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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.
191 Where 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, Unstretch'd, and bleaching in the northern blast.
301 Ah little think the gay licentious proud,
302 Whom pleasure, power, and affluence surround;
303 They, who their thoughtless hours in giddy mirth,
304 And wanton, often cruel, riot waste;
305 Ah little think they, while they dance along,
306 How many feel this very moment, death
307 And all the sad variety of pain.
308 How many sink in the devouring flood,
309 Or more devouring flame. How many bleed,
310 By shameful variance betwixt man and man.
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311 How many pine in want, and dungeon glooms;
312 Shut from the common air, and common use
313 Of their own limbs. How many drink the cup
314 Of baleful grief, or eat the bitter bread
315 Of misery. Sore pierc'd by wintry winds,
316 How many shrink into the fordid hut
317 Of chearless poverty. How many shake
318 With all the fiercer tortures of the mind,
319 Unbounded passion, madness, guilt, remorse;
320 Whence tumbled headlong from the height of life,
321 They furnish matter for the tragic muse.
322 Even in the vale, where Wisdom loves to dwell,
323 With Friendship, Peace, and Contemplation join'd,
324 How many, rackt with honest passions, droop
325 In deep retir'd distress. How many stand
326 Around the death-bed of their dearest friends,
327 Like wailing pensive ghosts awaiting theirs,
328 And point the parting pang. Thought but fond man
329 Of these, and all the thousand nameless ills,
330 That one incessant struggle render life,
331 One scene of toil, of anguish, and of fate,
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332 Vice in his high career would stand appall'd,
333 And heedless rambling impulse learn to think;
334 The conscious heart of Charity would warm,
335 And his wide wish Benevolence dilate;
336 The social tear would rise, the social sigh;
337 And into clear perfection, gradual bliss,
338 Refining still, the social passions work.
339 And here can I forget the generous few,
340 Who, touch'd with human woe, redressive sought
341 Into the horrors of the gloomy jail?
342 Unpitied, and unheard, where Misery moans;
343 Where Sickness pines; where Thirst and Hunger burn,
344 And poor Misfortune feels the lash of Vice.
345 While in the land of liberty, the land
346 Whose every street, and public meeting glows
347 With open freedom, little tyrants rag'd:
348 Snatch'd the lean morsel from the starving mouth;
349 Tore from cold, wintry limbs the tatter'd robe;
350 Even robb'd them of the last of comforts, sleep;
351 The free-born Briton to the dungeon chain'd,
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352 Or, as the lust of cruelty prevail'd,
353 At pleasure mark'd him with inglorious stripes;
354 And crush'd out lives, by various nameless ways,
355 That for their country would have toil'd, or bled.
356 Hail patriot-band! who, scorning secret scorn,
357 When Justice, and when Mercy led the way,
358 Dragg'd the detected monsters into light,
359 Wrench'd from their hand Oppression's iron rod,
360 And bade the cruel feel the pains they gave.
361 Yet stop not here, let all the land rejoice,
362 And make the blessing unconfin'd, as great.
363 Much still untouch'd remains; in this rank age,
364 Much is the patriot's weeding hand requir'd.
365 The toils of law, (what dark insidious men
366 Have cumbrous added to perplex the truth,
367 And lengthen simple justice into trade)
368 Oh glorious were the day! that saw these broke,
369 And every man within the reach of right.
370 Yet more outragious is the season still,
371 A deeper horror, in Siberian wilds;
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372 Where Winter keeps his unrejoicing court,
373 And in his airy hall the loud misrule
374 Of driving tempest is for ever heard.
375 There thro' the ragged woods absorpt in snow,
376 Sole tenant of these shades, the shaggy bear,
377 With dangling ice all horrid, stalks forlorn;
378 Slow-pac'd and sourer as the storms increase,
379 He makes his bed beneath the drifted snow;
380 And, scorning the complainings of distress.
381 Hardens his heart against assailing want.
382 While tempted vigorous o'er the marble waste.
383 On sleds reclin'd, the furry Russian sits;
384 And, by his rain-deer drawn, behind him throws
385 A shining kingdom in a winter's day.
386 Or from the cloudy Alps, and Appenine,
387 Capt with grey mists, and everlasting snows;
388 Where nature in stupendous rain lies,
389 And from the leaning rock, on either side,
390 Gush out those streams that classic song renowns:
391 Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave!
