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[The Seasons:] WINTER.

1 SEE Winter comes, to rule the varied year,
2 Sullen, and sad, with all his rising train,
3 Vapours, and Clouds, and Storms. Be these my theme,
4 These, that exalt the soul to solemn thought,
5 And heavenly musing. Welcome, kindred glooms!
6 Cogenial horrors, hail! with frequent foot,
7 Pleas'd have I, in my chearful morn of life,
8 When nurs'd by careless Solitude I liv'd,
9 And sung of Nature with unceasing joy,
10 Pleas'd have I wander'd thro' your rough domain;
11 Trod the pure virgin-snows, my self as pure
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12 Heard the winds roar, and the big torrent burst;
13 Or seen the deep, fermenting tempest brew'd
14 In the red evening-sky. Thus pass'd the time,
15 Till thro' the lucid chambers of the south
16 Look'd out the joyous Spring, look'd out, and smil'd
17 To thee, the patron of her first essay,
18 The muse, O Wilmington! renews her song.
19 Since has she rounded the revolving Year;
20 Skim'd the gay Spring; on eagle-pinions borne,
21 Attempted thro' the Summer-blaze to rise;
22 Then swept o'er Autumn with the shadowy gale,
23 And now among the Wintry clouds again,
24 Roll'd in the doubling storm, she tries to soar;
25 To swell her note with all the rushing winds;
26 To suit her sounding cadence to the floods;
27 As is her theme, her numbers wildly great:
28 Thrice happy! could she fill thy judging ear
29 With bold description, and with manly thought.
30 For thee the Graces smooth; thy softer thoughts
31 The Muses tune; nor art thou skill'd alone
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32 In awful schemes, the management of states,
33 And how to make a mighty people thrive:
34 But equal goodness; sound integrity;
35 A firm, unshaken, uncorrupted soul,
36 Amid a sliding age; and burning strong,
37 Not vainly blazing, for thy country's weal,
38 A steady spirit, regularly free;
39 These, each exalting each, the statesman light
40 Into the patriot; and, the publick hope
41 And eye to thee converting, bid the muse
42 Record what envy dares not flattery call.
43 When Scorpio gives to Capricorn the sway,
44 And fierce Aquarius fouls th' inverted year;
45 Retiring to the verge of heaven, the sun
46 Scarce spreads o'er other the dejected day.
47 Faint are his gleams, and ineffectual shoot
48 His struggling rays, in horizontal lines,
49 Thro' the thick air; as at dull distance seen,
50 Weak, wan, and broad, he skirts the southern sky;
51 And, soon descending, to the long dark night,
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52 Wide-shading all, the prostrate world resigns.
53 Nor is the night unwish'd; while vital heat,
54 Light, life, and joy the dubious day forsake.
55 Mean-time, in sable cincture, shadows vast,
56 Deep-ting'd, and damp, and congregated clouds,
57 And all the vapoury turbulence of Heaven
58 Involve the face of things. Thus Winter falls,
59 A heavy gloom oppressive o'er the world,
60 Thro' nature shedding influence malign,
61 And rouses all the seeds of dark disease.
62 The soul of man dies in him, loathing life,
63 And black with horrid views. The cattle droop
64 The conscious head; and o'er the furrow'd land,
65 Red from the plow, the dun discolour'd flocks,
66 Untended spreading, crop the wholesome root.
67 Along the woods, along the moorish fens.
68 Sighs the sad genius of the coming storm;
69 And up among the loose, disjointed cliffs,
70 And fractur'd mountains wild, the brawling brook,
71 And cave, presageful, send a hollow moan,
72 Resounding long in listening fancy's ear.
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73 Then comes the father of the tempest forth,
74 Striding the gloomy blast. First rains obscure
75 Drive thro' the mingling skies with vapour vile;
76 Dash on the mountain's brow, and shake the woods,
77 That grumbling wave below. Th' unsightly plain
78 Lies a brown deluge; as the low-bent clouds
79 Pour flood on flood, yet unexhausted still
80 Combine, and deepening into night shut up
81 The day's fair face. The wanderers of heaven,
82 Each to his home, retire; save those that love
83 To take their pastime in the troubled air,
84 Or skimming flutter round the dimply pool.
85 The Cattle from th' untasted fields return,
86 And ask, with meaning lowe, their wonted stalls,
87 Or ruminate in the contiguous shade.
88 Thither the houshold, feathery people crowd,
89 The crested cock, with all his female train,
90 Pensive, and wet. Mean-while the cottage-swain
91 Hangs o'er th' enlivening blaze, and taleful there
92 Recounts his simple frolick: much he talks.
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93 And much he laughs, nor recks the storm that blows
