Spring (from The Seasons) – James Thomson (1700-1748)

The Argument

The subject proposed. Inscribed to Lady Hartford. This 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 purer and more reasonable kind.

Come, gentle Spring, æthereal 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,
That thy own season paints; when Nature all
Is blooming, and benevolent like thee.

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,
Chills the pale morn, and bids his driving sleets
Deform the day delightless; so that scarce
The Bittern knows his time, with bill engulft
To shake the sounding marsh; or from the shore
The Plover theirs, 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
Th’ expansive atmosphere is cramp’d with cold,
But full of life, and vivifying soul,
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,
Unbinding earth, the moving softness strays.
Joyous th’impatient husbandman perceives
Relenting Nature, and his lusty steers,
Drives from their stalls, to where the well-us’d plow
Lies in the furrow loosen’d from the frost.
There, unrefusing to the harness’d yoke,
They lend their shoulder, and begin their toil,
Chear’d by the simple song, and soaring lark.
Meanwhile incumbent o’er the shining share
The master leans, removes th’ obstructing clay,
Winds the whole work, and sidelong lays the glebe.

White thro’ 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 due. Ye fostering breezes, blow!
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.
‘Twas such as these the rural Maro sung
To the full Roman court, in all its height
Of elegance and taste. The sacred plow
Employ’d the kings and fathers of mankind,
In antient times. And some, with whom compar’d
You’re but the beings of a summer’s day,
Have held the scale of justice, shook the lance
Of mighty war, then with descending hand,
Unus’d to little delicacies, seiz’d
The plow, and greatly independent liv’d.

Ye generous Britons, cultivate the plow!
And o’er your hills, and long withdrawing vales,
Let Autumn spread his treasures to the sun,
Luxuriant, and unbounded. As the sea,
Far thro’ his azure turbulent extent,
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 cloath,
And be th’ exhaustless granary of a world!

Nor thro’ the lenient air alone, this change
Delicious breathes; the penetrative sun,
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!

From the moist meadow to the brown-bow’d hill,
Led by the breeze, the vivid verdure runs,
And swells, and deepens to the cherish’d eye.
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;
While the deer rustle thro’ 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
Lies yet a little embryo, unperceiv’d,
Within its crimson folds. Now from the town,
Buried in smoak, and sleep, and noisom damps,
Oft let me wander o’er the dewy fields,
Where freshness breathes, and dash the lucid drops
From the bent bush, as thro’ the fuming maze
Of sweet-briar hedges I pursue my walk;
Or taste the smell of dairy; or ascend
Some eminence, Augusta, in thy plains,
And see the country far-diffus’d around
One boundless blush, one white-empurpled shower
Of mingled blossoms; where the raptur’d eye
Travels from joy to joy, and, hid beneath
The fair profusion, yellow Autumn spies.

If brushed from Russian wilds a cutting gale
Rise not, and scatter from his foggy wings
The bitter mildew, or dry-blowing breathe
Untimely frost; before whose baleful blast,
The full-blown Spring thro’ all her foliage shrinks,
Into a smutty, wide-dejected waste.
For oft engender’d by the hazy north,
Myriads on myriads, insect-armies waft
Keen in the poison’d breeze; and wasteful eat
Thro’ buds and bark, into the blacken’d Core,
Their eager way. A feeble race! scarce seen,
Save by the prying eye; yet famine waits
On their corrosive course, and kills the year.
Sometimes o’er cities as they steer their flight,
Where rising vapour melts their wings away,
Gaz’d by th’astonish’d crowd, the horrid shower
Descends. And hence the skilful farmer chaff,
And blazing straw before his orchard burns;
Till, all involv’d in smoak, the latent foe
From every cranny suffocated falls;
Of onions, steaming hot, beneath his trees
Exposes, fatal to the frosty tribe:
Nor, from their friendly task, the busy bill
Of little trooping birds instinctive scares.

