,
And man's similitude, that would exchange
Thy pure delights, for all that wealth has given?
From the bright train that gems the brow of Even,
His gaze averting, far away could, start,
To watch and worship, by wild passions driven,
Their image glittering near a villain's heart,
And tread, with such, the rounds of infamy and art?

If such there be — though Fortune loves to fling,
Where'er he roves, the sunshine of her smile;
Though his be many a title, many a string,
And his the wreath that crowns the warrior's toil;
O never, never, let the Muse defile
Her virgin purity, and bow the knee,
And with her incense cloud the shrine of Guile,
Too prodigal of immortality,
But stampt her stigma deep — eternal Infamy!

For me — when I this primrose path resign,
Round which the balmy-breathing south wind plays;
Where the wild bees their honied sweets refine,
And murmur soft their little fairy lays:
When with a lover's eye I cease to gaze
On Nature's charms, though rob'd in simple stole,
For Pomp, for Honour's meretricious blaze,
May Joy desert the Seasons as they roll,
And Pleasure ever be a stranger to my soul!

When buxom Spring leads on the laughing hours,
A victor in his turn, with garlands crown'd,
And twines his wreath of odorif'rous flowers,
In every green and humid grove around;
While on the rapt ear bursts the choral sound
Of melody, pour'd from unnumber'd throats,
As Zephyr wafts far o'er the dewy ground,
By distance mellow'd, the mellifluent notes
Of Shepherd horn, that in the morning breezes floats;

At that sweet hour of prime, let it be mine,
From pure, refreshing slumbers to awake,
And spurn the couch of Indolence supine,
Whose blood still boils, whose temples ever ache;
The damps, the dreams, that stupify, forsake,
And tread with rosy Health the dews of morn,
The spicy gale, that wafts perfume, partake,
Or breathe the fragrance of the blossom'd thorn,
Or list the vernal airs that in each breeze are borne.

To Nature's beauties feelingly alive,
Or, be it mine to scale the green hill's side,
While yet the day and night for empire strive,
And mark the bright-hair'd Sun rise to decide
The doubtful strife, and scattering far and wide
The envious shades that would dominion hold,
Still pour of light th' unconquerable tide,
As up the skies his flaming car is roll'd,
That tips the mountain tops with imitative gold.

Mark how the virgin Lilies of the vale
Delight to flaunt it in the sunny beam,
And on the bank their fragrant soul exhale,
And bend to kiss the softly-lapsing stream;
How fair the sky-woven purple Violets seem,
Washed in the tears that Morning loves to shed,
Nor once the modest, humble Cowslips deem
Unworthy of remark, as soft they spread
Their bosoms to the ray, and cups of glowing red.

And then, what luxury of bliss to hear
The Blackbird's song, that melts along the grove;
The tiny pipe of Linnet warbling clear;
The bleat of Lambs, and voice of cooing Dove!
The Sky-lark's carrol, as he soars above,
And leaves the woodmoss for his airy round;
The merry Milkmaid's madrigals, that prove
A heart where love and innocence abound;
True to each vernal sight, true to each vernal sound.

Thence, borne aloft on Fancy's wing of fire,
Think what far realms in Nature's smile rejoice;
Think how the glad Lapponian smites his lyre,
Rude harping in the hamlet of his choice,
And, giving all his heart, he tunes his voice
To themes where Nature lives along the line,
Now roams in thought, where the gaunt wolf annoys,
Now in his oary shallop laves the brine,
That her he loves may smile, and in his trophies shine.

At last, behold the Emanation break
With dazling brightness on th' astonish'd eye;
And first, 'tis seen with purple light to streak
Yon frozen mass, that mingles with the sky:
Sudden, the mazy streams disdain to lie
Inactive, now the wizzard spell is broke;
Once more are heard the tones of harmony,
Warbling, where garlands bind the knotted oak,
And verdure springs once more to clothe the naked rock.

A joy that wakes the pulses of his heart,
As sudden bids the native leave his shed,
And on the rapid wings of Love depart;
Lo! o'er the ice his rein deer drag the sled
With feet of wind, his fancy highly fed
With the delicious banquet of her charms;
Ev'n now, by rapt anticipation led,
He thinks he fondly folds her in his arms;
Meanwhile he sings the joy that all his bosom warms.