94 Without, and rattles on his humble roof.
95 Wide o'er the brim, with many a torrent swell'd,
96 And the mix'd ruins of its banks o'erspread,
97 At last the rous'd-up river pours along,
98 Resistless, roaring; dreadful down it comes
99 From the chapt mountain, and the mossy wild,
100 Tumbling thro' rocks abrupt, and sounding far;
101 Then o'er the sanded valley floating spreads,
102 Calm, sluggish, silent; till again constrain'd,
103 Betwixt two meeting hills it bursts away,
104 Where rocks, and woods o'erhang the turbid stream;
105 There gathering triple force, rapid, and deep,
106 It boils, and wheels, and foams, and thunders thro'.
107 Nature! great parent! whose continual hand
108 Rolls round the seasons of the changeful year,
109 How mighty, how majestie are thy works!
110 With what a pleasing dread they swell the soul!
111 That sees astonish'd! and astonish'd sings!
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112 Ye too, ye winds! that now begin to blow,
113 With boisterous sweep, I raise my voice to you.
114 Where are your stores, ye subtil beings! say,
115 Where your aerial magazines reserv'd,
116 Against the day of tempest perilous?
117 In what far-distant region of the sky,
118 Hush'd in dead silence, sleep you when 'tis calm?
119 Late in the lowring sky, red, fiery streaks
120 Begin to flush about; the reeling clouds
121 Stagger with dizzy poise, as doubting yet
122 Which master to obey: while rising slow,
123 Blank in the leaden-colour'd east, the moon
124 Wears a wan circle round her sully'd orb.
125 The stars obtuse emit a shivering ray;
126 Snatch'd in short eddies plays the fluttering straw;
127 Loud shrieks the soaring hern; and, skreaming wild,
128 The circling sea-fowl rise; while from the shore,
129 Eat into caverns by the restless wave,
130 And forest-rustling mountain, comes a voice,
131 That solemn-sounding bids the world prepare.
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132 Then issues forth the storm, with mad controul,
133 And the thin fabrick of the pillar'd air
134 O'erturns at once. Prone, on the passive main,
135 Descends th' ethereal force, and with strong gust
136 Turns from the bottom the discolour'd deep.
137 Thro' the loud night, that bids the waves arise,
138 Lash'd into foam, the fierce, conflicting brine
139 Seems, as it sparkles, all around to burn.
140 Mean-time whole oceans, heaving to the clouds,
141 And in broad billows rolling gather'd seas,
142 Surge over surge, burst in a general roar,
143 And anchor'd navies from their stations drive,
144 Wild as the winds athwart the howling waste
145 Of mighty waters. Now the hilly wave
146 Straining they scale, and now impetuous shoot
147 Into the secret chambers of the deep,
148 The full-blown Baltick thundering o'er their head.
149 Emerging thence again, before the breath
150 Of all-exerted heaven they wing their course,
151 And dart on distant coasts; if some sharp rock,
152 Or sand insidious break not their career,
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153 And in loose fragments fling them floating round.
154 Nor raging here alone unrein'd at sea,
155 To land the tempest bears; and o'er the cliff,
156 Where screams the sea-mew, foaming unconfin'd,
157 Fierce swallows up the long-resounding shore.
158 The mountain growls; and all its sturdy sons
159 Stoop to the bottom of the rocks they shade.
160 Lone on its midnight side, and all aghast,
161 The dark, way-faring stranger breathless toils,
162 And, often falling, climbs against the blast.
163 Low waves the rooted forest, vex'd, and sheds
164 What of its tarnish'd honours yet remain;
165 Dash'd down, and scatter'd, by the tearing wind's
166 Assiduous fury, its gigantic limbs.
167 Thus struggling thro' the dissipated grove,
168 The whirling tempest raves along the plain;
169 And on the cottage thatch'd, or lordly roof,
170 Keen-fastening, shakes them to the solid base.
171 Sleep frighted flies; and round the rocking dome,
172 For entrance eager, howls the savage blast.
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173 Then too, they say, thro' all the burthen'd air,
174 Long groans are heard, shrill sounds and distant sighs,
175 That, utter'd by the Demon of the night,
176 Warn the devoted wretch of woe and death.
177 Huge uproar lords it wide. The clouds commix'd
178 With stars swift-gliding sweep along the sky.
179 All Nature reels. Till Nature's KING, who oft
180 Amid tempestuous darkness dwells alone,
181 And on the wings of the careering wind
182 Walks dreadfully serene, commands a calm;
183 Then straight air, sea, and earth are hush'd at once.
184 As yet, 'tis midnight deep. The weary clouds,
185 Slow-meeting, mingle into solid gloom.
186 Now, while the drowsy world lies lost in sleep,
187 Let me associate with the serious Night,
188 And Contemplation her sedate compeer;
189 Let me shake off th'intrusive cares of day,
190 And lay the meddling senses all aside.
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191 And now, ye lying vanities of life!
192 Ye ever-tempting, ever-cheating train!
193 Where are ye now! and what is your amount?
194 Vexation, disappointment, and remorse.
195 Sad, sickening thought! and yet deluded Man,
196 A scene of crude disjointed visions past,
197 And broken slumbers, rises still resolv'd,
198 With new-flush'd hopes, to run the giddy round.
199 Father of light and life! thou GOOD SUPREME!
200 O teach me what is good! teach me THYSELF!
201 Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
202 From every low pursuit! and feed my soul
203 With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;
204 Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!
