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The subject proposed. Inscribed to the Countess of Hertford. The Season is described as it affects the various parts of nature, ascending from the lower to the higher; and mixed with digressions arising from the subject. Its influence on inanimate matter, on vegetables, on brute animals, and last on man; concluding with a dissuasive from the wild and irregular passion of love opposed to that of a pure and happy kind.
ome, gentle Spring, ethereal mildness, come;
And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
While music wakes around, veil’d in a shower
Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend.
O Hertford, fitted or to shine in courts
With unaffected grace, or walk the plain
With innocence and meditation join’d
In soft assemblage, listen to my song,
Which thy own season paints; when nature all
10 Is blooming and benevolent, like thee.6
And see where surly Winter passes off,
Far to the north, and calls his ruffian blasts:
His blasts obey, and quit the howling hill,
The shatter’d forest, and the ravag’d vale;
While softer gales succeed, at whose kind touch,
Dissolving snows in livid torrents lost,
The mountains lift their green heads to the sky.
As yet the trembling year is unconfirm’d,
And Winter oft at eve resumes the breeze,
20 Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets
Deform the day delightless; so that scarce
The bittern knows his time with bill ingulf’d
To shake the sounding marsh; or, from the shore
The plovers when to scatter o’er the heath,
And sing their wild notes to the listening waste.
At last from Aries rolls the bounteous sun,
And the bright Bull receives him. Then no more
The expansive atmosphere is cramp’d with cold;
But, full of life and vivifying soul,
30 Lifts the light clouds sublime, and spreads them thin,
Fleecy, and white, o’er all surrounding heaven.
Forth fly the tepid airs; and unconfin’d,7
Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays.
Joyous, the impatient husbandman perceives
Relenting nature, and his lusty steers
Drives from their stalls to where the well-us’d plough
Lies in the furrow, loosen’d from the frost.
There, unrefusing, to the harness’d yoke
They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil,
40 Cheer’d by the simple song and soaring lark.
Meanwhile, incumbent o’er the shining share
The master leans, removes the obstructing clay,
Winds the whole work, and sidelong lays the glebe.
White, through the neighbouring fields the sower stalks
With measur’d step; and, liberal, throws the grain
Into the faithful bosom of the ground:
The harrow follows harsh, and shuts the scene.
Be gracious, Heaven! for now laborious man
Has done his part. Ye fostering breezes, blow!
50 Ye softening dews, ye tender showers, descend!
And temper all, thou world-reviving sun,
Into the perfect year! Nor ye who live
In luxury and ease, in pomp and pride,
Think these lost themes unworthy of your ear:8
Such themes as these the rural Maro sung
To wide-imperial Rome, in the full height
Of elegance and taste, by Greece refin’d.
In ancient times, the sacred plough employ’d
The kings and awful fathers of mankind;
60 And some, with whom compar’d your insect tribes
Are but the beings of a summer’s day,
Have held the scale of empire, rul’d the storm
Of mighty war, then with victorious hand,
Disdaining little delicacies, seiz’d
The plough, and greatly independent scorn’d
All the vile stores corruption can bestow.
Ye generous Britons, venerate the plough!
And o’er your hills and long withdrawing vales
Let Autumn spread his treasures to the sun,
70 Luxuriant and unbounded! As the sea,
Far through his azure turbulent domain,
Your empire owns, and from a thousand shores
Wafts all the pomp of life into your ports,
So with superior boon may your rich soil,
Exuberant, Nature’s better blessings pour
O’er every land, the naked nations clothe,9
And be the exhaustless granary of a world!
Nor only through the lenient air this change,
Delicious, breathes: the penetrative sun,
80 His force deep-darting to the dark retreat
Of vegetation, sets the steaming power
At large, to wander o’er the vernant earth
In various hues; but chiefly thee, gay green!
Thou smiling Nature’s universal robe!
United light and shade! where the sight dwells
With growing strength, and ever-new delight.10
From the moist meadow to the wither’d hill,
Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs;
And swells, and deepens, to the cherish’d eye.
90 The hawthorn whitens; and the juicy groves
Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees,
Till the whole leafy forest stands display’d,
In full luxuriance, to the sighing gales;
Where the deer rustle through the twining brake,
And the birds sing conceal’d. At once, array’d
In all the colours of the flushing year
By Nature’s swift and secret-working hand,
The garden glows, and fills the liberal air
With lavish fragrance; while the promis’d fruit
100 Lies yet a little embryo, unperceiv’d,
Within its crimson folds. Now from the town,
Buried in smoke, and sleep, and noisome damps,
Oft let me wander o’er the dewy fields,
Where freshness breathes, and dash the trembling drops
From the bent bush, as through the verdant maze
Of sweetbriar hedges I pursue my walk;
Or taste the smell of dairy; or ascend
Some eminence, Augusta, in thy plains,11
And see the country, far-diffus’d around,
110 One boundless blush, one white-empurpled shower
Of mingled blossoms: where the raptur’d eye
Hurries from joy to joy; and, hid beneath
The fair profusion, yellow Autumn spies.
If, brush’d from Russian wilds, a cutting gale
Rise not, and scatter from his humid wings
The clammy mildew; or, dry-blowing, breathe
Untimely frost—before whose baleful blast
The full-blown Spring through all her foliage shrinks,
Joyless and dead, a wide-dejected waste.12
120 For oft, engender’d by the hazy north,
Myriads on myriads, insect armies waft
Keen in the poison’d breeze; and wasteful eat,
Through buds and bark, into the blacken’d core
Their eager way. A feeble race! yet oft
The sacred sons of vengeance! on whose course
Corrosive famine waits, and kills the year.
To check this plague, the skilful farmer chaff
And blazing straw before his orchard burns—
Till, all involv’d in smoke, the latent foe
130 From every cranny suffocated falls;13
Or scatters o’er the blooms the pungent dust
Of pepper, fatal to the frosty tribe;
Or, when the envenom’d leaf begins to curl,
With sprinkled water drowns them in their nest:
Nor, while they pick them up with busy bill,
The little trooping birds unwisely scares.
Be patient, swains; these cruel-seeming winds
Blow not in vain. Far hence they keep, repress’d,
Those deepening clouds on clouds, surcharg’d with rain,
140 That o’er the vast Atlantic hither borne,
In endless train, would quench the summer blaze,
And, cheerless, drown the crude unripen’d year.
The north-east spends his rage, and now shut up
Within his iron caves—the effusive south
Warms the wide air, and o’er the void of heaven
Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent.
