Item of the Day: Thomson’s Seasons (1774)

Full Title:

The Seasons. By James Thomson. To which is prefixed, The Life of the Author, by Patrick Murdoch, D.D. Printed in London for W. Strahan, J. & F. Rivington, W. Owen, W. Johnston, T Longman, T. Caslon, G. Kearsly, T. Davies, T. Becket, T. Cadell, T. Lowndes, Richardson & Richardson, and H. Baldwin, 1774.

Excerpt from “Summer”:

FROM brightening fields of ether fair disclos’d,
Child of the Sun, refulgent SUMMER comes,
In pride of youth, and felt thro’ Nature’s depth:
He comes attended by the sultry hours,
And ever-fanning breezes, on his way;
While, from his ardent look, the turning SPRING
Averts her blushful face; and earth, and skies,
All-smiling, to his hot dominion leaves.

HENCE, let me haste into the mid-wood shade,
Where scarce a sun-beam wanders thro’ the gloom;
Of haunted stream, that by the roots of oak
Rools o’er the rocky channel, lie at large,
And sing the glories of the circling year.

COME, Inspiration! from thy hermit-seat,
By mortal seldom found: may Fancy dare,
From thy fix’d serious eye, and raptur’d glance
Shot on surrounding Heaven, to steal one look
Creative of the Poet, every power
Exalting to an ecstasy of soul.

AND thou, my youthful Muse’s early friend,
In whom the human graces all unite:
Pure light of mind, and tenderness of heart:
Genius, and wisdom; the gay social sense,
By decency chastis’d; goodness and wit,
In seldom-meeting harmony combin’d;
Unblemish’d honour, and an active zeal
For BRITAIN’s glory, Liberty, and Man:
O DODINGTON! attend my rural song;
Stoop to my theme, inspirit every line,
And teach me to deserve thy just applause.

WITH what an awful world-revolving power
Were first the unwieldy planets launch’d along
Th’ illimitable void! Thus to remain,
Amid the flux of many thousand years,
That oft has swept the toiling race of Men,
And all their labour’d monuments away,
Firm, unremitting, matchless, in their course;
To the kind-temper’d change of night and day,
And of the seasons ever stealing round,
Minutely faithful: Such TH’ ALL PERFECT HAND!

WHEN now no more th’ alternate Twins are fir’d,
And Cancer reddens with the solar blaze,
Short is the doubtful empire of the night;
And soon, observant of approaching day,
The meek-ey’d Morn appears, mother of dews,
At first faint-gleaming in the dappled east:
Till far o’er ether spreads the widening glow;
And, from before the lustre of her face,
White break the clouds away. With quickened step,
Brown Night retires: Young Day pours in apace,
And opens all the lawny prospect wide.
The dripping rock, the mountain’s misty top
Swell on the sight, and brighten with the dawn.
Blue, thro’ the dusk, the smoaking currents shine;
And from the bladed field the fearful hare
Limps, awkward: while along the forest-glade
The wild deer trip, and often turning gaze
At early passenger. Music awakes
The native voice of undissembled joy;
And thick around the woodland hymns arise.
Rous’d by the cock, the soon-clad shepherd leaves
His mossy cottage, where with Peace he dwells;
And from the crowded fold, in order, drives
His flock, to taste the verdure of the morn.

FALSELY luxurious, will not Man awake;
And, springing from the bed of sloth, enjoy
The cool, the fragrant, and the silent hour,
To meditation due and sacred song?
For is there aught in sleep can charm the wise?
To lie in dead oblivion, losing half
The fleeting moment of too short a life;
Total extinction of th’ enlightened soul!
Or else to feverish vanity alive,
Wildered, and tossing thro’ distempered dreams?
Who would in such a gloomy state remain
Longer than Nature craves; when every Muse
And every blooming pleasure wait without,
To bless the wildly devious morning walk?

BUT yonder comes the powerful King of Day,
Rejoicing in the east. The lessening cloud,
The kindling azure, and the mountain’s brow
Illum’d with fluid gold, his near approach
Betoken glad. Lo; now, apparent all,
Aslant the dew-bright earth, and coloured air,
He looks in boundless majesty abroad;
And sheds the shining day, that burnish’d plays
On rocks, and hills, and towers, and wandering dreams,
High-gleaming from afar. Prime chearer Light!
Of all material beings first, and best!
Efflux devine,! Nature’s resplendent robe!
Without whose vesting beauty all were wrapt
In unessential gloom; and thou, O Sun!
Soul of surrounding worlds! in whom best seen
Shines out thy Maker! may I sing of thee?

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Filed under 1770's, Poetry, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

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