Thomson’s Seasons

Thomson’s Seasons:
Autumn

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THE ARGUMENT.

The subject proposed. Addressed to Mr. Onslow. A prospect of the fields ready for harvest. Reflections in praise of industry, raised by that view. Reaping. A tale relative to it. A harvest storm. Shooting and hunting; their barbarity. A ludicrous account of fox-hunting. A view of an orchard. Wallfruit. A vineyard. A description of fogs, frequent in the latter part of Autumn; whence a digression, inquiring into the rise of fountains and rivers. Birds of season considered, that now shift their habitation. The prodigious number of them that cover the northern and western isles of Scotland. Hence a view of the country. A prospect of the discoloured, fading woods. After a gentle dusky day, moonlight. Autumnal meteors. Morning; to which succeeds a calm, pure, sunshiny day, such as usually shuts up the season. The harvest being gathered in, the country dissolved in joy. The whole concludes with a panegyric on a philosophical country-life.

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rown’d with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,

While Autumn nodding o’er the yellow plain

Comes jovial on, the Doric reed once more,

Well pleas’d, I tune. Whate’er the wintry frost

Nitrous prepar’d—the various-blossom’d Spring

Put in white promise forth—and summer suns

Concocted strong—rush boundless now to view,

Full, perfect all, and swell my glorious theme.

Onslow! the muse, ambitious of thy name,

10 To grace, inspire, and dignify her song,

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Would from the public voice thy gentle ear

A while engage. Thy noble cares she knows,

The patriot virtues that distend thy thought,

Spread on thy front, and in thy bosom glow;

While listening senates hang upon thy tongue,

Devolving through the maze of eloquence

A roll of periods sweeter than her song.

But she too pants for public virtue; she,

Though weak of power yet strong in ardent will,

20 Whene’er her country rushes on her heart,

Assumes a bolder note, and fondly tries

To mix the patriot’s with the poet’s flame.

When the bright Virgin gives the beauteous days,

And Libra weighs in equal scales the year,

From heaven’s high cope the fierce effulgence shook

Of parting Summer, a serener blue,

With golden light enliven’d, wide invests

The happy world. Attemper’d suns arise,

Sweet-beam’d, and shedding oft through lucid clouds

30 A pleasing calm; while broad, and brown, below

Extensive harvests hang the heavy head.

Rich, silent, deep, they stand; for not a gale

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Rolls its light billows o’er the bending plain;

A calm of plenty! till the ruffled air

Falls from its poise, and gives the breeze to blow.

Rent is the fleecy mantle of the sky;

The clouds fly different; and the sudden sun

By fits effulgent gilds the illumin’d field,

And black by fits the shadows sweep along.

40 A gaily chequer’d, heart-expanding view,

Far as the circling eye can shoot around,

Unbounded tossing in a flood of corn.

These are thy blessings, industry! rough power!

Whom labour still attends, and sweat, and pain;

Yet the kind source of every gentle art,

And all the soft civility of life:

Raiser of human kind! by Nature cast,

Naked, and helpless, out amid the woods

And wilds, to rude inclement elements;

50 With various seeds of art deep in the mind

Implanted—and profusely pour’d around

Materials infinite; but idle all.

 

Still unexerted, in the unconscious breast,

Slept the lethargic powers; corruption still,

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Voracious, swallow’d what the liberal hand

Of bounty scatter’d o’er the savage year;

And still the sad barbarian, roving, mix’d

With beasts of prey; or for his acorn-meal

Fought the fierce tusky boar. A shivering wretch!

60 Aghast and comfortless when the bleak north,

With winter charg’d, let the mix’d tempest fly,

Hail, rain, and snow, and bitter-breathing frost—

Then to the shelter of the hut he fled;

And the wild season, sordid, pin’d away.

For home he had not: home is the resort

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Of love, of joy, of peace and plenty, where,

Supporting and supported, polish’d friends,

And dear relations, mingle into bliss.

 

But this the rugged savage never felt,

70 Even desolate in crowds; and thus his days

Roll’d heavy, dark, and unenjoy’d, along:

A waste of time! till industry approach’d,

And rous’d him from his miserable sloth;

His faculties unfolded; pointed out

Where lavish Nature the directing hand

Of art demanded; show’d him how to raise

His feeble force by the mechanic powers;

To dig the mineral from the vaulted earth,

On what to turn the piercing rage of fire,

80 On what the torrent, and the gather’d blast;

Gave the tall ancient forest to his axe;

Taught him to chip the wood, and hew the stone,

Till by degrees the finish’d fabric rose;

Tore from his limbs the blood-polluted fur,

And wrapt them in the woolly vestment warm,

Or bright in glossy silk, and flowing lawn;

With wholesome viands fill’d his table, pour’d

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The generous glass around, inspir’d to wake

The life-refining soul of decent wit:

90 Nor stopp’d at barren bare necessity;

But, still advancing bolder, led him on

To pomp, to pleasure, elegance, and grace;

And, breathing high ambition through his soul,

Set science, wisdom, glory, in his view,

And bade him be the lord of all below.

Then gathering men their natural powers combin’d,

And form’d a public; to the general good

Submitting, aiming, and conducting all.

For this the patriot council met, the full,

100 The free, and fairly represented whole;

For this they plann’d the holy guardian laws,

Distinguish’d orders, animated arts,

And with joint force oppression chaining, set

Imperial justice at the helm—yet still

To them accountable: nor slavish dream’d

That toiling millions must resign their weal,

And all the honey of their search, to such

As for themselves alone themselves have rais’d.

Hence every form of cultivated life

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110 In order set, protected, and inspir’d,

Into perfection wrought. Uniting all,

Society grew numerous, high, polite,

And happy. Nurse of art! the city rear’d

In beauteous pride her tower-encircled head;

And, stretching street on street, by thousands drew,

From twining woody haunts, or the tough yew

To bows strong-straining, her aspiring sons.

busy harbor, surrounded by tall buildings, filled with moored ships and passing boats

Then commerce brought into the public walk

The busy merchant; the big warehouse built;

120 Rais’d the strong crane; chok’d up the loaded street

With foreign plenty; and thy stream, O Thames,

Large, gentle, deep, majestic, king of floods!

Chose for his grand resort. On either hand,

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Like a long wintry forest, groves of masts

Shot up their spires; the bellying sheet between

Possess’d the breezy void; the sooty hulk

Steer’d sluggish on; the splendid barge along

Row’d regular to harmony; around,

The boat, light-skimming, stretch’d its oary wings;

130 While deep the various voice of fervent toil

From bank to bank increas’d; whence, ribb’d with oak,

To bear the British thunder, black and bold

The roaring vessel rush’d into the main.

Then too the pillar’d dome, magnific, heav’d

Its ample roof: and luxury within

Pour’d out her glittering stores: the canvass smooth,

With glowing life protuberant, to the view

Embodied rose; the statue seem’d to breathe,

And soften into flesh, beneath the touch

140 Of forming art, imagination-flush’d.

All is the gift of industry; whate’er

Exalts, embellishes, and renders life

Delightful. Pensive Winter, cheer’d by him,

Sits at the social fire, and happy hears

The excluded tempest idly rave along;

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His harden’d fingers deck the gaudy Spring;

Without him, Summer were an arid waste;

Nor to the autumnal months could thus transmit

Those full, mature, immeasurable stores,

150 That, waving round, recall my wandering song.

 
 
 
 
 

Soon as the morning trembles o’er the sky,

And, unperceiv’d, unfolds the spreading day,

Before the ripen’d field the reapers stand,

In fair array; each by the lass he loves,

To bear the rougher part, and mitigate

By nameless gentle offices her toil.

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At once they stoop and swell the lusty sheaves;

While through their cheerful band the rural talk,

The rural scandal, and the rural jest,

160 Fly harmless, to deceive the tedious time,

And steal unfelt the sultry hours away.

