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introduced into a poem describing the changes of the Seasons, need not be insisted on, since it is obvious that the primary cause of all these changes is to be sought in principles derived from these sciences. They are the ground-work of the whole; and establish that connected series of cause and effect, upon which all those appearances in nature depend, from whence the descriptive poet draws his materials.
Natural History, in its most extensive signification, includes every observation relative to the distinctions, resemblances, and changes of all the bodies, both animate and inanimate, which nature offers to us. These observations, however, deserve to be considered as part of a science only when they refer to some general truth, and form a link of that vast chain which connects all created beings in one grand system. It was my attempt, in an Essay lately published *, to show how necessary a more accurate and scientific survey of natural objects than has usually been taken, was to the avoiding the common defects, and attaining the highest beauties of descriptive poetry; and some of the most striking examples of excellence arising from this source were extracted from the poem' now before us. It will be unnecessary here to recapitulate the substance of these remarks, or to mark out singly the several passages of our author which display his talents for description to the greatest advantage. Our present design rather requires such a general view of the materials he has collected, and the method in which he has arranged them, as may show in what degree they forward and coincide with the plan of his work.
The correspondence between certain changes in the animal and vegetable tribes, and those revolutions of the heavenly bodies which produce the vicissitudes of the Seasons, is the
• Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry.
foundation of an alliance between Astronomy and Natural History, that equally demands attention, as a matter of curious speculation and of practical utility. The astronomical calendar, filled up by the, Naturalist, is a combination of science at the same time pregnant with important instruction to the husbandman, and fertile in grand and pleasing objects to the poet and philosopher. THOMSON seems constantly to have kept in view a combination of this kind; and to have formed from it such an idea of the economy of Nature, as enabled him to preserve a regularity of method and uniformity of design through all the variety of his descriptions. We shall attempt to draw out a kind of historical narrative of his progress through the Seasons, as far as this order is observable.
Spring is characterized as the season of the renovation of nature; in which animals and vegetables, excited by the kindly influence of returning warmth, shake off the torpid inaction of Winter, and prepare for the continuance and increase of their several species. The vegetable tribes, as more independent and self-provided, lead the way in this progress. The poet, accordingly, begins with representing the reviviscent plants emerging, as soon as genial showers have softened the ground, in numbers“ beyond the power of botanists to reckon “ up their tribes." The opening blossoms and flowers soon call forth from their winter retreats those industrious insects which derive sustenance from their nectareous juices. As the beams of the sun become more potent, the larger vegetables, shrubs and trees, unfold their leaves ; and, as soon as a friendly cuncealment is by their means provided for the various nations of the feathered race, they joyfully begin the course of laborious, but pleasing occupations, which are to engage them during the whole season. The delightful series of pictures, so truly
expressive of that genial spirit that pervades the Spring, whicha Thomson has formed on the variety of circumstances attending the Passion of the Groves, cannot escape the notice and admiration of the most negligent eye. Affected by the same soft influence, and equally indebted to the renewed vegetable tribes for food and shelter, the several kinds of quadrupeds are represented as concurring in the celebration of this charming Season with conjugal and parental rites. Even Man himself, though from his social condition less under the dominion of physical necessities, is properly described as partaking of the general ardour. Such is the order and connexion of this whole book, that it might well pass for a commentary upon a most beautiful passage in the philosophical poet Lucretius who certainly wanted nothing but a better system and more circumscribed subject, to have appeared as one of the greatest masters of description in either ancient or modern poetry. Reasoning on the unperishable nature, and perpetual circulation, of the particles of matter, be deduces all the delightful appearances of Spring from the seeds of fertility which descend in the vernal showers.
perennt imbres, nbi eos pater Æther
Lib. I. 251, &c.
The rains are lost when Jove descends in showers
Beneath their fertile load: hence kindly food
The period of Summer is marked by fewer and less striking changes in the face of Nature. A soft and pleasing languor, interrupted only by the gradual progression of the vegetable and animal tribes towards their state of maturity, forms the leading character of this Season. The active fermentation of the juices, which the first access of genial warmth had excited, now subsides; and the increasing heats rather inspire faintness and inaction than lively exertions. The insect race alone seem animated with peculiar vigour, under the more direct influence of the sun; and are therefore with equal truth and advantage introduced by the poet to enliven the silent and drooping scenes presented by the other forms of animal nature. ' As this source, however, together with whatever else our summers afford, is insufficient to furnish novelty and business enough for this act of the drama of the year, the poet judiciously opens a new field, profusely fertile in objects suited to the glowing colours of descriptive poetry. By an easy and natural transition, he quits the chastised summer of our temperate clime for those regions where a perpetual Summer reigns, exalted by such superior degrees of solar heat as give an entirely new face to almost every part of nature. The terrific grandeur prevalent in some of these, the exquisite richness and beauty in others, and the novelty in all, afford such a happy variety for the poet's selection, that we need not wonder if some of his noblest pieces are the product of this delightful ex
cursion. He retums, however, with apparent satisfaction, to take a last survey of the softer summer of our island; and, after closing the prospect of terrestrial beauties, artfully shifts the scene to celestial splendors, which, though perhaps not more striking in this season than in some of the others, are now alone agreeable objects of contemplation in a northern climate.
Autumn is too eventful a period in the history of the year, within the temperate parts of the globe, to require foreign aid for rendering it more varied and interesting. The promise of the Spring is now fulfilled. The silent and gradual process of maturation is completed ; and Human Industry beholds with triumph the rich products of its toil. The vegetable tribes disclose their infinitely various forms of fruit ; which term, while, with respect to common use, it is confined to a few peculiar modes of fructification, in the more comprehensive language of the Naturalist includes every product of vegetation by which the rudiments of a future progeny are developed, and separated from the parent plant. These are in part collected and stored up by those animals for whose sustenance during the ensuing sleep of nature they are provided. The rest, furnished with various contrivances for dissemination, are scattered by the friendly winds which now begin to blow, over the surface of that earth which they are to clothe and decorate. The young of the animal race, which Spring and Summer had brought forth and cherished, having now acquired sufficient vigour, quit their concealments, and offer themselves to the pursuit of the carnivorous among their fellow-animals, and of the great destroyer man. Thus the scenery is enlivened with the various sports of the hunter; which, however repugnant they may appear to tbat system of general benevolence and sympathy which philosophy would inculcate, bave ever afforded