205 The keener tempests rise: and fuming dun
206 From all the livid east, or piercing north,
207 Thick clouds ascend; in whose capacious womb
208 A vapoury deluge lies, to snow congeal'd.
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209 Heavy they roll their fleecy world along;
210 And the sky saddens with the gather'd storm.
211 Thro' the hush'd air the whitening shower descends,
212 At first thin-wavering; till at last the flakes
213 Fall broad, and wide, and fast, dimming the day,
214 With a continual flow. Sudden the fields
215 Put on their winter-robe, of purest white.
216 'Tis brightness all; save where the new snow melts,
217 Along the mazy stream. The leafless woods
218 Bow their hoar Heads. And, ere the languid sun
219 Faint from the west emits his evening ray,
220 Earth's universal face, deep-hid, and chill,
221 Is one wild, dazzling waste. The labourer-ox
222 Stands cover'd o'er with snow, and then demands
223 The fruit of all his toil. The fowls of heaven,
224 Tam'd by the cruel season, crowd around
225 The winnowing store, and claim the little boon
226 That Providence allows. The Red-breast sole,
227 Wisely regardful of th' embroiling sky,
228 In joyless fields, and thorny thickets, leaves
229 His shivering fellows, and to trusted man
230 His annual visit pays. New to the dome
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231 Against the window beats, then brisk alights
232 On the warm hearth, and hopping o'er the floor
233 Eyes all the smiling Family askance,
234 And pecks, and starts, and wonders where he is;
235 Till more familiar grown, the table-crumbs
236 Attract his slender feet. The foodless wilds
237 Pour forth their brown inhabitants. The hare,
238 Tho' timorous of heart, and hard beset
239 By death in various forms, dark snares, and dogs,
240 And more unpitying men, the garden seeks,
241 Urg'd on by fearless want. The bleating kind
242 Eye the bleak heaven, and next the glistening earth,
243 With looks of dumb despair; then sad, dispers'd,
244 Dig for the whither'd herb thro' heaps of snow.
245 Now, shepherds, to your helpless charge be kind,
246 Baffle the raging year, and fill their pens
247 With food at will; lodge them below the storm,
248 And watch them strict: for from the bellowing east,
249 In this dire season, oft the whirlwind's wing
250 Sweeps up the burthen of whole wintry plains
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251 In one wide waft, and o'er the hapless flocks,
252 Hid in the hollow of two neighbouring hills,
253 The billowy tempest whelms; till upwards urg'd,
254 The valley to a shining mountain swells,
255 Tript with a wreath, high-curling in the sky.
256 As thus the snows arise; and foul, and fierce,
257 All winter drives along the darken'd air;
258 In his own loose-revolving fields, the swain
259 Disaster'd stands; sees other hills ascend
260 Of unknown joyless brow; and other scenes,
261 Of horrid prospect, shag the trackless plain:
262 Nor finds the river, nor the forest, hid
263 Beneath the white abrupt; but wanders on
264 From hill to dale, still more and more astray:
265 Impatient flouncing thro' the drifted heaps,
266 Stung with the thoughts of home; the thoughts of home
267 Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth
268 In many a vain effort. How sinks his soul!
269 What black despair, what horror fills his heart!
270 When for the dusky spot, that fancy feign'd
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271 His tufted cottage rising thro the snow,
272 He meets the roughness of the middle waste,
273 Far from the tract, and blest abode of man:
274 While round him night resistless closes fast,
275 And every tempest, howling o'er his head,
276 Renders the savage wilderness more wild.
277 Then throng the busy shapes into his mind,
278 Of cover'd pits, unfathomably deep,
279 A dire descent! beyond the power of frost,
280 Of faithless boggs; of precipices huge,
281 Smooth'd up with snow; and, what is land unknown,
282 What water, of the still unfrozen eye,
283 In the loose marsh, or solitary lake,
284 Where the fresh fountain from the bottom boils.
285 These check his fearful steps; and down he sinks
286 Beneath the shelter of the shapeless drift,
287 Thinking o'er all the bitterness of death,
288 Mix'd with the tender anguish nature shoots
289 Thro' the wrung bosom of the dying man,
290 His wife, his children, and his friends unseen.
291 In vain for him th' officious wife prepares
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292 The fire fair-blazing, and the vestment warm;