These are not idle philosophic dreams,
Full Nature swarms with life. Th’ faithful fen
In purtrid steams emits the livid cloud
Of pestilence. Thro’ subterranean cells,
Where searching sun-beams never found a way,
Earth animated heaves. The flowery leaf
Wants not its soft inhabitants. The stone,
Hard as it is, in every winding pore
Holds multitudes. But chief the forest-boughs,
Which dance unnumber’d to th’ inspiring breeze,
The downy orchard, and the melting pulp
Of mellow fruit the nameless nations feed
Of evanescent insects. Where the pool
Stands mantled o’er with green, invisible,
Amid the floating verdure millions stray.
Each liquid too, whether of acid taste,
Potent, or mild, with various forms abounds.
Nor is the lucid stream, nor the pure air,
Tho’ one transparent vacancy they seem,
Devoid of theirs. Even animals subsist
On animals, in infinite descent;
And all so fine adjusted, that the loss
Of the least species would disturb the whole.
Stranger than this th’ inspective glass confirms,
And to the curious gives th’ amazing scenes
Of lessening life; by Wisdom kindly hid
From eye, and ear of man: for if at once
The worlds in worlds enclos’d were push’d to light,
Seen by his sharpen’d eye, and by his ear
Intensely bended heard, from the choice cate,
The freshest viands, and the brightest wines,
He’d turn abhorrent, and in dead of night,
When silence sleeps o’er all, be stun’d with noise.

The North-east spends his rage, and now shut up
Within his iron caves, th’ 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 æther; but by fast degrees,
In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapour sails
Along the loaded sky, and mingling thick
Sits on th’ horizon round a settled gloom.
Not such as wintry storms on mortals shed,
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 thro’ the closing woods,
Or rustling turn the many-twinkling leaves
Of aspin tall. The uncurling floods, diffus’d
In glassy breadth, seem thro’ 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,
And wait th’ approaching sign to strike at once
Into the general choir. Even mountains, vales,
And forests seem, expansive, to demand
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 dimply pool
Prelusive drops, let all their moisture flow,
In large effusion o’er the freshen’d world.
‘Tis scarce to patter heard, the stealing shower,
By such as wander thro’ the forest-walks,
Beneath th’ umbrageous multitude of leaves.
But who can hold the shade, while Heaven descends
In universal bounty, shedding herbs
And fruits, and flowers, on Nature’s ample lap?
Imagination fir’d prevents their growth,
And while the verdant nutriment distills,
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
Looks out illustrious from amid the flush
Of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam.
The rapid radiance instantaneous strikes
Th’ illumin’d mountain, thro’ the forest streams,
Shakes on the floods, and in a yellow mist,
Far smoaking o’er th’ interminable plain,
In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems.
Moist, bright, and green, the landskip laughs around.
Full swell the woods; their every musick wakes,
Mix’d in wild consort with the warbling brooks
Increas’d, th’ unnumber’d bleatings of the hills,
The hollow lows responsive from the vales,
Whence blending all the sweeten’d zephyr springs.
Mean time refracted from yon eastern cloud,
Bestriding earth, the grand æthereal bow
Shoots up immense! and every hue unfolds,
In fair proportion, running from the red,
To where the violet fades into the sky.
Here, mighty Newton, the dissolving clouds
Are, as they scatter’d round, thy numerous prism,
Untwisting to the philosophic eye
The various twine of light, by thee pursu’d
Thro’ 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 th’ 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 again,
Transmuted soon by Nature’s chymistry,
The blooming blessings 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;
Whether he steals along the lonely dale
In silent search; or thro’ 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.
With such a liberal hand has Nature flung
Their seeds abroad, blown them about in winds,
Innumerous mix’d them with the nursing mold,
The moistening current, and prolific rain.

But who their virtues can declare? Who pierce
With vision pure into these secret stores
Of life, and health, 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,
Death, rapine, carnage, surfeit, and disease,
The lord, and not the tyrant of the world.

The glad morning wak’d the gladden’d race
Of uncorrupted men, nor blush’d to see
The sluggard sleep beneath her sacred beam.
For their light slumbers gently fum’d away,
And up they rose as vigorous as the sun,
Or to the culture of the willing glebe,
Or to the chearful tendance of the flock.
Mean time the song went round; and dance, and sport,
Wisdom, and friendly talk successive stole
Their Hours away. While in the rosy vale
Love breath’d his infant sighs, from anguish free,
Replete with bliss, and only wept for joy.
Nor yet injurious act, nor surly deed
Was known among these happy sons of heaven;
For reason and benevolence were law.
Harmonious Nature too look’d smiling on.
Clear shone the skies, cool’d with eternal gales,
And balmy spirit all. The youthful sun
Shot his best rays; and still the gracious clouds
Drop’d fatness down; as o’er the swelling mead
The herds and flocks commixing play’d secure.
Which when, emergent from the gloomy wood,
The glaring lyon saw, his horrid heart
Was meeken’d, and he join’d his sullen joy.
For musick held the whole in perfect peace:
Soft sigh’d the flute; the tender voice was heard,
Warbling the joyous heart; the woodlands round
Apply’d their quire; and winds and waters flow’d
In consonance. Such were those prime of days.