Behind, the master walks; builds up the shocks;

And, conscious, glancing oft on every side

His sated eye, feels his heart heave with joy.

The gleaners spread around; and here and there,

Spike after spike, their sparing harvest pick.

Be not too narrow, husbandmen! but fling

From the full sheaf, with charitable stealth,

The liberal handful. Think, oh grateful think!

170 How good the God of Harvest is to you;

Who pours abundance o’er your flowing fields—

While these unhappy partners of your kind

Wide-hover round you, like the fowls of heaven,

And ask their humble dole. The various turns

Of fortune ponder; that your sons may want

What now, with hard reluctance, faint, ye give.

The lovely young Lavinia once had friends;

And fortune smil’d, deceitful, on her birth.

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For, in her helpless years depriv’d of all,

180 Of every stay save innocence and Heaven,

She, with her widow’d mother, feeble, old,

And poor, liv’d in a cottage, far retir’d

Among the windings of a woody vale;

By solitude and deep surrounding shades,

But more by bashful modesty, conceal’d.

Together thus they shunn’d the cruel scorn

Which virtue, sunk to poverty, would meet

From giddy fashion and low-minded pride;

Almost on Nature’s common bounty fed,

190 Like the gay birds that sung them to repose,

Content, and careless of to-morrow’s fare.

Her form was fresher than the morning rose,

When the dew wets its leaves; unstain’d and pure,

As is the lily, or the mountain snow.

The modest virtues mingled in her eyes,

Still on the ground dejected, darting all

Their humid beams into the blooming flowers;

Or when the mournful tale her mother told,

Of what her faithless fortune promis’d once,

200 Thrill’d in her thought, they, like the dewy star

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Of evening, shone in tears. A native grace

Sat fair-proportion’d on her polish’d limbs,

Veil’d in a simple robe, their best attire,

Beyond the pomp of dress; for loveliness

Needs not the foreign aid of ornament,

But is when unadorn’d adorn’d the most.

Thoughtless of beauty, she was beauty’s self,

Recluse amid the close-embowering woods.

As in the hollow breast of Apennine,

210 Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,

A myrtle rises, far from human eye,

And breathes its balmy fragrance o’er the wild,

So flourish’d blooming, and unseen by all,

The sweet Lavinia; till, at length, compell’d

By strong necessity’s supreme command,

With smiling patience in her looks, she went

To glean Palemon’s fields. The pride of swains

Palemon was, the generous, and the rich;

Who led the rural life in all its joy

220 And elegance, such as Arcadian song

Transmits from ancient uncorrupted times—

When tyrant custom had not shackled man,

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But free to follow nature was the mode.

 
 
 

He then, his fancy with autumnal scenes

Amusing, chanc’d beside his reaper-train

To walk, when poor Lavinia drew his eye;

Unconscious of her power, and turning quick

With unaffected blushes from his gaze:

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He saw her charming, but he saw not half

230 The charms her downcast modesty conceal’d.

That very moment love and chaste desire

Sprung in his bosom, to himself unknown;

For still the world prevail’d, and its dread laugh,

Which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn,

Should his heart own a gleaner in the field;

And thus in secret to his soul he sigh’d:

“What pity! that so delicate a form,

By beauty kindled, where enlivening sense

And more than vulgar goodness seem to dwell,

240 Should be devoted to the rude embrace

Of some indecent clown! She looks, methinks,

Of old Acasto’s line; and to my mind

Recalls that patron of my happy life,

From whom my liberal fortune took its rise;

Now to the dust gone down—his houses, lands,

And once fair-spreading family, dissolv’d.

’Tis said that in some lone obscure retreat,

Urg’d by remembrance sad, and decent pride,

Far from those scenes which knew their better days,

250 His aged widow and his daughter live,

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Whom yet my fruitless search could never find.

Romantic wish, would this the daughter were!”

When, strict inquiring, from herself he found

She was the same, the daughter of his friend,

Of bountiful Acasto—who can speak

The mingled passions that surpris’d his heart,

And through his nerves in shivering transport ran?

Then blaz’d his smother’d flame, avow’d and bold;

And as he view’d her, ardent, o’er and o’er,

260 Love, gratitude, and pity wept at once.

Confus’d, and frighten’d at his sudden tears,

Her rising beauties flush’d a higher bloom,

As thus Palemon, passionate and just,

Pour’d out the pious rapture of his soul:

“And art thou then Acasto’s dear remains?

She whom my restless gratitude has sought

So long in vain? Oh yes! the very same,

The soften’d image of my noble friend;

Alive, his every feature, every look,

270 More elegantly touch’d. Sweeter than Spring!

Thou sole surviving blossom from the root

That nourish’d up my fortune, say, ah where,

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In what sequestered desert, hast thou drawn

The kindest aspect of delighted heaven?

Into such beauty spread, and blown so fair;

Though poverty’s cold wind, and crushing rain,

Beat keen, and heavy, on thy tender years!

Oh let me now, into a richer soil,

Transplant thee safe! where vernal suns and showers

280 Diffuse their warmest, largest influence;

And of my garden be the pride and joy!

It ill befits thee, oh, it ill befits

Acasto’s daughter—his whose open stores,

Though vast, were little to his ampler heart,

The father of a country, thus to pick

The very refuse of those harvest-fields

Which from his bounteous friendship I enjoy.

Then throw that shameful pittance from thy hand,

But ill-applied to such a rugged task:

290 The fields, the master, all, my fair, are thine;

If to the various blessings which thy house

Has on me lavish’d, thou wilt add that bliss,

That dearest bliss, the power of blessing thee!”

Here ceas’d the youth: yet still his speaking eye

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Express’d the sacred triumph of his soul,

With conscious virtue, gratitude, and love,

Above the vulgar joy divinely rais’d.

Nor waited he reply. Won by the charm

Of goodness irresistible, and all

300 In sweet disorder lost, she blush’d consent.

The news immediate to her mother brought,

While, pierc’d with anxious thought, she pin’d away

The lonely moments for Lavinia’s fate—

Amaz’d, and scarce believing what she heard,

Joy seiz’d her wither’d veins, and one bright gleam

Of setting life shone on her evening-hours:

Not less enraptur’d than the happy pair;

Who flourish’d long in tender bliss, and rear’d

A numerous offspring, lovely like themselves,

310 And good, the grace of all the country round.

Defeating oft the labours of the year,

The sultry south collects a potent blast.

At first, the groves are scarcely seen to stir

Their trembling tops, and a still murmur runs

Along the soft-inclining fields of corn;

But as the aërial tempest fuller swells,

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And in one mighty stream, invisible,

Immense, the whole excited atmosphere

Impetuous rushes o’er the sounding world,

320 Strain’d to the root, the stooping forest pours

A rustling shower of yet untimely leaves.

High-beat, the circling mountains eddy in,

From the bare wild, the dissipated storm,

And send it in a torrent down the vale.

Expos’d, and naked, to its utmost rage,

Through all the sea of harvest rolling round,

The billowy plain floats wide; nor can evade,

Though pliant to the blast, its seizing force—

Or whirl’d in air, or into vacant chaff

330 Shook waste. And sometimes too a burst of rain,

Swept from the black horizon, broad, descends

In one continuous flood. Still over head

The mingling tempest weaves its gloom, and still

The deluge deepens; till the fields around

Lie sunk, and flatted, in the sordid wave.

Sudden, the ditches swell; the meadows swim.

Red, from the hills, innumerable streams,

Tumultuous roar; and high above its banks

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The river lift; before whose rushing tide,

340 Herds, flocks, and harvests, cottages, and swains,

Roll mingled down: all that the winds had spar’d,

In one wild moment ruin’d; the big hopes,

And well-earn’d treasures, of the painful year.