293 In vain his little children, peeping out
294 Into the mingling rack, demand their sire,
295 With tears of artless innocence. Alas!
296 Nor wife, nor children more shall he behold,
297 Nor friends, nor sacred home. On every nerve,
298 The deadly winter seizes; shuts up sense;
299 And, o'er his stronger vitals creeping cold,
300 Lays him along the snows, a stiffen'd corse,
301 Unstretch'd, and bleaching in the northern blast.
302 Ah little think the gay licentious proud,
303 Whom pleasure, power, and affluence surround;
304 They, who their thoughtless hours in giddy mirth,
305 And wanton, often cruel, riot waste;
306 Ah little think they, while they dance along,
307 How many feel this very moment, death
308 And all the sad variety of pain.
309 How many sink in the devouring flood,
310 Or more devouring flame. How many bleed,
311 By shameful variance betwixt man and man.
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312 How many pine in want, and dungeon glooms;
313 Shut from the common air, and common use
314 Of their own limbs. How many drink the cup
315 Of baleful grief, or eat the bitter bread
316 Of misery. Sore pierc'd by wintry winds,
317 How many shrink into the fordid hut
318 Of chearless poverty. How many shake
319 With all the fiercer tortures of the mind,
320 Unbounded passion, madness, guilt, remorse;
321 Whence tumbled headlong from the height of life,
322 They furnish matter for the tragic muse.
323 Even in the vale, where Wisdom loves to dwell,
324 With Friendship, Peace, and Contemplation join'd,
325 How many, rackt with honest passions, droop
326 In deep retir'd distress. How many stand
327 Around the death-bed of their dearest friends,
328 Like wailing pensive ghosts awaiting theirs,
329 And point the parting pang. Thought but fond man
330 Of these, and all the thousand nameless ills,
331 That one incessant struggle render life,
332 One scene of toil, of anguish, and of fate,
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333 Vice in his high career would stand appall'd,
334 And heedless rambling impulse learn to think;
335 The conscious heart of Charity would warm,
336 And his wide wish Benevolence dilate;
337 The social tear would rise, the social sigh;
338 And into clear perfection, gradual bliss,
339 Refining still, the social passions work.
340 And here can I forget the generous few,
341 Who, touch'd with human woe, redressive sought
342 Into the horrors of the gloomy jail?
343 Unpitied, and unheard, where Misery moans;
344 Where Sickness pines; where Thirst and Hunger burn,
345 And poor Misfortune feels the lash of Vice.
346 While in the land of liberty, the land
347 Whose every street, and public meeting glows
348 With open freedom, little tyrants rag'd:
349 Snatch'd the lean morsel from the starving mouth;
350 Tore from cold, wintry limbs the tatter'd robe;
351 Even robb'd them of the last of comforts, sleep;
352 The free-born Briton to the dungeon chain'd,
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353 Or, as the lust of cruelty prevail'd,
354 At pleasure mark'd him with inglorious stripes;
355 And crush'd out lives, by various nameless ways,
356 That for their country would have toil'd, or bled.
357 Hail patriot-band! who, scorning secret scorn,
358 When Justice, and when Mercy led the way,
359 Dragg'd the detected monsters into light,
360 Wrench'd from their hand Oppression's iron rod,
361 And bade the cruel feel the pains they gave.
362 Yet stop not here, let all the land rejoice,
363 And make the blessing unconfin'd, as great.
364 Much still untouch'd remains; in this rank age,
365 Much is the patriot's weeding hand requir'd.
366 The toils of law, (what dark insidious men
367 Have cumbrous added to perplex the truth,
368 And lengthen simple justice into trade)
369 Oh glorious were the day! that saw these broke,
370 And every man within the reach of right.
371 Yet more outragious is the season still,
372 A deeper horror, in Siberian wilds;
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373 Where Winter keeps his unrejoicing court,
374 And in his airy hall the loud misrule
375 Of driving tempest is for ever heard.
376 There thro' the ragged woods absorpt in snow,
377 Sole tenant of these shades, the shaggy bear,
378 With dangling ice all horrid, stalks forlorn;
379 Slow-pac'd and sourer as the storms increase,
380 He makes his bed beneath the drifted snow;
381 And, scorning the complainings of distress.
382 Hardens his heart against assailing want.
383 While tempted vigorous o'er the marble waste.
384 On sleds reclin'd, the furry Russian sits;
385 And, by his rain-deer drawn, behind him throws
386 A shining kingdom in a winter's day.
387 Or from the cloudy Alps, and Appenine,
388 Capt with grey mists, and everlasting snows;
389 Where nature in stupendous rain lies,
390 And from the leaning rock, on either side,
391 Gush out those streams that classic song renowns:
392 Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave!
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393 Burning for blood! bony, and ghaunt, and grim!
