1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Winter.

Poems, chiefly Rural.

William Richardson


An imitation of Milton's companion poems that mixes mirth with melancholy. Winter is celebrated as a time of conviviality among friends, a time for studious reflection, and even as a time for out of doors exploration: "What strange enchantment meets my eyes? | Lo! chrystal battlements arise! | Here fairy towers of orient sheen, | And pillared porticos are seen, | Where some | Elfin dame may dwell, | Soverign of the potent spell" p. 16. The passage on the poet's studies is perhaps of particular note as the work of a Scottish enlightenment figure: "I trim my lamp, revolve the page, | And scan the labours of the sage: | Chiefly of those whose curious art n| Explores the mazes of the heart; | Explains what fine connections bind | The kindred sympathies of mind" p. 15.

Critical Review: "We may observe, on the whole, that Mr. Richardson discovers a rich vein of sentimental and descriptive poetry, adorned with harmonious versification; and that he is, so far as we know, the first person that ever wooed the Muses, at least successfully, at St. Petersburgh, where several of the poems have been written" 38 (August 1774) 146.



Lo! the fragrant flowers decay,
The balmy zephyrs haste away,
From the storm-engendering north
Black embattled clouds come forth,
And Winter through the lurid air
Rolls his sable-courser'd car:
Around him kindred tempests croud,
And sweeping whirlwinds howl aloud.
Ushered with awful storms that roar
Impetuous from the mountain hoar,
Darkness descending spreads her veil
Of thickest gloom on hill and dale,
On lofty hall and turret high,
And not a star illumes the sky.
Now my frequent steps repair
Where Friendship, with enlivening air,
Fills the gaily-sparkling bowl:
To joy unbending all my soul
While blyth good-humour brings along
The wintry tale, the lively song,
Laughter free, and Converse gay,
Stealing the gloomy hours away.
Hence Reserve with searching eye,
Malice, and whispering Calumny;
Hence Revelry profane and rude,
Rusticity's unpolished brood;
Ye fell corroding Cares, away!
On Avarice or Envy prey.
But if sublimer joys invite,
Beneath the favouring gloom of night
I trim my lamp, revolve the page,
And scan the labours of the sage:
Chiefly of those whose curious art
Explores the mazes of the heart;
Explains what fine connections bind
The kindred sympathies of mind;
Marks how the grouped ideas rise
To please, astonish, and surprize;
And how the various figures flow
Rapid with joy, with sorrow slow;
How Envy poisons our repose;
And Vice begets a thousand woes.
Rapt with the theme, O may I feel
How Virtue bids the storm be still,
Bids every raging passion cease,
And pours the heavenly beam of peace.
When darkness and the tempests fly,
If frosts unveil the azure sky,
Along the lea the Muse
Her sweetly-pensive walk pursues,
Or by the brown forsaken wood,
Or by the icy-fettered flood.
Though May her glowing tints refuse,
The rural scene invites the Muse:
Though flashing meteors fire the pole,
Though storms descend, and thunders roll,
The soul, alive to Nature's charms,
Rejoices in her dread alarms.
Even 'mid the waste of wintry skies
Beauty salutes poetic eyes;
For see! what gems of various ray
Sparkle on the leafless spray!
Brighter, I ween, than those that shine
In the Indian or Brazilian mine.
And where projecting rocks distil
Through mossy chinks the living rill,
What strange enchantment meets my eyes?
Lo! chrystal battlements arise!
Here fairy towers of orient sheen,
And pillared porticos are seen,
Where some Elfin dame may dwell,
Soverign of the potent spell.—
These, Winter, these delights are thine,
For these before thy icy shrine
I bend me, and devoutly pray
The tribute of a grateful lay.

[pp. 14-16]