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392 Burning for blood! bony, and ghaunt, and grim!
393 Assembling wolves in torrent troops descend;
394 And, pouring o'er the country, bear along,
395 Keen as the north-wind sweeps the glossy snow.
396 All is their prize. They fasten on the steed,
397 Press him to earth, and pierce his mighty heart.
398 Nor can the bull his awful front defend.
399 Or shake the murdering savages away.
400 Rapacious, at the mother's throat they fly
401 And tear the screaming infant from her breast.
402 The godlike face of man avails him nought.
403 Even beauty, force divine! at whose bright glance
404 The generous lyon stands in soften'd gaze,
405 Here bleeds, a hapless, undistinguish'd prey.
406 But if, appriz'd of the severe attack,
407 The country be shut up, lur'd by the scent,
408 On church-yards drear (inhuman to relate!)
409 The disappointed prowlers fall, and dig
410 The shrowded body from the tomb; o'er which,
411 Mix'd with foul shades, and frighted ghosts, they howl.
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412 Now, all amid the rigours of the year,
413 In the wild depth of Winter, while without
414 The ceaseless winds blow ice, be my retreat,
415 Between the groaning forest and the shore,
416 Beat by a boundless multitude of waves,
417 A rural, shelter'd, solitary, scene;
418 Where ruddy fire and beaming tapers join,
419 To chase the cheerless gloom. There let me sit,
420 And hold high converse with the mighty dead;
421 Sages of antient time, as gods rever'd,
422 As gods beneficent, who blest mankind
423 With arts, and arms, and humaniz'd a world.
424 Rous'd at th' inspiring thought, I throw aside
425 The long-liv'd volume; and, deep-musing, hail
426 The sacred shades, that slowly-rising pass
427 Before my wondering eyes. First Socrates,
428 Whose simple question to the folded heart
429 Stole unperceiv'd, and from the maze of thought
430 Evolv'd the secret truth a god-like man!
431 Solon the next, who built his common-weal
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432 On equity's wide base. Lycurgus then,
433 Severely good; and him of rugged Rome,
434 Numa, who soften'd her rapacious sons.
435 Cimon sweet-soul'd, and Aristides just;
436 With that attemper'd
* Timoleon.
Hero, mild, and firm,
437 Who wept the brother while the tyrant bled.
438 Unconquer'd Cato, virtuous in extreme.
439 Scipio, the human warrior, gently brave;
440 Who soon the race of spotless glory ran,
441 And, warm in youth, to the poetic shade,
442 With friendship, and philosophy, retir'd.
443 And, equal to the best, the
Pelopidas and Epaminondas.
Theban twain,
444 Who, single rais'd their country into fame.
445 Thousands behind, the boast of Greece and Rome,
446 Whom Virtue owns, the tribute of a verse
447 Demand; but who can count the stars of heaven?
448 Who sing their influence on this lower world?
449 But see who yonder comes! in sober state,
450 Fair, mild, and strong, as is a vernal sun:
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451 'Tis Phoebus self, or else the Mantuan swain!