394 Assembling wolves in torrent troops descend;
395 And, pouring o'er the country, bear along,
396 Keen as the north-wind sweeps the glossy snow.
397 All is their prize. They fasten on the steed,
398 Press him to earth, and pierce his mighty heart.
399 Nor can the bull his awful front defend.
400 Or shake the murdering savages away.
401 Rapacious, at the mother's throat they fly
402 And tear the screaming infant from her breast.
403 The godlike face of man avails him nought.
404 Even beauty, force divine! at whose bright glance
405 The generous lyon stands in soften'd gaze,
406 Here bleeds, a hapless, undistinguish'd prey.
407 But if, appriz'd of the severe attack,
408 The country be shut up, lur'd by the scent,
409 On church-yards drear (inhuman to relate!)
410 The disappointed prowlers fall, and dig
411 The shrowded body from the tomb; o'er which,
412 Mix'd with foul shades, and frighted ghosts, they howl.
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413 Now, all amid the rigours of the year,
414 In the wild depth of Winter, while without
415 The ceaseless winds blow ice, be my retreat,
416 Between the groaning forest and the shore,
417 Beat by a boundless multitude of waves,
418 A rural, shelter'd, solitary, scene;
419 Where ruddy fire and beaming tapers join,
420 To chase the cheerless gloom. There let me sit,
421 And hold high converse with the mighty dead;
422 Sages of antient time, as gods rever'd,
423 As gods beneficent, who blest mankind
424 With arts, and arms, and humaniz'd a world.
425 Rous'd at th' inspiring thought, I throw aside
426 The long-liv'd volume; and, deep-musing, hail
427 The sacred shades, that slowly-rising pass
428 Before my wondering eyes. First Socrates,
429 Whose simple question to the folded heart
430 Stole unperceiv'd, and from the maze of thought
431 Evolv'd the secret truth a god-like man!
432 Solon the next, who built his common-weal
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433 On equity's wide base. Lycurgus then,
434 Severely good; and him of rugged Rome,
435 Numa, who soften'd her rapacious sons.
436 Cimon sweet-soul'd, and Aristides just;
437 With that attemper'd
* Timoleon.
Hero, mild, and firm,
438 Who wept the brother while the tyrant bled.
439 Unconquer'd Cato, virtuous in extreme.
440 Scipio, the human warrior, gently brave;
441 Who soon the race of spotless glory ran,
442 And, warm in youth, to the poetic shade,
443 With friendship, and philosophy, retir'd.
444 And, equal to the best, the
Pelopidas and Epaminondas.
Theban twain,
445 Who, single rais'd their country into fame.
446 Thousands behind, the boast of Greece and Rome,
447 Whom Virtue owns, the tribute of a verse
448 Demand; but who can count the stars of heaven?
449 Who sing their influence on this lower world?
450 But see who yonder comes! in sober state,
451 Fair, mild, and strong, as is a vernal sun:
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452 'Tis Phoebus self, or else the Mantuan swain!
453 Great Homer too appears, of daring wing,
454 Parent of song! and equal by his side,
455 The British muse; join'd hand in hand they walk,
456 Darkling, full up the middle steep to fame.
457 Nor absent are those tuneful Shades, I ween,
458 Taught by the Graces, whose inchanting touch
459 Shakes every passion from the various string;
460 Nor those, who solemnize the moral scene.
461 First of your kind! society divine!
462 Still visit thus my nights, for you reserv'd,
463 And mount my soaring soul to deeds like yours.
464 Silence, thou lonely power! the door be thine;
465 See on the hallow'd hour that none intrude,
466 Save Lycidas the friend, with sense refin'd,
467 Learning digested well, exalted faith,
468 Unstudy'd wit, and humour ever gay.
469 Or from the muses hill will Pope descend,
470 To raise the sacred hour, to make it smile,
471 And with the social spirit warm the heart:
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472 For tho' not sweeter his own Homer sings,
473 Yet is his life the more endearing song.
474 Thus in some deep retirement would I pass
475 The winter-glooms, with friends of various turn,
476 Or blithe, or solemn, as the theme inspir'd:
477 With them would search, if this unbounded frame
478 Of nature rose from unproductive night,
479 Or sprung eternal from th' eternal Cause,
480 Its springs, its laws, its progress and its end.
481 Hence larger prospects of the beauteous whole
482 Would gradual open on our opening minds;
483 And each diffufive harmony unite,
484 In full perfection, to th' astonish'd eye.
485 Thence would we plunge into the moral world;
486 Which, tho' more seemingly perplex'd, moves on
487 In higher order; fitted, and impell'd,
488 By Wisdom's finest hand, and issuing all
489 In universal good. Historic truth
490 Should next conduct thro' the deeps of time:
491 Point us how empire grew, revolv'd, and fell,
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492 In scatter'd states; what makes the nations smile,