This to the Poets gave the golden age;
When, as they sung in elevated phrase,
The sailor-pine had not the nations yet
In commerce mix’d; for every country teem’d
With every thing. Spontaneous harvests wav’d,
Still in a sea of yellow plenty round.
The forest was the vineyard, where untaught
To climb, unprun’d, and wild, the juicy grape
Burst into floods of wine. The knotted oak
Shook from his boughs the long transparent streams
Of honey, creeping thro’ the matted grass.
Th’ uncultivated thorn a ruddy shower
Of fruitage shed, on such as fat below,
In blooming ease, and from brown labour free,
Save what the copious gathering, grateful, gave.
The rivers foam’d with nectar; or diffuse,
Silent, and soft, the milky maze devolv’d.
Nor had the spongy, full-expanded fleece,
Yet drunk the Tyrian die. The stately ram
Shone thro’ the mead, in native purple clad,
Or milder saffron; and the dancing lamb
The vivid crimson to the sun disclos’d.
Nothing had power to hurt; the savage soul,
Yet untransfus’d into the tyger’s heart,
Burn’d not his bowels, nor his gamesome paw
Drove on the fleecy partners of his play:
While from the flowery brake the serpent roll’d
His fairer spires, and play’d his pointless tongue.

But now whate’er these gaudy fables meant,
And the white minutes which they shadow’d out,
Are found no more amid those iron times,
Those dregs of life! In which the human mind
Has lost that harmony ineffable,
Which forms the soul of happiness; and all
Is off the poise within; the passions all
Have burst their bounds; and reason half extinct,
Or impotent, or else approving, sees
The foul disorder. Anger storms at large,
Without an equal cause; and fell revenge
Supports the falling rage. Close envy bites
With venom’d tooth; while weak, unmanly fear,
Full of frail fancies, loosens every power.
Even love itself is bitterness of soul,
A pleasing anguish pining at the heart.
Hope sickens with extravagance; and grief,
Of life impatient, into madness swells;
Or in dead silence wastes the weeping hours.
These, and a thousand mixt emotions more,
From ever-changing views of good and ill,
Form’d infinitely various, vex the mind
With endless storm. Whence, inly-rankling, grows
The selfish thought, a listless inconcern,
Cold, and averting from our neighbour’s good;
Then dark disgust, and malice, winding wiles,
Sneaking deceit, and coward villany:
At last deep-rooted hatred, lewd reproach,
Convulsive wrath, and thoughtless fury, quick
To deeds of vilest aim. Even Nature’s self
Is deemed, vindictive, to have chang’d her course.

Hence, in old time, a deluge came;
When the disparting orb of earth, that arch’d
Th’ imprison’d deep around, impetuous rush’d,
With ruin inconceivable, at once
Into the gulph, and o’er the highest hills
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, as hoar Tradition tells,
Have kept their constant chace; the Winter keen
Pour’d out his waste of snows; and Summer shot
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.
Clear 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,
Sat not pernicious on the springs of life.
But now, from clear to cloudy, moist to dry,
And hot to cold, in restless change revolv’d,
Our drooping days are dwindled down to nought,
Their fleeting shadow of a winter’s sun.