At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
Scarce staining ether; but by fast degrees,
In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapour sails
150 Along the loaded sky, and mingling deep,
Sits on the horizon round a settled gloom:
Not such as wintry storms on mortals shed,14
Oppressing life; but lovely, gentle, kind,
And full of every hope and every joy,
The wish of Nature. Gradual sinks the breeze
Into a perfect calm; that not a breath
Is heard to quiver through the closing woods,
Or rustling turn the many-twinkling leaves
Of aspen tall. The uncurling floods, diffus’d
160 In glassy breadth, seem through delusive lapse
Forgetful of their course. ’Tis silence all,
And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks
Drop the dry sprig, and, mute-imploring, eye
The falling verdure. Hush’d in short suspense,
The plumy people streak their wings with oil,
To throw the lucid moisture trickling off;
And wait the approaching sign to strike, at once,
Into the general choir. Even mountains, vales,
And forests seem, impatient, to demand
170 The promis’d sweetness. Man superior walks
Amid the glad creation, musing praise,
And looking lively gratitude. At last,
The clouds consign their treasures to the fields;
And, softly shaking on the dimpled pool15
Prelusive drops, let all their moisture flow,
In large effusion, o’er the freshen’d world.
The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard,
By such as wander through the forest walks,
Beneath the umbrageous multitude of leaves.
180 But who can hold the shade, while Heaven descends16
In universal bounty, shedding herbs,
And fruits, and flowers, on Nature’s ample lap?
Swift fancy fir’d anticipates their growth;
And, while the milky nutriment distils,
Beholds the kindling country colour round.
Thus all day long the full-distended clouds
Indulge their genial stores, and well-shower’d earth
Is deep-enrich’d with vegetable life;
Till, in the western sky, the downward sun
190 Looks out, effulgent, from amid the flush
Of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam.
The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes
The illumin’d mountain; through the forest streams;
Shakes on the floods; and in a yellow mist,
Far smoking o’er the interminable plain,
In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems.
Moist, bright, and green, the landscape laughs around.
Full swell the woods; their every music wakes,
Mix’d in wild concert, with the warbling brooks
200 Increas’d, the distant bleatings of the hills,
The hollow lows responsive from the vales,
Whence blending all the sweeten’d zephyr springs.17
Meantime, refracted from yon eastern cloud,
Bestriding earth, the grand ethereal bow
Shoots up immense; and every hue unfolds,
In fair proportion running from the red
To where the violet fades into the sky.
Here, awful Newton, the dissolving clouds
Form, fronting on the sun, thy showery prism;
210 And to the sage-instructed eye unfold
The various twine of light, by thee disclos’d
From the white mingling maze. Not so the swain:
He wondering views the bright enchantment bend,
Delightful, o’er the radiant fields, and runs
To catch the falling glory; but amaz’d
Beholds the amusive arch before him fly,
Then vanish quite away. Still night succeeds,
A soften’d shade; and saturated earth
Awaits the morning beam, to give to light,
220 Rais’d through ten thousand different plastic tubes,
The balmy treasures of the former day.
Then spring the living herbs, profusely wild,
O’er all the deep-green earth, beyond the power
Of botanist to number up their tribes:18
Whether he steals along the lonely dale,
In silent search; or through the forest, rank
With what the dull incurious weeds account,
Bursts his blind way; or climbs the mountain rock,
Fir’d by the nodding verdure of its brow.
230 With such a liberal hand has Nature flung
Their seeds abroad, blown them about in winds,
Innumerous mix’d them with the nursing mould,
The moistening current, and prolific rain.
But who their virtues can declare? who pierce,
With vision pure, into these secret stores
Of health, and life, and joy? the food of man,
While yet he liv’d in innocence, and told
A length of golden years, unflesh’d in blood;
A stranger to the savage arts of life,
240 Death, rapine, carnage, surfeit, and disease—
The lord, and not the tyrant, of the world.
The first fresh dawn then wak’d the gladden’d race
Of uncorrupted man, nor blush’d to see
The sluggard sleep beneath its sacred beam;
For their light slumbers gently fum’d away,
And up they rose as vigorous as the sun,19
Or to the culture of the willing glebe,
Or to the cheerful tendance of the flock.
Meantime the song went round; and dance and sport,
250 Wisdom and friendly talk, successive stole
Their hours away: while in the rosy vale
Love breath’d his infant sighs, from anguish free,
And full replete with bliss; save the sweet pain
That, inly thrilling, but exalts it more.
Nor yet injurious act, nor surly deed,
Was known among these happy sons of heaven;20
For reason and benevolence were law.
Harmonious Nature too look’d smiling on.
Clear shone the skies, cool’d with eternal gales,
260 And balmy spirit all. The youthful sun
Shot his best rays, and still the gracious clouds
Dropp’d fatness down; as, o’er the swelling mead,
The herds and flocks, commixing, play’d secure.
This when, emergent from the gloomy wood,
The glaring lion saw, his horrid heart
Was meeken’d, and he join’d his sullen joy;
For music held the whole in perfect peace:
Soft sigh’d the flute; the tender voice was heard,
Warbling the varied heart; the woodlands round
270 Applied their quire; and winds and waters flow’d
In consonance. Such were those prime of days.
But now those white unblemish’d minutes, whence
The fabling poets took their golden age,
Are found no more amid these iron times,
These dregs of life! Now the distemper’d mind
Has lost that concord of harmonious powers,
Which forms the soul of happiness; and all
Is off the poise within: the passions all21
Have burst their bounds; and reason half-extinct,
280 Or impotent, or else approving, sees
The foul disorder. Senseless and deform’d,
Convulsive anger storms at large; or, pale
And silent, settles into fell revenge.
Base envy withers at another’s joy,
And hates that excellence it cannot reach.
Desponding fear, of feeble fancies full,
Weak and unmanly, loosens every power.
Even love itself is bitterness of soul,
A pensive anguish pining at the heart;
290 Or, sunk to sordid interest, feels no more
That noble wish, that never-cloy’d desire,
Which, selfish joy disdaining, seeks alone
To bless the dearer object of its flame.
Hope sickens with extravagance; and grief,
Of life impatient, into madness swells,
Or in dead silence wastes the weeping hours.
These, and a thousand mix’d emotions more,
From ever-changing views of good and ill,
Form’d infinitely various, vex the mind
300 With endless storm; whence, deeply rankling, grows22
The partial thought, a listless unconcern,
Cold, and averting from our neighbour’s good;
Then dark disgust, and hatred, winding wiles,
Coward deceit, and ruffian violence.