493 Improves their soil, and gives them double suns;
494 And why they pine beneath the brightest skies,
495 In nature's richest lap. As thus we talk'd,
496 Our hearts would burn within us, would inhale
497 That portion of divinity, that ray
498 Of purest heaven, which lights the glorious flame
499 Of patriots, and of heroes. But if doom'd,
500 In powerless humble fortune, to repress
501 These ardent risings of the kindling soul;
502 Then, even superior to ambition, we
503 Would learn the private virtues; how to glide
504 Thro' shades and plains, along the smoothest stream
505 Of rural life: or snatch'd away by hope,
506 Thro' the dim spaces of futurity,
507 With earnest eye anticipate those scenes
508 Of happiness, and wonder; where the mind,
509 In endless growth and infinite ascent,
510 Rises from state to state, and world to world.
511 And when with these the serious soul is foil'd,
512 We, shifting for relief, would play the shapes
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513 Of frolic fancy; and incessant form
514 Unnumber'd pictures, fleeting o'er the brain.
515 Yet rapid still renew'd, and pour'd immense
516 Into the mind, unbounded without space:
517 The great, the new, the beautiful; or mix'd,
518 Burlesque, and odd, the risible and gay;
519 Whence vivid Wit, and Humour, droll of face,
520 Call laughter forth, deep-shaking every nerve.
521 Mean-time the village rouzes up the sire;
522 While well attested, and as well believ'd,
523 Heard solemn, goes the goblin-story round;
524 Till superstitious horror creeps o'er all.
525 Or, frequent in the sounding hall, they wake
526 The rural gambol. Rustic mirth goes round:
527 The simple joke that takes the shepherd's heart,
528 Easily pleas'd; the long loud laugh, sincere;
529 The kiss, snatch'd hasty from the sidelong maid,
530 On purpose guardless, or pretending sleep;
531 The leap, the slap, the haul; and, shook to notes
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532 Of native music, the respondent dance.
533 Thus jocund fleets with them the winter-night.
534 The city swarms intense. The public haunt,
535 Full of each theme, and warm with mixt discourse,
536 Hums indistinct. The sons of riot flow
537 Down the loose stream of false inchanted joy,
538 To swift destruction. On the rankled soul
539 The gaming fury falls; and in one gulph
540 Of total ruin, honour, virtue, peace,
541 Friends, families, and fortune headlong sink.
542 Rises the dance along the lighted dome,
543 Mix'd, and evolv'd, a thousand sprightly ways.
544 The glittering court effuses every pomp;
545 The circle deepens; rain'd from radiant eyes,
546 A soft effulgence o'er the palace waves:
547 While, thick as insects in the summer-shine,
548 The fop, light-fluttering, spreads his mealy wings.
549 Dread o'er the scene the ghost of Hamlet stalks;
550 Othello rages; poor Monimia mourns;
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551 And Belvidera pours her soul in love.
552 Assenting terror shakes; the silent tear
553 Steals o'er the cheek: or else the comic Muse
554 Holds to the world the picture of itself,
555 And raises sly the fair impartial laugh.
556 Clear frost succeeds; and thro' the blue serene,
557 For sight too fine, th' ethereal nitre flies:
558 Killing infectious damps, and the spent air
559 Storing afresh with elemental life.
560 Close crowds the shining atmosphere; and binds
561 Our strengthen'd bodies in its cold embrace,
562 Constringent; feeds, and animates our blood;
563 Refines our spirits, thro' the new-strung nerves,
564 In swifter fallies darting to the brain;
565 Where sits the soul, intense, collected cool,
566 Bright as the skies, and as the season keen.
567 All nature feels the renovating force
568 Of Winter only to the thoughtless eye
569 In desolation seen. The vacant glebe
570 Draws in, abundant vegetable soul,
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571 And gathers vigour for the coming year.
572 A strong glow sits on the lively cheek
573 Of ruddy fire: and luculent along
574 The purer rivers flow; their sullen deeps,
575 Amazing, open to the shepherd's gaze,
576 And murmur hoarser at the fixing frost.
577 What art thou, Frost? and whence are thy keen stores
578 Deriv'd, thou secret all-invading Power,
579 Whom even th' illusive fluid cannot fly?
580 Is not thy potent energy, unseen,
581 Myriads of little salts, or hook'd, or shap'd
582 Like double wedges, and diffus'd immense
583 Thro' water, earth and ether? Hence at eve,
584 Steam'd eager from the red horizon round,
585 With the still rage of Winter deep suffus'd,
586 An icy gale, oft shifting, o'er the pool
587 Breathes a blue film, and in its mid career
588 Arrests the bickering stream. The loosen'd ice,
589 Let down the flood, and half-dissolv'd by day,
590 Rustles no more; but to the sedgy bank
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591 Fast grows, or gathers round the pointed stone,