452 Great Homer too appears, of daring wing,
453 Parent of song! and equal by his side,
454 The British muse; join'd hand in hand they walk,
455 Darkling, full up the middle steep to fame.
456 Nor absent are those tuneful Shades, I ween,
457 Taught by the Graces, whose inchanting touch
458 Shakes every passion from the various string;
459 Nor those, who solemnize the moral scene.
460 First of your kind! society divine!
461 Still visit thus my nights, for you reserv'd,
462 And mount my soaring soul to deeds like yours.
463 Silence, thou lonely power! the door be thine;
464 See on the hallow'd hour that none intrude,
465 Save Lycidas the friend, with sense refin'd,
466 Learning digested well, exalted faith,
467 Unstudy'd wit, and humour ever gay.
468 Or from the muses hill will Pope descend,
469 To raise the sacred hour, to make it smile,
470 And with the social spirit warm the heart:
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471 For tho' not sweeter his own Homer sings,
472 Yet is his life the more endearing song.
473 Thus in some deep retirement would I pass
474 The winter-glooms, with friends of various turn,
475 Or blithe, or solemn, as the theme inspir'd:
476 With them would search, if this unbounded frame
477 Of nature rose from unproductive night,
478 Or sprung eternal from th' eternal Cause,
479 Its springs, its laws, its progress and its end.
480 Hence larger prospects of the beauteous whole
481 Would gradual open on our opening minds;
482 And each diffufive harmony unite,
483 In full perfection, to th' astonish'd eye.
484 Thence would we plunge into the moral world;
485 Which, tho' more seemingly perplex'd, moves on
486 In higher order; fitted, and impell'd,
487 By Wisdom's finest hand, and issuing all
488 In universal good. Historic truth
489 Should next conduct thro' the deeps of time:
490 Point us how empire grew, revolv'd, and fell,
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491 In scatter'd states; what makes the nations smile,
492 Improves their soil, and gives them double suns;
493 And why they pine beneath the brightest skies,
494 In nature's richest lap. As thus we talk'd,
495 Our hearts would burn within us, would inhale
496 That portion of divinity, that ray
497 Of purest heaven, which lights the glorious flame
498 Of patriots, and of heroes. But if doom'd,
499 In powerless humble fortune, to repress
500 These ardent risings of the kindling soul;
501 Then, even superior to ambition, we
502 Would learn the private virtues; how to glide
503 Thro' shades and plains, along the smoothest stream
504 Of rural life: or snatch'd away by hope,
505 Thro' the dim spaces of futurity,
506 With earnest eye anticipate those scenes
507 Of happiness, and wonder; where the mind,
508 In endless growth and infinite ascent,
509 Rises from state to state, and world to world.
510 And when with these the serious soul is foil'd,
511 We, shifting for relief, would play the shapes
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512 Of frolic fancy; and incessant form
513 Unnumber'd pictures, fleeting o'er the brain.
514 Yet rapid still renew'd, and pour'd immense
515 Into the mind, unbounded without space:
516 The great, the new, the beautiful; or mix'd,
517 Burlesque, and odd, the risible and gay;
518 Whence vivid Wit, and Humour, droll of face,
519 Call laughter forth, deep-shaking every nerve.
520 Mean-time the village rouzes up the sire;
521 While well attested, and as well believ'd,
522 Heard solemn, goes the goblin-story round;
523 Till superstitious horror creeps o'er all.
524 Or, frequent in the sounding hall, they wake
525 The rural gambol. Rustic mirth goes round:
526 The simple joke that takes the shepherd's heart,
527 Easily pleas'd; the long loud laugh, sincere;
528 The kiss, snatch'd hasty from the sidelong maid,
529 On purpose guardless, or pretending sleep;
530 The leap, the slap, the haul; and, shook to notes
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531 Of native music, the respondent dance.
532 Thus jocund fleets with them the winter-night.
533 The city swarms intense. The public haunt,
534 Full of each theme, and warm with mixt discourse,
535 Hums indistinct. The sons of riot flow
536 Down the loose stream of false inchanted joy,
537 To swift destruction. On the rankled soul
538 The gaming fury falls; and in one gulph
539 Of total ruin, honour, virtue, peace,
540 Friends, families, and fortune headlong sink.
541 Rises the dance along the lighted dome,
542 Mix'd, and evolv'd, a thousand sprightly ways.
543 The glittering court effuses every pomp;
544 The circle deepens; rain'd from radiant eyes,
545 A soft effulgence o'er the palace waves:
546 While, thick as insects in the summer-shine,
547 The fop, light-fluttering, spreads his mealy wings.
548 Dread o'er the scene the ghost of Hamlet stalks;
549 Othello rages; poor Monimia mourns;
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550 And Belvidera pours her soul in love.