At last, extinct each social feeling, fell
And joyless inhumanity pervades
And petrifies the heart. Nature disturb’d
Is deem’d, vindictive, to have chang’d her course.
Hence, in old dusky time, a deluge came:
310 When the deep-cleft disparting orb, that arch’d
The central waters round, impetuous rush’d,
With universal burst, into the gulf,
And o’er the high-pil’d hills of fractur’d earth
Wide-dash’d the waves, in undulation vast;
Till, from the centre to the streaming clouds,
A shoreless ocean tumbled round the globe.
The Seasons since have, with severer sway,
Oppress’d a broken world: the Winter keen
Shook forth his waste of snows; and Summer shot
320 His pestilential heats. Great Spring, before,
Green’d all the year; and fruits and blossoms blush’d,
In social sweetness, on the self-same bough.23
Pure was the temperate air; an even calm
Perpetual reign’d, save what the zephyrs bland
Breath’d o’er the blue expanse: for then nor storms
Were taught to blow, nor hurricanes to rage;
Sound slept the waters; no sulphureous glooms
Swell’d in the sky, and sent the lightning forth;
While sickly damps, and cold autumnal fogs,
330 Hung not, relaxing, on the springs of life.
But now, of turbid elements the sport,
From clear to cloudy toss’d, from hot to cold,
And dry to moist, with inward-eating change,
Our drooping days are dwindled down to nought,
Their period finish’d ere ’tis well begun.
And yet the wholesome herb neglected dies;
Though with the pure exhilarating soul
Of nutriment, and health, and vital powers,
Beyond the search of art, ’tis copious blest.
340 For, with hot ravin fir’d, ensanguin’d man
Is now become the lion of the plain,
And worse. The wolf, who from the nightly fold
Fierce-drags the bleating prey, ne’er drunk her milk,
Nor wore her warming fleece; nor has the steer,24
At whose strong chest the deadly tiger hangs,
E’er plough’d for him. They too are temper’d high,
With hunger stung and wild necessity;
Nor lodges pity in their shaggy breast.
But man, whom Nature form’d of milder clay,
350 With every kind emotion in his heart,
And taught alone to weep—while from her lap
She pours ten thousand delicacies, herbs,
And fruits, as numerous as the drops of rain
Or beams that gave them birth—shall he, fair form!
Who wears sweet smiles, and looks erect on heaven,
E’er stoop to mingle with the prowling herd,
And dip his tongue in gore? The beast of prey,
Blood-stain’d deserves to bleed; but you, ye flocks,
What have you done? ye peaceful people, what,
360 To merit death? you, who have given us milk
In luscious streams, and lent us your own coat
Against the Winter’s cold? And the plain ox,
That harmless, honest, guileless animal,
In what has he offended? he, whose toil,
Patient and ever-ready, clothes the land
With all the pomp of harvest—shall he bleed,25
And struggling groan beneath the cruel hands
Even of the clowns he feeds? and that, perhaps,
To swell the riot of the autumnal feast,
370 Won by his labour? This the feeling heart
Would tenderly suggest; but ’tis enough,
In this late age, adventurous, to have touch’d
Light on the numbers of the Samian sage.
High Heaven forbids the bold presumptuous strain,
Whose wisest will has fix’d us in a state
That must not yet to pure perfection rise:
Besides, who knows, how rais’d to higher life,
From stage to stage, the vital scale ascends?
Now, when the first foul torrent of the brooks,
380 Swell’d with the vernal rains, is ebb’d away—
And, whitening, down their mossy-tinctur’d ’stream
Descends the billowy foam—now is the time,
While yet the dark brown water aids the guile,
To tempt the trout. The well-dissembled fly,
The rod fine-tapering with elastic spring,
Snatch’d from the hoary steed the floating line,
And all thy slender watery stores, prepare.
But let not on thy hook the tortur’d worm,26
Convulsive, twist in agonising folds;
390 Which, by rapacious hunger swallow’d deep,
Gives, as you tear it from the bleeding breast
Of the weak, helpless, uncomplaining wretch,
Harsh pain and horror to the tender hand.
When, with his lively ray, the potent sun
Has pierc’d the streams, and rous’d the finny race,
Then, issuing cheerful, to thy sport repair;
Chief should the western breezes curling play,
And light o’er ether bear the shadowy clouds.
High to their fount, this day, amid the hills,
400 And woodlands warbling round, trace up the brooks;
The next, pursue their rocky-channell’d maze,
Down to the river, in whose ample wave
Their little naiads love to sport at large.
Just in the dubious point, where with the pool
Is mix’d the trembling stream, or where it boils
Around the stone, or from the hollow’d bank
Reverted plays in undulating flow,
There throw, nice-judging, the delusive fly;
And, as you lead it round in artful curve,
410 With eye attentive mark the springing game.27
Straight as above the surface of the flood
They wanton rise, or urg’d by hunger leap,
Then fix, with gentle twitch, the barbed hook;
Some lightly tossing to the grassy bank,
And to the shelving shore slow-dragging some,
With various hand proportion’d to their force.
If yet too young, and easily deceiv’d,
A worthless prey scarce bends your pliant rod,
Him, piteous of his youth, and the short space
420 He has enjoy’d the vital light of heaven,28
Soft disengage, and back into the stream
The speckled infant throw. But should you lure
From his dark haunt, beneath the tangled roots
Of pendent trees, the monarch of the brook,
Behoves you then to ply your finest art.
Long time he, following cautious, scans the fly;
And oft attempts to seize it, but as oft
The dimpled water speaks his jealous fear.
At last, while haply o’er the shaded sun
430 Passes a cloud, he desperate takes the death,
With sullen plunge. At once he darts along,
Deep-struck, and runs out all the lengthen’d line;
Then seeks the farthest ooze, the sheltering weed,
The cavern’d bank, his old secure abode;
And flies aloft, and flounces round the pool,
Indignant of the guile. With yielding hand,
That feels him still, yet to his furious course
Gives way, you, now retiring, following now
Across the stream, exhaust his idle rage;
440 Till, floating broad upon his breathless side,
And to his fate abandon’d, to the shore
You gaily drag your unresisting prize.