592 A crystal pavement, by the breath of heaven
593 Cemented firm; till seiz'd from shore to shore,
594 The whole detruded river growls below.
595 Loud rings the frozen earth, and hard reflects
596 A double noise; while, at his evening watch,
597 The village-dog deters the nightly thief;
598 The heifer lows; the distant water-fall
599 Swells in the breeze, and, with the hasty tread
600 Of traveller, the many sounding plain
601 Shakes from afar. The full ethereal round,
602 Infinite worlds disclosing to the view,
603 Shines out intensely keen; and, all one cope
604 Of starry glitter, glows from pole to pole.
605 From pole to pole the rigid influence falls,
606 Thro' the still night, incessant, heavy, strong,
607 And seizes nature fast. It freezes on;
608 Till morn, late rising o'er the drooping world,
609 Lifts her pale eye unjoyous. Then appears
610 The various labour of the silent night:
611 Prone from the dripping eave, and dumb cascade,
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612 Whose idle torrents only seem to roar,
613 The pendant isicle; the frost-work fair,
614 Where transient hues, and fancy'd figures rise;
615 The liquid kingdom all to solid turn'd;
616 Wide-spouted o'er the brow, the frozen brook,
617 A livid tract, cold gleaming on the morn;
618 The forest bent beneath the plumy wave;
619 And by the frost refin'd the whiter snow,
620 Incrusted hard, and sounding to the tread
621 Of early shepherd, as he pensive seeks
622 His pining flock, or from the mountain-top,
623 Pleas'd with the slippery surface, swift descends.
624 On blithesome frolicks bent, the youthful swains,
625 While every work of man is laid at rest,
626 Fond o'er the river rush, and shuddering view
627 The doubtful deeps below. Or where the lake
628 And long canal the cerule plain extend,
629 The city pours her thousands, swarming all,
630 From every quarter; and, with him who slides;
631 Or skating sweeps, swift as the winds, along,
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632 In circling poise; or else disorder'd falls,
633 His feet, illuded, sprawling to the sky,
634 While the laugh rages round; from end to end,
635 Encreasing still, resounds the crowded scene.
636 Pure, quick, and sportful, is the wholesome day;
637 But soon elaps'd. The horizontal sun,
638 Broad o'er the south, hangs at his utmost noon;
639 And, ineffectual, strikes the gelid cliff.
640 The mountain still his azure gloss maintains,
641 Nor feels the feeble touch. Perhaps the vale
642 Relents a while to the reflected ray;
643 Or from the forest falls the cluster'd snow,
644 Myriads of gem, that, by the breeze diffus'd,
645 Gay-twinkle thro' the gleam. Heard thick around,
646 Thunders the sport of those, who, with the gun,
647 And dog impatient bounding at the shot,
648 Worse than the season, desolate the fields;
649 And, adding to the ruins of the year,
650 Distress the footed, or the feather'd game.
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651 But what is this? these infant tempests what?
652 The mockery of Winter: should our eye
653 Astonish'd shoot into the frozen zone;
654 Where more than half the joyless year is night;
655 And, failing gradual, life at last goes out.
656 There undissolving, from the first of time,
657 Snows swell on snows amazing to the sky;
658 And icy mountains there, on mountains pil'd,
659 Seem to the shivering sailor from afar,
660 Shapeless, and white, an atmosphere of clouds.
661 Projected huge, and horrid, o'er the main,
662 Alps frown on Alps; or rushing hideous down,
663 As if old Chaos was again return'd,
664 Shake the firm pole, and make an ocean boil.
665 Whence heap'd abrupt along the howling shore,
666 And into various shapes (as fancy leans)
667 Work'd by the wave, the crystal pillars heave,
668 Swells the blue portico, the gothic dome
669 Shoots fretted up; and birds, and beasts, and men,
670 Rise into mimic life, and sink by turns.
[Page 37]
671 The restless deep itself cannot resist
672 The binding fury; but in all its rage
673 Of tempest taken by the boundless frost,
674 Is many a fathom to the bottom chain'd,
675 And bid to roar no more: a bleak expanse,
676 Shagg'd o'er with wavy rocks, chearless, and void
677 Of every life, that from the dreary months
678 Flies conscious southward. Miserable they!
679 Who, here entangled in the gathering ice,
680 Take their last look of the descending sun;
681 While, full of death, and fierce with tenfold frost,
682 The long long night, incumbent o'er their head,
683 Falls horrible. Such was the
* Sir Hugh Willoughby, sent by Queen Elizabeth to discover the north-east passage.
Briton's fate,
684 As with first prow, (What have not Britons dar'd!)
685 He for the passage sought, attempted since
686 So much in vain, and seeming to be shut
687 By jealous nature with eternal bars.
688 In these fell regions, in Arzina caught,
689 And to the stony deep his idle ship
[Page 38]
690 Immediate seal'd, he with his hapless crew,
691 Each full exerted at his several task,
692 Froze into statues; to the cordage glued
693 The sailor, and the pilot to the helm.
694 Hard by these shores, the last of mankind live;
695 And, scarce enliven'd by the distant sun,
696 (That rears and ripens man, as well as plants)
697 Here Human Nature just begins to dawn.
698 Deep from the piercing season sunk in caves,
699 Here by dull fires, and with unjoyous chear,
700 They wear the tedious gloom. Immers'd in furs,
701 Lie the gross race. Nor sprightly jest, nor song,
702 Nor tenderness they know; nor ought of life,
703 Beyond the kindred bears that stalk without.
704 Till long-expected morning looks at length
705 Faint on their fields (where Winter reigns alone)
706 And calls the quiver'd savage to the chase.
707 Muttering, the winds at eve, with hoarser voice
708 Blow blustering from the south. The frost subdu'd,
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709 Gradual, resolves into a trickling thaw.