Fled to some eminence, the husbandman,

Helpless, beholds the miserable wreck

Driving along; his drowning ox at once

Descending, with his labours scatter’d round,

He sees; and instant o’er his shivering thought

Comes Winter unprovided, and a train

350 Of clamant children dear. Ye masters, then,

Be mindful of the rough laborious hand

That sinks you soft in elegance and ease;

Be mindful of those limbs, in russet clad,

Whose toil to yours is warmth and graceful pride;

And, oh, be mindful of that sparing board

Which covers yours with luxury profuse,

Makes your glass sparkle, and your sense rejoice!

Nor cruelly demand what the deep rains

And all-involving winds have swept away.

 
 
 

360 Here the rude clamour of the sportsman’s joy,

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The gun fast-thundering, and the winded horn,

Would tempt the muse to sing the rural game:

How, in his mid-career, the spaniel struck,

Stiff, by the tainted gale, with open nose,

Outstretched and finely sensible, draws full,

Fearful, and cautious, on the latent prey;

As in the sun the circling covey bask

Their varied plumes, and, watchful every way,

Through the rough stubble turn the secret eye.

370 Caught in the meshy snare, in vain they beat

Their idle wings, entangled more and more:

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Nor on the surges of the boundless air,

Though borne triumphant, are they safe; the gun,

Glanc’d just and sudden from the fowler’s eye,

O’ertakes their sounding pinions; and, again,

Immediate brings them from the towering wing,

Dead to the ground; or drives them wide-dispers’d,

Wounded, and wheeling various, down the wind.

These are not subjects for the peaceful muse,

380 Nor will she stain with such her spotless song;

Then most delighted, when she social sees

The whole mix’d animal creation round

Alive and happy. ’Tis not joy to her,

This falsely cheerful, barbarous game of death;

This rage of pleasure, which the restless youth

Awakes, impatient, with the gleaming morn;

When beasts of prey retire, that all night long,

Urg’d by necessity, had rang’d the dark,

As if their conscious ravage shunn’d the light,

390 Asham’d. Not so the steady tyrant man,

Who with the thoughtless insolence of power

Inflam’d, beyond the most infuriate wrath

Of the worst monster that e’er roam’d the waste,

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For sport alone pursues the cruel chase,

Amid the beamings of the gentle days.

Upbraid, ye ravening tribes, our wanton rage,

For hunger kindles you, and lawless want;

But lavish fed, in Nature’s bounty roll’d,

To joy at anguish, and delight in blood,

400 Is what your horrid bosoms never knew.

Poor is the triumph o’er the timid hare!

Scar’d from the corn, and now to some lone seat

Retir’d: the rushy fen; the ragged furze,

Stretch’d o’er the stony heath; the stubble chapp’d;

The thistly lawn; the thick entangled broom;

Of the same friendly hue, the wither’d fern;

The fallow ground laid open to the sun,

Concoctive; and the nodding sandy bank,

Hung o’er the mazes of the mountain brook.

410 Vain is her best precaution; though she sits

Conceal’d, with folded ears; unsleeping eyes,

By Nature rais’d to take the horizon in;

And head couch’d close betwixt her hairy feet,

In act to spring away. The scented dew

Betrays her early labyrinth; and deep,

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In scatter’d sullen openings, far behind,

With every breeze she hears the coming storm.

But nearer, and more frequent, as it loads

The sighing gale, she springs amaz’d, and all

The savage soul of game is up at once:

The pack full-opening, various; the shrill horn,

Resounded from the hills; the neighing steed,

420 Wild for the chase; and the loud hunter’s shout;

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O’er a weak, harmless, flying creature, all

Mix’d in mad tumult, and discordant joy.

hare hiding from nearby hunters

The stag too, singled from the herd, where long

He rang’d the branching monarch of the shades,

Before the tempest drives. At first, in speed

He, sprightly, puts his faith; and, rous’d by fear,

430 Gives all his swift aërial soul to flight.

Against the breeze he darts, that way the more

To leave the lessening murderous cry behind:

Deception short! though, fleeter than the winds

Blown o’er the keen-air’d mountain by the north,

He bursts the thickets, glances through the glades,

And plunges deep into the wildest wood—

If slow, yet sure, adhesive to the track

Hot-steaming, up behind him come again

The inhuman rout, and from the shady depth

440 Expel him, circling through his every shift.

 
 
 

He sweeps the forest oft; and sobbing sees

The glades, mild-opening to the golden day,

Where, in kind contest, with his butting friends

He wont to struggle, or his loves enjoy.

Oft in the full-descending flood he tries

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To lose the scent, and lave his burning sides;

Oft seeks the herd: the watchful herd, alarm’d,

With selfish care avoid a brother’s woe.

What shall he do? His once so vivid nerves,

450 So full of buoyant spirit, now no more

Inspire the course; but fainting breathless toil,

Sick, seizes on his heart: he stands at bay;

And puts his last weak refuge in despair.

The big round tears run down his dappled face;

He groans in anguish; while the growling pack,

Blood-happy, hang at his fair jutting chest,

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And mark his beauteous chequer’d sides with gore.

Of this enough. But if the sylvan youth

Whose fervent blood boils into violence

460 Must have the chase—behold, despising flight,

The rous’d-up lion, resolute and slow,

Advancing full on the protended spear,

And coward band, that circling wheel aloof.

Slunk from the cavern, and the troubled wood,

See the grim wolf—on him his shaggy foe

Vindictive fix, and let the ruffian die;

Or, growling horrid, as the brindled boar

Grins fell destruction, to the monster’s heart

Let the dart lighten from the nervous arm.

470 These Britain knows not; give, ye Britons, then

Your sportive fury, pitiless, to pour

Loose on the nightly robber of the fold:

Him, from his craggy winding haunts unearth’d,

Let all the thunder of the chase pursue.

Throw the broad ditch behind you; o’er the hedge

High-bound, resistless; nor the deep morass

Refuse, but through the shaking wilderness

Pick your nice way; into the perilous flood

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Bear fearless, of the raging instinct full—

480 And as you ride the torrent, to the banks

Your triumph sound sonorous, running round,

From rock to rock, in circling echo toss’d;

Then scale the mountains to their woody tops;

Rush down the dangerous steep; and o’er the lawn,

In fancy swallowing up the space between,

Pour all your speed into the rapid game.

For happy he who tops the wheeling chase;

Has every maze evolv’d, and every guile

Disclos’d; who knows the merits of the pack;

490 Who saw the villain seiz’d, and dying hard,

Without complaint, though by an hundred mouths

Relentless torn: oh glorious he, beyond

His daring peers! when the retreating horn

Calls them to ghostly halls of grey renown,

With woodland honours grac’d; the fox’s fur,

Depending decent from the roof; and, spread

Round the drear walls, with antic figures fierce,

The stag’s large front: he then is loudest heard,

When the night staggers with severer toils,

500 With feats Thessalian centaurs never knew,

196

And their repeated wonders shake the dome.

 
 
 

But first the fuel’d chimney blazes wide;

The tankards foam; and the strong table groans

Beneath the smoking sirloin, stretch’d immense

From side to side; in which, with desperate knife,

They deep incision make, and talk the while

Of England’s glory, ne’er to be defac’d

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While hence they borrow vigour: or amain

Into the pasty plung’d, at intervals,

510 If stomach keen can intervals allow,

Relating all the glories of the chase.

Then sated hunger bids his brother thirst

Produce the mighty bowl; the mighty bowl,

Swell’d high with fiery juice, steams liberal round

A potent gale, delicious as the breath

Of Maia to the love-sick shepherdess,

On violets diffus’d, while soft she hears

Her panting shepherd stealing to her arms.

Nor wanting is the brown october, drawn,

520 Mature and perfect, from his dark retreat

Of thirty years; and now his honest front

Flames in the light refulgent, not afraid

Even with the vineyard’s best prodúce to vie.

To cheat the thirsty moments, whist a while

Walks his grave round, beneath a cloud of smoke,

Wreath’d fragrant from the pipe; or the quick dice,

In thunder leaping from the box, awake

The sounding gammon; while romp-loving miss

Is haul’d about, in gallantry robust.