And yet the wholesom herb neglected dies
In lone obscurity, unpriz’d for food;
Altho’ the pure, exhilerating soul
Of nutriment and health, salubrious breathes,
By Heaven infus’d, along its secret tubes.
For, with hot ravine fir’d, ensanguin’d man
Is now become the lyon 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,
At whose strong chest the deadly tyger hangs,
E’er plow’d for him. They too are temper’d high,
With hunger stung, and wild necessity,
Nor lodges pity in their shaggy breasts.
But Man, whom Nature form’d of milder clay,
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 blood? The beast of prey,
‘Tis true, deserves the fate in which he deals.
Him, from the thicket, let the hardy youth
Provoke, and foaming thro’ the awakened woods
With every nerve pursue. But you, ye flocks,
What have ye done? Ye peaceful people, what,
To merit death? You, who have given us milk
In luscious streams, and lent us your own coat
Against the winter’s cold? Whose usefulness
In living only lies? And the plain ox,
That harmless, honest, guileless animal,
In what has he offended? He, whose toil,
Patient and ever-ready, cloaths the land
With all the pomp of harvest; shall he bleed,
And wrestling groan beneath the cruel hands
Even of the clowns he feeds? And that perhaps
To swell the riot of the gathering feast,
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 beside forbids the daring strain,
Whose wisest will has fix’d us in a state,
That must not yet to pure perfection rise.

But yonder breathing prospect bids the muse
Throw all her beauty forth, that daubing all
Will be to what I gaze; for who can paint
Like Nature? Can Imagination boast,
Amid his gay creation, hues like hers?
Or can he mix them with that matchless skill,
And lay them on so delicately fine,
And lose them in each other, as appears
In every bud that blows? If fancy then
Unequal fails beneath the lovely task;
Ah what shall language do? Ah where finds words
Ting’d with so many colours? And whose power,
To life approaching, may perfume my lays
With that fine oil, these aromatic gales,
Which inexhaustive flow continual round?

Yet, tho’ successless, will the toil delight.
Come then, ye virgins, and ye youths, whose hearts
Have felt the raptures of refining love;
Oh come, and while the rosy-footed May
Steals blushing on, together let us walk
The morning dews, and gather in their prime
Fresh-blooming flowers, to grace the braided hair,
And the white bosom that improves their sweets.

See, where the winding vale her lavish stores,
Irriguous, spreads. See, how the lilly drinks
The latent rill, scarce oozing thro’ the grass
Of growth luxuriant; or the humid bank
profusely climbs. Turgent, in every pore
The gummy moisture shines; new lustre lends,
And feeds the spirit that diffusive round
Refreshes all the dale. Long let us walk,
Where the breeze blows from yon extended field
Of blossom’d beans: Arabia cannot boast
A fuller gale of joy than, liberal, thence
Breathes thro’ the sense, and takes the ravish’d soul.
Nor is the meadow worthless of our 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 boundless eye.
‘Tis here that their delicious task the bees,
In swarming millions, tend. Around, athwart,
This way, and that, the busy nations fly,
Cling to the bud, and, with inserted tube,
Its soul, its sweetness, and its manna suck.
The little chymist thus, all-moving Heaven
Has taught: and oft, of bolder wing, he dares
The purple heath, or where the wild-thyme grows,
And yellow load them with the luscious spoil.

At length the finish’d garden to the view
Its vistas opens, and its alleys green.
Snatched thro’ the verdant maze, the hurried eye
Distracted wanders; now the bowery walk
Of covert close, where scarce a speck of day
Falls on the lengthen’d gloom, protracted darts;
Now meets the bending sky, the river now
Dimpling along, the breezy-ruffled lake,
The forest running round, the rising spire,
Th’ æthereal mountain, and the distant main.
But why so far excursive? when at hand,
Along the blushing borders, dewy-bright,
And in yon mingled wilderness of flowers,
Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every grace;
Throws out the snow-drop, and the crocus first,
The daisy, primrose, violet darkly blue,
Dew-bending cowslips, and of nameless dies
Anemonies, auriculas a tribe
Peculiar powder’d with a shining sand,
Renunculas, and iris many-hued.
Then comes the tulip-race, where Beauty plays
Her gayest freaks: from family diffus’d
To family, as flies the father-dust,
The varied colours run; and while they break
On the charm’d Florist’s eye, he curious stands,
And new-flush’d glories all ecstatic marks.
Nor hyacinths are wanting, nor junquils
Of potent fragrance, nor narcissus white,
Nor strip’d carnations, nor enamel’d 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 Being! 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
Hast the great whole into perfection touched.
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 disposed 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
And lively fermentation mounting spreads
All this innumerous-coloured scene of things.
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,
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
In music unconfined. Up springs the lark,
Shrill-voiced and loud, the messenger of morn:
Ere yet the shadows fly, he mounted sings
Amid the dawning clouds, and from their haunts
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
And wood-lark, 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
Poured out profusely, silent. Joined to these
Innumerous songsters, in the freshening shade
Of new-sprung leaves, their modulations mix
Mellifluous. The jay, the rook, the daw,
And each harsh pipe, discordant heard alone,
Aid the full concert; while the stock-dove breathes
A melancholy murmur through the whole.