551 Assenting terror shakes; the silent tear
552 Steals o'er the cheek: or else the comic Muse
553 Holds to the world the picture of itself,
554 And raises sly the fair impartial laugh.
555 Clear frost succeeds; and thro' the blue serene,
556 For sight too fine, th' ethereal nitre flies:
557 Killing infectious damps, and the spent air
558 Storing afresh with elemental life.
559 Close crowds the shining atmosphere; and binds
560 Our strengthen'd bodies in its cold embrace,
561 Constringent; feeds, and animates our blood;
562 Refines our spirits, thro' the new-strung nerves,
563 In swifter fallies darting to the brain;
564 Where sits the soul, intense, collected cool,
565 Bright as the skies, and as the season keen.
566 All nature feels the renovating force
567 Of Winter only to the thoughtless eye
568 In desolation seen. The vacant glebe
569 Draws in, abundant vegetable soul,
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570 And gathers vigour for the coming year.
571 A strong glow sits on the lively cheek
572 Of ruddy fire: and luculent along
573 The purer rivers flow; their sullen deeps,
574 Amazing, open to the shepherd's gaze,
575 And murmur hoarser at the fixing frost.
576 What art thou, Frost? and whence are thy keen stores
577 Deriv'd, thou secret all-invading Power,
578 Whom even th' illusive fluid cannot fly?
579 Is not thy potent energy, unseen,
580 Myriads of little salts, or hook'd, or shap'd
581 Like double wedges, and diffus'd immense
582 Thro' water, earth and ether? Hence at eve,
583 Steam'd eager from the red horizon round,
584 With the still rage of Winter deep suffus'd,
585 An icy gale, oft shifting, o'er the pool
586 Breathes a blue film, and in its mid career
587 Arrests the bickering stream. The loosen'd ice,
588 Let down the flood, and half-dissolv'd by day,
589 Rustles no more; but to the sedgy bank
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590 Fast grows, or gathers round the pointed stone,
591 A crystal pavement, by the breath of heaven
592 Cemented firm; till seiz'd from shore to shore,
593 The whole detruded river growls below.
594 Loud rings the frozen earth, and hard reflects
595 A double noise; while, at his evening watch,
596 The village-dog deters the nightly thief;
597 The heifer lows; the distant water-fall
598 Swells in the breeze, and, with the hasty tread
599 Of traveller, the many sounding plain
600 Shakes from afar. The full ethereal round,
601 Infinite worlds disclosing to the view,
602 Shines out intensely keen; and, all one cope
603 Of starry glitter, glows from pole to pole.
604 From pole to pole the rigid influence falls,
605 Thro' the still night, incessant, heavy, strong,
606 And seizes nature fast. It freezes on;
607 Till morn, late rising o'er the drooping world,
608 Lifts her pale eye unjoyous. Then appears
609 The various labour of the silent night:
610 Prone from the dripping eave, and dumb cascade,
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611 Whose idle torrents only seem to roar,