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530 At last these puling idlenesses laid

Aside, frequent and full, the dry divan

Close in firm circle; and set, ardent, in

For serious drinking. Nor evasion sly,

Nor sober shift, is to the puking wretch

Indulg’d apart; but earnest, brimming bowls

Lave every soul, the table floating round,

And pavement, faithless to the fuddled foot.

Thus as they swim in mutual swill, the talk,

Vociferous at once from twenty tongues,

540 Reels fast from theme to theme; from horses, hounds,

To church or mistress, politics or ghost,

In endless mazes, intricate, perplex’d.

Meantime, with sudden interruption, loud,

The impatient catch bursts from the joyous heart:

That moment, touch’d is each congenial soul;

And, opening in a full-mouth’d cry of joy,

The laugh, the slap, the jocund curse goes round;

While, from their slumbers shook, the kennel’d hounds

Mix in the music of the day again.

550 As when the tempest, that has vex’d the deep

The dark night long, with fainter murmurs falls;

199

So gradual sinks their mirth. Their feeble tongues,

Unable to take up the cumbrous word,

Lie quite dissolv’d. Before their maudlin eyes,

Seen dim and blue, the double tapers dance,

Like the sun wading through the misty sky.

Then, sliding soft, they drop. Confus’d above,

Glasses and bottles, pipes and gazetteers,

As if the table even itself was drunk,

560 Lie a wet broken scene; and wide, below,

Is heap’d the social slaughter—where astride

The lubber power in filthy triumph sits,

Slumbrous, inclining still from side to side,

And steeps them drench’d in potent sleep till morn.

Perhaps some doctor, of tremendous paunch,

Awful and deep, a black abyss of drink,

Outlives them all; and from his buried flock

Retiring, full of rumination sad,

Laments the weakness of these latter times.

570 But if the rougher sex by this fierce sport

Is hurried wild, let not such horrid joy

E’er stain the bosom of the British fair.

Far be the spirit of the chase from them!

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Uncomely courage, unbeseeming skill,

To spring the fence, to rein the prancing steed—

The cap, the whip, the masculine attire,

In which they roughen to the sense, and all

The winning softness of their sex is lost.

In them ’tis graceful to dissolve at woe;

580 With every motion, every word, to wave

Quick o’er the kindling cheek the ready blush;

And from the smallest violence to shrink,

Unequal, then the loveliest in their fears—

And by this silent adulation, soft,

To their protection more engaging man.

Oh may their eyes no miserable sight,

Save weeping lovers, see! a nobler game,

Through love’s enchanting wiles pursu’d, yet fled,

In chase ambiguous. May their tender limbs

590 Float in the loose simplicity of dress!

 
 
 

And, fashion’d all to harmony, alone

Know they to seize the captivated soul,

In rapture warbled from love-breathing lips;

To teach the lute to languish; with smooth step,

Disclosing motion in its every charm,

201

To swim along, and swell the mazy dance;

To train the foliage o’er the snowy lawn;

To guide the pencil, turn the tuneful page;

To lend new flavour to the fruitful year,

600 And heighten Nature’s dainties; in their race,

To rear their graces into second life;

To give society its highest taste;

202

Well-order’d home, man’s best delight to make;

And by submissive wisdom, modest skill,

With every gentle care-eluding art,

To raise the virtues, animate the bliss,

Even charm the pains to something more than joy,

And sweeten all the toils of human life:

This be the female dignity, and praise.

610 Ye swains, now hasten to the hazel bank;

Where, down yon dale, the wildly winding brook

Falls hoarse from steep to steep. In close array,

Fit for the thickets and the tangling shrub,

Ye virgins, come. For you their latest song

The woodlands raise; the clustering nuts for you

The lover finds amid the secret shade;

vignette: young man and woman sitting on a haybale

203

And, where they burnish on the topmost bough,

With active vigour crushes down the tree;

Or shakes them ripe from the resigning husk,

620 A glossy shower, and of an ardent brown,

As are the ringlets of Melinda’s hair:

Melinda, form’d with every grace complete,

Yet these neglecting, above beauty wise,

And far transcending such a vulgar praise.

Hence from the busy joy-resounding fields,

In cheerful error, let us tread the maze

Of Autumn, unconfin’d; and taste, reviv’d,

The breath of orchard big with bending fruit.

Obedient to the breeze and beating ray,

630 From the deep-loaded bough a mellow shower

Incessant melts away. The juicy pear

Lies, in a soft profusion, scatter’d round.

A various sweetness swells the gentle race;

By Nature’s all-refining hand prepared,

Of temper’d sun, and water, earth, and air,

In ever-changing composition mix’d.

Such, falling frequent through the chiller night,

The fragrant stores, the wide-projected heaps

204

Of apples, which the lusty-handed year,

640 Innumerous, o’er the blushing orchard shakes.

A various spirit, fresh, delicious, keen,

Dwells in their gelid pores; and, active, points

The piercing cider for the thirsty tongue:

Thy native theme, and boon inspirer too,

Philips, Pomona’s bard, the second thou

Who nobly durst, in rhyme-unfetter’d verse,

With British freedom sing the British song;

How, from Silurian vats, high-sparkling wines

Foam in transparent floods—some strong, to cheer

650 The wintry revels of the labouring hind,

And tasteful some, to cool the summer hours.

In this glad season, while his sweetest beams

The sun sheds equal o’er the meeken’d day,

Oh lose me in the green delightful walks

Of, Dodington! thy seat, serene and plain;

Where simple nature reigns; and every view,

Diffusive, spreads the pure Dorsetian downs,

In boundless prospect—yonder shagg’d with wood,

Here rich with harvest, and there white with flocks!

660 Meantime the grandeur of thy lofty dome,

205

Far-splendid, seizes on the ravish’d eye.

New beauties rise with each revolving day;

New columns swell; and still the fresh Spring finds

New plants to quicken, and new groves to green.

Full of thy genius all! the muses’ seat;

Where in the secret bower, and winding walk,

For virtuous Young and thee they twine the bay.

Here wandering oft, fir’d with the restless thirst

Of thy applause, I solitary court

670 The inspiring breeze; and meditate the book

Of Nature, ever open—aiming thence,

Warm from the heart, to learn the moral song.

And, as I steal along the sunny wall,

Where Autumn basks, with fruit empurpled deep,

My pleasing theme continual prompts my thought:

Presents the downy peach; the shining plum,

With a fine bluish mist of animals

Clouded; the ruddy nectarine; and, dark

Beneath his ample leaf, the luscious fig.

680 The vine too here her curling tendrils shoots;

Hangs out her clusters, glowing to the south;

And scarcely wishes for a warmer sky.

206
 
 
 

Turn we a moment fancy’s rapid flight

To vigorous soils, and climes of fair extent;

Where, by the potent sun elated high,

The vineyard swells refulgent on the day;

Spreads o’er the vale; or up the mountain climbs,

Profuse; and drinks amid the sunny rocks,

From cliff to cliff increas’d, the heighten’d blaze.

690 Low bend the weighty boughs. The clusters clear,

Half through the foliage seen, or ardent flame,

Or shine transparent; while perfection breathes

White o’er the turgent film the living dew.

As thus they brighten with exalted juice,

Touch’d into flavour by the mingling ray,

The rural youth and virgins o’er the field,

207

Each fond for each to cull the autumnal prime,

Exulting rove, and speak the vintage nigh.

Then comes the crushing swain; the country floats,

700 And foams unbounded with the mashy flood;

That by degrees fermented, and refin’d,

Round the rais’d nations pours the cup of joy:

The claret smooth, red as the lip we press

In sparkling fancy, while we drain the bowl;

The mellow-tasted burgundy; and, quick

As is the wit it gives, the gay champagne.