Thus pass the temperate hours: but when the sun
Shakes from his noonday throne the scattering clouds,
Even shooting listless languor through the deeps,
Then seek the bank where flowering elders crowd,
Where scatter’d wild the lily of the vale
Its balmy essence breathes, where cowslips hang
The dewy head, where purple violets lurk,
450 With all the lowly children of the shade;
Or lie reclin’d beneath yon spreading ash
Hung o’er the steep, whence borne on liquid wing
The sounding culver shoots; or where the hawk
High in the beetling cliff his eyry builds.
There let the classic page thy fancy lead
Through rural scenes, such as the Mantuan swain
Paints in the matchless harmony of song;
Or catch thyself the landscape, gliding swift
Athwart imagination’s vivid eye;
460 Or, by the vocal woods and waters lull’d,
And lost in lonely musing, in a dream,
Confus’d, of careless solitude, where mix
Ten thousand wandering images of things,
Soothe every gust of passion into peace—30
All but the swellings of the soften’d heart,
That waken, not disturb, the tranquil mind.
Behold, yon breathing prospect bids the muse
Throw all her beauty forth. But who can paint
Like Nature? Can imagination boast,
470 Amid its gay creation, hues like hers?
Or can it mix them with that matchless skill,
And lose them in each other, as appears
In every bud that blows? If fancy, then,
Unequal fails beneath the pleasing task,
Ah, what shall language do? ah, where find words
Ting’d with so many colours; and whose power,
To life approaching, may perfume my lays
With that fine oil, those aromatic gales,
That inexhaustive flow continual round?
480 Yet, though successless, will the toil delight.
Come then, ye virgins and ye youths whose hearts
Have felt the raptures of refining love;
And thou, Amanda, come, pride of my song!
Form’d by the graces, loveliness itself!
Come with those downcast eyes, sedate and sweet,
Those looks demure, that deeply pierce the soul—31
Where, with the light of thoughtful reason mix’d,
Shines lively fancy, and the feeling heart:
Oh come! and while the rosy-footed May
490 Steals blushing on, together let us tread
The morning dews, and gather in their prime
Fresh-blooming flowers, to grace thy braided hair,
And thy lov’d bosom that improves their sweets.
See, where the winding vale its lavish stores,
Irriguous, spreads. See, how the lily drinks
The latent rill, scarce oozing through the grass,
Of growth luxuriant; or the humid bank,
In fair profusion, decks. Long let us walk,
Where the breeze blows from yon extended field
500 Of blossom’d beans. Arabia cannot boast
A fuller gale of joy than, liberal, thence
Breathes through the sense, and takes the ravish’d soul.
Nor is the mead unworthy of thy foot,
Full of fresh verdure, and unnumber’d flowers,
The negligence of Nature, wide and wild;
Where, undisguis’d by mimic art, she spreads
Unbounded beauty to the roving eye.
Here their delicious task the fervent bees,
In swarming millions, tend: around, athwart,
510 Through the soft air the busy nations fly,
Cling to the bud, and with inserted tube
Suck its pure essence, its ethereal soul;
And oft, with bolder wing, they soaring dare
The purple heath, or where the wild-thyme grows,
And yellow load them with the luscious spoil.33
At length the finish’d garden to the view
Its vistas opens, and its alleys green.
Snatch’d through the verdant maze, the hurried eye
Distracted wanders: now the bowery walk
520 Of covert close, where scarce a speck of day
Falls on the lengthen’d gloom, protracted sweeps;
Now meets the bending sky; the river now
Dimpling along, the breezy-ruffled lake,
The forest darkening round, the glittering spire,
The ethereal mountain, and the distant main.
But why so far excursive? when at hand,
Along these blushing borders, bright with dew,34
And in yon mingled wilderness of flowers,
Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace:
530 Throws out the snowdrop and the crocus first;
The daisy, primrose, violet darkly blue,
And polyanthus of unnumber’d dyes;
The yellow wallflower, stain’d with iron-brown;
And lavish stock that scents the garden round;
From the soft wing of vernal breezes shed,
Anemonies; auriculas, enrich’d
With shining meal o’er all their velvet leaves;
And full ranunculus’, of glowing red.
Then comes the tulip-race, where beauty plays
540 Her idle freaks: from family diffus’d
To family, as flies the father-dust,
The varied colours run; and, while they break
On the charm’d eye, the exulting florist marks,
With secret pride, the wonders of his hand.
No gradual bloom is wanting; from the bud,
First-born of Spring, to Summer’s musky tribes
Nor hyacinths, of purest virgin-white,
Low-bent, and blushing inward; nor jonquils,
Of potent fragrance; nor narcissus fair,35
550 As o’er the fabled fountain hanging still;
Nor broad carnations; nor gay-spotted pinks;
Nor, shower’d from every bush, the damask-rose.
Infinite numbers, delicacies, smells,
With hues on hues expression cannot paint,
The breath of Nature, and her endless bloom.
Hail, Source of Beings! Universal Soul
Of heaven and earth! Essential Presence, hail
To thee I bend the knee; to thee my thoughts,
Continual, climb; who, with a master-hand,
560 Hast the great whole into perfection touch’d.
By thee the various vegetative tribes,
Wrapt in a filmy net, and clad with leaves,
Draw the live ether, and imbibe the dew.
By thee dispos’d into congenial soils,
Stands each attractive plant, and sucks, and swells
The juicy tide; a twining mass of tubes.
At thy command the vernal sun awakes
The torpid sap, detruded to the root
By wintry winds, that now in fluent dance,
570 And lively fermentation, mounting, spreads
All this innumerous-colour’d scene of things.36
As rising from the vegetable world
My theme ascends, with equal wing ascend,
My panting muse; and hark, how loud the woods
Invite you forth in all your gayest trim.
Lend me your song, ye nightingales! oh pour
The mazy-running soul of melody
Into my varied verse! while I deduce,
From the first note the hollow cuckoo sings,
580 The symphony of Spring, and touch a theme
Unknown to fame—the passion of the groves.
When first the soul of love is sent abroad,
Warm through the vital air, and on the heart
Harmonious seizes, the gay troops begin,
In gallant thought, to plume the painted wing;
And try again the long-forgotten strain,
At first faint-warbled. But no sooner grows
The soft infusion prevalent, and wide,
Than, all alive, at once their joy o’erflows
590 In music unconfin’d. Up springs the lark,
Shrill-voic’d and loud, the messenger of morn:
Ere yet the shadows fly, he mounted sings
Amid the dawning clouds, and from their haunts37
Calls up the tuneful nations. Every copse
Deep-tangled, tree irregular, and bush
Bending with dewy moisture, o’er the heads
Of the coy quiristers that lodge within,
Are prodigal of harmony. The thrush
600 And woodlark, o’er the kind contending throng
Superior heard, run through the sweetest length
Of notes; when listening philomela deigns
To let them joy, and purposes, in thought
Elate, to make her night excel their day.