612 The pendant isicle; the frost-work fair,
613 Where transient hues, and fancy'd figures rise;
614 The liquid kingdom all to solid turn'd;
615 Wide-spouted o'er the brow, the frozen brook,
616 A livid tract, cold gleaming on the morn;
617 The forest bent beneath the plumy wave;
618 And by the frost refin'd the whiter snow,
619 Incrusted hard, and sounding to the tread
620 Of early shepherd, as he pensive seeks
621 His pining flock, or from the mountain-top,
622 Pleas'd with the slippery surface, swist descends.
623 On blithesome frolicks bent, the youthful swains,
624 While every work of man is laid at rest,
625 Fond o'er the river rush, and shuddering view
626 The doubtful deeps below. Or where the lake
627 And long canal the cerule plain extend,
628 The city pours her thousands, swarming all,
629 From every quarter; and, with him who slides;
630 Or skating sweeps, swift as the winds, along,
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631 In circling poise; or else disorder'd falls,
632 His feet, illuded, sprawling to the sky,
633 While the laugh rages round; from end to end,
634 Encreasing still, resounds the crowded scene.
635 Pure, quick, and sportful, is the wholesome day;
636 But soon elaps'd. The horizontal sun,
637 Broad o'er the south, hangs at his utmost noon;
638 And, ineffectual, strikes the gelid cliff.
639 The mountain still his azure gloss maintains,
640 Nor feels the feeble touch. Perhaps the vale
641 Relents a while to the reflected ray;
642 Or from the forest falls the cluster'd snow,
643 Myriads of gem, that, by the breeze diffus'd,
644 Gay-twinkle thro' the gleam. Heard thick around,
645 Thunders the sport of those, who, with the gun,
646 And dog impatient bounding at the shot,
647 Worse than the season, desolate the fields;
648 And, adding to the ruins of the year,
649 Distress the footed, or the feather'd game.
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650 But what is this? these infant tempests what?
651 The mockery of Winter: should our eye
652 Astonish'd shoot into the frozen zone;
653 Where more than half the joyless year is night;
654 And, failing gradual, life at last goes out.
655 There undissolving, from the first of time,
656 Snows swell on snows amazing to the sky;
657 And icy mountains there, on mountains pil'd,
658 Seem to the shivering sailor from afar,
659 Shapeless, and white, an atmosphere of clouds.
660 Projected huge, and horrid, o'er the main,
661 Alps frown on Alps; or rushing hideous down,
662 As if old Chaos was again return'd,
663 Shake the firm pole, and make an ocean boil.
664 Whence heap'd abrupt along the howling shore,
665 And into various shapes (as fancy leans)
666 Work'd by the wave, the crystal pillars heave,
667 Swells the blue portico, the gothic dome
668 Shoots fretted up; and birds, and beasts, and men,
669 Rise into mimic life, and sink by turns.
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670 The restless deep itself cannot resist
671 The binding fury; but in all its rage
672 Of tempest taken by the boundless frost,
673 Is many a fathom to the bottom chain'd,
674 And bid to roar no more: a bleak expanse,
675 Shagg'd o'er with wavy rocks, chearless, and void
676 Of every life, that from the dreary months
677 Flies conscious southward. Miserable they!
678 Who, here entangled in the gathering ice,
679 Take their last look of the descending sun;
680 While, full of death, and fierce with tenfold frost,
681 The long long night, incumbent o'er their head,
682 Falls horrible. Such was the
* Sir Hugh Willoughby, sent by Queen Elizabeth to discover the north-east passage.
Briton's fate,
683 As with first prow, (What have not Britons dar'd!)
684 He for the passage sought, attempted since
685 So much in vain, and seeming to be shut
686 By jealous nature with eternal bars.
687 In these fell regions, in Arzina caught,
688 And to the stony deep his idle ship
[Page 38]
689 Immediate seal'd, he with his hapless crew,
690 Each full exerted at his several task,
691 Froze into statues; to the cordage glued
692 The sailor, and the pilot to the helm.
693 Hard by these shores, the last of mankind live;
694 And, scarce enliven'd by the distant sun,
695 (That rears and ripens man, as well as plants)
696 Here Human Nature just begins to dawn.
697 Deep from the piercing season sunk in caves,
698 Here by dull fires, and with unjoyous chear,
699 They wear the tedious gloom. Immers'd in furs,
700 Lie the gross race. Nor sprightly jest, nor song,
701 Nor tenderness they know; nor ought of life,
702 Beyond the kindred bears that stalk without.
703 Till long-expected morning looks at length
704 Faint on their fields (where Winter reigns alone)
705 And calls the quiver'd savage to the chase.
706 Muttering, the winds at eve, with hoarser voice
707 Blow blustering from the south. The frost subdu'd,
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708 Gradual, resolves into a trickling thaw.