‘Tis love creates their melody, and all
This waste of music is the voice of love,
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
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 inspired,
They brisk advance; then, on a sudden struck,
Retire disordered; then again approach,
In fond rotation spread the spotted wing,
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 obeyed,
Nor all the sweet sensations they perceive
Indulged in vain. Some to the holly-hedge
Nestling repair, and to the thicket some;
Some to the rude protection of the thorn
Commit their feeble offspring. The cleft tree
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 live-long day
When by kind duty fixed. Among the roots
Of hazel, pendent o’er the plaintive stream,
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,
Beat by unnumbered 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 unobserved,
Steal from the barn a straw-till soft and warm,
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 loosened Spring around her blows,
Her sympathizing 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
With pious toil fulfilled, the callow young,
Warmed 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,
On the new parents seize! Away they fly
Affectionate, and undesiring bear
The most delicious morsel to their young;
Which equally distributed, again
The search begins. Even so a gentle pair,
By fortune sunk, but formed of generous mould,
And charmed with cares beyond the vulgar breast,
In some lone cot amid the distant woods,
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 inspired,
Gives instant courage to the fearful race,
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 alarmed, deceive
The unfeeling schoolboy. Hence, around the head
Of wandering swain, the white-winged 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
The heath-hen flutters, pious fraud! to lead
The hot pursuing spaniel far astray.

Be not the muse ashamed here to bemoan
Her brothers of the grove by tyrant man
Inhuman caught, and in the narrow cage
From liberty confined, and boundless air.
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.
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 ruined care, too delicately framed
To brook the harsh confinement of the cage.
Oft when, returning with her loaded bill,
The astonished mother finds a vacant nest,
By the hard hand of unrelenting clowns
Robbed, to the ground the vain provision falls;
Her pinions ruffle, and, low-drooping, scarce
Can bear the mourner to the poplar shade;
Where, all abandoned 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 woods
Sigh to her song and with her wail resound.

But now the feathered youth their former bounds,
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
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 stretched, 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,
Farther and farther on, the lengthening flight;
Till, vanished every fear, and every power
Roused 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’ shore, whose lonely race
Resign the setting sun to Indian worlds,
The royal eagle draws his vigorous young,
Strong-pounced, 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
Unstained 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,
And ceaseless caws amusive; there, well-pleased,
I might the various polity survey
Of the mixed 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-checkered duck before her train
Rows garrulous. The stately-sailing swan
Gives out his snowy plumage to the gale,
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
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-scorched, 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.
And oft, in jealous maddening fancy wrapt,
He seeks the fight; and, idly-butting, feigns
His rival gored in every knotty trunk.
Him should he meet, the bellowing war begins:
Their eyes flash fury; to the hollowed 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 seized in every nerve,
Nor heeds the rein, nor hears the sounding thong;
Blows are not felt; but, tossing high his head,
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 aerial summit takes
The exciting gale; then, steep-descending, cleaves
The headlong torrents foaming down the hills,
Even where the madness of the straitened stream
Turns in black eddies round: such is the force
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 roused,
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 sublimed,
They roam, amid the fury of their heart,
The far-resounding waste in fiercer bands,
And growl their horrid loves. But this the theme
I sing enraptured to the British fair
Forbids, and leads me to the mountain-brow
Where sits the shepherd on the grassy turf,
Inhaling healthful the descending sun.
Around him feeds his many-bleating flock,
Of various cadence; and his sportive lambs,
This way and that convolved in friskful glee,
Their frolics play. And now the sprightly race
Invites them forth; when swift, the signal given,
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,
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.
He ceaseless works alone, and yet alone
Seems not to work; with such perfection framed
Is this complex, stupendous scheme of things.
But, though concealed, to every purer eye
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
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!
But come, ye generous minds, in whose wide thought,
Of all his works, Creative Bounty burns
With warmest beam, and on your open front
And liberal eye sits, from his dark retreat
Inviting modest Want. Nor till invoked
Can restless Goodness wait; your active search
Leaves no cold wintry corner unexplored;
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;
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-eyed 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,
And warms the bosom; till at last, sublimed
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 informed 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 Tempe! There along the dale
With woods o’erhung, and shagged with mossy rocks
Whence on each hand the gushing waters play,
And down the rough cascade white-dashing fall
Or gleam in lengthened 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,
That, purling down amid the twisted roots
Which creep around, their dewy murmurs shake
On the soothed 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, unwarped by party-rage,
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 refined,
You draw the inspiring breath of ancient song,
Till nobly rises emulous thy own.
Perhaps thy loved Lucinda shares thy walk,
With soul to thine attuned. Then Nature all
Wears to the lover’s eye a look of love;
And all the tumult of a guilty world,
Tost 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 meekened sense and amiable grace
And lively sweetness dwell, enraptured drink
That nameless spirit of ethereal joy,
Inimitable happiness! which love
Alone bestows, and on a favoured few.
Meantime you gain the height, from whose fair brow
The bursting prospect spreads immense around;
And, snatched o’er hill and dale, and wood and lawn,
And verdant field, and darkening heath between.
And villages embosomed soft in trees,
And spiry towns by surging columns marked
Of household smoke, your eye excursive roams
Wide-stretching from the Hall in whose kind haunt
The hospitable Genius lingers still,
To where the broken landscape, by degrees
Ascending, roughens into rigid hills
O’er which the Cambrian mountains, like far clouds
That skirt the blue horizon, dusky rise.