The blackbird whistles from the thorny brake;
The mellow bullfinch answers from the grove;
Nor are the linnets, o’er the flowering furze
Pour’d out profusely, silent: join’d to these
Innumerous songsters, in the freshening shade
Of new-sprung leaves, their modulations mix
610 Mellifluous. The jay, the rook, the daw,
And each harsh pipe, discordant heard alone,
Aid the full concert; while the stockdove breathes
A melancholy murmur through the whole.
’Tis love creates their melody, and all
This waste of music is the voice of love;38
That even to birds and beasts the tender arts
Of pleasing teaches. Hence the glossy kind
Try every winning way inventive love
Can dictate, and in courtship to their mates
620 Pour forth their little souls. First, wide around,
With distant awe, in airy rings they rove,
Endeavouring by a thousand tricks to catch
The cunning, conscious, half-averted glance
Of their regardless charmer. Should she seem,
Softening, the least approvance to bestow,
Their colours burnish, and, by hope inspir’d,
They brisk advance; then, on a sudden struck,
Retire disorder’d; then again approach;
In fond rotation spread the spotted wing,
630 And shiver every feather with desire.
Connubial leagues agreed, to the deep woods
They haste away, all as their fancy leads,
Pleasure, or food, or secret safety prompts;
That Nature’s great command may be obey’d,
Nor all the sweet sensations they perceive
Indulg’d in vain. Some to the holly-hedge
Nestling repair, and to the thicket some;39
Some to the rude protection of the thorn
Commit their feeble offspring. The cleft tree
640 Offers its kind concealment to a few,
Their food its insects, and its moss their nests.
Others, apart, far in the grassy dale,
Or roughening waste, their humble texture weave.
But most in woodland solitudes delight,
In unfrequented glooms, or shaggy banks,
Steep, and divided by a babbling brook,
Whose murmurs soothe them all the livelong day,
When by kind duty fix’d. Among the roots
Of hazel, pendent o’er the plaintive stream,
650 They frame the first foundation of their domes;
Dry sprigs of trees, in artful fabric laid,
And bound with clay together. Now ’tis nought
But restless hurry through the busy air,40
Beat by unnumber’d wings. The swallow sweeps
The slimy pool, to build his hanging house
Intent. And often, from the careless back
Of herds and flocks, a thousand tugging bills
Pluck hair and wool; and oft, when unobserv’d,
Steal from the barn a straw: till soft and warm,
660 Clean and complete, their habitation grows.
As thus the patient dam assiduous sits,
Not to be tempted from her tender task,
Or by sharp hunger, or by smooth delight,
Though the whole loosen’d Spring around her blows,
Her sympathising lover takes his stand
High on the opponent bank, and ceaseless sings
The tedious time away; or else supplies
Her place a moment, while she sudden flits
To pick the scanty meal. The appointed time
670 With pious toil fulfill’d, the callow young,
Warm’d and expanded into perfect life,
Their brittle bondage break, and come to light;
A helpless family, demanding food
With constant clamour. Oh, what passions then,
What melting sentiments of kindly care,41
On the new parents seize! Away they fly,
Affectionate, and undesiring bear
The most delicious morsel to their young;
Which equally distributed, again
680 The search begins. Even so a gentle pair,
By fortune sunk, but form’d of generous mould,
And charm’d with cares beyond the vulgar breast,
In some lone cot amid the distant woods,42
Sustain’d alone by providential Heaven,
Oft, as they weeping eye their infant train,
Check their own appetites and give them all.
Nor toil alone they scorn: exalting love,
By the great Father of the Spring inspir’d,
Gives instant courage to the fearful race,
690 And to the simple, art. With stealthy wing,
Should some rude foot their woody haunts molest,
Amid a neighbouring bush they silent drop,
And whirring thence, as if alarm’d, deceive
The unfeeling schoolboy. Hence, around the head
Of wandering swain, the white-wing’d plover wheels
Her sounding flight, and then directly on
In long excursion skims the level lawn,
To tempt him from her nest. The wild-duck, hence,
O’er the rough moss, and o’er the trackless waste
700 The heath-hen flutters, pious fraud! to lead
The hot pursuing spaniel far astray.
Be not the muse asham’d here to bemoan
Her brothers of the grove, by tyrant man
Inhuman caught, and in the narrow cage
From liberty confin’d, and boundless air.43
Dull are the pretty slaves, their plumage dull,
Ragged, and all its brightening lustre lost;
Nor is that sprightly wildness in their notes,
Which, clear and vigorous, warbles from the beech.
710 Oh then, ye friends of love and love-taught song,
Spare the soft tribes, this barbarous art forbear!
If on your bosom innocence can win,
Music engage, or piety persuade.
But let not chief the nightingale lament
Her ruin’d care, too delicately fram’d
To brook the harsh confinement of the cage.
Oft when, returning with her loaded bill,
The astonish’d mother finds a vacant nest,
By the hard hand of unrelenting clowns
720 Robb’d, to the ground the vain provision falls;
Her pinions ruffle, and, low-drooping, scarce
Can bear the mourner to the poplar shade,
Where all abandon’d to despair she sings
Her sorrows through the night; and, on the bough
Sole-sitting, still at every dying fall
Takes up again her lamentable strain
Of winding woe, till wide around the woods44
Sigh to her song, and with her wail resound.
But now the feather’d youth their former bounds,
730 Ardent, disdain; and, weighing oft their wings,
Demand the free possession of the sky.
This one glad office more, and then dissolves
Parental love at once, now needless grown:
Unlavish Wisdom never works in vain.
’Tis on some evening, sunny, grateful, mild,
When nought but balm is breathing through the woods,
With yellow lustre bright, that the new tribes
Visit the spacious heavens, and look abroad
On Nature’s common, far as they can see
740 Or wing their range and pasture. O’er the boughs
Dancing about, still at the giddy verge
Their resolution fails—their pinions still,
In loose libration stretch’d, to trust the void
Trembling refuse—till down before them fly
The parent guides, and chide, exhort, command,
Or push them off. The surging air receives
The plumy burden; and their self-taught wings
Winnow the waving element. On ground
Alighted, bolder up again they lead,45
750 Farther and farther on, the lengthening flight;
Till, vanish’d every fear, and every power
Rous’d into life and action, light in air
The acquitted parents see their soaring race,
And, once rejoicing, never know them more.