"My Rein Deer! ye that from the desert came,
Now give your airy Spirits to the wind,
The father of the tempest you shall shame,
The lightning's lagging pinion leave behind;
My Annea's hands with flowers your brows shall bind,
If, ere the night, we reach her blest abode.
Then, swift as thoughts' fleet passage o'er the mind,
Scour, viewless, our immeasurable road,
For day is short, and short the way we yet have trod.

"And, lo! the valleys fade upon the sight!
Unheard, now, is the icy torrent's roar,
The Hill of Storms sinks, like his ghosts, in night,
And the brown forest now is seen no more.
Soon, soon, our am'rous journey shall be o'er,
The coursers of the sun, to drink the dew
Shall not descend; nor my deer tire, before
They give my Annea's beauties to my view,
And, on her snowy breast, I bid the world adieu."

But, chief to thee, dear native land! the Power
That gives the rural reign, with all its joy,
Unveils his face divine, and loves to shower
His bounties in thy lap, that never cloy;
Bounties perennial, and without alloy:
Thine the soft-stealing Spring, so sweetly mild!
Thine are the Summer suns, that ne'er annoy,
The temp'rate wintry hours, that Nature's child,
Fond of her changeful face, welcomes with rapture wild!

In yonder fields, the plough-boy urges, gay,
The shining share, and oft, with mellow tone,
Wild warbles to his team the roundelay,
That tells of simple pleasures all his own,
And many a transport, felt by him alone;
When Love impels his steps across the glade,
When all the labours of the day are done,
And brisk he hies to meet the blooming maid,
To whom his vows were given beneath the hawthorn shade.

There the fair rainbow long has blushing shone,
Blushing to front the sun's all-piercing eye;
Lo! now she binds, with many-colour'd zone,
The hill that hides its summit in the sky;
Now quenches in the wave her sanguine dye.
Here flits the Butterfly along the lawn,
Careless how swift the happy moments fly,
One day of shunshine all its little span;
How just an emblem of her brother insect — Man!

Fair is his morn of life — and gay with smiles—
For him the sun with cloudless lustre shines,
The clouds drop fatness — the bee yields her spoils;
Deep redden on the hill the bloomy vines;
Around his bower her arms the Myrtle twines,
The musk rose breathes its essence on the gale,
The diamond, brilliant, sparkles in the mines,
The milk-white hawthorn flowers adown the vale,
And wild thyme clothes the steep, and winds along the dale.

Awhile he wanders wild with pleasure's wind,
Awhile he basks delighted in the ray;
His the light heart, and his the vacant mind,
That knows no joy, no care beyond to day.
Child of an hour! be innocent, be gay;
Ah! why should foresight shroud thy hopes in night!
On seraph wings thou soon shalt burst away,
To share incomprehensible delight,
Floating amid the noon of uncreated light.

True! — grief may come with chilling influence,
In riper years, and quench the golden gleam;
And scenes of woe may rise upon his sense,
That Fancy love's to banish from her dream;
The friend that shar'd his counsel and esteem,
May with ingratitude his love requite;
Fair fortune suddenly withdraw its beam,
And the grave snatch his bosom's sole delight,
The angel who could charm amid the deepest night.

But nor th' Ingrate's sharp poiniard, barb'd with scorn,
With all that disappointment can inspire;
Nor the cold damps of death, or grave forlorn,
Shall ever quench that spark of heavenly fire
That warms his heart, and shall, when suns expire,
And planets cease to dart their mingled rays,
New splendour, at the fount of light acquire.
(So Nature, so the God of Nature says,)
And shine for ever there with undiminish'd blaze.

In such pursuits, pleas'd, would I pass the time,
Till, from the chambers of the sun, implor'd
To give the glorious day in all its prime,
Lord of the eagle eye, and Nature's lord,
Summer stept forth. The golden age restor'd,
And realiz'd each scene the poet feigns;
When every grove can such delights afford,
As blest in days of yore Arcadian plains,
No heart, I ween, has he, that far away remains.