709 Spotted the mountains shine; loose sleet descends,
710 And floods the country round. The rivers swell,
711 Impatient for the day. Broke from the hills,
712 O'er rocks and woods, in broad brown cataracts,
713 A thousand snow-fed torrents shoot at once;
714 And, where they rush, the wide-resounding plain
715 Is left one slimy waste. Those sullen seas,
716 That wash th' ungenial pole, will rest no more
717 Beneath the shackles of the mighty north;
718 But, rousing all their waves, resistless heave
719 And hark! the lengthening roar continuous runs
720 Athwart the rifted main: at once it bursts,
721 And piles a thousand mountains to the clouds.
722 Ill fares the bark, the wretch's last resort,
723 That, lost amid the floating fragments, moors
724 Beneath the shelter of an icy isle,
725 While night o'erwhelms the sea, and horror looks
726 More horrible. Can human force endure
727 Th' assembled mischiefs that besiege them round:
728 Heart-gnawing hunger, fainting weariness,
[Page 40]
729 The roar of winds and waves, the crush of ice,
730 Now ceasing, now renew'd with louder rage,
731 And in dire echoes bellowing round the main.
732 More to embroil the deep, Leviathan,
733 And his unwieldy train, in horrid sport,
734 Tempest the loosen'd brine; while thro' the gloom;
735 Far, from the bleak inhospitable shore,
736 Loading the winds, is heard the hungry howl
737 Of famish'd monsters, there awaiting wrecks.
738 Yet Providence, that ever-waking eye,
739 Looks down with pity on the fruitless toil
740 Of mortals lost to hope, and lights them safe,
741 Thro' all this dreary labyrinth of fate.
742 'Tis done! dread Winter has subdu'd the year,
743 And reigns tremendous o'er the desart plains.
744 How dead the vegetable kingdom lies!
745 How dumb the tuneful! Horror wide extends
746 His solitary empire. Here, fond man!
747 Behold thy pictur'd life; pass some few years,
748 Thy flowering Spring, thy Summer's ardent strength,
[Page 41]
749 Thy sober Antumn fading into age,
750 And pale concluding Winter comes at last,
751 And shuts the scene. Ah! whither now are fled,
752 Those dreams of greatness? those unsolid hopes
753 Of happiness? those longings after fame?
754 Those restless cares? those busy bustling days?
755 Those gay-spent, festive nights? those veering thoughts,
756 Lost between good and ill, that shar'd thy life?
757 All now are vanish'd! Virtue sole survives,
758 Immortal, mankind's never-failing friend,
759 His guide to happiness on high. And fee!
760 'Tis come, the glorious morn! the second birth
761 Of heaven, and earth! Awakening nature hears
762 The new-creating word, and starts to life,
763 In every heighten'd form, from pain and death
764 For ever free. The great eternal scheme,
765 Involving all, and in a perfect whole
766 Uniting, as the prospect wider spreads,
767 To reason's eye refin'd clears up apace.
768 Ye vainly wise! ye blind presuming! now,
769 Confounded in the dust, adore that Power,
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770 And Wisdom oft arraign'd: see now the cause,
771 Why unassuming Worth in secret liv'd,
772 And dy'd, neglected: why the good man's share
773 In life was gall, and bitterness of soul:
774 Why the lone widow, and her orphans pin'd,
775 In starving solitude; while Luxury,
776 In palaces, lay prompting his low thought,
777 To form unreal wants: why heaven-born Truth,
778 And Moderation fair, wore the red marks
779 Of Superstition's scourge: why licens'd Pain,
780 That cruel spoiler, that embosom'd foe,
781 Imbitter'd all our bliss. Ye good distrest!
782 Ye noble few! who here unbending stand
783 Beneath life's pressure, yet a little while,
784 And what you reckon evil is no more;
785 The storms of Wintry time will quickly pass,
786 And one unbounded SPRING encircle all.


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About this text

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

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)

Editorial principles

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 ECCO-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 3.0.

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.