High from the summit of a craggy cliff,
Hung o’er the deep, such as amazing frowns
On utmost Kilda’s1 shore, whose lonely race
Resign the setting sun to Indian worlds,
The royal eagle draws his vigorous young;
760 Strong-pounc’d, and ardent with paternal fire.
Now fit to raise a kingdom of their own,
He drives them from his fort, the towering seat,
For ages, of his empire; which, in peace,
Unstain’d he holds, while many a league to sea
He wings his course, and preys in distant isles.
Should I my steps turn to the rural seat,
Whose lofty elms and venerable oaks
Invite the rook, who high amid the boughs,
In early Spring, his airy city builds,
770 And ceaseless caws amusive—there, well-pleas’d,
I might the various polity survey46
Of the mix’d household-kind. The careful hen
Calls all her chirping family around,
Fed and defended by the fearless cock;
Whose breast with ardour flames, as on he walks
Graceful, and crows defiance. In the pond,
The finely chequer’d duck before her train
Rows garrulous. The stately-sailing swan
Gives out his snowy plumage to the gale;47
780 And, arching proud his neck, with oary feet
Bears forward fierce, and guards his osier-isle,
Protective of his young. The turkey nigh,
Loud-threatening, reddens; while the peacock spreads
His every-colour’d glory to the sun,
And swims in radiant majesty along.
O’er the whole homely scene, the cooing dove
Flies thick in amorous chase, and wanton rolls
The glancing eye, and turns the changeful neck.
While thus the gentle tenants of the shade
790 Indulge their purer loves, the rougher world
Of brutes, below, rush furious into flame
And fierce desire. Through all his lusty veins
The bull, deep-scorch’d, the raging passion feels.
Of pasture sick, and negligent of food,
Scarce seen, he wades among the yellow broom,
While o’er his ample sides the rambling sprays
Luxuriant shoot; or through the mazy wood
Dejected wanders, nor the enticing bud
Crops, though it presses on his careless sense.
800 And oft, in jealous maddening fancy wrapt,
He seeks the fight; and, idly butting, feigns48
His rival gor’d in every knotty trunk.
Him should he meet, the bellowing war begins:
Their eyes flash fury; to the hollow’d earth,
Whence the sand flies, they mutter bloody deeds,
And groaning deep the impetuous battle mix;
While the fair heifer, balmy-breathing, near,
Stands kindling up their rage. The trembling steed,
With this hot impulse seiz’d in every nerve,
810 Nor hears the rein, nor heeds the sounding thong:
Blows are not felt; but, tossing high his head,49
And by the well-known joy to distant plains
Attracted strong, all wild he bursts away;
O’er rocks, and woods, and craggy mountains flies;
And, neighing, on the aërial summit takes
The exciting gale; then, steep-descending, cleaves
The headlong torrents foaming down the hills,
Even where the madness of the straiten’d stream
Turns in black eddies round—such is the force
820 With which his frantic heart and sinews swell.
Nor undelighted by the boundless Spring
Are the broad monsters of the foaming deep:
From the deep ooze and gelid cavern rous’d,
They flounce and tumble in unwieldy joy.
Dire were the strain, and dissonant, to sing
The cruel raptures of the savage kind;
How, by this flame their native wrath sublim’d,
They roam, amid the fury of their heart,
The far-resounding waste in fiercer bands,
830 And growl their horrid loves. But this, the theme
I sing, enraptur’d, to the British fair,
Forbids; and leads me to the mountain brow,
Where sits the shepherd on the grassy turf,50
Inhaling, healthful, the descending sun.
Around him feeds his many-bleating flock,
Of various cadence; and his sportive lambs,
This way and that convolv’d, in friskful glee,
Their frolics play. And now the sprightly race
Invites them forth; when swift, the signal given,
840 They start away, and sweep the massy mound
That runs around the hill; the rampart once
Of iron war, in ancient barbarous times,
When disunited Britain ever bled,
Lost in eternal broil: ere yet she grew
To this deep-laid indissoluble state,
Where wealth and commerce lift the golden head;
And, o’er our labours, liberty and law
Impartial watch—the wonder of a world!
What is this mighty breath, ye curious, say,
850 That, in a powerful language, felt not heard,
Instructs the fowls of heaven; and through their breast
These arts of love diffuses? What, but God?
Inspiring God! who, boundless spirit all,
And unremitting energy, pervades,
Adjusts, sustains, and agitates the whole.51
He ceaseless works alone, and yet alone
Seems not to work; with such perfection fram’d
Is this complex stupendous scheme of things.
But, though conceal’d, to every purer eye
860 The informing Author in his works appears:
Chief, lovely Spring, in thee, and thy soft scenes,
The Smiling God is seen; while water, earth,
And air attest his bounty—which exalts
The brute creation to this finer thought,
And annual melts their undesigning hearts
Profusely thus in tenderness and joy.
Still let my song a nobler note assume,
And sing the infusive force of Spring on man;
When heaven and earth, as if contending, vie
870 To raise his being, and serene his soul.
Can he forbear to join the general smile
Of Nature? can fierce passions vex his breast,
While every gale is peace, and every grove
Is melody? Hence! from the bounteous walks
Of flowing Spring, ye sordid sons of earth,
Hard, and unfeeling of another’s woe,
Or only lavish to yourselves; away!52
But come, ye generous minds, in whose wide thought,
Of all his works, creative bounty burns
880 With warmest beam; and on your open front
And liberal eye sits, from his dark retreat
Inviting modest want. Nor till invok’d
Can restless goodness wait: your active search
Leaves no cold wint’ry corner unexplor’d;
Like silent-working Heaven, surprising oft
The lonely heart with unexpected good.
For you the roving spirit of the wind
Blows Spring abroad; for you the teeming clouds
Descend in gladsome plenty o’er the world;
890 And the sun sheds his kindest rays for you,
Ye flower of human race! In these green days,
Reviving sickness lifts her languid head;
Life flows afresh; and young-ey’d health exalts
The whole creation round. Contentment walks
The sunny glade, and feels an inward bliss
Spring o’er his mind, beyond the power of kings
To purchase. Pure serenity apace
Induces thought, and contemplation still.