Now, by the cool declining year condens’d,

Descend the copious exhalations, check’d

As up the middle sky unseen they stole,

710 And roll the doubling fogs around the hill.

No more the mountain, horrid, vast, sublime,

Who pours a sweep of rivers from his sides,

And high between contending kingdoms rears

The rocky long division, fills the view

With great variety; but in a night

Of gathering vapour, from the baffled sense,

Sinks dark and dreary. Thence expanding far,

The huge dusk, gradual, swallows up the plain.

208

Vanish the woods. The dim-seen river seems

720 Sullen, and slow, to roll the misty wave.

Even in the height of noon oppress’d, the sun

Sheds weak, and blunt, his wide-refracted ray;

Whence glaring oft, with many a broaden’d orb,

He frights the nations. Indistinct on earth,

Seen through the turbid air, beyond the life

Objects appear—and, wilder’d, o’er the waste

The shepherd stalks gigantic; till at last

Wreath’d dun around, in deeper circles still

Successive closing, sits the general fog

730 Unbounded o’er the world—and, mingling thick,

A formless grey confusion covers all:

As when of old (so sung the Hebrew bard)

Light, uncollected, through the chaos urg’d

Its infant way; nor order yet had drawn

His lovely train from out the dubious gloom.

These roving mists, that constant now begin

To smoke along the hilly country, these,

With weighty rains, and melted alpine snows,

The mountain-cisterns fill, those ample stores

740 Of water, scoop’d among the hollow rocks;

209

Whence gush the streams, the ceaseless fountains play,

And their unfailing wealth the rivers draw.

Some sages say, that, where the numerous wave

For ever lashes the resounding shore,

Drill’d through the sandy stratum, every way,

The waters with the sandy stratum rise;

Amid whose angles infinitely strain’d,

They joyful leave their jaggy salts behind,

And clear and sweeten as they soak along.

750 Nor stops the restless fluid, mounting still,

Though oft amidst the irriguous vale it springs;

But to the mountain courted by the sand,

That leads it darkling on in faithful maze,

Far from the parent-main, it boils again

Fresh into day—and all the glittering hill

Is bright with spouting rills. But hence this vain

Amusive dream! why should the waters love

To take so far a journey to the hills,

When the sweet valleys offer to their toil

760 Inviting quiet, and a nearer bed?

Or if, by blind ambition led astray,

They must aspire, why should they sudden stop

210

Among the broken mountain’s rushy dells,

And, ere they gain its highest peak, desert

The attractive sand that charm’d their course so long?

Besides, the hard agglomerating salts,

The spoil of ages, would impervious choke

Their secret channels; or, by slow degrees,

High as the hills protrude the swelling vales:

770 Old ocean too, suck’d through the porous globe,

Had long ere now forsook his horrid bed,

And brought Deucalion’s watery times again.

Say then, where lurk the vast eternal springs,

That, like creating Nature, lie conceal’d

From mortal eye, yet with their lavish stores

Refresh the globe, and all its joyous tribes?

O thou pervading genius, given to man

To trace the secrets of the dark abyss,

Oh lay the mountains bare; and wide display

780 Their hidden structure to the astonish’d view!

Strip from the branching Alps their piny load;

The huge incumbrance of horrific woods

From Asian Taurus, from Imaüs stretch’d

Athwart the roving Tartar’s sullen bounds;

211

Give opening Hæmus to my searching eye,

And high Olympus1 pouring many a stream!

Oh, from the sounding summits of the north,

The Dofrine hills, through Scandinavia roll’d

To farthest Lapland and the frozen main;

790 From lofty Caucasus, far seen by those

Who in the Caspian and black Euxine toil;

From cold Rhipæan rocks, which the wild Russ

Believes the stony girdle2 of the world;

And all the dreadful mountains, wrapt in storm,

Whence wide Siberia draws her lonely floods—

Oh sweep the eternal snows! Hung o’er the deep,

That ever works beneath his sounding base,

Bid Atlas, propping heaven, as poets feign,

His subterranean wonders spread; unveil

800 The miny caverns, blazing on the day,

Of Abyssinia’s cloud-compelling cliffs,

And of the bending Mountains of the Moon3;

O’ertopping all these giant sons of earth,

Let the dire Andes, from the radiant line

Stretch’d to the stormy seas that thunder round

The southern pole, their hideous deeps unfold!

212

Amazing scene! Behold! the glooms disclose:

I see the rivers in their infant beds;

Deep, deep I hear them, labouring to get free.

810 I see the leading strata, artful rang’d;

The gaping fissures to receive the rains,

The melting snows, and ever-dripping fogs.

Strew’d bibulous above I see the sands,

The pebbly gravel next, the layers then

Of mingled moulds, of more retentive earths,

The gutter’d rocks and mazy-running clefts;

That, while the stealing moisture they transmit,

Retard its motion, and forbid its waste.

Beneath the incessant weeping of these drains,

820 I see the rocky siphons stretch’d immense,

The mighty reservoirs, of harden’d chalk,

Or stiff compacted clay, capacious form’d.

O’erflowing thence, the congregated stores,

The crystal treasures of the liquid world,

Through the stirr’d sands a bubbling passage burst:

And welling out, around the middle steep,

Or from the bottoms of the bosom’d hills,

In pure effusion flow. United, thus,

213

The exhaling sun, the vapour-burden’d air,

830 The gelid mountains, that to rain condens’d

These vapours in continual current draw,

And send them, o’er the fair-divided earth,

In bounteous rivers to the deep again,

A social commerce hold, and firm support

The full-adjusted harmony of things.

When Autumn scatters his departing gleams,

Warn’d of approaching Winter, gather’d, play

The swallow-people; and toss’d wide around,

O’er the calm sky, in convolution swift,

840 The feather’d eddy floats: rejoicing once,

Ere to their wintry slumbers they retire—

In clusters clung, beneath the mouldering bank,

And where, unpierc’d by frost, the cavern sweats.

Or rather into warmer climes convey’d,

With other kindred birds of season, there

They twitter cheerful, till the vernal months

Invite them welcome back; for, thronging, now

Innumerous wings are in commotion all.

Where the Rhine loses his majestic force

850 In Belgian plains, won from the raging deep

214

By diligence amazing, and the strong

Unconquerable hand of liberty,

The stork-assembly meets; for many a day,

Consulting deep, and various, ere they take

Their arduous voyage through the liquid sky.

And now their route designed, their leaders chose,

Their tribes adjusted, clean’d their vigorous wings—

And many a circle, many a short essay,

Wheel’d round and round—in congregation full

860 The figur’d flight ascends; and, riding high

The aërial billows, mixes with the clouds.

Or where the Northern Ocean, in vast whirls,

Boils round the naked melancholy isles

Of farthest Thulè, and the Atlantic surge

Pours in among the stormy Hebrides—

Who can recount what transmigrations there

Are annual made? what nations come and go?

And how the living clouds on clouds arise?

Infinite wings! till all the plume-dark air,

870 And rude resounding shore, are one wild cry.

 
 
 

Here the plain harmless native his small flock,

And herd diminutive of many hues,

215

Tends on the little island’s verdant swell,

The shepherd’s sea-girt reign; or, to the rocks

Dire-clinging, gathers his ovarious food;

Or sweeps the fishy shore; or treasures up

The plumage, rising full, to form the bed

Of luxury. And here a while the muse,

High-hovering o’er the broad cerulean scene,

880 Sees Caledonia, in romantic view:

Her airy mountains, from the waving main,

Invested with a keen diffusive sky,

Breathing the soul acute; her forests huge,

Incult, robust, and tall, by Nature’s hand

216

Planted of old; her azure lakes between,

Pour’d out extensive, and of watery wealth

Full; winding deep, and green, her fertile vales—

With many a cool translucent brimming flood

Wash’d lovely, from the Tweed (pure parent-stream,

890 Whose pastoral banks first heard my Doric reed,

With, sylvan Jed, thy tributary brook)

To where the north-inflated tempest foams

O’er Orcas’ or Berubium’s highest peak.