Ah! then, through woodland haunts my way shall lead,
Where umbrage dun o'ercanopies the rill
That wanders, nameless, o'er the long drawn mead,
And loves its hermit path beyond the hill.
My morning and my ev'ning service still
To Heav'n shall rise, uncheck'd by guilt or fears;
While, innocently, there I rove at will,
And on my brow the laurel crown appears,
Dy'd in no brother's blood, wet with no orphan's tears.

'Tis noon — the vertic, sun intensely glows—
To leafy shades I hie, where careless thrown
On meads of fairest Asphodel, Repose
My head shall pillow with the cygnet's down,
And in forgetfulness my sorrows drown,
What time she comes, borne on the whistling wind,
To hover round the spot she calls her own,
With healing in her wings, and o'er my mind
Sheds joys my spirit loves, dreams of no common kind!

O, more than mortal far — to whom 'tis given,
These wild, these awful solitudes to keep;
Whose path is on the viewless winds of heaven,
Whose throne looks proudly o'er yon cloudy steep.
To robe whose fane the ivy tendrils creep
'Mid every sacred grove, in green array;
Lauding whose name, in many a sounding sweep,
The zephyrs labour all the live-long day,
Whose praise, whose waters tell, soft as they wind away;

Genius benign! forgive a stranger rude,
Who comes to watch, to wonder, and adore,
And pardon, if his vagrant foot intrude,
Where never mortal dar'd intrude before.
O, may I, blameless, your retreats explore
So full of beauty, or so darkly grand:
List to your cataracts' deep and solemn roar.
Or mark the Crocus on their banks expand,
Sleep to Eolian airs, or list their pauses bland.

Then take to thy dominions, stretch'd immense,
Power of the eye of fire, and brow benign!
Nature's enthusiast, who with innocence
Would pierce your shades, to worship at her shrine.
And there be his while the resounding pine
Bends o'er the mountain's side, at Zephyr's call,
Fancy to woo in bowers of eglantine,
And soar above all sublunary thrall—
Beyond the narrow bounds of this terrestrial ball.

The courts of heav'n lie open to the sight—
O thou, th' Eternal, Universal Sire,
At whose command the nations sprung to light,
At whose dread frown they tremble and expire;
How great art thou, how dreadful is thy ire!
Thy works how great, how great thy mercies are!
Who hast vouchsaf'd a portion of thy fire,
Who view'st with cordial looks our little sphere,
And deign'st to bless and make the reptile man thy care.

But shall mortality attempt to pierce
Where, thron'd in the pavilion of the sky,
Dwells the Creator of the universe,
Whom ne'er the broad eyes of the morn descry.—
O man, presume not to aspire so high,
Though, at thy mandate, suppliant kingdoms bow;
But cast thy crown and cast thy sceptre by,
And bend the knee of adoration low,
And kiss thy parent earth in reverential show.

Again he strays those sylvan scenes among,
Where flocks are seen to clothe the mountain's brow,
Where sits the shepherdess, and chants her song,
To Village swain, responsive from below.
Hark, late the sounds were melancholy slow,
And every zephyr sigh'd its soul away;
But, brisk and animated, now they flow,
The valley laughs, and all around is gay;
Love, love is all the theme, and breathes in every lay.

Ah, strains belov'd! full sweetly did ye glide,
And smooth, as Yarrow's waters, which ye sung;
Methinks I hear ye still, "Arise, my bride!
Arise, and from these banks, in sorrow hung,
Let us depart; where, late, in mirth you sung,
Pulling the tender birch, and gathering dew:
But, ah! on Yarrow's banks in sadness flung,
Thou pourest forth thy soul in sorrow true,
Mourning the bloody deed that I shall ever rue."

Why, Yarrow, is thy stream of Tyrian dye?
Why, on thy banks, is heard the voice of woe?
To whom belong those blood-stain'd garments nigh,
Hung on thy birch, and waving to and fro?
Why is the lily, erst as white as snow,
On thy green margin, rob'd in crimson guise?
And whose the form that, on thy dark-red flow,
Unshrouded floats, ah! never more to rise?
Though beauty weeps for him, and sever'd friendship sighs.

Long must they sigh and drop the tender tear,
Nor ever prove a respite to their pain;
For she hath lost a lover, lover dear,
And he the Yarrow's blooming pride hath slain.
From every eye let showers of pity rain,
To wash his wounds and face so ghastly pale!
Then wrap his limbs in weeds of mourning grain,
And lay him in the daisy-scented vale;
There strew the budding rose, and there his fate bewail.