By swift degrees the love of nature works,53
900 And warms the bosom; till at last, sublim’d
To rapture and enthusiastic heat,
We feel the present Deity, and taste
The joy of God to see a happy world!
These are the sacred feelings of thy heart,
Thy heart inform’d by reason’s purer ray,
O Lyttelton, the friend! thy passions thus
And meditations vary, as at large,
Courting the muse, through Hagley Park you stray;
Thy British Tempè! There along the dale,
910 With woods o’erhung, and shagg’d with mossy rocks,
Whence on each hand the gushing waters play,
And down the rough cascade white-dashing fall,54
Or gleam in lengthen’d vista through the trees,
You silent steal; or sit beneath the shade
Of solemn oaks, that tuft the swelling mounts
Thrown graceful round by Nature’s careless hand,
And pensive listen to the various voice
Of rural peace: the herds, the flocks, the birds,
The hollow-whispering breeze, the plaint of rills,
920 That, purling down amid the twisted roots
Which creep around, their dewy murmurs shake
On the sooth’d ear. From these abstracted oft,
You wander through the philosophic world;
Where in bright train continual wonders rise,
Or to the curious or the pious eye.
And oft, conducted by historic truth,
You tread the long extent of backward time:
Planning, with warm benevolence of mind,
And honest zeal unwarp’d by party rage,
930 Britannia’s weal; how from the venal gulf
To raise her virtue, and her arts revive.
Or, turning thence thy view, these graver thoughts
The muses charm; while, with sure taste refin’d,
You draw the inspiring breath of ancient song,55
Till nobly rises, emulous, thy own.
Perhaps thy lov’d Lucinda shares thy walk,
With soul to thine attun’d. Then nature all
Wears to the lover’s eye a look of love;
And all the tumult of a guilty world,
940 Toss’d by ungenerous passions, sinks away.
The tender heart is animated peace;
And as it pours its copious treasures forth,
In varied converse, softening every theme,
You, frequent-pausing, turn, and from her eyes,
Where meeken’d sense, and amiable grace,
And lively sweetness dwell, enraptur’d drink
That nameless spirit of ethereal joy,
Inimitable happiness! which love
Alone bestows, and on a favour’d few.
950 Meantime you gain the height, from whose fair brow
The bursting prospect spreads immense around;
And snatch’d o’er hill and dale, and wood and lawn,
And verdant field, and darkening heath between,
And villages embosom’d soft in trees,
And spiry towns by surging columns mark’d
Of household smoke, your eye excursive roams;56
Wide-stretching from the hall, in whose kind haunt
The hospitable genius lingers still,
To where the broken landscape, by degrees
960 Ascending, roughens into rigid hills—
O’er which the Cambrian mountains, like far clouds
That skirt the blue horizon, dusky rise.
Flush’d by the spirit of the genial year,
Now from the virgin’s cheek a fresher bloom
Shoots, less and less, the live carnation round;
Her lips blush deeper sweets; she breathes of youth;
The shining moisture swells into her eyes
In brighter flow; her wishing bosom heaves
With palpitations wild; kind tumults seize
970 Her veins, and all her yielding soul is love.
From the keen gaze her lover turns away,
Full of the dear ecstatic power, and sick
With sighing languishment. Ah then, ye fair!
Be greatly cautious of your sliding hearts:
Dare not the infectious sigh; the pleading look,
Downcast and low, in meek submission drest,
But full of guile. Let not the fervent tongue,
Prompt to deceive, with adulation smooth,57
Gain on your purpos’d will. Nor in the bower,
980 Where woodbines flaunt and roses shed a couch,
While evening draws her crimson curtains round,
Trust your soft minutes with betraying man.
And let the aspiring youth beware of love,
Of the smooth glance beware; for ’tis too late,
When on his heart the torrent-softness pours.
Then wisdom prostrate lies, and fading fame
Dissolves in air away; while the fond soul,
Wrapt in gay visions of unreal bliss,
Still paints the illusive form, the kindling grace,
990 The enticing smile, the modest-seeming eye,
Beneath whose beauteous beams, belying heaven,
Lurk searchless cunning, cruelty, and death;
And still, false-warbling in his cheated ear,
Her siren voice, enchanting, draws him on
To guileful shores, and meads of fatal joy.
Even present, in the very lap of love
Inglorious laid—while music flows around,
Perfumes, and oils, and wine, and wanton hours—
Amid the roses, fierce repentance rears
1000 Her snaky crest: a quick-returning pang58
Shoots through the conscious heart; where honour still,
And great design, against the oppressive load
Of luxury, by fits, impatient heave.
But absent, what fantastic woes, arous’d,
Rage in each thought, by restless musing fed,
Chill the warm cheek, and blast the bloom of life!
Neglected fortune flies; and, sliding swift,
Prone into ruin fall his scorn’d affairs.
’Tis nought but gloom around. The darken’d sun
1010 Loses his light. The rosy-bosom’d Spring
To weeping fancy pines; and yon bright arch,
Contracted, bends into a dusky vault.
All nature fades extinct; and she alone
Heard, felt, and seen, possesses every thought,
Fills every sense, and pants in every vein.
Books are but formal dulness, tedious friends;
And sad amid the social band he sits,
Lonely and unattentive. From the tongue
The unfinish’d period falls: while, borne away
1020 On swelling thought, his wafted spirit flies
To the vain bosom of his distant fair;
And leaves the semblance of a lover, fix’d59
In melancholy site, with head declin’d,
And love-dejected eyes. Sudden he starts,
Shook from his tender trance, and restless runs
To glimmering shades and sympathetic glooms,
Where the dun umbrage o’er the falling stream,
Romantic, hangs; there through the pensive dusk
Strays, in heart-thrilling meditation lost,
Indulging all to love; or on the bank
Thrown, amid drooping lilies, swells the breeze
1030 With sighs unceasing, and the brook with tears.
Thus in soft anguish he consumes the day;
Nor quits his deep retirement, till the moon
Peeps through the chambers of the fleecy east,
Enlighten’d by degrees, and in her train
Leads on the gentle hours; then forth he walks,
Beneath the trembling languish of her beam,
With soften’d soul, and woos the bird of eve
To mingle woes with his; or, while the world
And all the sons of care lie hush’d in sleep,
1040 Associates with the midnight shadows drear;
And, sighing to the lonely taper, pours
His idly tortur’d heart into the page60
Meant for the moving messenger of love—
Where rapture burns on rapture, every line
With rising frenzy fir’d. But if on bed
Delirious flung, sleep from his pillow flies.