Flushed 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
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 dressed,
But full of guile. Let not the fervent tongue,
Prompt to deceive with adulation smooth,
Gain on your purposed will. Nor in the bower
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,
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
Her snaky crest: a quick-returning pang
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, aroused,
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 scorned affairs.
‘Tis nought but gloom around: the darkened sun
Loses his light. The rosy-bosomed 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
On swelling thought, his wafted spirit flies
To the vain bosom of his distant fair;
And leaves the semblance of a lover, fixed
In melancholy site, with head declined,
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
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,
Enlightened by degrees, and in her train
Leads on the gentle hours; then forth he walks,
Beneath the trembling languish of her beam,
With softened soul, and woos the bird of eve
To mingle woes with his; or, while the world
And all the sons of care lie hushed in sleep,
Associates with the midnight shadows drear,
And, sighing to the lonely taper, pours
His idly-tortured heart into the page
Meant for the moving messenger of love,
Where rapture burns on rapture, every line
With rising frenzy fired. But if on bed
Delirious flung, sleep from his pillow flies.
All night he tosses, nor the balmy power
In any posture finds; till the grey morn
Lifts her pale lustre on the paler wretch,
Exanimate by love-and then perhaps
Exhausted nature sinks a while 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 distressed; or, if retired
To secret-winding flower-enwoven bowers,
Far from the dull impertinence of man,
Just as he, credulous, his endless cares
Begins to lose in blind oblivious love,
Snatched from her yielded hand, he knows not how,
Through forests huge, and long untravelled 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,
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 whelmed beneath the boiling eddy sinks.

These are the charming agonies of love,
Whose misery delights. But through the heart
Should jealousy its venom once diffuse,
‘Tis then delightful misery no more,
But agony unmixed, incessant gall,
Corroding every thought, and blasting all
Love’s Paradise. Ye fairy prospects, then,
Ye bed 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-enlivened cheeks,
Of sunny features, and of ardent eyes
With flowing rapture bright, dark looks succeed,
Suffused, and glaring with untender fire,
A clouded aspect, and a burning cheek
Where the whole poisoned 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.
In vain reproaches lend their idle aid,
Deceitful pride, and resolution frail,
Giving false peace a moment. Fancy pours
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 tortured 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
Of fevered rapture or of cruel care —
His brightest aims extinguished 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,
Attuning all their passions into love;
Where friendship full-exerts her softest power,
Perfect esteem enlivened 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;
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 possessed
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
High fancy forms, and lavish hearts can wish?
Something than beauty dearer, should they look
Or on the mind or mind-illumined 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,
The father’s lustre and the mother’s bloom.
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,
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:
Till evening comes at last, serene and mild;
When after the long vernal day of life,
Enamoured 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.