Nurse of a people, in misfortune’s school

Train’d up to hardy deeds; soon visited

By learning, when before the Gothic rage

She took her western flight. A manly race,

Of unsubmitting spirit, wise and brave;

Who still through bleeding ages struggled hard

900 (As well unhappy Wallace can attest,

Great patriot-hero! ill-requited chief!)

To hold a generous undiminish’d state—

Too much in vain! Hence of unequal bounds

Impatient, and by tempting glory borne

O’er every land, for every land their life

Has flow’d profuse, their piercing genius plann’d,

217

And swell’d the pomp of peace their faithful toil:

As from their own clear north, in radiant streams,

Bright over Europe bursts the boreal morn.

910 Oh! is there not some patriot, in whose power

That best, that godlike luxury is plac’d,

Of blessing thousands, thousands yet unborn,

Through late posterity? some, large of soul,

To cheer dejected industry, to give

A double harvest to the pining swain,

And teach the labouring hand the sweets of toil?

How, by the finest art, the native robe

To weave; how, white as hyperborean snow,

To form the lucid lawn; with venturous oar

920 How to dash wide the billow; nor look on,

Shamefully passive, while Batavian fleets

Defraud us of the glittering finny swarms,

That heave our friths, and crowd upon our shores;

How all-enlivening trade to rouse, and wing

The prosperous sail, from every growing port,

Uninjur’d, round the sea-encircled globe;

And thus, in soul united as in name,

Bid Britain reign the mistress of the deep!

218

Yes, there are such. And full on thee, Argyle,

930 Her hope, her stay, her darling, and her boast,

From her first patriots and her heroes sprung,

Thy fond imploring country turns her eye;

In thee, with all a mother’s triumph, sees

Her every virtue, every grace combin’d,

Her genius, wisdom, her engaging turn,

Her pride of honour, and her courage tried,

Calm, and intrepid, in the very throat

Of sulphurous war, on Taisniere’s dreadful field.

Nor less the palm of peace inwreathes thy brow:

940 For, powerful as thy sword, from thy rich tongue

Persuasion flows, and wins the high debate;

While mix’d in thee combine the charm of youth,

The force of manhood, and the depth of age.

Thee, Forbès, too, whom every worth attends,

As truth sincere, as weeping friendship kind—

Thee, truly generous, and in silence great,

Thy country feels through her reviving arts,

Plann’d by thy wisdom, by thy soul inform’d;

And seldom has she felt a friend like thee.

950 But see the fading many-colour’d woods,

219

Shade deepening over shade, the country round

Imbrown; a crowded umbrage, dusk and dun,

Of every hue from wan declining green

To sooty dark. These now the lonesome muse,

Low-whispering, lead into their leaf-strown walks;

And give the season in its latest view.

Meantime, light-shadowing all, a sober calm

Fleeces unbounded ether; whose least wave

Stands tremulous, uncertain where to turn

960 The gentle current: while, illumin’d wide,

The dewy-skirted clouds imbibe the sun,

And through their lucid veil his soften’d force

Shed o’er the peaceful world. Then is the time

For those whom wisdom and whom nature charm

To steal themselves from the degenerate crowd,

And soar above this little scene of things;

To tread low-thoughted vice beneath their feet,

To soothe the throbbing passions into peace,

And woo lone quiet in her silent walks.

 
 
 

970 Thus solitary, and in pensive guise,

Oft let me wander o’er the russet mead,

And through the sadden’d grove, where scarce is heard

220

One dying strain to cheer the woodman’s toil.

Haply some widow’d songster pours his plaint,

Far, in faint warblings, through the tawny copse;

While congregated thrushes, linnets, larks,

And each wild throat, whose artless strains so late

Swell’d all the music of the swarming shades,

Robb’d of their tuneful souls, now shivering sit

980 On the dead tree, a dull despondent flock!

With not a brightness waving o’er their plumes,

And nought save chattering discord in their note.

Oh let not, aim’d from some inhuman eye,

The gun the music of the coming year

221

Destroy; and harmless, unsuspecting harm,

Lay the weak tribes, a miserable prey,

In mingled murder, fluttering on the ground!

The pale descending year, yet pleasing still,

A gentler mood inspires; for now the leaf

990 Incessant rustles from the mournful grove—

Oft startling such as, studious, walk below,

And slowly circles through the waving air.

But should a quicker breeze amid the boughs

Sob, o’er the sky the leafy deluge streams;

Till chok’d, and matted with the dreary shower,

The forest-walks, at every rising gale,

Roll wide the wither’d waste, and whistle bleak.

Fled is the blasted verdure of the fields;

And, shrunk into their beds, the flowery race

1000 Their sunny robes resign. Even what remain’d

Of bolder fruits falls from the naked tree;

And woods, fields, gardens, orchards, all around

The desolated prospect thrills the soul.

He comes! he comes! in every breeze the power

Of philosophic melancholy comes!

His near approach the sudden-starting tear,

222

The glowing cheek, the mild dejected air,

The soften’d feature, and the beating heart,

Pierc’d deep with many a virtuous pang, declare.

1010 O’er all the soul his sacred influence breathes;

Inflames imagination; through the breast

Infuses every tenderness; and far

Beyond dim earth exalts the swelling thought.

Ten thousand thousand fleet ideas, such

As never mingled with the vulgar dream,

Crowd fast into the mind’s creative eye.

As fast the correspondent passions rise,

As varied, and as high: devotion rais’d

To rapture, and divine astonishment;

1020 The love of nature unconfin’d, and, chief,

Of human race; the large ambitious wish,

To make them blest; the sigh for suffering worth,

Lost in obscurity; the noble scorn

Of tyrant-pride; the fearless great resolve;

The wonder which the dying patriot draws,

Inspiring glory through remotest time;

The awaken’d throb for virtue, and for fame;

The sympathies of love, and friendship dear;

223

With all the social offspring of the heart.

1030 Oh! bear me then to vast embowering shades,

To twilight groves, and visionary vales,

To weeping grottos, and prophetic glooms!

Where angel-forms athwart the solemn dusk

Tremendous sweep, or seem to sweep, along;

And voices more than human, through the void

Deep-sounding, seize the enthusiastic ear.

Or is this gloom too much? Then lead, ye powers

That o’er the garden and the rural seat

Preside, which shining through the cheerful land

1040 In countless numbers blest Britannia sees,

Oh lead me to the wide-extended walks,

The fair majestic paradise of Stowe!

Not Persian Cyrus on Ionia’s shore

E’er saw such sylvan scenes; such various art

By genius fir’d, such ardent genius tam’d

By cool judicious art that, in the strife,

All-beauteous Nature fears to be outdone.

And there, O Pitt! thy country’s early boast,

There let me sit beneath the shelter’d slopes,

1050 Or in that temple4 where, in future times,

224

Thou well shalt merit a distinguish’d name;

And, with thy converse blest, catch the last smiles

Of Autumn beaming o’er the yellow woods.

While there with thee the enchanted round I walk,

The regulated wild, gay fancy then

Will tread in thought the groves of Attic land;

Will from thy standard taste refine her own,

Correct her pencil to the purest truth

Of Nature, or, the unimpassion’d shades

1060 Forsaking, raise it to the human mind.

Oh if hereafter she, with juster hand,

Shall draw the tragic scene, instruct her thou,

To mark the varied movements of the heart,

What every decent character requires,

And every passion speaks—oh! through her strain

Breathe thy pathetic eloquence! that moulds

The attentive senate, charms, persuades, exalts,

Of honest zeal the indignant lightning throws,

And shakes corruption on her venal throne.