All night he tosses, nor the balmy power
1050 In any posture finds; till the grey morn
Lifts her pale lustre on the paler wretch,
Exanimate by love: and then perhaps61
Exhausted nature sinks awhile to rest,
Still interrupted by distracted dreams,
That o’er the sick imagination rise
And in black colours paint the mimic scene.
Oft with the enchantress of his soul he talks
Sometimes in crowds distress’d; or if retir’d
To secret-winding flower-enwoven bowers,
1060 Far from the dull impertinence of man,
Just as he, credulous, his endless cares
Begins to lose in blind oblivious love,
Snatch’d from her yielded hand, he knows not how,
Through forests huge, and long untravell’d heaths
With desolation brown, he wanders waste,
In night and tempest wrapt; or shrinks, aghast,
Back from the bending precipice; or wades
The turbid stream below, and strives to reach
The farther shore, where succourless and sad
1070 She with extended arms his aid implores,
But strives in vain: borne by the outrageous flood
To distance down, he rides the ridgy wave,
Or whelm’d beneath the boiling eddy sinks.
These are the charming agonies of love,62
Whose misery delights. But through the heart
Should jealousy its venom once diffuse,
’Tis then delightful misery no more,
But agony unmix’d, incessant gall,
Corroding every thought, and blasting all
1080 Love’s paradise. Ye fairy prospects, then,
Ye beds of roses, and ye bowers of joy,
Farewell! Ye gleamings of departed peace,
Shine out your last! the yellow-tinging plague
Internal vision taints, and in a night
Of livid gloom imagination wraps.
Ah! then, instead of love-enliven’d cheeks,
Of sunny features, and of ardent eyes
With flowing rapture bright, dark looks succeed,
Suffus’d and glaring with untender fire;
1090 A clouded aspect, and a burning cheek,
Where the whole poison’d soul malignant sits,
And frightens love away. Ten thousand fears
Invented wild, ten thousand frantic views
Of horrid rivals, hanging on the charms
For which he melts in fondness, eat him up
With fervent anguish, and consuming rage.63
In vain reproaches lend their idle aid,
Deceitful pride, and resolution frail,
Giving false peace a moment. Fancy pours,
1100 Afresh, her beauties on his busy thought;
Her first endearments, twining round the soul
With all the witchcraft of ensnaring love.
Straight the fierce storm involves his mind anew;
Flames through the nerves, and boils along the veins;
While anxious doubt distracts the tortur’d heart:
For even the sad assurance of his fears
Were peace to what he feels. Thus the warm youth,
Whom love deludes into his thorny wilds,
Through flowery-tempting paths, or leads a life
1110 Of fever’d rapture, or of cruel care;
His brightest aims extinguish’d all, and all
His lively moments running down to waste.
But happy they! the happiest of their kind!
Whom gentler stars unite, and in one fate
Their hearts, their fortunes, and their beings blend.
’Tis not the coarser tie of human laws,
Unnatural oft, and foreign to the mind,
That binds their peace, but harmony itself,64
Attuning all their passions into love;
1120 Where friendship full-exerts her softest power,
Perfect esteem enliven’d by desire
Ineffable, and sympathy of soul;
Thought meeting thought, and will preventing will,
With boundless confidence: for nought but love
Can answer love, and render bliss secure.
Let him, ungenerous, who, alone intent
To bless himself, from sordid parents buys
The loathing virgin, in eternal care,
Well-merited, consume his nights and days;
1130 Let barbarous nations, whose inhuman love
Is wild desire, fierce as the suns they feel;
Let eastern tyrants, from the light of heaven
Seclude their bosom-slaves, meanly possess’d
Of a mere lifeless, violated form:
While those whom love cements in holy faith,
And equal transport, free as Nature live,
Disdaining fear. What is the world to them,
Its pomp, its pleasure, and its nonsense all!
Who in each other clasp whatever fair
1140 High fancy forms, and lavish hearts can wish;65
Something than beauty dearer, should they look
Or on the mind, or mind-illumin’d face—
Truth, goodness, honour, harmony, and love,
The richest bounty of indulgent Heaven.
Meantime a smiling offspring rises round,
And mingles both their graces. By degrees,
The human blossom blows; and every day,
Soft as it rolls along, shows some new charm,66
The father’s lustre and the mother’s bloom.
1150 Then infant reason grows apace, and calls
For the kind hand of an assiduous care.
Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
To teach the young idea how to shoot,
To pour the fresh instruction o’er the mind,
To breathe the enlivening spirit, and to fix
The generous purpose in the glowing breast.
Oh speak the joy! ye whom the sudden tear
Surprises often, while you look around,
And nothing strikes your eye but sights of bliss,
1160 All various nature pressing on the heart;
An elegant sufficiency, content,
Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books,
Ease and alternate labour, useful life,
Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven.
These are the matchless joys of virtuous love;
And thus their moments fly. The Seasons thus,
As ceaseless round a jarring world they roll,
Still find them happy; and consenting Spring
Sheds her own rosy garland on their heads:
1170 Till evening comes at last, serene and mild;67
When after the long vernal day of life,
Enamour’d more, as more remembrance swells
With many a proof of recollected love,
Together down they sink in social sleep;
Together freed, their gentle spirits fly
To scenes where love and bliss immortal reign.
Note 1. Line 757. p. 45.
Such as amazing frowns
On utmost Kilda’s shore.
The farthest of the Western Islands of Scotland.
55 the rural Maro sung
[We will meet the flip side of this usage in Winter:521, where Marcus Tullius Cicero is referred to as “Tully”. But Publius Vergilius Maro was never really known as anything but Vergil. Or, if you prefer, Virgil.]
168 Into the general choir.
[Now, wait a minute. A little later in the season, the editor will make a particular point of spelling it, archaically, quire. Is consistency too much to ask?]
780 The stately-sailing swan . . . with oary feet
[Milton, Paradise Lost:
The Swan, with archèd neck
Between her white wings mantling, proudly rows
Her state with oary feet.
Option A: Thomson took it for granted readers would recognize his paraphrase. Option B: Thomson forgot he’d read something similar years ago. (“Oh, oops, I guess my song is kind of a carbon copy of He’s So Fine.”) We need not consider Option C.]
1153 To teach the young idea how to shoot
[This line was spoofed in B.C. 1887: A Ramble in British Columbia, whose authors were born several years after the present edition was published—and more than a century after The Seasons originally came out.]
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.