710 Spotted the mountains shine; loose sleet descends,
711 And floods the country round. The rivers swell,
712 Impatient for the day. Broke from the hills,
713 O'er rocks and woods, in broad brown cataracts,
714 A thousand snow-fed torrents shoot at once;
715 And, where they rush, the wide-resounding plain
716 Is left one slimy waste. Those sullen seas,
717 That wash th' ungenial pole, will rest no more
718 Beneath the shackles of the mighty north;
719 But, rousing all their waves, resistless heave
720 And hark! the lengthening roar continuous runs
721 Athwart the rifted main: at once it bursts,
722 And piles a thousand mountains to the clouds.
723 Ill fares the bark, the wretch's last resort,
724 That, lost amid the floating fragments, moors
725 Beneath the shelter of an icy isle,
726 While night o'erwhelms the sea, and horror looks
727 More horrible. Can human force endure
728 Th' assembled mischiefs that besiege them round:
729 Heart-gnawing hunger, fainting weariness,
[Page 40]
730 The roar of winds and waves, the crush of ice,
731 Now ceasing, now renew'd with louder rage,
732 And in dire echoes bellowing round the main.
733 More to embroil the deep, Leviathan,
734 And his unwieldy train, in horrid sport,
735 Tempest the loosen'd brine; while thro' the gloom;
736 Far, from the bleak inhospitable shore,
737 Loading the winds, is heard the hungry howl
738 Of famish'd monsters, there awaiting wrecks.
739 Yet Providence, that ever-waking eye,
740 Looks down with pity on the fruitless toil
741 Of mortals lost to hope, and lights them safe,
742 Thro' all this dreary labyrinth of fate.
743 'Tis done! dread Winter has subdu'd the year,
744 And reigns tremendous o'er the desart plains.
745 How dead the vegetable kingdom lies!
746 How dumb the tuneful! Horror wide extends
747 His solitary empire. Here, fond man!
748 Behold thy pictur'd life; pass some few years,
749 Thy flowering Spring, thy Summer's ardent strength,
[Page 41]
750 Thy sober Antumn fading into age,
751 And pale concluding Winter comes at last,
752 And shuts the scene. Ah! whither now are fled,
753 Those dreams of greatness? those unsolid hopes
754 Of happiness? those longings after fame?
755 Those restless cares? those busy bustling days?
756 Those gay-spent, festive nights? those veering thoughts,
757 Lost between good and ill, that shar'd thy life?
758 All now are vanish'd! Virtue sole survives,
759 Immortal, mankind's never-failing friend,
760 His guide to happiness on high. And fee!
761 'Tis come, the glorious morn! the second birth
762 Of heaven, and earth! Awakening nature hears
763 The new-creating word, and starts to life,
764 In every heighten'd form, from pain and death
765 For ever free. The great eternal scheme,
766 Involving all, and in a perfect whole
767 Uniting, as the prospect wider spreads,
768 To reason's eye refin'd clears up apace.
769 Ye vainly wise! ye blind presuming! now,
770 Confounded in the dust, adore that Power,
[Page 42]
771 And Wisdom oft arraign'd: see now the cause,
772 Why unassuming Worth in secret liv'd,
773 And dy'd, neglected: why the good man's share
774 In life was gall, and bitterness of soul:
775 Why the lone widow, and her orphans pin'd,
776 In starving solitude; while Luxury,
777 In palaces, lay prompting his low thought,
778 To form unreal wants: why heaven-born Truth,
779 And Moderation fair, wore the red marks
780 Of Superstition's scourge: why licens'd Pain,
781 That cruel spoiler, that embosom'd foe,
782 Imbitter'd all our bliss. Ye good distrest!
783 Ye noble few! who here unbending stand
784 Beneath life's pressure, yet a little while,
785 And what you reckon evil is no more;
786 The storms of Wintry time will quickly pass,
787 And one unbounded SPRING encircle all.


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Title (in Source Edition): [The Seasons:] WINTER.
Author: James Thomson
Themes: rural life; weather; nature; landscapes
Genres: blank verse

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Source edition

Thomson, James, 1700-1748. The four seasons, and other poems. By James Thomson. London: printed for J. Millan, near Scotland-Yard, White-Hall; and A. Millar, in the Strand, M.DCC.XXXV., 1735, pp. 3-42. [2];77,[3];64;72;79,[1]p.,plates; 8⁰. (ESTC T83; Foxon T242; OTA K019862.000) (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library, Vet. A4 e.2675.)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Secondary literature

  • Anderson, David R. Emotive Theodicy in The Seasons. Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 12 (1983): 59-76. Print.
  • Cohen, Ralph. The Art of Discrimination: Thomson's The Seasons and the Language of Criticism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964. Print.
  • Inglesfield, Robert. Shaftesbury's Influence on Thomson's Seasons. British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 9 (1986): 141-56. Print.
  • McKillop, A. D. The Background of Thomson's Seasons. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1942. Print.
  • Terry, Richard. 'Through Nature shedding influence malign': Thomson's The Seasons as a Theodicy. Durham University Journal87 (1995): 257-68. Print.