1070 While thus we talk, and through Elysian vales

Delighted rove, perhaps a sigh escapes:

What pity, Cobham, thou thy verdant files

225

Of order’d trees should’st here inglorious range,

Instead of squadrons flaming o’er the field,

And long-embattled hosts! when the proud foe,

The faithless vain disturber of mankind,

Insulting Gaul, has rous’d the world to war;

When keen, once more, within their bounds to press

Those polish’d robbers, those ambitious slaves,

1080 The British youth would hail thy wise command,

Thy temper’d ardour, and thy veteran skill.

quiet pond with overhanging trees, lit by setting sun

The western sun withdraws the shorten’d day;

And humid evening, gliding o’er the sky,

In her chill progress, to the ground condens’d

The vapours throws. Where creeping waters ooze,

Where marshes stagnate, and where rivers wind,

Cluster the rolling fogs, and swim along

226

The dusky-mantled lawn. Meanwhile the moon,

Full-orb’d and breaking through the scatter’d clouds,

1090 Shows her broad visage in the crimson’d east.

Turn’d to the sun direct, her spotted disk,

Where mountains rise, umbrageous dales descend,

And caverns deep, as optic tube descries,

A smaller earth, gives all his blaze again,

Void of its flame, and sheds a softer day.

Now through the passing cloud she seems to stoop,

Now up the pure cerulean rides sublime.

Wide the pale deluge floats, and streaming mild

O’er the skied mountain to the shadowy vale,

1100 While rocks and floods reflect the quivering gleam,

The whole air whitens with a boundless tide

Of silver radiance, trembling round the world.

But when half-blotted from the sky her light,

Fainting, permits the starry fires to burn

With keener lustre through the depth of heaven—

Or quite extinct her deaden’d orb appears,

And scarce appears, of sickly beamless white—

Oft in this season, silent from the north

A blaze of meteors shoots: ensweeping first

227

1110 The lower skies, they all at once converge

High to the crown of heaven, and all at once

Relapsing quick as quickly re-ascend,

And mix, and thwart, extinguish, and renew—

All ether coursing in a maze of light.

From look to look, contagious through the crowd,

The panic runs, and into wondrous shapes

The appearance throws: armies in meet array,

Throng’d with aërial spears, and steeds of fire;

Till, the long lines of full-extended war

1120 In bleeding fight commix’d, the sanguine flood

Rolls a broad slaughter o’er the plains of heaven.

As thus they scan the visionary scene,

On all sides swells the superstitious din,

Incontinent; and busy frenzy talks

Of blood and battle; cities overturn’d,

And late at night in swallowing earthquake sunk,

Or hideous wrapt in fierce ascending flame;

Of sallow famine, inundation, storm;

Of pestilence, and every great distress;

1130 Empires subvers’d, when ruling fate has struck

The unalterable hour: even Nature’s self

228

Is deem’d to totter on the brink of time.

Not so the man of philosophic eye,

And inspect sage; the waving brightness he

Curious surveys, inquisitive to know

The causes, and materials, yet unfix’d,

Of this appearance beautiful and new.

Now black, and deep, the night begins to fall,

A shade immense. Sunk in the quenching gloom,

1140 Magnificent and vast, are heaven and earth.

Order confounded lies; all beauty void;

Distinction lost; and gay variety

One universal blot: such the fair power

Of light, to kindle and create the whole.

Drear is the state of the benighted wretch,

Who then, bewilder’d, wanders through the dark,

Full of pale fancies, and chimeras huge;

Nor visited by one directive ray,

From cottage streaming, or from airy hall.

 
 
 

1150 Perhaps, impatient as he stumbles on,

Struck from the root of slimy rushes, blue

The wild-fire scatters round, or gather’d trails

A length of flame deceitful o’er the moss—

229

Whither decoy’d by the fantastic blaze,

Now lost and now renew’d, he sinks absorpt,

Rider and horse, amid the miry gulf;

While still, from day to day, his pining wife

And plaintive children his return await,

In wild conjecture lost. At other times,

1160 Sent by the better genius of the night,

230

Innoxious, gleaming on the horse’s mane,

The meteor sits; and shows the narrow path,

That winding leads through pits of death, or else

Instructs him how to take the dangerous ford.

The lengthen’d night elaps’d, the morning shines

Serene, in all her dewy beauty bright,

Unfolding fair the last autumnal day.

And now the mounting sun dispels the fog;

The rigid hoar-frost melts before his beam;

1170 And hung on every spray, on every blade

Of grass, the myriad dewdrops twinkle round.

Ah see where robb’d, and murder’d, in that pit

Lies the still heaving hive! at evening snatch’d,

Beneath the cloud of guilt-concealing night,

And fix’d o’er sulphur; while, not dreaming ill,

The happy people, in their waxen cells,

Sat tending public cares, and planning schemes

Of temperance, for Winter poor—rejoic’d

To mark, full-flowing round, their copious stores.

1180 Sudden the dark oppressive steam ascends;

And, us’d to milder scents, the tender race,

By thousands, tumbles from their honied domes,

231

Convolv’d, and agonising in the dust.

And was it then for this you roam’d the Spring,

Intent from flower to flower? for this you toil’d

Ceaseless the burning summer-heats away?

For this in Autumn search’d the blooming waste,

Nor lost one sunny gleam? for this sad fate?

O man! tyrannic lord! how long, how long,

1190 Shall prostrate nature groan beneath your rage,

Awaiting renovation? When oblig’d,

Must you destroy? Of their ambrosial food

Can you not borrow; and, in just return,

Afford them shelter from the wintry winds;

Or, as the sharp year pinches, with their own

Again regale them on some smiling day?

See where the stony bottom of their town

Looks desolate, and wild; with here and there

A helpless number, who the ruin’d state

1200 Survive, lamenting weak, cast out to death.

Thus a proud city, populous and rich,

Full of the works of peace, and high in joy,

At theatre or feast, or sunk in sleep

(As late, Palermo, was thy fate) is seiz’d

232

By some dread earthquake, and convulsive hurl’d,

Sheer from the black foundation, stench-involv’d,

Into a gulf of blue sulphureous flame.

Hence every harsher sight! for now the day,

O’er heaven and earth diffus’d, grows warm and high,

1210 Infinite splendour! wide-investing all.

How still the breeze! save what the filmy threads

Of dew evaporate brushes from the plain.

How clear the cloudless sky! how deeply ting’d

With a peculiar blue! the ethereal arch

How swell’d immense! amid whose azure thron’d

The radiant sun how gay! how calm below,

The gilded earth! the harvest-treasures all

Now gather’d in, beyond the rage of storms,

Sure to the swain; the circling fence shut up;

1220 And instant Winter’s utmost rage defied:

While, loose to festive joy, the country round

Laughs with the loud sincerity of mirth,

Shook to the wind their cares. The toil-strung youth,

By the quick sense of music taught alone,

Leaps wildly graceful in the lively dance.

 
 
 

Her every charm abroad, the village-toast,

233

Young, buxom, warm, in native beauty rich,

Darts not-unmeaning looks; and, where her eye

Points an approving smile, with double force

1230 The cudgel rattles, and the wrestler, twines.

Age too shines out; and, garrulous, recounts

234

The feats of youth. Thus they rejoice; nor think

That, with to-morrow’s sun, their annual toil

Begins again the never-ceasing round.

Oh! knew he but his happiness, of men

The happiest he, who far from public rage,

Deep in the vale, with a choice few retir’d,

Drinks the pure pleasures of the rural life!

What though the dome be wanting, whose proud gate,

1240 Each morning, vomits out the sneaking crowd

Of flatterers false, and in their turn abus’d?

Vile intercourse! What though the glittering robe,

Of every hue reflected light can give,

Or floating loose, or stiff with mazy gold,

The pride and gaze of fools! oppress him not?

What though, from utmost land and sea purvey’d,

For him each rarer tributary life

Bleeds not, and his insatiate table heaps

With luxury, and death? What though his bowl

1250 Flames not with costly juice; nor, sunk in beds,

Oft of gay care, he tosses out the night,

Or melts the thoughtless hours in idle state?