"Fair was the youth to whom thy maiden vows
Were given; he well thy flow'ry fetters bore;
Yet, though thy love might blossom like the rose
Than me he never, never lov'd thee more:
His loss then cease, thus sadly, to deplore,
And let me lead thee, fairer meads among;
I'll braid thy locks with many a sweeter flower,
Where Tweed is seen to wind the vales along,
Responsive to the thrush or lark's melodious song."

"How can I leave, for scenes of joy, the mead,
Where he who has my heart is lowly laid?
How can I love him on the banks of Tweed,
Who slew my love where Yarrow laves the glade?
O Yarrow-fields, may all your flowerets fade,
And never genial dew or summer rain
Awake the blossoms in your bowery shade,
To breathe their fragrance on the breeze again,
For in your green-wood shades my love was basely slain.

"Still blushes on thy spear my lover's blood;
How can'st thou, barb'rous man, then seek my love!
My happy sisters may, in scornful mood,
Bid me his cold clay clasp, in yonder grove;
My father may with cruel taunts reprove,
May make me tremble at his stern control;
My brother try, with threat'ning words to move,
But ne'er shall change the purpose of my soul;
Never to wed with thee, thou man of slaughter foul."

To livelier airs these sounds of woe give place;
Of Endermay, perchance the strains, may tell:
Fair fields, where summer shines, with soften'd grace,
Where richer falls the dew adown the vale;
Where sweeter fragrance scents the evening gale;
The sky-lark there his earliest matin trills,
And there the lover tells his tenderest tale;
When Silence keeps her watch on all the hills,
And on the front of heav'n her horn the wan moon fills.

To Nature true, still do the numbers glide,
Still does the shepherd chaunt them o'er with glee;
O Marion, will you go, at ev'ning tide,
And drive the tender lambs across the lea,
And milk the ewes, and pen the fold with me:
The sun shines sweet, my love, on fields of dew,
But, ah! he dimly shines, compar'd to thee:
Thy lips are rosebuds opening to the view,
Thy cheek the vermeil shames, thy breast the lily's hue.

The sun descends — all-powerful king of day!
When thou exchangest these for other lands,
Who shares thy smile, who hails with joy thy ray?
It is not he, mid Afric's burning sands;
It is not he, whom the red scourge commands,
Soon as thy splendour trembles o'er the deep,
To leave, for labour and inglorious bands,
The bed of rest, the couch of balmy sleep,
On western isles who wakes, but only wakes to weep.

A little while! ah! yet a little while!
Delay to light him to his task of tears;
Perchance he sleeps, and slumber may beguile
His woes, and for a season chace his fears.
Soft'ner of pain, lo! Memory appears,
Again to waft him to his native shore,
And give him back the joys of other years,
Sitting beneath the palm-tree's shade once more,
Singing the songs of old, and harping as of yore.

The vision flies — he starts! and sorrows pour,
In dewy flood, from either streaming eye;
And dark dreams oft, in desperation's hour,
Give all his soul to madd'ning agony.
Ah, see! Oppression lifts her scourge on high,
In vain the morning sheds its rosy smile;
No spicy gales for him a balm supply,
In vain for him the orange glads the soil,
In vain the cane affords the rapture of its spoil!

His brother (O, unworthy of the name)
Unfeeling man! on thee his curses fall,
And thou deep dipt in Nature's lasting shame,
The murd'rer of his peace, deserv'st them all.
Bloody destroyer! go, and at thy call,
Thirsting like thee, let tigers proul for prey;
The thunders burst, and livid deaths appal;
The earthquakes scatter ruin and dismay,
They will not equal thee, when gold alone bears sway.

Thou tread'st the wine-press, child of sorrow sad;
But wrap thee in thy innocence secure,
And start not thus, with indignation mad,
For joys are thine that ever shall endure;
Mem'ry is thine, and, O, 'tis soothing, sure!
Thine too th' untutor'd hope, whose day-spring gleams
Athwart the night of grief, with radiance pure;
Born of the sun! thou yet shalt bless his beams,
In those enlighten'd fields, where all his glory streams.

[pp. 3-25]