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Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
DEATH, THE GOOD MAN'S PATH TO ETERNAL JOY.
Thrice welcome Death!
High in his faith and hopes, look how he reaches
and faithfully shall these
'Tis but a night, a long and moonless night; We make the grave our bed, and then are gone!
Thus, at the shut of even, the weary bird Leaves the wide air, and in some lonely brake Cowers down, and dozes till the dawn of day, Then claps his well-fledged wings, and bears away.. JAMES THOMSON. 1700-1748.
JAMES THOMSON, the author of “The Seasons," was the son of a Scotch clergyman, and was born in the year 1700. After completing his academic education at the University of Edinburgh, he entered upon the study of divinity; but a paraphrase of one of the Psalms having been given, by the professor of divinity, to the class, Thomson's exercise was in so poetical and figurative a style as to astonish all who heard it. This incident made him resolve to quit divinity for poetry, and, after some time, he went to London, poor and friendless, to try his fortune, with the manuscript of « Winter" in his pocket. It was with difficulty he found a purchaser for it, and the price given was trifling. It was published in 1726, and after a period of neglect, was admired and applauded, and a number of editions speedily followed. His « Summer" appeared in 1727, “Spring" in 1728, and « Autumn” in 1730.
After the publication of the Seasons, he travelled on the continent with the son of the Lord Chancellor Talbot, and on his return employed himself in the composition of his various tragedies, and his poem on “ Liberty." These are by no means equal to his other performances, and are now but little read. In May, 1748, he finished his “ Castle of Indolence," upon which he had been laboring for years. This is the noblest effort of his genius. “To it,” says Campbell, “ he brought not only the full nature, but the perfect art of a poet. The materials of that exquisite poem are derived originally from Tasso; but he was more immediately indebted for them to the Faerie Queene.”' Indeed, of all the imitations of Spenser, it is the most spirited and beautiful, both for its moral, poetical, and descriptive power. He did not long survive its publication. A violent cold, through inattention, terminated in a fever, and carried him off on the 27th of August, 1748.
In nature and originality, Thomson is superior to all the descriptive poets except Cowper, and few poems in the English language have been more popular than the “ Seasons.” “ It is almost stale to remark," observes Campbell, “ the beauties of a poem so universally felt; the truth and genial interest with which he carries us through the life of the year; the harmony of succes. sion which he gives to the casual phenomena of nature; his pleasing transition from native to foreign scenery; and the soul of exalted and unfeigned benevolence which accompanies his prospects of the creation. It is but equal justice to say that, amidst the feeling and fancy of the Seasons,' we meet with interruptions of declamation, heavy narrative, and unhappy digression."g
But though Thomson's merits as a descriptive poet are of the first order; though “he looks with the eye which nature bestows only on a poet, and with a mind that at once comprehends the vast, and attends to the minute," yet his greatest charm, and that which makes him so popular with all classes, is, that he looks also with a heart that feels for all mankind. As has been well said, “his sympathies are universal.” His touching allusions to the con
1 “When Thomson published his “Winter," it lay a long time neglected, til Mr. Spense made honorable mention of it in his “ Odyssey," which, becoming a popular book, made the poem universally known." - Warton.
3 "Thomson was blessed with a strong and copious fancy: he hath enriched poetry with a variety of new and original images, which he painted from nature itsell, and from his own actual observations: his descriptions have therefore a distinctness and truth which are utterly wanting to those of poets who have only copied from each other, and have never looked abroad on the objects them selves."- Warton's Pope, 1. 42.
ditions of the poor and suffering; to the hapless state of bird and beast in winter; the description of the peasant perishing in the snow; the Siberian exile, or the Arab pilgrims, all are marked with that humanity and true feel. ing which show that the poet's virtues “ formed the magic of his song." The genuine impulses under which he wrote, he has expressed in one noble stanza in the “ Castle of Indolence:"
I care not, Fortune, what you me deny ;
And I their toys to the great children leave;
THE LOVES OF THE BIRDS.
When first the soul of love is sent abroad,
'Tis love creates their melody, and all
Try every winning way inventive love
A SUMMER SCENE.
Around th' adjoining brook, that purls along The vocal grove, now fretting o'er a rock, Now scarcely moving through a reedy pool, Now starting to a sudden stream, and now Gently diffused into a limpid plain; A various group the herds and flocks compose; Rural confusion! on the grassy bank Some ruminating lie; while others stand Half in the flood, and, often bending, sip The circling surface. In the middle droops The strong laborious ox, of honest front, Which incomposed he shakes; and from his sides The troublous insects lashes with his tail, Returning still. Amid his subjects safe, Slumbers the monarch-swain; his careless arm Thrown round his head, on downy moss sustain'd; Here laid his scrip, with wholesome viands fillid; There, listening every noise, his watchful dog.
'Tis listening fear and dumb amazement all;
Confess'd from yonder slow-extinguish'd clouds,