What though he knows not those fantastic joys,

235

That still amuse the wanton, still deceive;

A face of pleasure, but a heart of pain;

Their hollow moments undelighted all?

Sure peace is his; a solid life, estrang’d

To disappointment, and fallacious hope:

Rich in content, in Nature’s bounty rich,

1260 In herbs and fruits; whatever greens the Spring

When heaven descends in showers, or bends the bough

When Summer reddens and when Autumn beams,

Or in the wintry glebe whatever lies

Conceal’d, and fattens with the richest sap—

These are not wanting; nor the milky drove,

Luxuriant, spread o’er all the lowing vale;

Nor bleating mountains; nor the chide of streams,

And hum of bees, inviting sleep sincere

Into the guiltless breast, beneath the shade,

1270 Or thrown at large amid the fragrant hay;

Nor aught besides of prospect, grove, or song,

Dim grottos, gleaming lakes, and fountain clear.

Here too dwells simple truth; plain innocence;

Unsullied beauty; sound unbroken youth,

Patient of labour, with a little pleas’d;

236

Health ever-blooming; unambitious toil;

Calm contemplation, and poetic ease.

Let others brave the flood in quest of gain,

And beat, for joyless months, the gloomy wave.

1280 Let such as deem it glory to destroy,

Rush into blood, the sack of cities seek;

Unpierc’d, exulting in the widow’s wail,

The virgin’s shriek, and infant’s trembling cry.

Let some, far-distant from their native soil,

Urg’d or by want or harden’d avarice,

Find other lands beneath another sun.

Let this through cities work his eager way,

By legal outrage and establish’d guile,

The social sense extinct; and that ferment

1290 Mad into tumult the seditious herd,

Or melt them down to slavery. Let these

Ensnare the wretches in the toils of law,

Fomenting discord, and perplexing right,

An iron race! and those of fairer front,

But equal inhumanity, in courts,

Delusive pomp, and dark cabals, delight;

Wreathe the deep bow, diffuse the lying smile,

237

And tread the weary labyrinth of state.

While he, from all the stormy passions free

1300 That restless men involve, hears, and but hears,

At distance safe, the human tempest roar,

Wrapt close in conscious peace. The fall of kings,

The rage of nations, and the crush of states,

Move not the man who, from the world escap’d,

In still retreats, and flowery solitudes,

To Nature’s voice attends, from month to month,

And day to day, through the revolving year;

Admiring, sees her in her every shape;

Feels all her sweet emotions at his heart;

1310 Takes what she liberal gives, nor thinks of more.

He, when young Spring protrudes the bursting gems,

Marks the first bud, and sucks the healthful gale

Into his freshen’d soul; her genial hours

He full enjoys; and not a beauty blows,

And not an opening blossom breathes, in vain.

In Summer he, beneath the living shade,

Such as o’er frigid Tempè wont to wave,

Or Hæmus cool, reads what the muse, of these

Perhaps, has in immortal numbers sung;

238

1320 Or what she dictates writes; and oft, an eye

Shot round, rejoices in the vigorous year.

When Autumn’s yellow lustre gilds the world,

And tempts the sickled swain into the field,

Seiz’d by the general joy, his heart distends

With gentle throes; and, through the tepid gleams

Deep-musing, then he best exerts his song.

Even Winter wild to him is full of bliss.

The mighty tempest, and the hoary waste,

Abrupt and deep, stretch’d o’er the buried earth,

1330 Awake to solemn thought. At night the skies,

Disclos’d, and kindled, by refining frost,

Pour every lustre on the exalted eye.

A friend, a book, the stealing hours secure,

And mark them down for wisdom. With swift wing,

O’er land and sea imagination roams;

Or truth, divinely breaking on his mind,

Elates his being, and unfolds his powers;

Or in his breast heroic virtue burns.

The touch of kindred too and love he feels;

1340 The modest eye, whose beams on his alone

Ecstatic shine; the little strong embrace

239

Of prattling children, twin’d around his neck,

And emulous to please him, calling forth

The fond parental soul. Nor purpose gay,

Amusement, dance, or song, he sternly scorns;

For happiness and true philosophy

Are of the social still, and smiling kind.

This is the life which those who fret in guilt,

And guilty cities, never knew; the life

1350 Led by primeval ages, uncorrupt,

When angels dwelt, and God himself, with man!

O Nature! all-sufficient! over all!

Enrich me with a knowledge of thy works!

Snatch me to heaven; thy rolling wonders there,

World beyond world, in infinite extent,

Profusely scatter’d o’er the void immense,

Show me; their motions, periods, and their laws,

Give me to scan; through the disclosing deep

Light my blind way: the mineral strata there;

1360 Thrust, blooming, thence the vegetable world;

O’er that the rising system, more complex,

Of animals; and, higher still, the mind,

The varied scene of quick-compounded thought,

240

And where the mixing passions endless shift—

These ever open to my ravish’d eye;

A search, the flight of time can ne’er exhaust!

But if to that unequal—if the blood,

In sluggish streams about my heart, forbid

That best ambition—under closing shades,

1370 Inglorious, lay me by the lowly brook,

And whisper to my dreams. From thee begin,

Dwell all on thee, with thee conclude my song;

And let me never, never stray from thee!

mother and father sitting surrounded by happy children

NOTES ON THE SEASONS,
BY THE AUTHOR.

[316]

AUTUMN.

Note 1. Line 786. p. 211.

High Olympus pouring many a stream!

The mountain called by that name in the lesser Asia.

317

Note 2. Line 793. p. 211.

Cold Rhipæan rocks, which the wild Russ

Believes the stony girdle of the world.

The Muscovites call the Rhipæan mountains Weliki Camenypoys, [Pojas Semnoi, says Strahlenberg,] that is, the great stony girdle; because they suppose them to encompass the whole earth.

Note 3. Line 802. p. 211.

The bending Mountains of the Moon.

A range of mountains in Africa, that surround almost all Monomotapa.

Note 4. Line 3 050. p. 223.

That temple where, in future times,

Thou well shalt merit a distinguished name.

The temple of virtue in Stowe gardens.

Notes and Corrections: Autumn

The illustration surrounding the Argument had to be split along the bottom, because it simply wouldn’t fit any reasonable text size.

178 The lovely young Lavinia
[The Tate Gallery informs me that the Palemon-and-Lavinia story is Thomson’s invention, loosely based on the biblical Ruth and Boaz. This explains why I didn’t recognize the names from any of the usual sources like Ovid’s Metamor­phoses. It is characteristic of Thomson’s time—the beginning of the Romantic era—that his version reduces Naomi to a walk-on, recasts her as a never-married Ruth’s mother, makes both of them Boaz’s social equals . . . and eliminates all agency from either woman.]

546 And, opening in a full-mouth’d cry of joy
[I do not profess to understand the editor’s typographic decisions, here or elsewhere.]

654-55 Oh lose me in the green delightful walks / Of, Dodington! thy seat
[The comma makes sense if “Dodington!” is understood as parenthetical: “Of (Dodington!) thy seat”.]

920-22 look on, / Shamefully passive, while Batavian fleets / Defraud us of the glittering finny swarms
[File under: I guess you had to be there.]

923 That heave our friths
[Query: What the heck is a frith? Answer: It’s a parallel or variant form of “firth”, as in the well-known Frith of Froth.]

938 Of sulphurous war, on Taisniere’s dreadful field.
[I can’t help but feel that all these topical references really add nothing to the poem. Today Taisnières-sur-Hon is just a speck on the map. In 1709 it was the site of the battle of Malplaquet, part of the War of the Spanish Succession. Shrug.]

[Note 3] Monomotapa
[Mutapa was one of the biggest African kingdoms of its day (15th to 17th century), covering most of modern Zambia and Malawi along with sizable chunks of modern Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.]

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.